Friday, June 27, 2008

A Quick Breakfast Fix

Raaga is hosting Weekend Breakfast Blogging this month with the theme Express Breakfasts. I wake up at all sorts of unearthly hours, and am usually famished by the time the normal breakfast hour rolls around. Usually, quick breakfasts in my home can mean oatmeal, eggs or buttered toast with a spicy chutney sprinkled on it. But in honor of Raaga's undying love for Upma, that's what I whipped up for her.

On the menu today is the popular Maharashtrian breakfast- tikhat sanja. It is a sibling of the upma, the lovely Southern Indian dish which resembles a risotto made with coarse semolina. A brief "Compare and Contrast" exercise between the way I make upma and tikhat sanja reveals that-
(a) Upma is a creamy mass while sanja is fluffier and "looser" (for lack of a better description!)
(b) Upma does not usually contain turmeric while sanja is brightly yellow with turmeric.
(c) Upma is made with traditional Southern Indian "tempering" that includes urad dal and chana dal; sanja uses a simpler tempering of mustard seeds and cumin seeds alone. Following my mother's footsteps, I spike my upma generously with minced ginger too.
(d) Both are wonderful with nuts tossed in at the "tempering" stage (cashews for the upma and peanuts for the sanja).
(e) Both make for hot hearty breakfasts using simple pantry staples.
(f) Both can be fortified with vegetables like potato, peas, carrots and itty bitty cauliflower florets. This makes both of these dishes perfect candidates for "breakfast for dinner" nights.

Today, my kitchen is as bare as Mother Hubbard's cupboard so here is a bare basics version of tikhat sanja. The one essential for Maharashtrian "hot breakfasts" like poha and tikhat sanja, in my opinion, is a generous garnish of fresh coconut and cilantro, along with a squeeze of lemon juice. Luckily, I had some fresh cilantro at hand thanks to a little pot growing on the windowsill, so the recipe pulled together nicely.

Tikhat Sanja


1 C roasted Upma rava (coarse semolina)
1 medium onion, diced
1-2 fresh chillies, minced
1 ¾ C boiling water
1 t sugar
salt to taste
1 t oil
1 t mustard seeds
1 t cumin seeds
1 pinch asafoetida
1 sprig curry leaves
½ t turmeric powder
2 t ghee/butter (optional)
Juice of half a lemon
2-3 T minced cilantro
2-3 T grated fresh/frozen coconut

1. Heat the oil and add the "tempering" ingredients. Stir in the onion and chillies and fry it for a couple of minutes.
2. Add the roasted rava, salt and sugar and stir around for a minute more.
3. Add the hot water (carefully!) and cook on a low-medium flame, stirring often, until the water is absorbed and the semolina fluffs up.
4. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the lemon juice and ghee/butter, if using. Garnish with coconut and cilantro and serve right away.

Tikhat sanja tastes fine just by itself, but you can also serve it with some namkeen/mixture or a scoop of yogurt or a dollop of pickles.

For those who like a little sweet something with their breakfast, here's a giant cupcake for you. It is fat-free, sugar-free and fiber-rich. Contains 100% fiber, in fact :D





  1. What a vibrant and comforting breakfast to wake up to Nupur.. and that cupcake looks cute - the healthiest ever! :)

  2. Nupur, What kind of chilis do you use? And did you knit that cupcake? Awesome! best, m

  3. That looks going to try it...and seems like someone is being on a crafty high..adore those muffins :-)

  4. You are the knitted cupcake....

  5. Thats a great cupcake, can hide anice surrise inside;-) and the pictures are drool worthy. Thank you for sharing the reicpe.

  6. YUMMY! I love all forms of upma and its relatives :). The more tikhat, the better it is ;).That dollop of pickle makes it even yummier. And girlie, you are weaving a magic here with your knitting and crocheting skills!!

  7. Gorgeous looking upma. Drool.

  8. I got so distracted by your beautiful "muffins" that I forgot what I was going to say about this recipe, which looks sooooo much more interesting than the bowl of cereal I have every morning.

