Saturday, August 22, 2015

Going Gaga over Ghughni N still focusing the Focaccia Bread-Going Strong Together


Ghughni/White Peas cooked with Tomatoes, Onion, Potato, Coconut, Coriander, Cumin into a lip-smacking Curry paired with Focaccia with Rosemary n Nigella seeds



Ghughni is childhood flavored with beautiful spices, coconut, tomatoes, tamarind water n a dash of lime n puffed up Luchis or slices of white charred bread slices. Now that is a taste of culinary heaven and I wanna go back to that as often as I can because it takes me on two parallel journeys-one across the timeline to my childhood and another over the rainbow of flavors. Ghughni is a fantastic medley of white peas cooked with fried coconut slices, tomato, potatoes, red onion, a touch of ginger, garlic, a touch of red chili powder, turmeric, coriander n cumin, fresh coriander leaves- a huge depth of flavors as you are imagining- a great Eastern Indian Curry if you want to call it a curry, I will only call it ‘GHUGHNI’-spelled as ‘Ghoo-gh-nee’.


My mother makes it really well, there is something special n delicate about the way she cooks it that makes this lip-smacking good,  as a kid whenever there was ghughni being made at home, I would grab some tamarind, put it in a tea cup n sprinkle a touch of pink rock salt, a tiny red chili powder, a touch of salt n some water to dilute it to prepare tamarind water, so when it was ready I would take a bowl of ghughni n add a dash of that tamarind water and woo! What a beautiful explosion of flavors. I would always share the tamarind water with my father who loved it, with my didi. And one thing I always love eating ghughni with are Luchis/Poori-deep-friend flat bread, another favorite is the white bread charred over direct flame.


In fact this combination is very popular till date across many eateries in Bengal, specially the small eateries across the streets, this combination is often called together ‘ghooghni-pawroti’, pawroti is the local name of a sliced white bread- so this is pretty special. Paranthas go really well too with ghooghni, another good combination is crispy puffed rice called ‘Muri/Murmure’- the puffed rice adds a new texture, their crunch combined with the soft melting white peas. Now-a-days when I go to the morning vegetable market I see the busy vegetable sellers having their breakfast with ghooghni n muri.


Focaccia is a flat bread risen by yeast, first of all the dough of a focaccia is a fantastic pizza base, the dough is little difficult to deal with because it is very sticky, so whenever you are making the dough I will always advise you to use a pastry scraper when making the dough, one hand to scrape the dough and another to do the kneading, because of the use of warm water in the beginning the dough gets very sticky. In fact you might feel helpless when the dough is almost hanging from your hands but just scrape it from the surface and keep kneading, don’t try to scrape it off your hands too much, scrape from your hands only when you feel you can’t knead anymore like this n carry on n trust me the dough will come together, the dough will be ready when it begins to appear smooth and it will stick a lot less in your hands which will take about 10 minutes of kneading, the final dough will still be soft n sticky but lot less and when you push a finger into the dough n take it off the dough will come up again.


Before the focaccia goes into the oven you sprinkle a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil on top of it which gives it a fruity finish and in my bread I have added nigella seeds/kalonji/kaalo jeere along with rosemary and the smell that came out of the oven I can’t even describe that to you in words. It was like unreal, subtle but so powerful that it made me sniff near the oven door, somehow the smell was so amazingly  good it reminded me of an ice-cream which I have never eaten, I knew the bread was salty but that smell did steal my heart away and it kept reminding me of ice-cream.




Anyways I hope you make both these recipes together n experience beautiful flavors, so let me give you the recipe.


For The Recipe: You will need


For the Ghughni:
Whole white peas/Gota matar/safed sabut matar- 250 gm, soak them in water overnight or around 8 hours
Coconut slices-5 tbsp, sliced n chopped into ½ inch squares
Onion- 2 medium, chopped
Tomato-3 big, chopped
Garlic clove- 3 medium, chopped
Ginger- 2 inch, minced about 1 ½ tbsp
Potato- 3 medium, peeled n halved
Green chili- 2, chopped
Coriander seeds- 1 ½ tbsp, slightly roasted n powdered
Cumin seeds-1 tbsp. slightly roasted n powdered
Red chili powder- 1 tbsp
Turmeric- ½ tsp
Fresh coriander leaves n stalks- 4/5 tbsp
Green cardamom- 2
Cinnamon sticks-2 inch piece
Salt
Pink rock salt
Sugar
Water
Mustard oil/vegetable oil- 5/6 tbsp
Tej patta/Indian bay leaf- 2


