Upma - South Indian Breakfast Porridge

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I miss India sometimes like a wave of longing, I just want to feel the plane door open at the airport and have the heat and smell and magic cloak me. 99.9% of the time that isn't actually possible, so I eat my way there instead. I first met upma in New Delhi in 2003. As a lover of all things porridgey and savory, it was unsurprising that we remain close friends. Upma is eaten all over India with regional and seasonal variations, but its mainstays are roasted ground semolina, veges, herbs, nuts and a little heat.

You often hear celebrity chefs say 'this is my version of [insert recipe] which has always perplexed me, as a) if they have cooked it of course its their version or b) they are insinuating that their version is somehow a more superior model on something that is usually a staple and cooked for generations that needs no improvements. This upma, however, is my version as I am controversially leaving out a very common ingredient which is the urid dal. I love dal, but I always find in upma it is like an annoyingly undercooked pulse, so in the interests of a fast, fresh and delicious brunch meal, i've ixnayed it. This isn't making upma better or worse or 'my version' i'm just noting for the traditionalists and the purists, i've made a change to the recipe. I've also added a little turmeric for color, this isn't traditional, but who doesn't love slipping in a superfood when you get a chance am I right?

Upma is like a massive hug from an Indian mother who is about to lovingly stuff you with home cooked treats and then insist you have dessert. Who could say no to that?


Large frypan or wok


1 cup semolina

3 cups water + 1 massell vege stock cube dissolved in

10 fresh curry leaves

1 large green chili diced (more if you like it hot)

1 large ripe tomato diced

1/2 red onion diced fine

1/4 cup frozen or fresh peas

1/4 cup roasted salted cashews

2 Tbsp dry fried shallots 

2 Tbsp vegan butter or coconut oil

1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds

1/2 tsp asafoetida powder

1/4 tsp cumin powder

1/4 tsp turmeric 


fresh ground black pepper

Chopped fresh coriander leaves for garnish

wedges of fresh lime 

Let's DO This!

1. Heat up your frypan and roast the semolina, stir it vigilantly until it is a light gold and beginning to be fragrant, take off heat and put to one side.

2. Add the vegan butter or coconut oil to the pan and add the spices, nuts, dry fried shallots, peas, salt and pepper and coat well. Stir through the roasted semolina and then add in the water, stirring until it is a creamy thick consistency (about 4 minutes) - add more water if needed.

3. Taste for seasoning, and when you're happy with it, turn off heat and stir through tomato, onion, and green chili, you want these elements to add a freshness and a zing.

4. Serve up in a bowl with a knob of vegan butter, a squeeze of lime and fresh coriander. NOM!

Polly McGee