Akkara Adisil (Sweet Rice And Moong Dal/Sweet Pongal)
Akkara adisil is the quintessential Iyengar dessert, and there are no two opinions about how it should be made - it's basically rice and moong dal cooked in lots of milk and ghee, and a healthy dose of jaggery or unrefined sugar. There are references to it in works as early as the 8th century in Andal's Nachiyar Thirumozhi.
The key to this dish is to cook the rice and dal in a mix of water and milk, preferably whole milk.
Dry roast moong dal until slightly reddish and fragrant
Mix rice and dal in a pot and pressure cook, adding 1.5 cups of water, 1.5 cups of milk (about 3 times liquid to rice+dal mix)
Get all ingredients for flavoring the dish ready
Soak the jaggery in hot water and filter if needed to remove impurities. I used powdered jaggery, and just dissolved it in a quarter cup of warm water;
soak the saffron strands in a couple of spoons of warm milk
Heat a kadai/heavy bottomed pan, and heat the remaining milk to hot
Add crushed cardomom and mace
Take the nutmeg, and with a scraper/grater, add a couple of quick scrapes; it's pretty overpowering, so less is more
Add the cooked rice and dal mix
Add a couple of spoons of ghee
Mix everything well, mashing the rice+dal mix
Add the jaggery now and give everything a good mix
Add the saffron
Add the remaining ghee, and mix everything and cook for a few minutes to let the flavors blend
Fry the cashew nuts in a spoonful of ghee, and add
Enjoy while it's still warm. A classic combination with this dish is vada...
This is only the second time I made this dish, in my almost 28 years of being married to an Iyengar. Akkara adisil is the Iyengar equivalent of sweet pongal or chakarai pongal made by the rest of Tamil Nadu, albeit with slight differences in the flavorings. I was not a big fan of sweets growing up, especially sweets made with jaggery; and had never tasted this dish prepared by an authentic iyengar cook. So I don't know what makes a good akkaraadisil, but my husband Raj said this tasted good. I ended up using 3/4 cups of jaggery even though I started with less, and after tasting, realized it needed more.
It also takes a lot of ghee, and would probably be even more delicious if I had used more.