Indian Vegetarian Upma: Semolina, Vegetables and Home Cheese

Try this at your home. It is an excellent and easy-to-cook breakfast that will be a great addition to your cooking skills and home cuisine. You can cook upma in 40 minutes.

Delicious Indian Upma with Panir Cheese

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Upma, a Popular Indian Breakfast Dish

Upma is served in many Indian hostels and colleges, especially in South India. It can be cooked quickly and with any vegetables available at your fridge. Semolina is a must, though. And it is a good idea to use spices. Plenty of. Well, you want it to taste like in India, right?

Creative Spark in Cooking as I Love It

I am not an aficionado of dry-style recipes. They often threaten me. And I will explain why.

When you come to the kitchen, it is like a battlefield. Either you win or you lose. I mean this is a kind of challenge. If you try to follow someone’s advice to a letter, chances are you finally fail.

Let me bring an example. You open a colorful book full of fantastic pictures of top-style Michelin dishes. A smiling Italian guy with a stylish hat attests to its quality. Yet when you look at the ingredients, you find out that only a half of them are available in your local supermarket. What a pity!

Machalepi and Amchur Powder? I do not know how they look like. Nigella seed? Are you kidding me?

Even though I have a full range of spices in stock, I prefer to use creativity to some extent. It does not mean I go astray, from potato mash to, let us say, an apple pie. Still, I experiment. And month after month I get better and tastier results.

Upma as a Choice Meal to Be Cooked in the Morning

So without further ado (if you think that I speak too much and never go to a real deal) I invite to the kitchen.

This Indian dish is called upma. The name comes from Dravidian languages and means “salty flour”. It consists of dry-roasted semolina and vegetables of choice, whatever is available in the season.

If you are like me working office hours (I am self-employed but as a rule go to work from 10am till 6pm), morning is your best time for cooking.

My mornings are very active. I get up before 5am. I write a book, exercise and meditate. Still, I have plenty of time for cooking two or three dishes before 9am.

Two-fold Process

Upma requires at least two cooking pots. Actually I often use pans, one larger for vegetables and one smaller one for semolina.

For the vegetable part I see what I have at hand. Potato and carrots, large lumps. So one potato and one bulky carrot. With a vegetable cutter the peeling takes a couple minutes. Then I dice them with a ceramic knife. Another minute.

These cubes about a centimeter wide go to the frying pan after the refined sunflower oil has been sufficiently heated on a medium fire.

I prefer gas fire. I understand how it affects my cooking. I do not understand how electrical oven works, these flat surfaces.

Potato and Carrots in a Frying Pan

Fry Semolina and Vegetables Separately on Gas Hobs

So for the vegetables you need a medium fire, heavy enough to put a small crust on the edges. If it is too feeble, your potato and carrot will turn into a viscous amalgam.

At the same time I put a smaller frying pan with semolina on a gas hob. I do not use any oil here. This is a dry frying. But remember – this is not a dry recipe.

Here I use petite fire. You know: Better a little fire to heat us than a large fire to burn us. This is a British proverb.

Semolina takes about fifteen minutes to grow goldish or even brownish. You have to stir it slowly to prevent burning.

Add Spices and Cabbage

The other pan with potato and carrot can be emptied for the next step. I put a table spoon of ghee and a half teaspoon of mustard seeds. I also add a pinch of cumin seeds. Hot ghee butter make them pop like corn.

This popping and bursting is an integral part of any Indian-style dressing called chaunch. It is deafening noisy not only at the time of heating it in the oil but also when you transfer it to a vegetable pan. And the aroma is absolutely impressive. A meal without a chaunch and with a chaunch are two different meals. As they say in Odessa – It is a big contrast.

At the moment you start hearing little bursts and a tinge of mustard aroma, it is time to put shredded cabbage. When I have cauliflower, I use it instead. But this time my fridge was not so well packed.

I add other spices to a cabbage that is already touchingly covered with black dots of mustard and cumin. These spices include asafetida (hing powder) that has a smell similar to garlic but milder, also ginger, black pepper and a Bulgarian seasoning called Sharena Sol. This Balkan salt mixture consists of ground roasted maize, sweet red pepper, cooking salt savory.

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Boil All Three Ingredients Together

When my cabbage is almost ready, I add carrots and potato and about a liter of boiling water from a kettle. In a minute I add semolina that has a brownish tint. Thus, everything boils in a large pan.

Do not forget about salt. I usually follow the simple formula: One teaspoon of salt for every liter of your meal. Still, I like to add more salt at the time of eating. I use only rose Himalayan salt, black Himalayan salt and sea salt.

I usually add bay leaves to all the boiling substances like soups, kichri and umpa. It is a matter of choice and personal preferences, though. If I have parsley, dill or fennel, I use those after chopping or shredding them.

Boiling

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Adding Home Cheese Panir

This time I have another ingredient that is worth adding. It is panir, or home cheese that we prepare ourselves. We buy village milk, about 2 or 3 liters, boil it and add citric acid. Then milk curdles, and we put it under the press in a cheesecloth. After 10 hours of pressing and drying we have a lump of cheese, quite big for adding it to one or two large dishes.

This home cheese Panir requires some thermal treatment for better taste. I use the same frying pan as for semolina, and after washing it add some ghee, put on a petite fire.

I dice cheese. These resulting one-milimeter cubes will go to this smaller frying pan with heated ghee. I fry it for 10 to 15 minutes till a little yellowish crust is formed on the surface. Then add the cheese to boiling vegetables and semolina.

Adding Homemade Cheese Panir

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Final Recommendations from Alex Radich

So this Indian upma with fryed panir is beautiful, nourishing and hearty. You can feed yourself and your family for a day. And despite my somewhat lengthy description, it requires only about forty minutes of your kitchen work. Well, even less when you have some experience.

A few final recommendations from me, Alex Radich. Drink more water, earlier than one hour before your eating time but not at the time of eating of within two hours afterwards.

Do not get distracted by TV, talking or reading. When you eat, think about the process. Your freshly made cooking deserves it. The more you meditate on your food, the better your digestion works. Do not haste. Enjoy your wonderful Indian upma that we have just prepared. And do not forget ot send me invitation to share the meal!

I Eat My Upma in a Forest. Where Do You Eat Yours?

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Rating Upma

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Cooking Time for Upma

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 40 min
Ready in: 55 min
Yields: Serves six people with the amount quoted

Ingredients for Upma

  • 3 piece Potato, middle-sized and diced
  • 2 piece Carrots, middle-sized and diced
  • 300 gram Cabbage, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups Semoline
  • 1 table spoon Ghee
  • 1 tea spoon Himalayan salt
  • 1 pinch Cumin
  • 1 pinch Mustard seeds
  • half tea spoon Asafoetida
  • 1 liter Water

Upma Cooking with Indian VahChef

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1 comment

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someonewhoknows 23 months ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

Sounds like a good alternative to eating meat. At the very least it has cheese in it!

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