Dishes like these always reminds me of my grandma. Growing up, usili used to be a frequent lunch box menu for us. Usili is a kind of a dry pongal and I like this better than the original mushed up pongal. The seasonings used here are just cumin seeds, peppercorns, and dried red chilies. My grandma usually makes this with moong dhal and my mom makes this with toor dhal. I like both the versions. If you want to try a different pongal, you can try this with toor dhal. The side dish for this usili is usually coconut chutney and sambar. Also any tamarind-based coconut chutney will work out great with this usili in particular.
1. Brown rice or white rice, washed 1 cup.
2. Moong dhal, 1/2 cup, washed and soaked for an hour.
3. Peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon.
4. Cumin seeds, 1/2 teaspoon.
5. Dried red chilies, 2.
6. Salt, as per taste.
7. Curry leaves, a handful.
This preparation works out great when cooked in a rice cooker. The dhal does not turn very mushy in the rice cooker. Alternate method is to cook the rice and the dhal separately and add the seasonings and salt and mix the usili gently under low temperature until all the flavors are absorbed in the dish.
Rice cooker version:
Add 2-1/4 cups of water to the rice and dhal along with salt and cook them in a regular way. Meanwhile, heat a small pan with a tablespoon of oil. When the oil turns hot, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds and fry for a few seconds. Then add the curry leaves and broken red chilies and fry for a second and turn off the heat. Pour the seasonings over the usili, mix everything , and serve hot.