Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pineapple pudding pops (Pineapple sajjige) - Old wine presented in a new bottle :-)

When I say Pineapple sajjige or pineapple kesari bhaath, I know many of you will nod your head to indicate you understood exactly what I was talking about. Which is indicative of the fact that, you all have either an Indian root or a frequent foot in an Indian kitchen. What if I had to introduce a dish to a group of friends that may not know what sajjige or kesari bhaath is, how do I explain it to a first timer trying this decadent, delicious dessert? I just packaged my old wine (aka, pineapple kesari bhaath) in a new bottle (measuring spoons) for presentation and global acceptance :-). My tiny effort at bringing this fast shrinking world together.
Here is the story from the very beginning(I know you are all eager to hear it), with holidays fast approaching, we have an annual holiday party at work to celebrate, share and enjoy good food and company. Infact we had it last week and as part of the celebrations, there was a dessert contest. I being the enthusiastic foodie (and the blogger), wanted to take a dish but ruled out all the typical holiday cakes, cookies etc since there are other very talented cooks on the floor. Thought I would introduce an Indian sweet to this very diverse and open group of people I work with and the first one that met the criteria (not on the blog already :-), easy and quick to make on a weekday night and stays fresh the next day) was the pineapple kesari bhaath. Since the name was a mouthful, I put my entry in as pineapple pudding pops (no idea where the 'pops' popped from) but then had to keep true to the name and so ended up presenting them as small blobs shaped by measuring spoons :-). Surprise, surprise, here is how the contest ended :-)
When I sent the above picture to DD & BH, their first chorus reactions was, "What? you got a prize for the kesari bhaath? and they called it a creative entry?", There is nothing wrong in that reaction since sajjige of the banana kind or the pineapple kind has been our regular Saturday morning dessert (all in the name of offering to the God) for many years now and DD is a die hard fan of this soft, decadent, fruity dessert. I stick to it because of its simplicity and ease of making the dish. So, they were both non believers when I said my humble kesari bhaath/sajjige won a prize in a dessert competition. When I came home, DD was like, "mom, if anyone should be given a most creative dessert for this dish, they should go and find a grandma atleast 4 generations back, she is right, I didn't invent it :-).
On the other hand, it is perfectly normal that it was named the most creative dish in a sea of entries made of the regular chocolate cookies, red velvet cakes and other such seasonal desserts. What can I say? the judges were blown away by this delicious dessert and I am just glad I got recognized :-)
This is not a common dish from nammamma's kitchen like most of my traditional dishes are. Instead, I learnt it from a cousin sister in law who had made this when we stopped over at their place in Chikmagalur many years back. Not only did she feed us until we were ready to fall over, she also packed a big, steel box full of ghee oozing, saffron flavored, pineapple kesari bhaath when we headed out on our way to Sringeri. I remember we had enjoyed the delicious kesari bhaath for over two days (it keeps well even outside refrigerator if the weather is mildly cold). This is many moons ago, I was in college and it was a very rare trip we had taken up as family and my father had taken us kids to our native village (I carry the initials as part of my name but never had visited the place until then). All great experiences and memories. It is a trip I will never forget for many reasons and the kesari bhaath made the memories all the more sweet.
We are not a family of sweet people :-), ok, what I actually meant is this - we are not a family of people that LOVE sweets. There are only so many sweets that actually entice us and this simple, homely yet deliciously fruity dessert is very close to our hearts and we invariably go back to it all the time. Hope you like it as much as I do. 
What do you need to make pineapple kesari bhaath? 
1 cup upma rava/sooji
1.5 cups water
1 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar (adjust based on the sweetness of pineapple)
1+1/4 cup chopped pineapple
7-8 strands of saffron
4 Tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
1 Tbsp cashew nuts
1 Tbsp raisins

How do you make pineapple kesari bhaath? 

  • Clean pineapple of any thorns and chop into small bits. I like making this with fresh pineapple. 
  • Bring 1/2 cup water to a gentle boil with sugar and when the bubbles start to form, add the chopped pineapple along with any juice. 
  • Cook for 2 minutes, switch off, cover and keep aside until ready to use.
  • Soak the saffron strands in a Tbsp of warm milk and keep it aside to infuse flavors.
  • In a deep pan, add 1/2 Tbsp ghee and heat it. 
  • Add cashews and raisins and roast them until raisins plump up and cashews turn golden brown. 
  • Take them aside into a plate. 
  • In the same pan, add another 1/2 Tbsp ghee, add the rava/sooji and start to roast it on medium heat, continuously stirring for uniform heat distribution. 
  • Add another Tbsp of ghee after 3-4 minutes and continue to roast. 
  • The roasting will take about 7-8 minutes depending on the amount of heat, it is good to do it on low/medium heat and not burn the sooji. 
  • As it roasts, the sooji turns lighter (you will feel it when you turn it over with the spoon) and starts to give out a nice roasted aroma. 
  • When the sooji turns light golden and loses the raw smell, turn the heat all the way to low, add the pineapple & sugar syrup. 
  • Keep stirring the mixture continuously not to form lumps and immediately add the remaining water and milk and mix it well. 
  • Add the saffron along with the milk it is soaked in. 
  • Add the remaining ghee on top, turn the heat up just a little, cover and let cook undisturbed for 10 minutes.
  • When you open the cover, the entire mixture should be a fluffy, soft mass and smell delicious. 
  • Switch off, garnish with the roasted cashews and raisins, mix and serve warm or cool. 
Notes: 
  • You can use canned pineapple if you prefer but make sure, you wash it a couple of times in running water to rid of the juice and preservatives. 
  • You can add pineapple & sugar directly into the roasted sooji but this sometimes leaves a very faint bitter taste as pineapple doesn't cook completely. 
  • You can add a pinch of powdered cardamom towards the end for flavor, I like to keep saffron & cardamom separate in my desserts and give them their own individual space. 
  • I always add milk to my kesari bhaath to make it rich and tastier, if you prefer, just use water. 
  • We like soft kesari bhaath and the 1:2.5 ratio of rava:liquid works fine. 
  • Use upma rava (coarser variety) for the kesari bhaath, the finer varieties make it pasty.