I started preparing pongal after coming to US only. While we were in Hyderabad, I was still in the process of learning cooking, usually testing all my preparations on my guinea pig (my hubby) and I was a total failure with pongal. In US, I started preparing pongal by using the microwave and it came out so well during the first time itself and since then there was no going back. All our friends who tasted this loved this dish. I find this method much easier than the traditional method; just cook the rice and dhal together and add the seasonings. Recently I started substituting low-fat butter instead of ghee for health reasons though the taste is still good.

Raw rice, 1 cup.
Moong dhal, ½ cup.
Peppercorns, 1 tablespoon.
Cumin seeds, 1 tablespoon.
Curry leaves, a handful.
Ginger, 1 small piece.
Green chili, 1 (optional).
Any cooking oil, 1 tablespoon.
Low-fat butter (or) ghee, 1-1/2 tablespoon.
Salt as per taste.

Wash the rice and dhal together. Put them in a microwave rice cooker, add 2-1/4 cups of water with salt according to taste and cook for 14-15 minutes depending upon the power level of the microwave. Meanwhile, chop the ginger into fine pieces and slit the chili into 2 and keep aside. Heat a small pan with a tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot enough, add the peppercorns, cumin seeds and fry then for a minute until good smell comes from the peppers and cumin. Then add the chopped ginger, curry leaves, and chili and fry everything for another minute and turn off the stove. When the rice and dhal are cooked, pour the seasonings over the pongal, add 1-1/2 tablespoon of low-fat butter and mix everything well. If the rice still appears whole, mash the rice with a spatula until everything is well blended to a pongal consistency. If needed, some more ghee or butter can be added. Serve hot with coconut chutney and sambar.

NOTE: Once the pongal gets cooled it hardens up and becomes a bit tight. It can be reheated for 1-2 minutes in the microwave before serving and it comes back to its original consistency after reheating. Some cashews can also be added for seasoning.