For the Focaccia bread
Strong white flour- 500gm
Lukewarm water-340 ml+1-2 tbsp more if required
Salt- 10gm
Caster sugar-1 tbsp
Yeast- 1 tbsp dry yeast
Olive oil- 1 tsp+more for brushing
To finish the bread:
Rosemary dry-1 tbsp, if using fresh use double
Extra virgin olive oil- 35 ml
Nigella seeds/kalo jeere/kalonji- 1 tsp
Flaky salt – few pinches



1. First drain the water from the soaked white peas, they would have fluffed up a bit, now put them in a pressure cooker n add water so that water stands 1 ½ inches over them, put the flame on high, add a little salt, a pinch of turmeric, 1 crushed green cardamom pod, the whole potatoes  and let the water come to a boil, as the water boils  little foam will collect over the water, scoop that out, when there is no more foam put the lid of the pressure cooker on and give it 3 whistles , 2 on high n 1 in medium flame. If you are boiling them without a pressure cooker they might take about 40-50 minutes, when you press them between your fingers they should smash, try not to make them too soft at this stage.
2. In a deep kadai or wok heat the mustard oil to smoking at first, then reduce the flame to low, add the chopped coconut pieces n fry them until they get slightly brown all over, take them out, now the oil is flavored with coconut flavor, so add the tej patta/Indian bay leaf, the chopped garlic into the oil, don’t let the garlic color, then add the chopped onion n green chili, increase the heat to high and give it 2 minutes, add the chopped coriander stalks, then reduce the heat to low and give them around 5-7 minutes on low heat, then add the ginger , mix. Add a pinch of sugar to them and give it 1 minute, then add some salt n then the tomatoes, mix well and on a medium heat give it 5 minutes, smash the tomatoes slightly with the a ladle or something, so after 5 minutes add the red chili powder, turmeric, coriander powder, cumin powder along with 2 tbsp of water so that the spices don’t burn, give it 2 minutes like this and then add the boiled white peas n potato along with the remaining water in the pressure cooker. Now add the 2 pinches of pink rock salt, salt to taste and 1 tbsp of sugar, add some water if at this point of time it looks very thick, add around 2 cups n adjust the salt again, let it come to slight simmer, add some fresh coriander leaves, the fried coconut pieces and give it 10 minutes on low heat. In 10 minutes the flavors will mix with each other, the white peas will become even softer.
3. In the meantime in a mortar n pestle take 2 cardamom pods and cinnamon and 1 tbsp of water and pound them until it becomes a coarse mixture. After 10-12 minutes put the flame off and add this mixture, mix well, give it 4 minutes of standing time and ghughni is ready, take it out into a deep bowl and sprinkle few coriander leaves.
4. Now the bread, first take some warm water from the measured water and sprinkle the yeast on that n mix, give it 5 minutes until the yeast has dissolved, make sure you can dip your finger n hold it there in the water, if the water is too hot it will kill the yeast. In a deep bowl take the flour, the salt, sugar, the oil and give it a good mix,  add the yeast and the rest of water in 2 parts and mix well, it will be sticky. If the dough is too stiff add 1-2 tbsp more water, the dough will be soft n sticky. Now tip the whole mass onto a well-floured wooden or marble surface and start kneading the dough. Take a pastry scraper in one hand and with the other hand knead the dough, scrape it back with the scraper and knead, it will be very sticky n soft and it will trouble you, you will think this is all wrong but trust me this is how it is supposed to be, so keep kneading it for 10 minutes like this and when it approaches 10 minutes you will see that the dough has becomes more smooth,  not so sticky anymore in an uncontrollable way like before, the dough will be elastic n resilient to the push of a finger and springs back when you stop pushing. Now make a smooth ball out of the dough and place it in a deep bowl oiled inside where it will triple in its volume. Brush the top of the dough with a little olive oil, cover with cling film and keep in a warm place for about 3-3 ½ hours.
5.  After about 3 hours when the dough has trebled in size, tip the dough on a heavily floured surface, tap the dough out firmly with your palm and heel of your hand to a rough rectangle, fold in half, then in three in the other direction like a blanket. Tap and press the dough again into a rectangle. Take a Swiss roll tin of about 30cm/20 cm and flour it, then place the rectangle dough inside it and press it gently so that dough almost reaches the corners and the dough is distributed evenly, cover it with a cloth and leave to rise again for 1 hour at room temperature.
6. Pre-heat oven to 250 Celsius/475 Fahrenheit/gas mark 9. Now with your fingers poke the dough to make dimples in the surface in a straight line, sprinkle the nigella seeds, the rosemary and zigzag the olive oil all over and with a light hand spread it all across the surface, then scatter some flaky salt over and place the Swiss roll tin on a heavy baking sheet in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven to 200 Celsius/400 Fahrenheit/gas mark 6 and bake for 15-25 minutes, when the focaccia will have risen to about a height of 4-5 cm and it will attain a light golden color all over. I put the top grill on in the last 10 minutes for the color n crust to develop, give it 5 minutes more if it needs in your oven. Remove and leave it to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, and then take it out, it is done.







