September 25, 2009 § Leave a comment

Upma is traditionally a South Indian breakfast dish, quite similar to porridge, but more savoury, using onion, ginger and coriander to provide flavour. As a kid I was terrible when it came to breakfast foods – I could never settle on one I liked! My parents would buy a cereal that I was fond of one day only to find that I’d refused to eat it the next… it was only when I returned home from university the first few times that I started to really develop a taste for this simple yet wholesome dish, and now it’s my breakfast of choice!

Ideally, you would use an ingredient called ‘rava’ which is a soft wheat semolina, however if you can’t find rava, semolina is a perfectly acceptable subsitute. To prepare the semolina as an ingredient for the upma you’ll need to dry roast it in a wide frying pan, with a touch of ghee or butter if you wish. You’ll also need a number of ingredients which you can easily find in ethnic stores or in the ‘World Foods’ sections of most supermarkets. These include mustard seeds, cumin seeds and turmeric, although lentils are also an essential ingredient to making this protein-packed breakfast. Natco is a good brand to go for, generally.

Semolina and spices

Start off by dry-roasting approximately 200g of semolina just until it turns golden. Don’t let any of it burn. Once you’ve done that, set it aside.

For the upma you’ll need:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 inch fresh root ginger chopped
  • ½ bird’s eye green chilli, diced
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander
  • 1½ tbsp oil (olive oil or vegetable oil)
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp white urid lentils (Natco sells a bag of this in most supermarkets)
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp turmeric (optional)
  • a pinch of asafoetida (also known as Hing)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 200g dry-roasted semolina
  • 250ml boiling water
  • salt and sugar to taste
  • dessicated coconut to serve (optional)

From the outset it looks like a lot of ingredients but these can be used in plenty of different dishes, and a large variety of Indian dishes. To start, heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan on a high heat, first adding the mustard seeds, then urid lentils, cumin seeds and a pinch of asafoetida. You can add the turmeric at this stage however this will turn your upma a bright shade of yellow so its entirely optional. I chose not to add it to my dish. Fry the spices for around 2-3 minutes, promptly adding the chopped onion, ginger and chilli and giving the mixture a good stir. Fry the vegetables for around 5 minutes.

Vegetables and semolina

At this stage you add ½ tsp of salt to the vegetables, stir and cover the saucepan for a few minutes. Uncover and pour 250ml of boiling water into the pan, with 1 tbsp of chopped coriander for taste. Cover and let it boil through for 2-3 minutes.

Adding water and coriander

The dry-roasted semolina is ready to go in to the boiled water at this point, so lower the heat and stir it through to thicken the mixture and to avoid lumps. Add a little bit of sugar and then salt to taste. You can serve the upma as it is, or with dessicated coconut sprinkled on top with a few coriander leaves.

Thickened upma

And there you have it: a really tasty savoury breakfast dish that’s packed with protein and will keep you going right up until lunch. If you’ve got the time you can deep-fry a few cashew nuts and chuck them over the top!



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