  9. Hey Nupur,
    You must try using green peas - it surely improves the taste of the Sanja !
    The knit cupcake sure looks wow !
    Can I get the link to knitting it !

  10. Tikhat sanja looks delicious Nupur! I am a upma freak and i am going to try this soon.. do u use upma rava or coarse suji?? we get two different ones here ....
    And the cupcake looks too cute to be devoured!

  11. Waa waa.. photo tar jhakkas alay. Barich varsha zhali tikhat saanja khaoon. Tondala agadi paani sutla.


  12. Got back after a blogging break and see this! Totally worth the comeback ;). Luuv the knitted cupcake!!!

  13. all kinds of upma r always welcome in my kitchen too :) the cupcake is 100% drool worthy in addition to being 100% fibre ;)

  14. Lovely looking sanja - have never made any variations to my upma - but this looks delicious. And the cupcake is adorable!

  15. What a wonderful Upma..
    Nupur, I don't know if it's your personality or your writing, but I just love visiting your blog!

  16. I love that cupcake :)

    Breakfast looks delicious - how do you roast the upma rava - in a dry frying pan for a couple of minutes? I usually have cereal (your crunchy granola recipe - yum) or yogurt for breakfast, but I think something like this would be a nice change of pace and a real treat!

  17. that's a vibrant tikhat sanja/upma.. and an ingenious way of "filling" the cute cupcake! :)


  18. Gorgeous cupcake! What a colorful way to start the weekend with tikhat sanja!

  19. I am one of the minority that loves upma, not the sticky type but the fluffier version.
    But I'm in love with your muffin!

  20. Hi Nupur,
    Sanja looks gorgeous. The yellow colour is so beautiful.
    And Nupur I don't believe any longer that you are a beginner at knitting or crochet. That cupcake is mind-blowing. You know I tried following some instructions from an online knitting book but all that knitting jargon just went tangent. Did not understand anything.

  21. Laavanya, Thanks :) I do feel like a good spicy breakfast gets my day off to a nice start!

    Mari, I buy chillies from international/Indian grocery stores. They simply call them Indian hot chillies. But really, any hot peppers will do. I did knit (actually, crocheted) that cupcake. It is a purse. Would make a nice gift for one of my nieces :)

    Sunita, Yes, I am certainly on a crafty high :)

    Rachel, Thanks :)

    Sands, Glad you like it!

    Musical, I agree- the "tikhat"er, the better :D

    Suganya, Thanks!

    Lydia, Yes- I love my spicy Indian breakfasts so much better than cold (or hot) cereal :)

    Sameera, I did mention in the post that vegetables like peas can be added. And I do generally add peas, but as I also mentioned in the post, I was out of most supplies and hence made this basic version.
    The cupcake is crocheted and not knitted. The pattern is here.

    Latha, And I am going to try out your kharabhaath :) Looks like we share a love for upma-like things!
    I used upma rava here but coarse suji can definitely be used as well.

    Vinita, thanks.

    Dhana, How nice to see you again :) Hope all is well with you!

    Richa, Good to know that we have another upma fan here :) I'm glad you like the cupcake!

    Arundathi, Thank you, my dear.

    Bharti, That's a very sweet thing to say!

    Cathy, This time around I bought already-roasted rava from the Indian store (the package was called "Roasted Uppuma Rava" Uppuma being just another way to spell upma. But yes, one can roast the rava/semolina at home. It does need dry frying on low heat with frequent stirring, but for longer than a couple of minutes, perhaps 10-12 minutes until the rava becomes a shade darker and starts smelling toasty.
    The nice thing about this recipe (and similar ones) is that the upma can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days and reheated in the microwave very well.

    Nilu, Thank you!

    Cham, Yes, a big breakfast definitely makes weekends special!

    Aparna, Sticky, fluffy, I love 'em all :D

    Anupama, Thank you. I am glad you liked the sanja and cupcake :)

  22. Hi, I am new to your blog, and I really like the simple and tidy template:-) I would really love to try this recipe for tomorrow morning breakfast! And magic knit it is...the cup-cake and the thali in the blog title!