So now the bread is ready and tell me the feeling when you smelled the air while the bread was in the oven, it was unreal wasn’t it? Now for the ghughni, prepare tamarind water or cut some lime, sprinkle a bit on top of the ghughni and scatter some fresh coconut slices all over and then cut the bread into stripes, now dip the bread and scoop out the ghughni on the bread and into your mouth. Soooo good…right! See I told you…n Bon Appétit!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Go Galette Go! My heart will always Galette on…

5 Beautiful Galettes: Red Pear Galette, Peach Tej Patta Galette, Panchphoron Mango Chutney Galette, Cherry Clove Galette n Paneer Tomato Basil Galette



Some recipes lift you up, some recipes push you down, some recipes don’t make any impression at all, some recipes become a part of you- Galette with fresh fruits is such a recipe that impresses you n becomes something that you wanna make time n time again to the point that now I’m looking for an excuse of when I can make them again. So until more galettes come out of my oven I will tell you about them, they are a crispy buttery base on which fresh/poached/candied fruits are baked, sometimes a layer of frangipane is added between the fruits n the base. They are often savory, sometimes topped with tomato n basil n cheese, sometimes spinach, feta cheese, pine nuts, mushrooms, ham, eggs, cheese -the variation are endless whether sweet or savory.



The amazing thing about a galette is that they are freely formed, they are not looking perfect like a tart, you can just cut them into rough circles or pleat their sides, a galette does not have a high side like a tart, its so much fun playing with their unsymmetrical shape n they look wonderful with all of that. I will always suggest eat your galette when they are warm, the warm buttery flakiness of the base, the light crunch dissolving with the flavor of the fruit, it’s unreal n ridiculously good. I kept on biting them even when they were cold n my calorie count jumped out of the window n didn’t come back in a long time, so the day you make them, eat some galette n skip other food n eat some more galette, I am only kidding, by the way it will be a hit with children I believe.



The dough of the galette can be stored in the refrigerator for a long time, almost 2 months wrapped in cling film, so whenever you feel like having some take it out n let it come to almost room temperature, you can even roll them n prepare the discs and store them beforehand, so all you have to do it to bring them out in time and get started with the fruits n all.



For the peach version, since the peaches were still farm, I simmer them in a sugar syrup infused with tej patta known as Indian bay leaf until the they got tender but not mushy, I saved all the extra syrup for the final glaze and another burst of that sweet flavor, later I arranged the peach on the baked base.



For the Panchphoron Mango chutney, first of all I made the chutney with Panchphoron which is 5 spice mix- cumin, nigella seeds, black mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds(less in quantity), fennel seeds, this blend of whole spices produces an incredible flavor , this fantastic combination is used in Bengali cooking n used both in savory n sweet recipes.



For the red pear galette, a very ripe fruit was carefully cut n fanned onto the base n baked. It tastes incredible.
For the cherry version, they were macerated with sugar n a touch of clove n black pepper, I baked them with the stone in them, it gives an extra flavor.



For the savory version, the paneer was combined with cherry tomatoes n basil, the paneer was sautéed in caramel first, and then I gave them a touch of balsamic vinegar.


Now I will give you the recipes.

