Pick the rice and moong dal first to get rid of stones if any. Then heat a small pan or a small kadai and add both the rice and moong lentils.
On a low flame stirring often roast both the rice and moong lentils, till they become aromatic.
You only need to roast till the moong lentils become aromatic. No need to brown them.
Now take them in another bowl.
Rinse both the roasted rice and moong dal a couple of times with water.
Cooking rice and moong lentils
Drain well and then add them in a pressure cooker.
Pour 3 cups water. The amount of water you can add depends on the consistency you prefer and on the quality of moong dal.
Pressure cook on medium heat for 11 to 12 minutes or for 8 to 9 whistles.
Let the pressure settle down on its own in the cooker. Then remove the lid to check the doneness and consistency of the rice and lentils. If you see a separate texture like that of a pulao/pilaf, then add ½ to 1 cup hot water and mix very well.
Both the rice and the moong dal should be cooked very well and look mushy. With a spoon, slightly mash the cooked rice and moong lentils. If cooked well, then cover with the lid and keep aside. The consistency of the cooked rice and lentils is like a khichdi.
Preparing jaggery syrup
Meanwhile when the rice is cooking, crush seeds of 5 green cardamoms + 1 clove in a mortar-pestle. If using cardamom powder alone, then you can add ½ teaspoon of it.
Chop jaggery. You should get about ½ cup tightly packed, chopped or grated jaggery. This much amount of jaggery makes the pongal just sweet.
Now take ½ cup water in a pan. Add the jaggery.
On a low to medium flame, heat this jaggery solution until the jaggery melts completely.
Do stir and break the jaggery chunks or pieces with a spatula so that they melt easily.
You will get an amber colored syrup when all the jaggery is melted, if you have used dark jaggery. If you have light colored jaggery, then the color will be pale yellow to yellow.
Sweetening cooked rice and lentils
Straining the jaggery syrup through a seive, directly add it in the cooked rice+lentils mixture. If using jaggery powder, you can add directly.
Now add the crushed cardamom+clove powder and a pinch of edible camphor.
Mix everything very well. Pongal will thicken as it cools. So if the mixture looks thick, then you can add ¼ to ⅓ cup hot water or hot milk.
Frying dry fruits
Heat 5 tablespoons ghee. You can add less ghee if you want.
Add the 12 to 15 cashews. Saute the cashews till they become light golden.
Then add 1 tablespoons raisins. Begin to stir and fry.
Stirring often fry until the raisins swell and become plump.
Making sweet pongal
Then immediately remove the pan from the stovetop and add the fried cashews, raisins and ghee to the cooked rice and lentils.
Offer to the Goddess or you can serve sweet pongal hot or warm to your family members.
With milk: Some versions of sweet pongal are made with milk. You can add milk in place of water in this recipe. Milk will make the sakkarai pongal slightly richer and creamier.
With sugar: Though jaggery is traditionally used in making sakkarai pongal, you can replace it with raw sugar or white sugar, or rock sugar. Sweeteners like coconut sugar or palm sugar also make great substitutes.
Healthy ingredients: Sweet pongal is always made with rice and moong lentils. But you can make it with cracked wheat (dalia), millets, or rolled oats.
Making Sweet Pongal in the Instant Pot
Firstly, roast the rice and lentils separately in a frying pan or skillet. Rinse and add these to the steel insert of your IP.
Pour 3.5 cups of water. Pressure cook on high pressure for 6 to 7 minutes. Do a quick pressure release after 10 to 12 minutes.
If you see that the consistency is thick or with separate grains, then pour some water. Mix and press the sauté button to simmer the rice and lentil mixture for a couple of minutes.
Add the ground cardamom and clove powder. Make the jaggery syrup and add it. Later fry the cashews, raisins separately and mix it with the cooked rice and lentils. Serve hot or warm.
Sweeteners: Jaggery imparts a lovely earthy molasses-like taste. If you do not have jaggery, then add raw sugar or white sugar in the same amount. Palm sugar and coconut sugar also work wonderfully in a sweet pongal. For more sweetness, you can add ¼ cup more jaggery. On occasions, I also use organic jaggery powder and add it directly to the cooked rice+moong lentils. Jaggery can be easily purchased online or on amazon.
Rice: Any medium or short-grained non-sticky rice can be used. Generally, during the pongal festival, freshly harvested rice is used. If you can get freshly harvested rice, then do use it to make sweet pongal.
Ghee: You can add a bit less ghee if you prefer that. More ghee will definitely make the chakkara pongal rich and more flavorful.
Spices: Cardamom is an essential spice. But you can omit clove and edible camphor.
Cooking lentils: Depending on the quality of moong dal you can adjust the amount of water and pressure cook for less or more time. I pressure cook the lentils for 8 to 10 whistles and add 3 or 3.25 cups water. If your moong lentils cook faster, then add 2.5 cups water and pressure cook them for 2 to 3 whistles on medium heat.
Cooking in a pan: You can easily make sweet pongal on the stove-top in a pot or pan. Dry roast the rice and lentils first. Add them to a pan with 4 to 4.5 cups water and cook until softened. Do add more water if needed.
Proportion of rice and lentils: In my recipe, the proportion of rice is slightly more. Equal proportions of moong lentils and rice also work well.
Scaling: You can easily double or triple this recipe of chakkara pongal to make a large batch.
Storage: If you have any leftovers then store them in the fridge for 1 to 2 days. I would not recommend freezing as the taste will not be the same and it is always better to eat rice and lentils freshly cooked. After refrigeration, if the consistency looks very thick or lumpy, then add some hot water or milk to thin it slightly.