Piping hot semolina with tender medley of vegetables and some spicy chutney is the way to break that fast on a cold and frosty morning.
The simple sustains. We cook this so many times that we do not think before we cook, or pay attention. It gets done like a routine while I am concentrating on other things; nothing is measured, nothing planned…only good old spontaneity takes over. The old comfort of steaming hot pulao loaded with vegetables wraps around and heals.
In most Indian homes, breakfast is elaborate and on the savory side. Parathas, pooris, or pulaos with some chutney or a small side is usually the kind that satisfies. With both my parents working and with me unable to swallow anything more than a few sips of milk before I left for school, the big, fancy breakfasts were left for relaxed weekends only.
A had an oral surgery prior to the winter break last year and that called for smooth, soft food for him for about a few weeks. So we have been cooking Khichuri, Pulao, wholesome nutritious soups and the kinds. While these meals helps the ones who are recovering, they are also just perfect for this weather.
This recipe might remind some of you of upma. Rawa upma? may be… But since I am not familiar about a cuisine I did not grow up with, I am not exactly sure of the intricacies of upma. I have had several kinds of upma, with many different flavors and looks – all cooked by my friends at various times of my life. So I am assuming there are many kinds belonging to regions of southern Indian. My favorite kind of upma is the pure white and light and airy ones, with not so many vegetables, but the tiny green dots of peas. My friend in college would make it this way. I never managed to make it so divinely white.
The recipes of the big breakfasts back home have slowly been moved to main meals here - over the years, we have adapted to quick breakfast (or none for me most of the days) and recipes like this one becomes a very wanted weekend brunch or a weekday lunch.
The one I have here is cooked like any pulao/pilaf with any grains. This is the kind I grew up with – Sooji r Pulao or Nonta Sooji (savory or salty semolina) as it was called at home. The design of this recipe might actually have been originated from the upma and then adapted to suit our style and taste in our home.
This recipe involves only a few easy steps; the initial tempering of the spices, Sautéing the vegetables and adding the grain, mixing everything together and adding water to cook. And then garnish before serving.
There are many kinds of semolina available; the coarse ones what we Indians usually call rawa or sooji works best here. Feel free to use any kind and combination of vegetables.
Semolina and Vegetable Pulao/Pilaf
Ingredients: (serves 4-6 as a side)
- 1 + 1/4 cups coarse sooji/semolina
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh tomato
- 2 – 6 hot green chili pepper, finely chopped
- 3-4 cups vegetables, any kind and as much or as little you want**
- 3 tablespoon oil + 1 tablespoon ghee
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds + 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 tejpatta/Indian bay leaf
- few tablespoon roasted and coarsely chopped peanuts (optional)
- salt to taste
- 2.5 cups hot water, or as much/as little needed
- lemon/lime juice to finish off (optional)
- fresh coriander/cilantro for garnish
**Note: Since I have to have only tender vegetables, I used only peas and potatoes. Any kind of vegetables, including carrots, cauliflower, pepper etc may be used here.
When we are making a complete meal with this pulao/pilaf, we do use a lot of vegetables (less grain, more vegetables)- in a way the semolina coats the vegetables and there is not much extra fluffy ones. Adjust ratio to your needs and likes.
Light roast the semolina with ghee on a griddle/tawa or pan. Stir frequently and do not allow it to turn brown. it should only be very pale golden. Once it starts changing the color and gets aromatic, remove from heat immediately. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard and cumin seeds and the tejpatta. When the seeds sizzle, add the chopped onions and the hot green chilli peppers. Cook until the onion is translucent and soft and starts to turn brown on the edges.
Add the tomatoes and salt and stir well for all to combine. Cook until soft and mushy.
Add the vegetables, the tougher ones first. So if you are using potatoes and carrots and they need to be cooked through, add them first and cover the pan and lower the heat. Cook until they are tender. Add the other vegetables and do a quick stir fry.
Add the roasted semolina to the pan, only a little at a time, stirring constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Slowly add water
Simmer and cook till the pulao is thick and cooked through/softened. Turn off the fire and keep covered for a while – about 10 minutes.
Uncover and squeeze the lime juice and toss. Fluff well and break up lumps.
Sprinkle the chopped coriander and roasted peanuts if you are using. Serve piping hot with ketchup/hot sauce/chutney.
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