Arisi Upma - A breakfast in minutes

Steaming hot upma is served

This recipe is another example of how simple traditional Tamil Brahmin cuisine is. No frills, no laundry-list of ingredients and yet divine in taste.

In earlier times, rice rava used to be painstakingly prepared at home by picking, washing and draining the rice. It then used to be left to dry on layers of old muslin cloth in the shade. The rice would then be hand-pounded into a coarse powder. My mother and grandmother still follow the procedure except that in the last step, the food processor has replaced the hand-pounding. Thankfully. 

As much as I love traditions, I am deprived of this virtue called patience. My husband will tell you the same thing. So I pick this packet of readymade Idli Rava from the supermarket and that makes life a lot easier for me.

Idli rava / rice rava (rice that is broken into a coarse rava) is a very useful ingredient to have around the kitchen. It cooks in a jiffy compared to whole rice or regular rava (semolina). You can use this to make delicious Upma Kozhakattai - which is one of the lesser known Tamilian tiffin items that I have never seen in a restaurant menu. This was one of the earliest entries on this blog.

You can also soak this instead of rice to grind idli batter. A simple rice porridge can be prepared in minutes for your toddler at a moment's notice if you have idli rava at home. And of course this breakfast recipe that you can virtually make in the time your family takes to settle on the dining table. 

This makes a quick weekday breakfast. To make it a more sumptuous breakfast, serve it with sambar and a variety of chutneys.

The coconut oil used in this recipe gives a deep aroma to the upma, but it's not a must really. Use any other vegetable oil or ghee instead.

This is way faster than the regular upma because you need not roast the rava nor chop any chillies, ginger, onions etc. and this cooks in almost half the time as regular rava.

So you have no excuses not to try this out. Just make sure you add 'Idli Rava' to your grocery list the next time :)

Arisi Upma - Broken rice upma
Serves 3
Time taken - Under 10 minutes

1-2 tsp edible coconut oil
Small pinch of asafoetida
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1-2 dried red chillies
1 tsp udad dal (ulutham paruppu)
1 sprig curry leaves (optional)
1 cup idli rava
3 cups water
1 tsp salt
1-2 tbsp scraped fresh coconut
1 small piece of jaggery
1/4 cup frozen peas (optional)

  1. In a large non stick kadai, heat the coconut oil.
  2. Stir in the asafoetida and splutter the mustard seeds. Add the udad dal and fry till lightly golden. Fry the curry leaves if using for a few seconds and the dried red chillies.
  3. Add 3 cups of water, salt, coconut scrapings, frozen green peas (if using) and jaggery. Let this come to a rolling boil.
  4. Reduce the flame to sim and add the idli rava while stirring constantly to avoid lumps.
  5. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook until the water evaporates - this takes under 3-4 minutes. Give it a good stir. Check for salt. If you think the upma is too dry and the rice rava needs to be cooked some more, add few more tablespoons of water, cover and cook on low flame for 2-3 minutes more.
  6. Once this water is absorbed and the rava is cooked, turn off the flame. Keep covered for 2-3 minutes. This will make the grains absorb the moisture from the steam and fluff up some more.
  7. Serve hot garnished with some more fresh coconut if required.

  • The jaggery will not make this taste sweet, but according to my granny rice-rava has a slight bitter tinge about it which this jaggery will neutralize.
  • The original arisi upma recipe does not use peas. This is just to make it more filling and add to the protein content.
15 June 2010
Edited to add- Comment from my Dad on email after seeing this post:
Unnudaya uppumavai partha udaneye appdiye sappidanumbola irukku. Moreover, the garnishing is TOP. God bless you. Appa.
This made me so happy this morning :)

Going down memory lane with icecream and recipe for Fig and Vanilla Icecream

"As a kid, the only thing I really cared about was candy. Candy is the only reason you want to live when you’re a kid. Ages zero through ten, candy is your life, there’s nothing else. Family, friends, school…they’re only obstacles in the way of getting more candy."
Jerry Seinfeld

I can say the same thing about ice cream.

