Safe and simple Upma

May 19, 2008

I shuffled to the kitchen on Sunday night to make a hot bedtime drink. Before I could say “Rooibos tea”, the kettle caught fire ejecting angry sparks everywhere.

I fled from the kitchen screaming “fire, fire” in my best damsel in distress act only to find hubby asleep on the couch mid-way through American Idol.

The next day, I wasn’t in the mood for any incidents. I decided to cook a simple Upma, savoury semolina dish called Upma. Sheer simplicity, this is a typical South Indian breakfast that I ate in the morning, as light lunch and a tea time snack in India.

All it needs is small number of ingredients, a bag of semolina and one non-stick frying pan. What could possibly go wrong?

I started dry roasting the course semolina on the frying pan. It was going brown beautifully, with a gorgeous aroma filling my kitchen. And then I saw little black bits appear. And then, even more.

I’d scraped the non stick coating off!

Luckily for me this Upma takes about 20 minutes to make. I started again from scratch (excuse the pun) and the result was light, yummy and incident free. Just as it should be. Serve this with spicy mixed pickle or as an interesting alternative to cous cous with a tagine.



Feeds 2:

  • 200 gm coarse semolina
  • Half inch ginger grated fine
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • Half tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 dry whole red chillies
  • 10-15 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp channa dal
  • 2 cups of hot water
  • 1.5 tbsp sunflower oil
  • Salt to taste


Bring a robust frying pan to heat on a high flame with the semolina. Keep shifting and stirring the semolina around until it goes warm golden evenly. This takes a good 5-7 minutes.

Tip the semolina out of the pan into a serving bowl. Put the pan back on the cooker with the oil and heat over a high flame.

When hot, throw in the mustard seeds, curry leaves and whole red chillies. As they start sizzling, mix in the onion, ginger, turmeric and channa dal. Fry for about two minutes until the onions brown.

Now stir the semolina back in with some salt, add hot water bit by bit until the semolina doubles up into a moist but grainy texture. Serve immediately.



16 Responses to “Safe and simple Upma”

  1. Smita Says:

    May 19th, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    Ah, the life of damsels! Upma is the ONE food that makes me quake. Not in a good way. I am a survivor of upma overdose. sigh.


  2. Deana Says:

    May 19th, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    I love how even a cooking diva like yourself can set the kettle on fire and burn the non-stick coating off! Makes the rest of us feel better! :)

    Of course, another delicious looking recipe!

  3. JennDZ_The LeftoverQ Says:

    May 20th, 2008 at 7:23 am

    Sounds like a nice dish! Hope all is well in your kitchen from here on out!

  4. LiberalFoodie Says:

    May 20th, 2008 at 7:49 am

    chana dal seems like an interesting twist to the dish. Have you added curry leaves with the oil and mustard seeds? that adds great aroma and taste.

  5. LiberalFoodie Says:

    May 20th, 2008 at 7:50 am

    oops, I overlooked your curry leaves. sorry! having a blonde moment.

  6. Sonal Says:

    May 20th, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Nice one…hope everything is well in the kitchen now!

  7. nandita Says:

    May 21st, 2008 at 2:48 am

    Why is it that our hubbies are always sleeping when we play damsel in distress??
    I mass roast the entire bag and put it in the freezer (to keep out worms), so when i make this for breakfast it even takes lesser time…Have you tried making the same upma with fine broken wheat or quick oats? Results are as good, nice for a variation!

  8. Trupti Says:

    May 21st, 2008 at 6:02 am

    Oh my…did you get a new kettle yet? Upma looks good…I can never get it that fluffy, mine looks like friggin’ idlis but I still LOVE it.

  9. Planethalder Says:

    May 21st, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Lovely. I add a few peas and finely diced carrots and also use 1 tsp of urad instead of channa dahl. You’ve reminded me to make this again. YUM!

  10. Trekkie Says:

    May 22nd, 2008 at 1:40 am

    I’ve also had the ‘kettle exploding’ incident, and it scared me so much that I now have an old fashioned one that sits on top of the hob.

    Never tried Upma though and it’s sounds lovely, so I guess I’d better get myself into the kitchen!!!!!

  11. sra Says:

    May 22nd, 2008 at 2:03 am

    I once had help who scraped off the non-stick coating while doing the dishes because she thought I’d burnt it!!!

  12. Elisabeth Winkler Says:

    May 23rd, 2008 at 9:11 am

    I adore semolina – so comforting – but I have never had it savoury so this is one to try. I finally acquired the curry leaves from a marvellous new emporium in Bristol – but channa dal? Um. I think I can substitute with split red lentils. And will dried curry leaves work? I was amazed when I fried them how they seemed to melt away – I thought they would stay crisp. OK…still experimenting…By the way, I love your description of your father.

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  15. Beach Decor Says:

    September 26th, 2011 at 10:22 am

    This sounds like a very tasty dish, I might give that a try! I have just come home from shopping with my kids and while putting stuff away in the pantry I found this big bag of coarse semolina I once bought for whatever reason, and as I was just about to let it fall into the rubbish bin, I thouhgt “Why not Google a recipe for it?” – And I landed here! Thanks for the tips. xxx

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