Upma

I promised in my About page that I would share a recipe for one of my favourite breakfasts- south Indian upma. So, here we are.

Upma (I should mention that phoenetically it is oop-ma. I can hear you all saying up-ma!) is a savoury, dry porridge usually made of semolina (also known as cream of wheat). In Hindi, we call it sooji (phoenetically soo as in “sue” and ji as in the letter g). As I’ve said, this is one of my favourite breakfast foods- it’s so comforting, and always reminds me of my childhood. This to me was porridge, and whenever I read the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears upma was the too hot/too cold/just right porridge they were all eating.

To serve about 4 people, you will need:
1 cup of semolina
2 tsp cooking oil
1 tsp each of mustard seeds and cumin seeds (optional)
1 small onion, chopped
1 inch ginger, finely minced or grated
1 cup of frozen (or fresh!) peas
1 tsp turmeric
2 ¼ cups cold water
salt and pepper to taste

Optional raiyta accompaniment:
1 cup yogourt
1 grated carrot
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Roast the semolina in a dry wok or pan, over medium heat, until it changes colour slightly and it smells nicely roasted. Stir constantly, as this will easily burn otherwise.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a wok or pan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the mustard and cumin seeds, and when they’ve popped add the ginger. Cook and stir until fragrant (about 1 minute)
  3. Add the onion. Cook until translucent.
  4. Add the peas, turmeric, salt and pepper, and water. Bring to a boil.
  5. Add the roasted semolina, while stirring vigorously, to prevent any lumps. Cover, and turn off heat, and let the upma sit for a few minutes.
  6. Make tthe raiyta by combining the grated carrot with the yogourt, salt and pepper.
  7. Serve the upma with the raiyta. This is optional, but was always done in my house. I can’t imagine eating upma without carrot raiyta (or at least plain yogourt, if there happens to be no carrots in the house that morning). It’s like eating a chocolate chip cookie without the chocolate chips!

This is upma my way, and there are as many different ways to make it as there are cooks. I often add corriander and poppy seeds in addition to or in lieu of mustard and cumin. My cousin likes to add chopped tomatoes when she makes it, which tastes fine, but I don’t like how she seasons it, so I can’t compare it to my non-tomatoed upma. I like to eat this in a deep, round bowl with a big spoon. I like the way the seeds crunch between my teeth. I like how the peas pop in my mouth. I like the sweetness of the carrot and tangyness of the yogourt. I mix it all together, so that the dry upma becomes very creamy from the raiyta. I don’t know why, but I like this to be on the slightly salty side, so I often end up sprinkling a pinch of extra salt on my serving.

This does not have to be served for breakfast at all, and could make a substantial lunch or even dinner, but it’s so soft and comforting I think it’s perfect for breakfast. Or brunch, if you think this too exotic for first thing in the morning.

Thank you, Mum, for giving me upma and yogourt for breakfast instead of bowls of sugary cereal from Post/Kellogs boxes. Which should be served for dessert instead of breakfast (and they make fine late evening snacks, but as breakfast food they are kinda sick).

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