A savory snack - Saanja

I find it very interesting how our mind correlates food with memories and these correlations are so strong (well, atleast for me :-)). Warm smell of freshly made tortialla and spanish rice reminds me of my San Diego days when I used to frequently visit old town to satisfy mexican food cravings..... similarly thinking of Maggi noodles takes me back to my college days back in India preparing for exams late into the night and relying on Maggi for a larger part of sustainance! What a treat it used to be to enjoy hot Maggi noodles in the middle of a cold wintry night!

Saanja has some similar memory lane associations for me: it is a very common marathi snack made out of semolina (rava). I find Saanja as a lesser-known but equally potent cousin of the ever-so-famous Upma! When I was growing up my Masi (Mom's sister) would stop by few afternoons to visit us. We used to look forward to Masi's visits because each of her visits would be filled with warm talks, laughter and a fresh batch of gossip! On most such days my mom would make Saanja when she would know that masi is coming. Mom, masi and I would sit around the kitchen savouring the saanja with a hot cup of Chai and an equally exciting chatter! More than 15 years have passed since then but still whenever I think of Saanja somewhere subconciously the image of us sitting in our kitchen and laughing on something silly flashes by....

Anyways, so here is how I make (or rather my mom makes) Saanja: If you have toasted rava ready in your pantry then this dish hardly takes 20mins to make and can be cooked with a near-empty pantry (always a plus!)

1C Upma Rava (most Indian stores carry this; otherwise cracked wheat is a good healthy substitute too)
1.5C water
3 small chillis - chopped
1/2 onion - finely chopped
1/4tsp turmeric powder, 1/2tsp cumin seeds, salt, 1Tbsp oil

Garnish (optional): lime juice, cilantro, raw onion, fresh/frozen coconut flakes

Toast rava in a heavy bottom pan for 5-10mins until it gets slightly pinkish golden (be careful not to burn it -- continuous stirring/monitoring is best). You can toast the rava ahead of time or use pre-toasted rava available now-a-days at some grocery stores.

Heat oil in another pan on medium heat. When oil is hot add cumin seeds. Follow up with chillis and then add onions. Let the onions cook until they start browning; this step takes patience: you need to keep stirring on-and-off so onions don't burn. As there aren't many spices in this recipe, I find that browing of the onion is essential to the flavour. When onions are ready add the turmeric powder and then add toasted rava and cook for a few more minutes. Add the salt next. Then add hot water to the rava and continue stirring. Be very careful now as the rava mixture when mixed with hot water has a strong tendancy of spluttering and as its hot its best to be cautious and not stand too close to the stove for next few minutes. The spluttering will stop in few minutes; keep stirring. Take off the heat after nearly 5more minutes of cooking. Garnish with lime juice, cilantro, raw onions (for texture) and coconut flakes and serve warm!