Upma or Masala Semolina

I feel like somewhat of a broken record saying this, but nevertheless, I will. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And I strongly believe in that.

In the past, I’ve been a bit here and there with breakfast. Growing up, we were almost always given a chapati or a paratha for breakfast. As a kid, it wasn’t my most favorite thing in the world, but I always ate what was put in front of me. After moving out of my parents house, breakfast took a back seat. We were always in a rush to get out of the house to go to work and the first thing that got neglected was breakfast. A wholesome meal was often replaced with a slice of toast and coffee. But eventually, we got so fed up of that slice of toast, I started looking for ways to spice up brekkie, so to say. I did a lot of experimenting and also went back to some old favorites like this Upma that my mother made for us every now and then. 
Moving forward to current day, I’m happy to report that in our house, breakfast is now a more wholesome meal. So, if you’d like to get back to wholesome breakfasts, the way it is meant to be, you’ve come to the right place. Today, I’m going to share with you our family recipe for Upma. Upma, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, is a Masala Semolina dish. Only recently, I learnt that there’s actually a different name for it in Goa. Goans refer to this as Tikhat Shiro (translates to Spicy Semolina). It is quick, easy, wholesome and delicious. So I’ll stop yapping here and take you straight to the recipe. 

Upma
Yields: 2 adult portions

1/2 cup coarse semolina / rava
1 tbsp oil
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
5-6 curry leaves
2 chillies, cut into large pieces
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 inch ginger, cut into 2 pieces
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
1 small tomato (or 1/3 – 1/2 large), chopped
1/4 cup green peas
Salt, to taste
1 1/2 cup of water from a recently boiled kettle (hot water)
Dry roast the semolina on medium heat, till you get a nutty aroma and it only just starts changing color. Take it off the pan and place in a bowl and set aside. 
Heat the oil in the pan. 
Add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. 
Add the cumin seeds and soon after add the curry leaves and chilly pieces to the pan. Saute for a few seconds. 
Next, add the chopped onion and saute. When the onion has softened, add the ginger and stir well to fry off. 
Once the onion has started to develop a little color on the edges, add the turmeric powder and stir well. 
Add in the roasted semolina. Stir well to incorporate and saute for 20-30 seconds. 
Now add in the hot water. Carefully stir the mix.
Add salt to taste, chopped tomatoes and green peas. Stir well to combine. 
Stirring continuously, cook the semolina till all the moisture has been absorbed and you are left with nice fluffy grains. This usually takes me around 2 minutes. 
Take the pan off the heat, cover and let it rest for a couple of minutes. 
Serve hot. 
Enjoy!

Basbousa

It’s been nice to settle in to my regular routine over the last few days. Truth be told, I do miss being on Holiday and being around family and friends. But there is something deeply pacifying about being back home doing my thing.

I haven’t baked in ages. Furthermore, its been about three months since I last shared a baked recipe here. I was tossing between cookies, brownies and tea cakes. And while I was looking, I realized that I had this exotic little gem saved in my massive ‘must-try’ list. And with a name as exotic sounding as Basbousa, I had to. So as soon as the temperature dipped a tiny bit, I decided to turn the oven on. Basbousa is an Egyptian semolina cake drenched in sugar syrup.

This batter comes together really quick and easily. There’s no need to break out the heavy equipment, I just used a whisk. So basically you bake the cake, make a sugar syrup and drizzle it over the cake and top with some sliced / slivered (flaked) almonds and coconut chips and that’s it. This is a dense tea cake, so don’t expect a light sponge. It has a very different flavor profile compared to a basic sponge too. It has a subtle tang from the yogurt and the lemon in the syrup. Dare I say, it is very deliciously different. My husband really liked this cake. And he is someone who loves a good chocolate cake and the occasional sponge cake. This one though, he has asked me to keep track of, so that we can make it again. Imagine my surprise. But then again, it wasn’t overly surprising considering how good this cake is. Try it out for yourself.

Basbousa
Recipe from: The Mediterranean Dish

For the cake
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup natural, unflavored yogurt
2 cups coarse semolina
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup sliced / flaked almonds
1/4 cup sweetened coconut chips or sweetened shredded coconut

For the syrup
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 3/4 cup water
2″ cinnamon
1/4 tsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 170ÂșC and grease a 9 inch cake tin and keep aside.

Melt the butter and set aside. You can do this in a little saucepan on the stovetop on in a little microwave safe bowl in the microwave. Set this aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt and sugar.

Now add the semolina, milk and baking powder and mix thoroughly.

Next, stir in the melted butter and whisk well. Let the batter rest for a while (about 5-10 minutes or so) for the semolina to absorb some of the moisture.

Pour the batter into the greased cake tin and bake for about 40-45 minutes.

While the cake is baking, make the sugar syrup. Place the sugar water and cinnamon in a saucepan. Bring to a boil on high heat stirring occasionally, but only till the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat down to low and continue to cook for a few minutes till the syrup thickens. Then take off the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

Set aside to cool and then remove the cinnamon.

When the cake is ready, take it out of the oven and immediately pour the cool syrup on the hot cake.

Leave the cake to cool off completely and let the cake absorb the syrup, at least for an hour.

Just before serving, top the cake with the almond and coconut chips.

Serve.