Upma is one of those foods that is either really loved or absolutely detested by people, leaving hardly any fence-sitters. I do not like the upma on most days unless it is made with vegetables. For my husband it is the most comforting food that he falls back on for breakfast or lunch or dinner. But he likes it made simply, without tomatoes and vegetables which I do not eat. So at our home, if my husband is eating upma you can be sure I am eating something else! When growing up, whenever mom made upma, she cooked something else for me or made sure there was bread and cheese in the frig for me. I can live on sandwiches so her fall back plan for me was always bread with something for the stuffing!
I learnt to make an upma after marriage knowing that this was the go to dish for my husband. Its not easy to get the consistency right especially when you are starting off. Here in this post also, the measures I have given is more approximate than exact. Most of my cooking is done by the look, feel, taste and smell and I am giving you how to do it here. I prefer to add only little of what I like to call taste ingredients like salt, sugar, tamarind, chili powder, etc. initially. You can always add some later though the reverse, i.e., lessening of a taste ingredient is difficult. So be miserly at the start and add little by little as needed.
Broadly, follow these steps for making upma -
In a pan dry roast rawa on low heat till they look crisp which will take about 10 minutes, then keep aside. Heat oil in a kadai / deep pan for phodni / vagaar / tadka / tempering, add the mustard seeds and a few udad dal / split black gram. Tip, take a little more oil than required, it helps in fluffing the rawa when cooked. Once the seeds have spluttered add chopped onions, chopped green chilies and curry leaves, stir fry till the onions are soft and light golden. Add water into this and a little salt. Once it boils, lower heat and check for salt and add more if necessary. Tip, the water should taste a little saltier than you usually take in food. This is because rawa like potato absorbs salt making the upma tasteless if the water had exact salt to start with. Continuing with the upma, Raise the heat and once you have the water boiling again, slowly add the rawa into the boiling water. Add the rawa by tilting the container slightly to create a continuous flow without dumping a lot at one time. Stir the spoon in circles in one direction, mixing all the time. Do not stop stirring, lumps will form and your upma will good only for the trash can. Now, add as much rawa till the time, the mix has come together and it becomes difficult to stir the spoon. Stop adding the rawa, lower the heat and keep stirring to bring the whole mixture together. Tip, keep some boiling water handy incase you added too much rawa by mistake and incase you need to use this extra water the rule is to add little - stir well, then add more if required. If the water is all absorbed then pile all the upma into a mound then take the pan off the heat and keep covered for about 5 to 10 minutes. Then, uncover and stir the upma to fluff it up.
Rawa / Sooji / Cream of wheat - approx. 1 cup
Pyaaz / Kaanda / Onion - 1 medium, finely chopped
Tamatar / Tomato - 1 small, finely chopped
Gaajar / Carrot - 2 tbsp. finely chopped
Farasbee / Beans / French Beans - 2 tbsp. finely chopped
Vatana / Matar / Green peas - 2 tbsp.
Mirchi / Hari Mirchi / Green Chili - 1 finely chopped
Rai / Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp.
Kadipatha / Curry leaves - 2 - 3 torn into pieces (optional)
Coriander leaves - 1tsp. chopped
Water - 1.5 cups
Oil - 3 tbsp.
Salt to taste
In a pan dry roast rawa on low heat and keep aside. Heat oil tempering, add the mustard seeds and once it splutters add chopped onions, chopped green chilies. Stir fry till the onions till soft and translucent. Add the finely chopped tomatoes and fry it for a minute. Add turmeric powder, stir, then add water into this and a little salt. Add the chopped carrot, green peas and french beans and let it cook for about 5 minutes till still crunchy. Raise the heat till boiling and add the rawa slowly stirring all the while. When the mixture has come together switch off the heat and keep covered. Add the chopped coriander leaves and fluff the upma up. You can also add 1 or 2 tsp. grated coconut to this.
Spoon some into a bowl and get some piping hot tea to go with it! Enjoy!!!