  23. I love the cupcake Nupur... Very creative!!

  24. What exotic flavors compared to my typical breakfast! And the colors are gorgeous.

  25. That looks so colorful and inviting - having grown up on cold cereal, I am very intriqued by these types of breakfast dishes.

  26. Saanja/upma is such an integral part of our least one meal in the week stars this extremely satisfying and quick to make recipe in our home. And garnished with some coconut and cilantri....yum!

  27. I hate sticky upma - but give me that sunshine yellow fluffy one and I will have it anyday!

    The cupcake is too cute :)


  28. one more type of Upma... I love you Nupur. And the colours of the tikhat sanja are amazing. I have to try this :-) I am so content eating toast with the til chutney Nandita sent me that I've forgotten upma... in the last 2 weeks, I have started making it (for lunch at least!)

    Thanks for a great entry.

  29. tikhat sanja looks yummy nupur ... nice crumbly texture :) and the cupcake purse looks really cute - cud u share the pattern; seems like a nice gift idea for kids :)

  30. I like the comparisons you made between the two dishes. Now I need to figure out the differences between Sheera and Kesari! :)

  31. Hey Nupur,

    I love browsing through your blog.I must say that your love for cooking is very infectious.I cant wait to get home (after a long tiring day in office in NYC!!!) to start cooking dinner.I feel cooking is a very nice way to de-stress and to get the creative side of your personality out.
    Just a small question...Do you know of any good blog for non-veg recepies?As I didnt see any in your collection..
    The cupcake is absolutely droolicious!!:-)

  32. That dish of food looks so alive and vibrant. What a perfect way to start the day! And the knitted cupcake... Well, it's too cute for words! :)

  33. Shreya, I did knit the cupcake but the thali in the blog thali is knit by someone far more creative- not by me :)

    Bruno, Thanks :D

    Lisa, I love the sunny turmeric tinge too- it really brightens the day to start with a colorful breakfast :)

    T. W. Barritt, This is a pretty similar to hot cereal (cooked cream of wheat) kicked up several notches :D but a far cry from cold cereal!

    Tee, How are you, my dear? Nice to "see" you again :)

    Miri, So you are in the fluffy upma camp, eh? I like 'em all :)

    Raaga, LOL I thought this entry might make you happy! Ooh, the til chutney on toast sounds so good.

    Skribles, the pattern is from here.

    Pooja, Perhaps sheera is made with milk (or milk-water mixture) and kesari is made with just water?? Actually, I have no idea myself :)

    Shamika, I agree- cooking is a great way to unwind and get creative! I'm afraid I don't eat meat so I can't help you there.

    Kalai, LOL the cupcake is pretty cute, right? All thanks to the pattern that I used, of course!

  34. Could you use the cupcake as a tea cosy? That would be too cute!

  35. My niece who loves to knit would go crazy for your giant cupcake. And I'm a little crazy over your deliciously healthy breakfast.

  36. the cupcake is soooo cute!

  37. I LOVE it! What a cute idea!!

  38. The Sanja looks so yummy, thanks to the picture! Lovely interplay of colors. And the knitted 'cupcake' god, you're immensely talented :)

  39. hey nupur.. the sanja looks yummy.. my naani made a similar one but instead of chillies she added the red pepper powder and sometimes she would put in small prawns..

  40. Nupur, I came across your blog this week and tried Tikhat Sanja about half an hour ago. Delicious! I had to leave a comment to thank you for the warm memories it brought back, of Bombay, of Sushila Tai the hostel cook, who used to put this in my breakfast dabba to take to college, of shared dabbas with the then-boyfriend-now-husband-and-father-of-my-daughter! Thank you for a great start to a long weekend here in the UAE!

  41. I realize this is quite late in coming, but I wanted to tell you how much my boyfriend and I enjoyed this recipe. I made it this past weekend for breakfast, and it came out so lovely. It actually reminded me of poha + upma together (maybe because of the yellow color). I took your suggestions, and added veggies (fresh corn, and frozen peas), as well as liberally spiking it with ginger. The end result is fabulous and I've been eating the leftovers ever since. We served it with coconut chutney and sev and loved it! Thanks again.


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