October 21, 2020
The first time I tasted the creamy deliciousness of Southern corn grits in a nondescript suburban American hotel, my mind flashed with visions of how much more flavor a pop of mustard seeds, a crackle of fried kari leaf and a drizzle of jaggery and lemon would have added to my breakfast.
Grits were introduced by native Americans in the 16th century using stone-ground corn or hominy and are now a staple in many parts of the country. Grain or vegetable mashes are common in many ancient cultures, from the African fufu made with plantain and cassava flours to uppma, an aromatic toasted semolina and vegetable hash from southern India. Uppma can be made from corn or rice grits, semolina or polenta and can be great vehicle for leftover vegetables.
1/2 cup semolina or grits
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (see notes)
1 teaspoon raw lentils (see notes)
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
10 to 12 kari (curry) leaves
2 cups diced vegetables (such as corn, peppers, cauliflower, etc.)
2 to 3 whole red chiles (optional)
1 serrano chile, minced (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon grated unpeeled ginger
Juice of half a lemon
Handful of herbs (such as cilantro, parsley, mint, etc.)
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Spread the semolina or grits on a flat baking sheet and roast in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove and set aside.
In a stockpot, heat the oil and pop the lentils and mustard seeds. The lentils will darken slightly. Almost immediately, add the kari leaves, diced vegetables, whole red chiles, and serrano chile.
Cook the mixture on high heat, stirring frequently for 5 to 7 minutes, until the vegetables have wilted and have a slight char or color.
Add the turmeric, salt, ginger, and 2 cups of water. Bring the mixture to a boil and slowly, in a steady stream, add the semolina or grits, stirring constantly to prevent lumps.
Cook on low heat for 3 to 4 minutes until almost all the liquid has been absorbed. Then cover the stockpile and let the uppma rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Garnish with lemon juice, sesame seeds, fresh herbs and a drizzle of oil, if desired
Coconut, peanut, or sesame oil work best with uppma.
Traditionally white “urad” or “channa” lentils are used for the pop (tempering); however, skip this step if raw lentils are available.
To make a more decadent version, substitute ghee for olive oil and use plain whole milk yogurt in place of water.
December 02, 2022