A Spring Twist on the Indian Classic

Upma is a humble Indian savory semolina porridge originating from the southern part of the country. It’s popular all over the country as a breakfast or snack dish. It features roasted rava/sooji i.e. semolina cooked in a mildly spiced broth along with a few aromatics. The basic version doesn’t include any vegetables as such but you’ll often find recipes that include tomatoes, green beans, carrots, etc. I’m taking advantage of the spring season’s bounty and putting a modern spin on this traditional dish. Presenting a spring-ready Upma with Asparagus, Peas and Mushrooms.

Upma with Asparagus, Peas and Mushrooms

The key elements of upma

Upma is made with  rava/sooji, more commonly known as semolina around the world. It is essentially wheat flour made by milling durum (hard) wheat. It comes in two varieties – fine, which is known as cream of wheat or farina in the US and coarse, which is semolina. Indian cuisine uses both, fine and coarse textured rava/sooji in a variety of savory and sweet dishes. Fine rava/sooji is typically used as a crispy coating for fried foods like Fish Fry or in sweets like Rava Ladoo. Traditionally, Upma is made using coarse rava/sooji, although my mom sometimes makes it with the fine variety.

Upma with Asparagus, Peas and Mushrooms

Traditional Upma Preparation

The process of preparing upma is simple and straightforward. Coarse rava/sooji flour is lightly roasted in a pan with a small amount of oil and then cooked in a mildly spiced broth. Nowadays, you can find roasted rava/sooji directly in the stores, which makes it easier and helps avoid the first step in the preparation.

Upma with Asparagus, Peas and Mushrooms

To create the broth, oil is seasoned with basic spices such as mustard seeds and asafetida. Additionally, a variety of lentils such as urad dal and/or chana dal, along with peanuts or cashews, are added to the oil. Aromatics like curry leaves, onions, ginger, and chilies are used to enhance the flavor of the broth. In the vegetable upma variations, vegetables such as tomatoes, peas, carrots, green beans, etc., are sautéed in the seasoned oil until al dente before water is added to make the broth for cooking the roasted semolina flour.

Upma with Asparagus, Peas and Mushrooms

My creative interplay of vegetables

The simple preparation, humble ingredients and mildly spiced flavors makes the upma a blank canvas for culinary experimentation. Typically, my recipe excludes lentils and nuts. However, I love to play with the vegetables, not just to boost its nutritional profile but also to infuse it with diverse flavors and textures. While traditional upma recipes typically feature common vegetables like tomatoes, carrots, peas or green beans, I often find myself drawn to incorporating unconventional ones such as frozen corn kernels with mushrooms or fresh babycorn, which adds a delightful twist to the dish.

Upma with Asparagus, Peas and Mushrooms

I often make upma (or its Maharashtrian version Sanja) for brunch on lazy weekends or for a quick lunch on busy weekdays. Just like pohe, upma is also one of the quick and easy meals to make! It requires only a handful of basic ingredients from the pantry and the refrigerator.

Upma with Asparagus, Peas and Mushrooms

The last time I decided to whip up upma in my kitchen, I incorporated a few of the seasonal veggies that I had picked up at the farmers’ market – asparagus, mushrooms, and fresh English peas. The idea was to revamp the traditional Indian upma by introducing non-traditional ingredients readily available to me. Much to my delight, this experiment proved highly successful. The new additions complemented the classic flavor exceptionally well, resulting in a beautiful harmony while taking the humble upma to an entirely new level!

Upma with Asparagus, Peas and Mushrooms

springtime garnish

Besides incorporating unconventional vegetables, I maintained my recipe for Upma with Asparagus, Peas and Mushrooms, as faithful to traditional one as I could. However, I opted for a different garnish this time. Rather than cilantro and grated coconut, I selected sliced spring or green onions to impart a springtime twist to the dish. These provided a delightful crunch and a fresh, subtle onion flavor that perfectly complemented the overall taste of my Upma with Asparagus, Peas and Mushrooms.

Upma with Asparagus, Peas and Mushrooms

I hope you will make the most of the spring season’s bounty and give my variation of the Upma with Asparagus, Peas and Mushrooms a try! I’ve linked a short video below that I put together for you that you can follow and easily whip up this signature concoction in your own kitchen.

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Upma with Asparagus, Peas and Mushrooms


  • Author: Vasanti
  • Yield: 2 servings 1x

Description

Classic Indian savory semolina porridge made with non-traditional ingredients like asparagus, peas and mushrooms.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil like canola, safflower, avocado, etc.
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp asafetida
  • 23 dried round small red chilies or regular dried red chilies (see FAQs & Notes)
  • 45 curry leaves
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped (see Variations)
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled and minced
  • salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 45 mushrooms, sliced (see FAQs & Notes))
  • 1/4 cup fresh or frozen peas (see Variations)
  • 45 asparagus stems cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup of roasted rava/sooji (see FAQs & Notes)
  • 3 cups of hot water (ratio for water: sooji is 3:1) (see FAQs & Notes)
  • 2 medium green onions, thinly sliced, for garnishing

Instructions

  • Heat 2 tsbp of oil in a wok or a deep sauté pan over medium heat and and add mustard seeds, cumin, asafetida, chilies, curry leaves, onions and ginger. 
  • Sprinkle salt and sugar and sauté till the onions are translucent, for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Stir in the asparagus, mushrooms, fresh or frozen peas along with 1/4 cup of water.
  • Cover and cook for about 5-7 minutes or so till the vegetables are cooked and tender.
  • Add in the roasted rava/sooji. 
  • Season with salt and stir to combine well.
  • Turn the heat down to low and then pour in the hot water. 
  • Give it a good stir to combine everything well.
  • Cover and simmer for 5 minutes till the moisture is completely absorbed and the rava/sooji has plumped up.
  • Cover and let it sit off the heat for another 5 minutes.  
  • Using the cooking spoon, gently fluff the cooked rava/sooji. 
  • Serve warm, garnished with sliced green onions (see FAQs & Notes for storing leftovers). 

Recipe FAQ’s and Notes

Don't have dried red chilies?

You can use fresh green chilies if you don’t have dried red chilies.

What kind of mushrooms will work in this recipe?

I’m using the regular white button mushrooms in my recipe but any other kind like baby bella/creminis, shiitake, etc. will work equally well.

Where can I find roasted rava/sooji?

Roasted rava/sooji is available in the Indian grocery stores.

You can also find it online, on Amazon.

Can I use regular, unroasted rava/sooji?

Yes, you can use regular coarse or fine rava/sooji and roast it in the pan before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.

Heat 2 tsbp of oil and roast the sooji/rava till it turns light brown. Set aside to cool until ready to use.

How hot does the water need to be?

The water should be about 94 °C (201 °F) (near-boiling) temperature.

Got leftovers?

Any leftover porridge can be stored in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen in a freezer safe container for up to 3 months.

Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.  Reheat in the microwave oven for 2 minutes on high heat or as needed, depending on the quantity of the leftovers.

Recipe Variations

Instead of onions, play with leeks! They have a delightful mildly sweet onion flavor that works very well with asparagus, peas and mushrooms.

Use about 1/2 leek, lightgreen and white part, halved along its length and sliced into half rounds.

For a protein boost, use shelled edamames instead of green peas

Don’t like asparagus? Substitute with corn! They pair very well with mushrooms

Happy cooking
Vasanti

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Hi I’m Vasanti
…and I ❤️cooking ‘n clicking!!
I share a modern take on Indian cuisine made using nontraditional techniques and ingredients, while staying true to its authenticity. You’ll also find classic recipes from my beloved Maharashtrian culture and heritage.



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