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.
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