Upma is a dish my mother occasionally made for breakfast on the weekend. It was soft and comforting surprisingly full of flavour given that it was so simple to make. We had the choice of eating our our upma two ways: topped with a fried egg, which is what my father liked, or with a small piece of sweet banana mashed into each bite, which is how I liked it. This is the grown-up version, with a couple of tiny tweaks. (if you’re not afraid of experimenting, I recommend trying a couple of bites with banana, make sure its very ripe and soft thought). Rava or semolina is made by grinding husked wheat, and is available in most supermarkets or Indian stores. I used spelt semolina for this recipe, that I bought from my favourite farmers produce store and loved its texture, which I felt was creamier than wheat semolina. (Full confession: The store is owned by dear friends, and their organic produce is fabulous, this is however just a personal opinion and not a sponsorship in any way.) This recipe can easily be made vegan by omitting the egg and substituting the ghee with sunflower oil.
1 cup / 200 gm fine semolina
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 medium tomato, diced
1—2 green chillies, medium heat, very finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon finely grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds/
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
10—15 curry leaves, fresh or frozen
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ghee or sunflower oil
2.5 cups / 675 ml hot water
Salt to taste
In a small pan on medium heat, gently toast the semolina for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and taking care not to let it burn.
Heat the ghee or oil in a wok or a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the mustard and coriander seeds and the curry leaves and allow to splutter for a few seconds, then add the onions. Fry on medium heat until lightly browned, about 3—5 minutes. Add the turmeric, tomatoes, ginger and chilli, stir and fry for a further two minutes until the tomatoes start to get soft.
Add the semolina to the wok, and stir well to combine. Add the hot water and salt to taste and mix well, taking care to dissolve any lumps. It might look very watery at this stage, but the water will soon be absorbed (see image below). Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for a further 5 minutes stirring occasionally. The mixture should start to leave the sides of the pan, and the semolina grains should be soft not crunchy.
Spoon the upma into bowls and top with a fried egg if you’re in the mood, and serve immediately. It also tastes amazing with some spicy mango or lime pickle on the side.