For The Recipe: You will need

For The Quick n Easy Flaky Pastry for the Base:
Butter- 110 gm, chilled in the freezer for 30-45 minutes
Flour-175 gm
Salt – a pinch
Sugar- 1 tbsp, powdered
Red Rum- 1 tbsp (cold)
Water- a little (cold)
If you are gonna make savory galette you can skip the sugar n rum


For the Peach Galette
Peach – 2 medium sized, firm
Sugar- 2/3 tbsp
Tej patta/Indian bay leaf- 2, broken in half
Pink rock salt- a pinch
water-6-9 tbsp

For the Panchphoron Mango Chutney
Green mango- 1 big, peeled and cut into stripes, leave out the seed
Panchphoron- 1 tsp
Sugar- ¾ cup, the sugar varies depending on the sourness of the mango
Turmeric- 1 pinch
Mustard oil- 1 tsp
Salt-a pinch
Black pepper- ½ tsp, freshly crushed


For the Red Pear Galette
Red pear- 1 medium, very ripe, cut along the length leaving some space near the stalk


For The Cherry Galette
Cherry- 12/14, split near the top but don’t remove the stone
Clove- 1 small, slightly roasted n powdered
Sugar-1 tbsp
Black pepper- a pinch, freshly crushed


For the Paneer Galette
Paneer-50 gm, sliced into small triangles of 2 cm thickness
Sugar- 1 tbsp
Balsamic vinegar- 2 tbsp
Salt
Basil- 3 tbsp
Cherry tomato- 10/14, halved
Green chili-1 , sliced into stripes
Red chili powder- ¼ tsp
Oil-1 tbsp


Pre-heat the oven to 220 Celsius/425 Fahrenheit.

1. First of all lets prepare the quick n easy flaky pastry for the base, so sift the flour, salt, sugar into a large bowl, take the butter out of the freezer, fold back the foil n hold it over the foil which will save it from your warm hands. Take a grater and dip the butter in flour and on the coarse side start grating the butter over the flour, dipping the butter several times in the flour so that it stays easy to grate that cold butter. You will have a big pile of grated butter on the flour, now with a blunt knife start distributing the butter all though the flour until it becomes quite homogenous , don’t use your hands yet, then add the cold rum n 1 tbsp of cold water and try to bring the dough together  still with the knife, if you feel it is not coming together add 1 tbsp more water and distribute it and wait for 1 minute, the flour needs time to absorb the water, so if you wait for 1 minute you will see the dough starts to come together, now finish with your hands to bring it all together, it should leave the bowl fairly clean with no big chunks of butter anywhere, small chunks r just fine. Now wrap it in cling film and put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before using.

2. After 30 minutes take the dough out and on a lightly floured surface or between two sheets of floured cling film roll the dough out very thinly to about 1/8th inch, 3 mm or even 2mm. I rolled out to 2 mm for my sweet galettes, then carefully with a palette knife pick them up and place them on a baking sheet.

3. Prepare all the fruits while the dough chills.
For the peach, in a saucepan mix the sugar with about 6 tbsp water, add the bay leaves, let the sugar melt on a low heat then add the peach and let it come to simmer, now let it simmer for about 10 minutes until the peach becomes tender, if water dries up add some more, it will be sticky n syrupy at the end, don’t make it dry, we need some syrup to glaze them afterwards, when the peach is tender add a tiny pinch of pink rock salt, then take them out in a bowl. Take 1 tsp of the syrup and sprinkle on top of one of the galette base and put it into the oven.

4. Take a saucepan and add the sugar and 1 ½ cup of water and let the sugar melt on a low heat, when it melts add the mango stripes and let it come to a simmer. In another frying pan heat 1 tbsp mustard oil till it just begins to smoke, then pop in the panchphoron mix and as it begins to sputter add that whole oil n spice mix over the mango n sugar solution, add the black pepper. Add a tiny pinch of turmeric and now let the whole thing simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the mangoes go very tender, taste and see if it needs any more sugar, if it is very sour add a tablespoon more. Add a pinch of salt and then take it out in a bowl, let it cool a bit. Before you place the galette in the oven arrange some mango slices from the chutney on top of the base and then into the oven.

5. For the cherry version, slice the cherries on the top part and keep them whole, sprinkle sugar and clove powder n black pepper on them and let them macerate for 15 minutes, that’s all, before you place them in the oven arrange the cherries on the base, sprinkle some more sugar on top them n then into the oven.

6. The red pear has to be sliced carefully along the length but leaving some space intact near the top so that it stays in shape so first half the pear n then slice it lengthways keeping it intact, then carefully fan out the slices and place them over the base and then spread them out a little more carefully, then into the oven.

