Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Baked Upma (Indian Polenta)

Upma can be baked instead of the traditional stove-top method! The procedure is the same as in preparing the traditional Upma up to cooking the veggies; then just put everything in a casserole and bake! You can use the hands-free time to attend to other duties in the kitchen.

For a delicious change of pace or a gluten-free treat, upma can be made with polenta instead of the traditional cream of wheat. Polenta (coarse corn meal) is usually available in most markets; cream of wheat, Chana Dal, Urad dal, asafoetida, curry leaves and mustard seeds, etc are readily available in Indian markets. Carrots, corn kernels, bell peppers, peas, green beans, potatoes, zucchini, etc will work well.

4 Servings


2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp Ghee (clarified butter) OR Earth Balance (butter substitute)
1/4 tsp Brown Mustard seeds
1 Tbsp Chana dal
1 Tbsp Urad dal
1 pinch Asafetida (Hing)
1 Tbsp fresh Ginger, 2 or 3 coin sized slices
1 or 2 green Chilies (Serrano or Jalapeno)
1 small Onion, any kind
1 sprig of fresh Curry leaves
1 tsp Sea Salt or to taste
2 to 3 cups fresh/frozen mixed vegetables
2 to 4 cups Water
1 cup Cream of Wheat or Polenta
4 Tbsp chopped Cilantro leaves
4 Tbsp toasted Cashew pieces or other nuts or seeds (Optional)
Lime Wedges to serve


  • Prepare the veggies: remove the seeds and membranes from the green chilies and finely mince; finely chop the ginger, onion and curry leaves. Dice your choice of fresh veggies into small cubes; thaw the veggies slightly if they are frozen.
  • Heat the oil in a large pot or a Kadai (Indian wok).
  • Add mustard seeds, Chana and Urad dals when the oil is hot and cover with a lid to keep the mustard seeds from escaping while they pop; be careful to watch that they do not burn though. This will only take a few seconds; the dals should become just pinkish golden.
  • As the mustard seeds finish popping, lower the heat to prevent burning and add the asafetida quickly.
  • Stir in the ginger, green chili, onions, curry leaves and the salt; cook stirring constantly over medium heat until onions are and softened and beginning to turn slightly golden.
  • Stir in the rest of the vegetables and mix well.
  • Oil a lidded casserole dish  (2 to 3 quart size) and add boiling water (2 cups for cream of wheat and 4 for polenta) and the cream of wheat or polenta; mix well. Place the lid on.
  • Bake the corn meal  mixture for 1 hour; cream of wheat does not require long baking. Bake cream of wheat mixture for a total of 30 minutes only.
  • Stir in the prepared veggie mixture thoroughly; add a tablespoon or two of water if upma looks dry; bake for 30 minutes more if using corn meal.
  • Remove from the oven, stir in the Ghee/Earth Balance, cover and allow to rest for a few minutes.
  • Stir in the cilantro leaves or sprinkle on top just before serving.
  • Serve hot garnished with the nuts/seeds.
  • Serve with the lime wedges to squeeze over the upma.
  • Upma is delicious on its own but can be served with your favorite accompaniments of chutneys, pickles, curries, etc. A few curries we especially like are Aviyal, Mor Kootu, or Ripe Mango Pulisseri. Enjoy!

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