Upma is a traditional grain dish much loved all over India. It consists of roasted semolina (sooji) and sauteed spices, with added vegetables and nuts combined with water to form a moist, savoury pudding. Though upma's texture resembles Italian polenta or North African couscous, its flavour is unique. Served with fresh lemon juice and a little yogurt, it makes a delicious breakfast. Serves 6 - 8 persons.
1½ cups coarse-grain semolina,
¼ cup ghee or oil,
1½ teaspoons black mustard seeds,
2 teaspoons split urad dal,
1½ teaspoons cumin seeds,
2 hot green chilies, seeded and minced,
2 cups cabbage, finely shredded,
1 red pepper, seeded and diced,
1 cup cubed potatoes,
1 cup orange-fleshed sweet potato,
½ teaspoon turmeric,
3 cups hot water,
1 cup green peas, cooked if fresh, thawed if frozen,
1½ teaspoons salt,
1 cup roasted cashew pieces,
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves,
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice,
Toast, yogurt, lemon wedges, or chutney to accompany (optional).
Dry-roast the semolina in a large, heavy dry frying pan over moderate heat for 6 - 8 minutes or until the grains darken a few shades. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Heat the ghee or oil in a heavy 4 or 5-litre/quart saucepan over moderately high heat. Saute the black mustard seeds in the hot oil until they crackle. Add the urad dal and cumin seeds and saute them until they darken; add the chilies and, stirring, add the cabbage, peppers, zucchini, potatoes, and turmeric. Stir-fry for 2 or 3 minutes.
Reduce the heat to moderate and continue to cook for another 4 or 5 minutes or until the vegetables are limp and partly cooked. Carefully add the hot water and bring to the boil. Add the cooked fresh peas or thawed frozen peas. Add the semolina, stirring continuously. Add the salt; reduce the heat to very low, and half-cover with a lid, stirring often until the upma becomes a light, fluffy pudding (about 5 minutes). If the upma appears too dry, add a little warm water.
Remove the upma from the heat, stir in the cashew nuts, lemon juice and fresh coriander leaves, and serve hot with suggested accompaniments.