Sajjige/ Kesari bhath or Semolina dessert

“Sajjige” is the Kannada name for this dish. “Sojji” is what it is knows as in Tamil and “Sheera” is its name in Hindi, parts of North Karnataka (see map here) and Maharashtra. In our home, it is requested for by the name “Semolina thingy”. Whatever name it goes by, it is a delicious, rather filling and almost nutritious (if you leave out all the indulgent bits).

Sajjige is commonly served as part of breakfast in the state of Karnataka where I come from. It is often served with its savoury counterpart “uppittu”  in little breakfast joints all over big and small cities. In these breakfast joints, they come out in a bright yellow or bright orange colour which of course is food colouring but gives it its alternate name of “Kesari bhath” where “kesari” refers to saffron which is meant to give a yellow-orange hue to the dish. “Bhath” refers to any dish where all the ingredients have been premixed . For instance if you mixed dal and rice together and wanted to present it to someone, you’d call it “Dal bhath”. Here, I use real saffron and not any food colouring. The sweetness of this dish is controlled wholly by you and my grandma often has it without any sugar as she is a diabetic and her version is still very tasty. Hope you like it as much as we do!

Sajjige or Kesari bhath

Ingredients: (makes 4 dessert sized servings)

1 cup semolina

2 cups of milk (regular or soy)

2 cups of water

3/4 cup sugar (I use soft brown sugar as it is not as sweet as white sugar)

3-4 green cardomom pods, crushed

a pinch of saffron

1/2 cup of sultanas or raisins (golden raisins work really well)

1/2 cup of cashews

50 gms of butter

Method:

1.Place the milk and sugar in a thick-bottomed deep pot and heat until the sugar melts. Don’t let the milk boil.

2. Heat the butter in a pan and add the cashews. As they start to turn golden, add the sultanas. Remove both cashews and sultanas from the butter when the sultanas swell (I’ve shown this in the pictures below). If you don’t you will burn them.

3. Add the semolina to the remaining butter and roast until it gives off a toasted aroma and starts to go light brown. Again, don’t let the semolina go brown as you will have burnt it.

4. To the sugary milk, add the saffron and ground cardomom. Remove the green skins of the cardomom and only add the seeds.

To the heated milk and sugar, slowly add the semolina while stirring to ensure no lumps are formed. I was doing the stirring and I got my partner to pour the semolina into the pot. However, if you are doing it yourself, you can use a whisk to break any lumps that form as you add the semolina in.

5. Stir the semolina-milk mixture continuously for 10-12 minutes until it thickens and starts bubbling. The mixture is quite hot so keep your distance from the pot while stirring at this stage.

6. Turn off the heat when the semolina has thickened. Add a small blob of extra butter to this if you’d like and stir it in.

7. Stir in the roasted cashews and sultanas, saving some for decoration.

8. Serve hot or cold, as an indulgent breakfast or as a dessert after dinner.

9. Sajjige thickens further as it cools so don’t worry if when you turn the heat off and your semolina is still watery.

Tips:

1. If you are vegan, use margarine instead of butter and it will still work well.In fact, little corner shops in India cannot afford ghee and often use something called ‘dalda’ or hydrogenated vegetable oil. ALso, I made this with soy-milk as I am lactose intolerant and I really couldn’t tell the difference.

2. If you are on a gluten-free diet, then substitute the semolina with gluten-free semolina (derived from buckwheat) or polenta.

3. Sugar can be substituted with palm sugar.

1. Roasting cashews and sultanas until swollen and golden 2. Roasting semolina until golden. 3. Ingredients ready to go. 4. Mixture when you have just added the semolina 5. Mixture when the semolina has thickened.

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