As a child, my love for ice cream was pretty intense. More so because I was not allowed to eat it as frequently as I'd have liked to. I was predisposed to getting a nasty cold every now and then. The fact that my people thought eating ice cream led to colds did not help. Exam times, school competitions, all such times were strictly no-ice cream times. I wont say I was obsessed with ice cream the way Jerry was with candy. But being denied something makes you want it more. That's what happened to me.

My first favourite among ice creams was strawberry - no fancy schmancy REAL fruit ice cream - the pale pink synthetic colour and flavour of Amul suited my tastebuds just fine. Next in line came Tutti Frutti - which is it's mild orangey flavour and the colourful fruit bits (coloured and candied dried papaya for all we know) was pleasing to the eye as well as palate.

My aunt used to make these ice creams with seasonal fruits like Chikoo, Mango, Custard apple and also with those ice-cream mixes that were common in supermarkets as we were growing up. Those days, any guests coming to her place would unashamedly poke their head into her freezer to check if that aluminium dabba in which she usually freezed the good stuff was around!

Then entered Baskin Robbins. Probably that time I was low on my ice cream phase and don't recall any big favourites with them.

My short stay in the US made me a big fan of Perry's Death by Chocolate - my tastebuds could not believe that such a decadent icecream could exist. Then of course there was Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia and more such exotic flavours that made me regret that my stay in US wasn't long enough. On second thoughts, I'm happy today I gave all those excess calories a miss.

From US when we moved back to Bombay, we settled into ice cream land - Juhu - the place where Natural's Ice Cream was born. The ice cream of Juhu scheme. Anyone who has tasted Naturals will vouch for the real good taste that comes from fresh natural ingredients. Their home delivery box on any fruit ice cream will read just three ingredients: Milk, fruit and sugar. I trust them. My favourites here were the papaya-pineapple and real strawberry. When it comes to ice creams, I'll mostly go with fruit flavours or butter scotch. I'm not a big fan of chocolate in ice creams, I can eat chocolate by itself, thank you.

Today, I have all the freedom to eat ice cream as and when I please. The husband has nothing but words of encouragement when I say "I feel like having an ice cream today". Last week we shared a Willy Wonka Chocolate blast at the Cream Stone, which made me feel guilty as hell :(

There are some things you want to make more often, but we don't get around to making them. Making ice cream at home is one such thing for me. In all these years of frantic cooking, I've made kulfi twice and ice cream twice, including this one. I'll probably make it more often, now that I've almost cracked the jinx. 

I came to know after 5 years of being married to S that his favourite flavour in ice creams was Fig and Honey, which is why they say marriage is a process of continuous discovery of each other :) I saw him poking his head into the Baskin Robbins counter a few days ago searching for this flavour that was out of stock or something like that - which is when the idea of making this cropped up in my mind. And I wanted to start using the vanilla pods that I'd bought in Munnar on my holiday there in April. So this was a fantastic experience for me, handling real vanilla for the first time.

Since this can be made using basic household equipment, more ice cream lovers can try this out. So here's the recipe for the eggless fig vanilla ice cream - no ice cream maker required.

Fig and Vanilla Ice cream
Serves 6-8

12 dried figs
1" vanilla pod
800 ml milk ( I used toned 3%)
1/2 tin condensed milk (200g)
6tsp sugar or more to suit your taste
1 tbsp cornflour

  • Soak the figs in hot water for 3-4 hours till plump and soft. Grind to a rough puree, using some of the soaked water if required. If some pieces of fig remain, it is fine - it will fun biting into the little chewy pieces later!
  • In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine all but half cup of milk, condensed milk and sugar. Bring to a simmer.
  • Slit the vanilla pod with the tip of a sharp knife - scrape out the seeds into the simmering milk. I added the empty pods into the milk too, to use any seeds that got left out inside. [If using extract, add in two teaspoons of extract after removing the mixture from the flame.]
  • Mix the cornflour in the reserved half cup cold milk and add to the simmering mixture. Bring to a boil. The simmering milk will thicken as the cornflour gets cooked.
  • Add the fig puree at this stage. Stir / whisk well and remove from flame. [If using vanilla extract, add at this stage.]
  • Cool the content of the pan and pour into two plastic icecream boxes. (I used two old ice cream containers 500 ml each)
  • Turn your freezer's setting to maximum and keep the boxes in the freezer for 4-6 hours.
  • When the ice cream is nearly set, remove the contents of boxes into a large bowl and churn with an electric hand blender till soft and creamy, around 6-8 minutes.
  • Return the content to the boxes and freeze again.
  • You can repeat the same procedure after 3-4 hours and freeze for a creamier texture.