7. In a frying pan heat the oil on a medium flame, then add the sugar and let it turn into dark caramel, as the sugar becomes caramel, lower the flame , it will soon become dark caramel, then place the paneer triangles on the caramel, they will sizzle, give them 2 minutes,  add the chopped green chili, after 2 minutes increase the heat, add the balsamic vinegar, it will sizzle , mix it well with the paneer, add a touch of red chili powder n salt, mix well, then take them off the pan.
        First arrange some of the basil leaves on the base, then arrange the paneer, then the cherry tomatoes, dip some basil leaves in oil and scatter on top the tomatoes, sprinkle with some salt n bit of extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil n pinch of pink rock salt. Pleat the sides of the galette the way you want to and then put it into the oven.

8. The galettes will need 10/15 minutes in the oven, put one baking tin on the high shelf and one in the middle, after half the time exchange their places, the galette will just begin to color at the end of the time, if this doesn’t happen at all, put the top grill on and carefully watch them, soon they will begin to color, so when they have got a bit of good color you can take them out.


I baked all the sweet galettes together, so prepare all the fruits beforehand n you bake them together.
When they are out of oven, take the peace slices and arrange on top of the base, sprinkle some syrup on them and they will look so shiny. Take some more syrup and brush the red pear with that too. Take some syrup from the mango chutney and sprinkle on top of the mango galette.




They just look so wonderful right! I know I know…now eat them while they are warm and you will know what I am talking about. Tell me how they turned out when you made them. So until the next galette I will wish you Bon Appétit.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Gurjali Fish En Papillote

Indian Salmon/Gurjali Mach/Rawas Machli cooked with mustard paste n green chili, carrot n green beans wrapped in French love-fish en papillote 




Here is the thing, when you wanna prepare fish en papillote, make little or medium pouch or parcels, out of parchment paper or baking paper/aluminum foil, place the fish inside the parcel before you seal in, you make the fish sit on a bed of vegetables kept on the paper, choose something that goes with that particular fish you are cooking, you add herbs or spices or any sauce, season it, then you fold the paper overlapping each fold with the prior fold so that parcel becomes sealed and steam can’t escape from it, then you place it in the oven and the fish gets cooked in its own steam inside that paper bag- that is what at the heart of cooking fish en papillote.


The flavor of the Gurjali fish reminds me of Elish/Hilsa a bit, especially the big sized ones, the flavor of a small fish is different than a matured n big one. For this recipe I chose a small to medium size, otherwise I need to make a big parcel n it won’t fit my oven. Gurjali fish is known as Rawas/Ravas/Ramus/Gurjali/Ranwa across India, often it is known as the Indian Salmon. It is beautiful to look at, though there are no play of colors on its body but shades of grey, looking at the head of a gurjali reminds me of the shark, the low sitting lower part of the jaw in the head brings the picture of shark in my mind.


In a Bengali kitchen the technique of steaming the fish is popular along with frying and making a spicy stew with fish. The method of steaming is called ‘Bhapa’ in Bengali culinary terms, which is the same thing happening in a papillote, the fish is getting steamed in a paper bag. In a Bengali kitchen the steaming takes place inside a metal bowl, sometimes the fish is warped along with spices n oil in banana leaves, then placed carefully inside a steamer. It produces incredible taste often times.


Now there are many unwritten rules when it comes to combining fishes with spices in a Bengali kitchen, each fish is combined with a particular set of spices n herbs n vegetables, there is no common set of sauce or spices that is used for every fish, as every fish has a different flavor, it is treated differently-it produces a sophisticated array of flavor spectrum. But that doesn’t mean a fish is prepared the same way across Bengal, many subtle to strong variations exist even within a popular recipe, an unwritten war exists in the mind of people arguing whose combination is best-that is the fun.


I like the combination of nigella seeds/kalonji/black cumin/kalo jeere/onion seeds n green chilies n mustard paste with the flavor of the gurjali fish. They take up the flavor of the fish to a new level, the mustard gives a kick of pungency n heat, the green chilies give away their amazing savory flavor and the nigella seeds give away their smooth mellow flavor, it’s delicious. I made a bed of carrot ribbons n green beans n few slices of ginger on which the fish sat while being steamed inside the parcel n it was all in harmony. I know you want to give it a try, so it is time for the recipe.


