Festival of Flavors ~ Chitrannam for Pongal

magical indeed ~ chitrannam ~ a festival of flavors

“Once upon a time, in a land far far away, there lived a beautiful princess…”

My dad used to begin our bedtime stories with those words.

I was thinking of him tonight after I made this festival rice. When I had thoroughly squeezed every drop of juice from the limes, I tucked the halves into the warm oven — and I realised — that was his trick! Something I had long forgotten came back to me in a rush — dad’s habit of placing empty grapefruit shells in the oven. The citrus scent wafts gently through the kitchen, perking up a wintry evening. One fond memory begats another; hence the recollection of ‘once upon a time’. πŸ™‚

juicy limes ~ for chitrannam ~ and for the oven πŸ˜‰

Once upon a time in a land not so far away, in fact right here at this very desk!,
I came upon Indira’s Mahanandi.

Oh, the joy! I was like a kid in a candy shop. I had just become interested in authentic Indian food. I wanted the real deal — things you couldn’t find in restaurants. I gobbled up Indira’s recipes and photos, the stories of tradition and innovation in her kitchen which she so willingly shared and continues to share.

garnishes for chitrannam ~ bathing in ghee

This is another of Indira’s traditional recipes which I have wanted to try for ages. When I finally decided it was time, I had a brand new bag of sona masoori rice, juicy limes, and some lovely fresh-as-can-be ghee.

Alas, true to my form, I had nothing for the *special* garnish.

No peanuts nor cashews.

Not even a lonely potato.

Still I forged onward, substituting charoli from the freezer for the nuts, and slicing baby brinjal from the weekend shopping foray in place of potato.

I was perfectly good. I used more than my usual ration of green chiles, as instructed. I soaked the chana dal. I timed the rice. I paid close attention to the tempering. I even used measuring spoons! I know I repeat myself when I say,
I should *really* follow recipes more often. The result was simply fantabulous,
in spite of the subs. First the citrus grabs you, then little dals crunch, brinjals softly melt, and charoli bathed in ghee adds a decadent flavor.
Spicy chiles bring up the rear; the numbing heat on your lips mingles with the sweet-tart, lingering lime and leaves your mouth literally watering for more.

I don’t know if I am the ‘chosen one’, but I am surely craving this rice again, even as I speak. Please visit Mahanandi for the real deal, and to see what I mean!

Dear Indira, I am sure there is magic in your hand.
Thank you for the recipe, and for your inspiration.
It continues to this day πŸ™‚

Dear S, thank you for your Pongal wishes
(which gave me the courage to post this!!) πŸ™‚

And dear Dad, thanks for the citrusy potpourri!
I love you so much, I’ll even let you have the first bite!! πŸ˜‰

Happy Pongal ~ even if a wee bit late πŸ™‚

pinks and daisy wish you a Happy Pongal too!

Check out Koki’s lovely Pongal Special!

Help For Haiti

Red Cross

ShelterBox info at Jugalbandi.

Doctors Without Borders link courtsey Nupur.



  1. Linda, Thanks so much for your wishes. Halwa is already gone, wish I could share it with you..Hubby just ate a spoonful every time he went the near kitchen 😦

    Seriously Gal, Chitarannam?? My mom would adopt you as her third daughter(!!!)..That looks so perfectly made… In my language it means not the rice with full works, but yet has the flavors and could be accepted into variety rice..So glad I wished you for pongal, else would have missed this lovely recipe..njoy..And Pongalo Pongal πŸ˜€

    OK S, we can be adopted sisters πŸ˜‰ Do I get your mom’s cooking lessons too?? As for halwa, I guess I’ll just have to make it myself πŸ™‚

    Your Pongal wishes got me in festival mood on a dreary evening — do try Indira’s recipe, am sure you’ll love it πŸ™‚

    • Im gonna try the lemon trick too Linda, fridge needs a good aroma inside..

      between u and me, dear sis, I am sure you can get some recipes out of mom..Her recipes are always like add a handful of this,about of mouthful of water(!!!), and you’ll know..I have asked her many times to write them down, but she won’t listen..

      I will try Indira’s recipes, it looks tempting…

      Sra has something there with the limes in the fridge!

      And yes, sister dear, I can beg mom to write them down — you know, like kids — mothers always are more compliant when they are dealing with others than with their own! πŸ˜‰ But I think your mom probably believes you have learned well enough to do it on your own πŸ™‚

  2. Sonia said

    Hi Linda, I come here after a long time. How have you been gal? Chitrannam look so nice. Give regards to ur dad. All pics are so nice. πŸ™‚

    Hi Sonia — so glad to see you! I will pass by your blog. Thanks for your kind words πŸ™‚

  3. Happy Cook said

    I made the recipe from Indiras place and loved it and that was the first time i made this rice.
    Love the idea of you dad to use the citrus fruit in the oven , i can imagine the aroma. I am sure gonna do that next time.
    Does the oven has to be warm.

