Pallavi Shetty shares her mother-in-law’s recipe for the typical Mangalorean breakfast, a spicy-sweet kadle bajeel.
Karnataka produces rice and coconut in abundance, and Mangalorean cuisine relies heavily on both these ingredients. Rice is a staple part of the diet, and several dishes originating from the Mangalorean kitchen use rice extensively, like neer dosa, bisi bele bath, pundi, and gattis. Coconut is used for making gravies, desserts, chutneys. When it is not a key ingredient in a dish, it is used generously as a garnish, especially in vegetarian recipes.
While growing up in the culturally diverse city of Mumbai, poha was a regular feature on our breakfast table. Poha was served in varied forms, be it the humble kanda poha or batata poha (the Maharashtrian influence) or the staple Mangalorean combination of sajige bajeel (upma with poha), or the quick fix sweet bajeel (poha with coconut and jaggery) and savoury bajeel (poha with a tempering of spices).
However, I was introduced to kadle bajeel only much later in life by my mother-in-law. Although I had eaten several combinations of poha recipes all my life, this was one I found irresistible. It was definitely love at first bite.
It blew my mind that such a unique (read: weird) combination could actually taste so delicious. The soft poha along with the spicy chana was a match made in culinary heaven. It was one of my husband’s favourite breakfast dishes and I could definitely understand why. So, when we moved away from home and I’d rack my brain for breakfast recipes, the ultimate combo of kadle bajeel always made an appearance on our menu. Many phone calls to my mother-in-law and several tastings later, I can now proudly say that I can make a mean kadle bajeel.
This dish is distinctive; the balance of various flavours - the sweetness from the coconut and jaggery, and the perfect blend of spices, hits just the right notes. Also, the various ingredients used, like coconut oil, ghee, jaggery, rice and chana, are widely acknowledged for their health benefits.
Recipe: Kadle Bajeel
For the spice mix
4 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
3 dried byadagi chillies
2 Kashmiri chillies
For the tempering
1 ½ tsp coconut oil
4 curry leaves
1 Kashmiri chilli
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp split black gram
1 cup onion, finely chopped
For the bajeel or poha
2 cups thin poha
3/4 cup freshly grated coconut
1/4 cup jaggery, grated
1 tsp ghee
2 tsp spice mix
For the kadle or chana
2 cups black chickpeas, boiled (kala chana)
2 tbsp freshly grated coconut
1.5 tsp spice mix
Salt to taste
To make the spice mix
In a heavy-bottomed pan, dry roast the chillies on a medium flame. Keep aside.
To the same pan, add the coriander seeds and dry roast them till they smell fragrant, taking care not to burn them. Set aside.
Next, dry roast the cumin seeds. Once done, dry roast the curry leaves.
When the roasted ingredients have cooled a bit, add them to a spice grinder along with mustard seeds and grind to a fine powder.
Once ground well, add the turmeric powder and give 1 or 2 pulses to incorporate it well with the rest of the spices.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
To make the tempering and chana
In the same pan, add the coconut oil. Keep the flame on medium-high.
When the oil heats up, add the mustard seeds. Once the seeds begin to splutter, lower the flame and add the black split gram. Cook it till it turns golden brown. Be careful, not to burn them. Next, break the red chilli and add it along with the curry leaves.
Add the onions and cook well till translucent. Add a dash of salt to ensure that the onions cook evenly.
Once the onions are done, take about 2.5 tbsp of the mix and keep it in a separate bowl.
Lower the flame and add 1.5 tsp of the spice mix. Add the boiled chickpeas and adjust the salt.
Sprinkle 2 tbsp of the grated coconut and mix well. Keep aside.
To make the poha
In a bowl, take freshly grated coconut, grated jaggery, 2 tsp spice mix and 2.5 tbsp onion mix and mix well using your hands.
Next, add the poha and mix gently. Be careful not to break the flakes. Be sure to coat all the flakes well with the spices.
Finally, stir in a little ghee.
In a bowl or plate, add the spiced chana and the sweet and spicy poha mix. Serve hot.
Tastes delicious with a piping hot cup of tea or coffee.
Pallavi Shetty is the creator of the blog Caramel Swirls. Follow her culinary journey here.
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