The humble grains of semolina are widely used in Indian cooking. And I'm always fascinated by how versatile they can be. Sometimes sweet, sometimes savory, sometimes the crunchy coating on a simple fried fish, semolina has many wonderful avatars.
Sooji upma is a breakfast dish that's as delicious as it is good for you. Upma is welcoming of all sorts of flavors and vegetables, so if you've eaten a carrot stick too many, you can always replace it with any other veggie you like. And feel free to garnish it with scraped coconut, peanuts, cashews, bits of dry fruit or even slices of your favorite fruit.
I've always found Upma to be a sort of breakfast treasure hunt. Sometimes an emerald green pea will surface in a morsel; sometimes a fleck of crunchy peanut will peep out. And it all works beautifully because of the wonderful blank canvas that is semolina.
- 1 cup semolina flour
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon whole black mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon split black gram (Urad dal)
- 1 small onion chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 small green chills split lengthwise
- 10 curry leaves
- 1/4 cup diced boiled carrots
- 1/4 cup boiled green peas
- 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Kosher salt
- 2 1/4 cups water
Place semolina in cast iron pan and cook over medium heat until toasty but not browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
Return pan to medium heat and heat ghee or oil until shimmering. Add the mustard seeds and split black gram, stir until they splutter, about 30 seconds. Add the onion, fry until slightly soft, about a minute (take care not to brown). Add the slit chillis, curry leaves and stir until fragrant, about a minute longer. Add the carrots, peas, red chilli powder, and sugar, and stir until fragrant and the mixture is coated with the ghee/oil, about 1 minute.
Add toasted semolina and stir vigorously until the mixture resembles wet sand—about a minute. Add the salt and gently pour in the water. The semolina will bubble and spurt as it absorbs the water. Reduce heat to low. Allow this mixture to cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. The Upma absorbs water very quickly and tends to dry out too, so turn off the heat when the mixture is slightly runny. Serve immediately.
Cast iron pan