    Hi HC — it’s a great recipe yes? I think the citrus works better in a warm oven — you bake so often, I bet your oven is always warm! πŸ™‚

  4. sra said

    I keep lime halves in the refrigerator as they’re supposed to be a natural deodoriser – doesn’t seem to help when there’s some really smelly food in there, like cut onions.

    Liked reading the post!

    Glad you liked it, Sra πŸ™‚

    Limes in the fridge — that’s new on me. I keep a box of baking soda, top cut off — supposed to do the same thing but like you, don’t always think it’s effective.

  5. Nupur said

    Beautiful post, and the pongal looks exquisite!

    Thanks, Nupur πŸ™‚

  6. Asha said

    WOW!! Chitranna in your blog, very cool! Glad your dad enjoyed it. I will that lemon trick in the oven next time too, thanks for the idea. πŸ™‚

    Chitranna is very typical Karnataka dish, I make it whenever I have leftover rice on hand. I made Massor dal Kichadi for Sankranthi with spiced yogurt rice. Chitranna looks yum, looks good.

    Tushar had EOC for 3 days last week(one got exempted), got all level IV’s and all A’s in the first semester. Guess what I have to bribe him with to get all that!! A 10’1″ , 2 GB, 7hrs long battery Gateway Netbook!! Yeah, his brain doesn’t work “hard enough” until I give him some incentive and then suddenly he becomes “perfect”! πŸ˜›

    He has MLK holiday today and Tuesday is another EOC day for others, so he is off too. Took him to Monster Truck Jam and The Book of Eli in the weekend, today has a dental appointment, tomorrow is a relaxing day. Trisha had a good time too, had a sleep over party at UNC. She took too many advanced classes like Pathology last semester which got her B+ average. She was not very happy but she will learn to take it easy in the second semester. She enjoys college.

    Me? As usual. Might read Reader Digest in Kindle if I have time today. Kittys looks cozy and warm there! πŸ™‚

    Wow, everyone’s busy and doing great! Congrats to Tushar on those awesome grades — yes, the bribery route works wonders doesn’t it! πŸ˜‰ I remember when little m started college and he had overloaded himself early, too — he learned to pace himself as Trisha will. Glad she is having some fun times at UNC too — to me college is as much about learning to live on one’s own as it is about academics. And B+ is nothing to sneeze at!! πŸ™‚

    Hope you had a nice easy Monday reading, and enjoy your day tomorrow. It’s back to school here — I had to work today and it was so much fun going in on the icy roads. Spiced yogurt rice — well today I put yogurt in the cold chitrannam and that was *tasty*!! Like to see yours, too.

  7. thank you for publicising shelterbox, dear linda. your father looks like a kind, gentle soul.

    Anytime, dear bee — and thank you πŸ™‚

  8. Vani said

    What a lovely preparation for Pongal! Neat trick with the limes there. My mom puts them in pressure pans and cookers so the oxidation is lessened. Kitties look warm and comfy!!

    Thanks, Vani! I like your mom’s trick too — you mean she keeps them in the pans when they’re not being used? These freezing days it’s fun to see the kitties keeping warm πŸ˜‰

  9. wow..Chitranna looks too good. it looks perfect..great clicks..Your dad is such a sweetheart!!

    Aw, thanks so much for your kind words, Deepa! Glad you enjoyed πŸ™‚

  10. indosungod said

    Tasty rice Linda. The way you describe it makes, the lime rice feel like biryani, that grand. Adding brinjal to lime rice is very creative , I can bet no one has done that πŸ™‚

    You have alot of faith in me, ISG! πŸ˜‰ I can claim the description as mine, but the brinjal – that idea was on Indira’s post. Of course, I have learned from you that brinjals belong anywhere — rather like sambhar podi yes?? πŸ™‚

  11. indosungod said

    Dad and the citrus peels, pretty smart. So glad you had the “once upon a time” moment.

