Uppama- Farina Pilaf with Dal and Vegetables

March 5, 2013

Author Notes: Uppama is one of my favorite comfort foods for breakfast or dinner,and, accompanied by creamy scrambled eggs and plenty of yoghurt, it's the definitiion of Cheap Feast!. It's funny - I usually love Indian food for all the cumin and other spices, but here there are no spices, just a surprising amount of warm nutty flavor and appeal from the toasted dal and the toasted farina itself. It is a good foil for spicy dishes; it also makes for a robust and more unusual option as a vegetarian or vegan entree.

The things that make my Uppama version non-traditional are the larger amount of both tomato and fried dal (I just love the nuttiness and toothsome textural contrast of the fried dal with the soft farina.) When making this for a crowd, you can follow the recipe through the browning of the farina, doing it in batches, and then transfer the farina mixtures to a large pot- for cooking with the tomatoes and finishing the recipe. If multiplying this recipe by three or more, you should start with 2/3 of the tomato juices and water, as you can always add more and then cook the uppama longer (which is preferable to having soupy uppama!)

Serves: 4-6


  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup toordal or urad dal *
  • ½ Tablespoon black mustard seeds*
  • 1 cup(4 oz.) finely chopped onion
  • 3 jalapeno chiles, seeded and minced ( or or 3 ½ Tablespoons minced pickled jalapenos,seeded
  • 1 cup quick- cooking farina(Pillsbury is fine; not Indian sooji which is too fine)
  • 28 ounce can Pastene plum tomatoes, lifted out of their juices and chopped
  • or
  • 2 cups finely chopped ripe garden tomatoes or grape tomatoes
  • minced peeled ginger
  • 1/2 cup ( 2 ounces)minced unpeeled carrot
  • 1/2 cup (1.2 ounces) minced scallion, including green and white
  • 2 cups water (2 ½ cups if using fresh tomatoes)
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/8-1/4 cup lemon juice
  • ½ cup+minced cilantro
  • Plain yoghurt
In This Recipe


  1. In medium hot oil, sautee dal a few minutes to make crunchy. Add mustard seeds til they pop, then onion. Sautee 7-8 minutes til onion is soft, adding oil if needed. Don’t brown the onions. Add jalapenos for a minute, then farina, toasting 4-6 minutes til lightly browned. Individually add tomato through scallion, stirring well between each addition. Add water and Salt. Bring to boil. Turn down to simmer, cover tightly, 20-30 min. until farina is thick and dal are toothsome. If dal are not tender, cover and simmer til done, adding more water if mixture is dry. Finished uppama should be moist but not gloppy or soupy. Stir well to blend.
  2. Squeeze lemon juice over it and sprinkle w/ cilantro. Serve with plenty of plain yoghurt. .
  3. *Available at Indian stores and some Whole Foods

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