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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

An Upma Cake with Leek, Tomato, Rosemary n Milk

Semolina Upma Porridge cake with sweet flavors from Leek, the fleshy tartness from Tomato, the crunch of Peanuts n herbal cool depth from Rosemary

As far as I can remember my first taste of upma took place about 15 years ago when one evening my elder sister got back home n cooked upma excitedly for the first time in our home n I watched her, she must have learned it from the mother of one or her friends I guess. And when everything came down on the plate it was like tasting a new island…you know that sorta feeling! And then we loved it n then it was prepared again n again with hundreds of variation…well almost.

Upma is a savory preparation using semolina n vegetables as the two main ingredients, semolina/sooji/rawa is almost at every home in India and so often in the morning breakfast table or evening snacks time the kitchen is filled up with the aroma of curry leaves n roasted sooji, sound of sizzling vegetables in oil, sound of sputtering of mustard seeds play across the kitchen. An Indian kitchen is dramatic n full of life, the popping mustard n cumin seeds in oil, the humming exhaust fan gushes out the flavored smoke across the road hitting the home coming people  n making them hungry as they reach home, their feet hurry up to reach even quicker.

If I have to describe the primary flavors of a traditional upma I will mention the curry leaves, the tomato, the chana dal, the semolina, the onion, the mustard seeds and lastly the ghee or the tomato sauce! Yeah when we serve upma we scatter a touch of ghee/clarified butter over it  which gives it a fuller rich yet  light flavor or tomato ketchup which gives u sweet n sour edge  n both are very delicious. As a kid I was a fan of tomato ketchup, so often my upma  looked red, you know why.

In this version of upma I have featured the mild flavor of the leeks which is like sweet onion in a way, the brilliant fresh aromatic astringent quality of rosemary, the satisfying rich n crunchy peanuts, the fleshy lovable tomato and the richness of milk. I have walked in a different path from the traditional upma, using milk as the liquid part, taking the mustard n the dal away but the structure remains the same, the result is a delicious smooth creamy upma with brand new flavors! How cool is that…new flavors are always welcome, new islands are to be ventured.

The origin of upma is in the southern part of India, a part from where came brilliant vegetarian preparation now enjoyed across the globe. May be it also came from Sri Lanka, the region of Tamil Nad n Sri Lanka are so close. Upma is known as ‘Uppuma’, ‘Uppittu’, ‘Uppindi’, ‘Uppumavu’, ‘Upeet’, ‘Rulanv’ across all the Sothern states of India, ‘Upma’ is a short term used in Hindi.

So now I’ll give you the recipe.

For The Recipe: You will need
Semolina/Rawa/Sooji- 1 cup
Milk-2 cups, skimmed or full fat- your choice
Water -½ cup
Leek- I medium stalk, washed n halved length-ways, chopped into ¼ inch half moons
Capsicum- quarter of a big, chopped into 1 inch pieces
Tomato- 1 medium, chopped
Rosemary- ½ tbsp
Green chili-1 medium, chopped
Dry ginger powder/Saunth- ½ tbsp
Red chili powder- ¼ tsp
Turmeric powder- 2 pinch
Freshly ground black pepper- to season
Butter- 1 tbsp
Ghee/Clarified butter-1 tbsp vegetable oil- 3tbsp
Peanut- 3-4 tbsp, roasted
Pink rock salt- 1 pinch
Sugar- ½ tsp

1. Put a frying pan on low heat, when the pan is hot pour the semolina over it and shake it to spread it out. Give it 5-6 minutes in low heat and shake n toss every 1 minute, then increase the heat to medium and give it 4 minutes tossing every 30 seconds, make sure nothing is going red or brown, don’t go anywhere, stay right there, we have to shake n toss the pan frequently this time so that no part of the semolina gets too roasted, we don’t want any reddish color to the semolina, the semolina should stay white,  so after 4 minutes take them off onto a plate. In case the semolina got reddish while you are away its okay, carry on, it will give a different flavor.
2. In the same pan add 3 tbsp of vegetable oil n the butter, as the butter sizzles n melts  in a low medium heat add the chopped garlic, stir, then add the green chili, don’t let the garlic brown, add the leeks and stir well, let the flame be on low heat now, give them 5 minutes n stir in between, then add the capsicum n the roasted peanut , add a pinch of sugar, stir, increase the heat to medium now, give them 3 minutes, add some salt now, then add the tomato, a pinch pink rock salt n ½ tbsp dry rosemary,  give it a mix, give them around 5 minutes, the tomato will almost melt and the leeks will start to brown a bit, add the  ground ginger powder, chili n turmeric powder with a dash of water so that the spices don’t burn, keep the heat to low now,  give them about 3 minutes, the tomatoes would have melted now. Now add the milk n water, a pinch of dry rosemary again, add salt to taste and the sugar, taste n keep the salt slightly higher than normal because the semolina will go in the pan and absorb the salt, so when the liquid comes to a simmer, lower the heat and start sprinkling the semolina in one hand  as you keep stirring with other hand, keep stirring constantly and if you spot any lumps, press it and break it away, the mixture will immediate thicken, 1 cup of semolina will absorb minimum 2 ½ cup liquid, so if the mixture still need a little more add a little more milk and work it in. Move the pan away from the heat and add 1 tbsp f ghee and mix it well. The consistency will be smooth, thick; always keep stirring to mix the ghee really well.  Take the mixture off in plate.
3. Serve it hot n warm, scatter some roasted peanuts on top, if you want some fresh chopped tomato, then submerge your spoon into the creamy thick smooth Upma and have your hungry bite.

It is even good when cold, one healthy recipe that you can have time n time again, for this time don’t delay your bite, dig in, Bon App├ętit.

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