Pre-heat the oven to 190 Celsius/375 Fahrenheit/Gas mark 5 


For The Recipe: You will need
Gurjali fish- 1 medium about 400-500 gm
Mustard paste- 1 tbsp, you can use mustard powder, readymade mustard paste
Kalonji/Nigella seeds- ½ tsp
Green chilies- 2
Mustard oil- 4 tbsp
Carrot- 1 medium, made into ribbons with a peeler
Green beans- 50 gm, chopped into 1 inch pieces
Ginger- ½ tsp, cut into stripes
Salt
Sugar- 1 small pinch
Lime -1 medium, cut into round thin slices
Turmeric- ¼ tsp
Red chili powder- 1 pinch


You need a parchment or baking paper, cut a 2ft/2ft square, fold the paper in half, draw the biggest half heart shape on one half, then open it n it will become a heart shape, cut it out, smear some mustard oil on top the paper where the fish will sit.



1. First lets prepare the mustard paste, so in a heavy stone mortar n pestle or grinder, take 1 tbsp of black mustard seeds along with 1 green chili n a pinch of salt and make it into a paste, then thin the paste down with 2 tbsp of water and strain it through a sieve, the black husks will separate out this way.
2. Put a frying pan on medium heat, add 2 tbsp of mustard oil , when the oil is smoking, reduce flame to low, add 1 slit whole green chili, the kalonji seeds, then add the mustard paste, mix it well, add the turmeric, a small pinch of red chili powder, sugar, on a low heat give it 5 minutes stirring in between until the water has almost evaporated, if the water dries completely in between sprinkle a little water, we want the final sauce thick but still like a paste so that we can apply it on the fish. When done take the sauce in a bowl. In the same pan add the rest 2tbsp of mustard oil n heat it until it begins to smoke, then put the flame off and let it cool down.
3. So now take the fish, make sure the scales are removed n the guts taken out, then score the fish at regular intervals with a sharp knife, but don’t go too deep to the bone, then mix the mustard paste with the mustard oil and coat the fish well with this mixture, making sure the scored parts are well rubbed with this paste, with a sharp knife open up the part just under the gills and apply the paste over there. Now on the greased part and one half of the heart shape of the paper make a bed of the carrot ribbons, beans n ginger, sprinkle little salt over them,  season the fish with salt on both sides and lay it on this bed. Put 2 round thin slices of lime on the fish.
4. So now fold the other half of paper back on the fish and start from the bottom of the heart, make one fold, then pick up from around the middle of the first fold and make another fold, so we have overlapping 2 folds, now make 3rd fold overlapping the 2nd fold and go on until you reach the top part of the heart, before you put the final fold pour 1 tbsp of water inside the parcel, press down on all the fold carefully and on the top n bottom part fold the folds again so that they don’t open up easily, if you see any fold open up, press it or make another fold over them, when the oven is ready place the parcel on a baking sheet and place it in the middle of the oven and give it about 10/15 minutes. Most fishes are done in 10 minutes; since the fish was big I gave it 5 more minutes.
5. You will see the parcel will puff up as you approach the finishing time and the baking paper will start to color a bit n it will becomes translucent. So take it out of the oven and get ready with a scissor.





Bring the parcel to the dining table where everyone is sitting, this is the moment, cut open the parcel n let the steam hit everybody with the aroma of the fish...watch their faces n then dig in. Bon Appétit.






Wednesday, July 22, 2015

An Upma Cake with Leek, Tomato, Rosemary n Milk

Semolina Upma Porridge cake with sweet flavors from Leek, the fleshy tartness from Tomato, the crunch of Peanuts n herbal cool depth from Rosemary



As far as I can remember my first taste of upma took place about 15 years ago when one evening my elder sister got back home n cooked upma excitedly for the first time in our home n I watched her, she must have learned it from the mother of one or her friends I guess. And when everything came down on the plate it was like tasting a new island…you know that sorta feeling! And then we loved it n then it was prepared again n again with hundreds of variation…well almost.


Upma is a savory preparation using semolina n vegetables as the two main ingredients, semolina/sooji/rawa is almost at every home in India and so often in the morning breakfast table or evening snacks time the kitchen is filled up with the aroma of curry leaves n roasted sooji, sound of sizzling vegetables in oil, sound of sputtering of mustard seeds play across the kitchen. An Indian kitchen is dramatic n full of life, the popping mustard n cumin seeds in oil, the humming exhaust fan gushes out the flavored smoke across the road hitting the home coming people  n making them hungry as they reach home, their feet hurry up to reach even quicker.


