This weekend Indians are looking forward to celebrating Makara Sankranti despite the surging third Covid wave. This festival, which is common to almost all parts of India, but known by many different names, brings lots of cheers. Lohri, Uttarayan, Kicheri, Posh Parbon, Magh Bihu/Bhogali Bihu, and Pongal are a few names it goes by.
As is the case with any Indian festival, this too is accompanied by lovely traditions and signature dishes prepared at home. While the preparations differ across India, there are many common ingredients such as Moong dal, Til, Gur, chiwda (poha) rice, peanuts, etc. Pongal or khichdi (sweet and savoury) using rice and lentils is a very popular accompaniment of this festival. As we all know, it is also easy to make. Here are a few other dishes you could try out for this Sankranti from across the country.
This is a simple, healthy Sankranti dish that can be rustled up in a minute with minimum ingredients at home. It is a traditional Bihari breakfast for Sankranti day. The preparation is as simple as washing the beaten rice or poha and mixing it with some curd in a bowl. To this, you could add some jaggery and optionally sliced banana or apples and nuts like almonds and pista, etc.
Til Ke Laddu
This recipe is an easy version of the Til laddu that can be made with gur or jaggery in a few different ways. In this version, take equal quantities of Til and Gur. Dry roast the Til in a pan till you get the lovely aroma and it starts spluttering. Remove and cool it, and then coarse grind in a mixer jar while ensuring not to overdo it, as it starts leaving oil. The beating in the mixer makes it slightly warm, and this helps bind the jaggery and shape the balls.
Remove and add powdered jaggery and a pinch of cardamom powder. Check if it holds shape, and you could add one or two tablespoons of ghee to the mixture if required. Optionally, you could add some desiccated coconut or coarsely ground peanuts also, into this. However, you may have to increase the quantity of jaggery to balance it out. Shape into balls and store in an air-tight container. It is a healthy dessert prepared across India for Sankranti.
Prepare white rice and keep it ready. Soak lemon-sized tamarind in hot water and squeeze its juice. Now in a kadai, heat two tablespoons of oil and splutter mustard in it. Then add a tablespoon of chana dal and a handful of peanuts and fry them well. Mix in a few curry leaves, red chili bits, and a pinch of hing. Let this also fry a bit before pouring in the tamarind juice with the required quantity of salt. Bring to a boil on low flame. When the mixture thickens slightly, you can add the cooked rice and mix well without breaking the grains. Optionally one could add a bit of jaggery to this mixture while cooking, before adding the rice. The jaggery helps balance the tangy flavour of tamarind with a bit of sweetness. It is usually prepared for lunch in South India on Sankranti day.
If you haven’t yet tried an Assamese dish, then you could do so this Sankranti. Here is a dish that won’t take much effort from your side and can be served in two different ways to suit your taste with hot milk or Thanda curds. Take one cup of rice (preferably the parboiled variety) and soak it overnight. Then drain it and spread it out on a clean towel to dry or sun-dry it. Once fully dry, transfer the rice to a shallow kadai and dry roast it on medium flame. Roast till it becomes crisp and brown, and cool it.
Once cooled, blend coarsely in a mixer jar and store in an air-tight container for future use. When you want to serve, take two tablespoons of this rice powder, and whisk it with either refrigerated curd or warm milk, as per your choice. Add either sugar or jaggery according to taste. Top it with a spoon of ghee and garnish with some nuts and raisins. It is a traditional Assamese breakfast for Bihu.