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  • Writer's pictureTina Brand

South Indian brunch: Upma

You can't go past some upma (pronounced oop-ma) for a comforting breakfast. It is up there with congee; yes its that category of goodness for me. The only stumbling block here and it is a tiny one, is that most people I know don't have a bag of semolina sitting in the pantry, like you would flour or sugar. But if you did (and I'm sure that could be easily arranged the next time you're at the grocery store), this is a quick and hearty breakfast/snack/brunch/lunch offering to put together once you've chopped everything.

I've eaten it all my life with a sprinkle of sugar on top, but mostly it is eaten on its own, with chutneys, or a little portion of last night's left over casserole or curry.

This recipe makes enough for four.


  • 1 tablespoon frying oil (I use rice bran oil)

  • 2 -3 tablespoons roasted cashew nuts or slivered almonds

  • 1-2 tablespoons raisins

  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

  • 1/2 a fresh green or red chilli, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped fine

  • 1 onion chopped fine

  • 4-5 curry leaves

  • 2 cups chopped (into small pieces) hard veggies likes carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, leeks, beans, peas.

  • 2 teaspoons salt (to taste)

  • 1 cup semolina, dry roasted and set aside

  • 1/2 cup boiling water


  1. In a shallow frypan, heat the oil and throw in the almonds/cashews.

  2. As they begin to turn gold, add the rains so they puff.

  3. Use a slotted spoon and remove the nuts and raisins from the heat and set aside.

  4. Now add the mustard seeds to the hot oil and as they begin to pop, add the chilli, ginger, onion and curry leaves.

  5. Stir the mix well until onion looks soft and translucent, and then add the veggies. Toss and coat well in the fragrant onion mixture.

  6. Add a little salt, 2 tablespoons water, turn down the heat and cover the pan with a lid for only a minute, as you don't want to overcook the veggies.

  7. Now, uncover the pan, pour in the semolina to the veggie mixture and stir well.

  8. When the veggies are well coated with the semolina, start adding the boiling water, a little at a time, stirring constantly. You might not need all of the half cup, or you might need a little more, depending on the size of the semolina grain you've got.

  9. The semolina should start to clump into small chunks, sprinkle a further bit of salt if necessary. Don't overdo the water as the mix will get gluey.

  10. Top with some fresh coriander to garnish, the nuts and raisins.

  11. And if you're like me, try it with a sprinkle of sugar!


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