Laxmi's Upma

Cream Of Wheat Pilaf With Carrots and Nuts

Uppuma, (pronounced oop-mah) is served for breakfast in India. If you want to get away from the usual breakfast or you’d like a change of pace, try the following fluffy nutritious cream of wheat pilaf. The long list of ingredients should not discourage you; they are simply added one after another to perk up the relatively bland taste of cream of wheat. Low in calories, it is made extra nutritious by adding nuts and vegetables.

For an authentic taste use sooji, Indian cream of wheat from local Indian stores. The dal and kari leaves are available at Indian groceries, if you cannot find don’t worry about it.

Serve this light balanced meal for weekend breakfast or brunch when you have the time along with a mango-banana smoothie.

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon white split gram beans (urad dal) (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons roasted salted or unsalted peanuts or cashews
  • 10 kari leaves (optional)
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 fresh green serrano or jalapeno chile, stemmed and chopped
  • ¼ cup carrot cut into ½ -inch sticks
  • ¼ cup green beans cut diagonally into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 cup Indian semolina (sooji coarse) or cream of wheat
  • 2¼ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • Fresh chopped cilantro

1. Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet or sauté pan over moderately high heat. Add the dal, mustard and cumin seeds; immediately cover with a spatter screen, and cook until the seeds stop popping, about 30 seconds. Add the peanuts and kari leaves and stir 1 to 2 minutes. Add the onion, chiles, carrot and green beans. Cook stirring occasionally until the onion is soft but not brown, 3 minutes. Add the semolina and lower the heat to moderate. Cook stirring frequently until toasty smelling 5 to 6 minutes; if you’re using the Indian sooji be sure to stir-fry at least 10 to 12 minutes, until toasty and you begin to smell the nutty flavor taking care not to brown. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

2. Add the water to the same skillet and bring to a boil. Add the salt and sugar. Lower the heat to moderate and gradually stir in the farina. (Water is critical here, the rule of thumb is twice the amount of grain, but I prefer a tad more, which helps the grains to soak and plump.) Mix a few tablespoons at a time, stirring constantly in one motion until all the water is absorbed, be careful while stirring because the mixture starts to spatter; reduce the heat to low at this time. Sprinkle the lime juice and mix gently. Add the desi ghee, cover and cook at least 5 minutes (do not peek) until the grains are fluffy and plump and meld with all the flavors. Let the uppuma rest, covered for 5 minutes.

3. Turn on the oven to your lowest setting and warm some plates in it. Just before serving, spoon the uppuma into individual custard cups or decorative mold. For an attractive arrangement, place a warmed serving plate upside down on top of the decorative mold. Invert the mold over the plate holding both securely, and let the uppuma slide down onto the serving plate. Top each serving with tomato roses if you prefer and serve hot, sprinkled with fresh cilantro. I like this uppuma best when it is warm, as it cools it looses its fluffy texture.

Serves 4.


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