Friday, May 23, 2014

Rava Upma - Cream of Wheat savory breakfast - How to make fluffy and soft upma

Poor Upma is nobody's favorite food. At least none that I known claim it to be their favorite food. But upma is not to be discounted that easily. When cooked the right way it can be a tasty breakfast or dinner item. When I was growing seeing upma on the table was grounds for some serious grumbling. DD & DD2 have resorted to the same sort of grumbling. But then our situations are vastly different.

In our home here South Indian breakfast items are only made during the weekend and upma perhaps makes an appearance probably once in a month. Still the grumbling goes and on and I have learned not to pay it any mind. DH on the other hand likes upma. Anyway I still agree there is a lot not to be liked in a upma. If it is cooked into a pasty mush or too dry then it is makes it almost impossible to eat.

After much trial and error I have almost found a fool proof way to make upma which is light and airy and still moist. Upma found in restaurants have a lot of oil and no wonder they are usually soft and but eating breakfast with that much oil does not sit too well. This one uses the minimum amount of oil and yet still yields a soft and moist upma.

The key is to dry roast the cream of wheat or semolina till it starts to turn a pale brown color here and there. Also to add the cream of wheat to the water only when the water is boiling hot.

Here in the US Cream of Wheat can be purchased in most grocery stores. This is slightly browner - perhaps has a bit more bran, compared to the purely white cream of wheat that is sold in Indian grocery stores. In the Indian store I prefer the coarser semolina compared to the fine one.

Roast the rava/semolina/cream of wheat till brown spots start to appear. Set aside. Heat oil in a wide mouthed pan, let the urad dal brown first and then add the cumin mustard seeds, curry leaves and green chilies.
Add the onions and saute till it starts to brown a bit. Add ginger and saute for a minute more. Add the required amount of water and let it come to a boil.
Once the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat and add the rava in a gentle stream while constantly stirring.
When all the rava has been added, cover the lid and let cook for 4-5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
Squeeze in the lemon juice and let sit covered for another 5-10 minutes before fluffing up and serving.

I learned a small trick from DH's aunt. She squeezes in some lemon juice just before turning off the heat and that gives it a different dimension to the taste. You could make a chutney to go with the upma but brown sugar, pickle, curd or even banana are all good accompaniments.

Update: I forgot to mention the water proportion (till friends gently reminded me in the comment section), which is another important component that determines the texture of the upma. As for the water proportion I use 1 portion of rava to 2 portions of rava/cream of wheat is what works for me. Try it once and adjust the water proportions accordingly.

Rava Upma
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:20 minutes
Serves : 4
  1. 2 cups of cream of wheat - semolina - white rava (water proportion 1 : 2)
  2. 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  3. 5-6 slit green chilies (seeds shaken out)
  4. 2 tsp of grated ginger
  5. seasonings - 1 tsp split urad dal, a pinch of cumin seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves
  6. salt to taste
  7. half a lemon (optional)
  8. 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves (optional)
  9. 1 tsp of oil
  1. Heat a saute pan or kadai and add the cream of wheat/semolina/rava and dry roast till the cream of wheat starts to change to a slightly brown color. Take care not to burn. Keep stirring often so the rava at the bottom gets turnrd around and does not burn. Takes 10-15 minutes. Remove from fire and transfer to a plate. You can do this ahead of time and store in an airtight container for later use.
  2. In a wide mouthed pan (an Indian style kadai works best) heat the oil and when hot add the seasonings, urad dal first and when it starts to turn slightly brown, add the cumin seeds followed by the mustard seeds and when the mustard seeds pop add the curry leaves and green chilies.
  3. Add in the onions and saute till they become translucent and slightly brown on the edges. Add in the ginger and saute for a minute more.
  4. Pour the required amount of water and salt. Let it come to a boil. Do a taste and see if there is enough salt. Salt cannot be added later. Add in the chopped coriander leaves. (see note:)
  5. Reduce heat to below medium and to the boiling water add in the rava/semolina/cream of wheat in a gently stream with one hand while the other hand is constantly stirring to avoid lumps.
  6. Close the lid and in the same low heat let cook for 3-4 minutes. By this time all the water should have been absorbed. Squeeze in the lemon juice if using. Do not disturb it and leave it covered for another 5-10 minutes. Mix gently and it is ready.
  7. Note: Salt can be added after the upma is cooked but adding the salt and mixing it inside the upma will still work. As for the coriander leaves, I prefer them cooked if you like raw coriander leaves they can be sprinkled on after the upma has been cooked.

  8. Serve with brown sugar(karmbu sarkarai), pickle or even banana.

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  1. Hi Indo, I was smiling reading your post....yesterday b'fast was upma(yes....on weekday morning)...except DD1 everybody eats it....i'm not very found of it but still once a month works for me :) . DD1 looks in the kitchen before taking bath & said why u made upma....u know on the school days I can't eat upma I don't have time(she can eat waffle or pancake or even poha :) ) Anyways she managed to get late on the table for b'fast & also leave half of the already small serving I had given her & on top of all this managed to miss the school bus also "thanks to mom's upma" . And after all this, got to talk to my SIL on phone & she said similar thing with her kids.....don't eat it so many excuses.....

    My recipe is almost same except ginger & cumin......I do add green peas sometime & roasted peanuts always it helps if little crunchy stuff is there, without that hubs won't eat at all.

    Also I think if u mention water amount in the recipe(atleast approx.) it will be easy for anyone new to this for me didn't grew up eating this dish learned it from my co worker & after marriage hubs was the incharge for making this but he always eyeball the water amt. but when I started making it didn't work for me so I have figured the water proportion which works for me & stick with that....just my 2 cents...

    omg! I wrote like a whole blog post....sorry for such a big comment......

    1. Spice, thanks for the comment. I can totally understand what your kids are upto.
      I realized that I forgot the water proportion and have been wanting to fix it but have not had a chance till now. I just did. The water proportion is very important in the texture of the upma for sure.

  2. What proportion of rava:water do you use, Indo? I use 1: 1.5

    1. Sra, sorry I missed writing that up. I use 1 : 2 and I bring the water to a rolling boil.

  3. I must be the odd person as i love upma all though i don't make them at home.

    1. Finla, these days I like upma too. You should try making them.


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