Pete tasted the Venn Pongal I made yesterday, a little doubtfully.
No green chillies lurking in it? he asked.
No, honestly. Just black pepper.
Hmmmm, he said, after a mouthful. There's something missing, it's a bit bland.
Bland? With the lashings of black pepper in it?
Yep, bland, he insisted.
Perhaps it was lacking in salt?
Nope, it tasted fine for salt, he said. Just bland.
I got the idea. My nice hot pongal was, apparently, bland. So I went away and had another go at sampling it, tasting the combined flavours of the moong dal and pepper and ghee and cashews and curry leaves and cumin seeds on my tongue, wondering exactly which of these ingredients was the offender.
I was tasting my 7th or 8th spoonful of pongal - with no clear decision on the elusive bland item (but I wasnt complaining as the tasting was going quite well) - when the Lord of the Manor sauntered into the kitchen.
I have it, he said. I know how to remedy the blandness.
Really? Wanna tell me how?
Sure, he said. Let's see... got any fresh carrots?
Carrots? Sure. One fresh carrot coming up.
Right, he said. Got any lemons?
Got those too. What next? What's your plan?
Well, he said. The plan is to grate the carrot, relieve the lemon of its juice and combine the two with the pongal.
You heard me, he said, as he grated the carrot and relieved the lemon of its juice with an extra flashy squeeze, a la Ainsley Harriot. Let me have some of that pongal... what do you mean, over your dead body? Blimey, anyone would think I'm going to do vile unmentionable things with it. JUST GIVE IT HERE, will you?!
Ohhh, my pongal, my nice pongal!
Ok, it's ready, he said. Now try it.
And because it seemed like I would be force-fed if I didnt try it, I did.
So, he said. What do you think?
Hmmm... actually, it's surprisingly yummy.
Excellent, he said. I knew the lemon juice would give that much-needed zing and cut through the heat of the black peppercorns, and fresh carrot would give it some crunch.
I'd like some too, you know, he said. ...WHAT DO YOU MEAN, OVER YOUR DEAD BODY???!!!!
Recipe for: Venn Pongal - variation
1 cup Venn pongal
1 medium carrot, grated
Juice of one large lemon, or as required
Mix the lemon juice and carrots with the hot pongal. Taste for blandness (or lack thereof), adding more lemon juice if required. Serve at once.