    Thank you, ISG. When they come along it’s pretty sweet πŸ™‚

  12. meeso said

    I love all the little things we learn from parents and grand-parents πŸ™‚ I will try the citrus in the oven for sure! The rice, of course, looks lovely πŸ™‚

    Thanks Meeso — glad you enjoyed. I wish I remembered more of those little things — getting old I guess! πŸ˜‰

  13. Yes Linda, I totally agree and I practice that too, sometimes it may help in unexpected situations as well.Here is a big hug to you for boldly saying it out. Saw ISG’s BG this morning and complained to her that she is making something that I don’t eat πŸ˜€

    I buy the lakshmi brand aata or swad brand flour..have’nt tried himalaya as I make paneer at home..Try Nanak brand, thats good too.
    We have only started using wheat flour for the past few months. From 2008-2009 N had a severe gluten allergy and we stopped everything with wheat in it. N loves parathas and pooris like anything. I do too, but now I am slightly wheat-o-phobic, as I have seen him suffer in pain. Now, I make it once a month only. Thats the reason for adding radish u know(trick him) as it is good for the damage that allergy caused to the liver..

    Well, I am nothing if not bold, S — my undoing, maybe! I have had nanak brand — it’s great soaked.

    On wheat — my daughter is diabetic (type 1) and has alot of friends who are not only diabetic but have celiac as well (allergic to gluten). Glad if you and N can enjoy it once in awhile πŸ™‚

    • Funny thing is that it came on its own, troubled us as much as it can and now he is fine if he eats wheat….the celiac test is done in only promethus, am I correct? by the time we found the correct papers and did the test, he was almost alright..

      Hope your daughter is coping well with diabetis and gluten allergy..Bitter gourd is very good for diabetics..

  14. shyam said

    Linda, here’s a tip from my mom – dont throw away used slices of lime/lemon – they can be used to clean the inside of the pressure cooker while it is in use. Simply place a slice directly in the pan, in the water – it keeps the inside of the cooker from getting discoloured through oxidisation. πŸ™‚ If I have too many slices to use up, I let them air-dry, then they can be used any time.

    Great tip Shammi, thanks! And thanks to your mom too πŸ™‚ Of course my new cooker (from kitchen fairy) is already oxidizied from so much use πŸ˜‰ Air-drying is another great idea.

  15. PJ said

    Wow, this is a beautiful post and a delicious recipe too! Your father looks like a gentle, kind and caring soul. Chitrannam looks great too. This is the first time I stumbled over your blog and I am glad I did; you have a great space here with delicious recipes; I’ll be sure to come back for seconds πŸ™‚

  16. Koki said

    Linda dear… You touched my heart by posting a link to my post here πŸ˜€
    Chitrannam looks lovely. I love citrusy flavours so its one of my favourites and you gal added my other favourite “the eggplant” making it totally irresistable.. I am drooling here…
    Your dads idea is too good will try it soon
    my mom uses them in the cooker to prevent black layer formed by oxidation or dries them in uses them in homemade herbal bath powder

  17. BDSN said

    Hi Linda,

    Happy Pongal!!!

    The Yellow Chitraanam looks lovely!!!!

  18. Hi Linda,
    Wish you a Happy Pongal! I loved your post… I will try the citrus in the oven..

  19. Ashwini said

    Hello Linda,

    Peeping into your place after a long time. Trust you are doing fine. I like the keen interest you take in learning new recipes and trying them out.

    The Chitrannam looks delicious. Thanks for sharing the pictures and recipes. Happy Pongal (belated!).

  20. Usha said

    The chitrannam looks delicious ! Loved the citrus in the oven idea, will definitely try it the next time I use citrus πŸ™‚

  21. Cynthia said

    That is quite a celebration on a plate! And what a sweet memory of your dad to share.

    Tight hugs.

  22. shanu said

    This is awesome and mouthwatering. Do visit my blog when time permits.http://shanthisthaligai.blogspot.com/

  23. Bong Mom said

    That was a sweet memory Linda, am going to do that. But then I need to warm up my oven πŸ˜€

    Loved the Chitrannam, same as lemon rice is it ? S loves Lemon Rice

    yes Sandeepa, pretty sure it’s the same thing. It’s cold enough here to have the oven on 24/7! πŸ™‚

  24. Pritya said

    “Hey Linda… memories create many more beautiful moments! As each time we remember them fondly, the lullabies of our grandparents or the way our mom told us stories to make us eat. I think β€œonce upon a time – my pa or my maa” is such an important part of our life. It was so heart-warming to see the picture of a dad on a blog. The lingering flavour in your kitchen of the citrus and the empty grapefruit shelves in the oven…your post brought back a glimpse of my childhood days…thanks Linda.

    Enjoyed your substitutes and yet, the Chitrannam turned out to be nothing less than perfect! This is your own love and passion for cooking! Your description of the citrus scent lingering here and there, the charoli bathed in ghee, the spicy chillies and the sound of the crunchy dal made me re-visit Mahanandi! Always a pleasure.”

    Dearest P and J, many thanks for your kind words — as always you inspire and encourage me to venture on! πŸ™‚

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