Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bread Upma

Dear foodies,

Weekday mornings are a rush to get out of the house with breakfast being a speed bump in the process. Weekends on the other hand are days when I relax and cook a leisurely breakfast which more often that not ends up being brunch if we are lucky or a very late lunch. The food typically served for breakfast/tiffin in India are some of  my all time favorite foods. Indians detest sweet things first thing in the morning have come up with a myriad choice of delectable savory foods to kick start the day. A variety of dosa's, idli, upma, puri and all the condiments that go with each one of them are fabulous examples of Indian home cooking. Tiffin is the colloquial name given to these meals - a light meal that could be perfect for breakfast or a mid-day snack. 

Upma, for those unfamiliar with the dish, is a savory porridge made from Semolina/Rava/Sooji. The word upma/uppindi (Tamil/Telugu) comes from: uppu -salt, maavu/pindi - flour, combining to mean seasoned flour. But don't be fooled by its humble name, made well it could be an explosion of flavors & textures. This is also the famed dish that got Floyd Cardoz his final win on Top Chef Masters! Upma is traditionally a breakfast item and has as many variations are there are cooks. It can be made rich & divine by cooking it with ghee and toasted cashews (jeedipappu upma) or made healthy & colorful with seasonal vegetables. Wrapped inside a pesarattu (green lentil dosa) it's bound to make you take long nap :)

Upma begins with the rava/semolina lightly toasted in a pan and reserved. Ghee/oil is then seasoned with mild spices, veggies of choice and water are added and the whole thing is brought to a rolling boil. Rava is then slowly streamed into the seasoned water and allowed to steam for a few minutes. Served with a tiny dollop of ghee this is divine! This basic recipe evolved and transformed into many delectable variations that use ground whole wheat (dalia)vermicellinoodlespoha (flattenned rice), oats, tapioca pearls/sago, bread and even left over idli's. There might well be other variations that I'm not aware of.

At home, my mom is the go-to person for all things upma, well all things food! But bread upma, as far as I remember has been my Dad's domain (I know I'm going to hear about this). This is probably one of the few dishes I've seen him help out with consistently over the years. He came up with this neat technique to transform dry, stale bread into tender, flavorful chunks by sprinkling buttermilk over the bread cubes. It instantaneously gives it tang, very much like sourdough and makes the bread tender and moist again. And once you have buttermilk as the vehicle you can enhance the flavor with a dash of chilli powder, some turmeric for color, a few pinches of tandoori masala/garam masala or any other spice mix of choice. So if you have stale bread lying around this is the perfect way to use it up.

Bread Upma
Prep Time - 15mins
Cook time - 20mins
Servings - 3
  • 10-12 slices - day old bread slices (any kind would work)
  • 1/4 cup - Yogurt/Curd, homemade or store-bought 
  • 1/2 cup - Water
  • a pinch of Turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp - Red Chilli powder (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp - Garam Masala/Tandoori Masala/Sambar Powder/Coriander Powder (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1" round of Ginger, thinly sliced or grated
  • 1/2 cup - Onions, sliced
  • 3/4 cup - Tomatoes, cubed
  • 1-2 - Green chiles, slit or 1/2 tsp - Red chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp - Garam Masala/Tandoori Masala (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp - Turmeric
  • pinch of Asafoetida/Hing
  • 1/2 tsp - Mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp - Cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp - Urad/Channa dal
  • 6-8 - Curry leaves
  • 2 Tbsp - Oil
  1. Prepare your vegetables first, have everything sliced and ready to go. In a bowl whisk together yogurt, water and seasonings. Spread bread cubes on a wide platter and sprinkle the seasoned buttermilk as evenly as possible over all them. You don't want them to be entirely soaked in buttermilk but just barely moist, so use as much or little as needed.
  2. Heat oil in a wide, shallow pan and add mustard seeds, cumin and dals. Once the seeds begin to splutter, add turmeric powder, hing, onions, curry leaves, ginger and slit green chillies. Sprinkle some salt on the onions and cook until they are softened slightly.
  3. Add cubed tomatoes and cook until they begin to fall apart and become mushy. Add the spice powders next, if using.
  4. Carefully stir in bread cubes, coating them with the onion-tomato gravy without breaking them up. Increase heat to medium high and spread them out in a uniform layer so they can cook and char around the edges a bit. Cook undisturbed for 2-3 mins and then carefully stir so the other side chars as well. This is crucial step that adds needed texture to the otherwise mushy center of the bread cubes.
  5. Finally garnish with cilantro and serve hot with some tomato ketchup & lime/lemon wedges on the side.