If I have to describe the primary flavors of a traditional upma I will mention the curry leaves, the tomato, the chana dal, the semolina, the onion, the mustard seeds and lastly the ghee or the tomato sauce! Yeah when we serve upma we scatter a touch of ghee/clarified butter over it  which gives it a fuller rich yet  light flavor or tomato ketchup which gives u sweet n sour edge  n both are very delicious. As a kid I was a fan of tomato ketchup, so often my upma  looked red, you know why.


In this version of upma I have featured the mild flavor of the leeks which is like sweet onion in a way, the brilliant fresh aromatic astringent quality of rosemary, the satisfying rich n crunchy peanuts, the fleshy lovable tomato and the richness of milk. I have walked in a different path from the traditional upma, using milk as the liquid part, taking the mustard n the dal away but the structure remains the same, the result is a delicious smooth creamy upma with brand new flavors! How cool is that…new flavors are always welcome, new islands are to be ventured.




The origin of upma is in the southern part of India, a part from where came brilliant vegetarian preparation now enjoyed across the globe. May be it also came from Sri Lanka, the region of Tamil Nad n Sri Lanka are so close. Upma is known as ‘Uppuma’, ‘Uppittu’, ‘Uppindi’, ‘Uppumavu’, ‘Upeet’, ‘Rulanv’ across all the Sothern states of India, ‘Upma’ is a short term used in Hindi.


So now I’ll give you the recipe.

For The Recipe: You will need
Semolina/Rawa/Sooji- 1 cup
Milk-2 cups, skimmed or full fat- your choice
Water -½ cup
Leek- I medium stalk, washed n halved length-ways, chopped into ¼ inch half moons
Capsicum- quarter of a big, chopped into 1 inch pieces
Tomato- 1 medium, chopped
Rosemary- ½ tbsp
Green chili-1 medium, chopped
Dry ginger powder/Saunth- ½ tbsp
Red chili powder- ¼ tsp
Turmeric powder- 2 pinch
Freshly ground black pepper- to season
Butter- 1 tbsp
Ghee/Clarified butter-1 tbsp vegetable oil- 3tbsp
Peanut- 3-4 tbsp, roasted
Pink rock salt- 1 pinch
Sugar- ½ tsp
Salt



1. Put a frying pan on low heat, when the pan is hot pour the semolina over it and shake it to spread it out. Give it 5-6 minutes in low heat and shake n toss every 1 minute, then increase the heat to medium and give it 4 minutes tossing every 30 seconds, make sure nothing is going red or brown, don’t go anywhere, stay right there, we have to shake n toss the pan frequently this time so that no part of the semolina gets too roasted, we don’t want any reddish color to the semolina, the semolina should stay white,  so after 4 minutes take them off onto a plate. In case the semolina got reddish while you are away its okay, carry on, it will give a different flavor.
2. In the same pan add 3 tbsp of vegetable oil n the butter, as the butter sizzles n melts  in a low medium heat add the chopped garlic, stir, then add the green chili, don’t let the garlic brown, add the leeks and stir well, let the flame be on low heat now, give them 5 minutes n stir in between, then add the capsicum n the roasted peanut , add a pinch of sugar, stir, increase the heat to medium now, give them 3 minutes, add some salt now, then add the tomato, a pinch pink rock salt n ½ tbsp dry rosemary,  give it a mix, give them around 5 minutes, the tomato will almost melt and the leeks will start to brown a bit, add the  ground ginger powder, chili n turmeric powder with a dash of water so that the spices don’t burn, keep the heat to low now,  give them about 3 minutes, the tomatoes would have melted now. Now add the milk n water, a pinch of dry rosemary again, add salt to taste and the sugar, taste n keep the salt slightly higher than normal because the semolina will go in the pan and absorb the salt, so when the liquid comes to a simmer, lower the heat and start sprinkling the semolina in one hand  as you keep stirring with other hand, keep stirring constantly and if you spot any lumps, press it and break it away, the mixture will immediate thicken, 1 cup of semolina will absorb minimum 2 ½ cup liquid, so if the mixture still need a little more add a little more milk and work it in. Move the pan away from the heat and add 1 tbsp f ghee and mix it well. The consistency will be smooth, thick; always keep stirring to mix the ghee really well.  Take the mixture off in plate.
3. Serve it hot n warm, scatter some roasted peanuts on top, if you want some fresh chopped tomato, then submerge your spoon into the creamy thick smooth Upma and have your hungry bite.


It is even good when cold, one healthy recipe that you can have time n time again, for this time don’t delay your bite, dig in, Bon Appétit.