This is a quick, filling breakfast to make and that will leave you with more time devour weekend newspapers and channel surf. Its a great way to use up stale bread lying around on the kitchen counter as well so you can stock up again for the week ahead. Fresh green peas are in season now and they would be great in this upma, and so would grated carrots or roasted peanuts.

Citrus fruit & Berrries are back in season again!

On another note, my camera gave up on me last week! :( An Err99 message showed up and after much anguish we found out that the shutter needs to be replaced. I am planning to upgrade to another camera instead of investing more on the old one (Rebel XSi). I am leaning towards a Canon T3i/600D but haven't decided yet, any inputs/tips/advice ?

16 thoughts:

FewMinute Wonders said...

Very beautiful clicks. I love bread upma. I don't add masala will try your version.

Anu Menon said...

love this post... my frd annie made the yummiest bread upma at a reunion in 2009... and did i ever tell you that you have an eye for photography ;)

Tina said...

beautiful clicks....

Unknown said...

Wow adding yogurt is new to me..will try it out nexttime for sure. Bread upma looks flavourful and tempting.Stunning clicks as usual! :)

Aruna Manikandan said...

wow looks delicious, adding yoghurt sounds new to me...
lovely clicks :)

chinmayie said...

Love the photos.. I love bread puma too!

indosungod said...

Love the beautiful pictures! This used to be my tiffin in the evenings. This was the only way as far as I know that bread was consumed.

I add egg to the mixutre but yours looks perfect without it.

Unknown said...

Awesome presentation...

Priya said...

Srimathi, I don't think my dad adds masala either, infact he called to tell that his version does not use tomatoes either :D

Anu, must have been a perfect upma if you still remember it. Sharing food with friends always creates wonderful memories na ? I wish the 'eye' worked all the time :D

Tina, thank you :)

Sharmilee, do give it a try, thanks :)

Aruna, it's the only way I can make the bread moist & flavorful without making a kheema of it in the masala.

Chinmayie, thank you :)

Indo, same here, it would be the 'hatke' tiffin and yes, the only time bread was enjoyed! Your version sounds like an upgrade from regular bread-omelet :)

Unknown said...

Wow pics could drive anyone crazy..Never tried this version,should give a shot....

parenting articles said...

your shots always look so perfect=)

parenting articles

Soundspicy said...

Awesome clicks..

Anonymous said...

This is one of those dishes which my hubby makes better than i do. So, whenever I am in the mood to relax he makes these for me :) I like your version too!

Ambika said...

Hey Priya!! How are you?? Visiting you after a long time today! The bread upma looks fantastic, its one of my go to meals when I am alone, love the photographs!

Unknown said...

Hey Priya.. i was searching for bread upma recipe for a quick sunday breakfast... And voila!! i stumbled on urs and found it interesting... am going to try out now..

But the interesting part is the little note at the end of ur post.. the side note on ur camera giving Err 99.. i have been seeing it on my canon for last few days.. so Big thanks for pointing out the problem.. now lemme prepare myself to convince my hubby to get a new one myself ;)

Priya said...

Lakshmi, I hope you enjoyed the upma, its a perfect weekend breakfast.

And I'm sorry your camera has an Err99 message :( I learned that Err99 is a catchall message for all sorts of things that could go wrong and cannot be explained by the other built in messages. In my case it was the shutter that gave up (took it to a camera repair store).

The photos right before the error showed up had unexposed black spots on them as if something was blocking the shutter/lens. And after a few more, the error showed up and that was end. :(

But yes, it also meant I got myself a brand new camera :)

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