If you don't have an electric hand blender, use your food processor or else a wooden spoon to beat the mixture manually.

Taste: The ice cream was mildly sweet and very rich in flavours - vanilla with its intoxicating sweet aroma and the figs with their natural sweetness and textures. The combination worked beautifully for us. The condensed milk almost made up for the absence of the eggs - providing the rich creamy taste.

I used regular 3% milk, but you can use whole milk for better taste and more creaminess.

The only other ice cream on this blog is the Mango-coconut ice cream, which you might like to try if the mango season is still on in your part of the world.

Recipe for Ragda Patties made Healthy

Ragda patties is a very very popular street snack in Mumbai and many other parts of Northern India. Its chunky, spicy, tangy, sweet all at once and in short mouthwateringly irresistible like all other 'chats'!

It is easy to assume that Street Food = Junk Food = Unhealthy Food. 

However when the premise of a street food like Ragda Patties is a balanced meal made of Potatoes (Carbs) and Dried peas (Protein and Fibre) and tomato-onion salad (fibre and vitamins) one can make it even healthier at home ! 

What makes this unhealthy outside is the deep frying of the patties in god-knows-what oil and the number of times the oil is brought to high temperature to fry different batches in a day or over several days. This procedure of reheating oil several times, produces trans-fats. Eating food containing transfats  is one of the biggest cardiac risks. 

At home, I prepared these golden patties on a non stick tava with just 2 teaspoons of olive oil, in total  (Honest!!) and I added grated tofu to the potato mix to make it richer in protein content. Tofu haters of the world - this one is for you. You wouldn't even know that there was tofu in it thanks to the fresh flavours of mint, raw mango, ginger, garlic and green chillies that went into it.

This is how a street food with a notorious 'unhealthy' tag attached to it can turn extremely healthy and even wear the crown of ' health food'.

Here's the recipe for you. This makes a hearty dinner for two or three.

Recipe: Potato-Tofu Patties with Ragda - Healthy Ragda Patties

For Ragda
150 grams roughly 3/4 cup dried green or white peas - soak overnight in plenty of water
1 tbsp Coriander powder
1 tsp amchoor powder or 1 tsp tamarind puree

For Potato-Tofu Patties
3 Medium potatoes
1/4 cup finely grated firm tofu
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
Salt to taste
Pinch of turmeric powder

Masala for both Ragda and Patties
Grind together to a coarse paste
3 green chillies
1/2 cup washed and picked mint leaves
handful of raw mango pieces
1 inch ginger
3 cloves of garlic

1 large onion finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
Green chutney
Tamarind chutney ( I use Kitchens of India brand)
Fresh coriander
chat masala


Preparation :
Pressure cook potatoes for 5 minutes. Cool, peel and keep aside.
Drain the soaked peas. Wash well and pressure cook for 7 minutes with 3 cups of water. The skins will come off during this process and some of the peas may get mushy. Don't worry about this, use the entire lot for the recipe.

In a large bowl, mash the potatoes along with other 'Patties' ingredients and half the ground masala. If the 'dough' is not firm enough to make patties, then add some more bread crumbs to adjust. Divide into 6-8 balls. Flatten on the palm to make patties of around half inch thickness. 
Heat a non-stick tava (skillet). Brush with olive oil and place all the patties (or in batches if your tava does not accomadate all) On a medium flame, crisp each side for around 5 minutes, till golden brown. Use some oil around the sides to help crisp up.

For the ragda (gravy), place the pressure cooked peas in a saucepan with the remaining ground masala and coriander powder, amchoor powder, salt. Bring this to a simmer. Check for salt and adjust.

To assemble a plate - 
Cut 2-3 patties into quarters. Place in a deep dish.
Pour 2-3 ladles of ragda over this.
Top with chopped onions, tomatoes, coriander and your choice of chutneys. Sprinkle chat masala and serve.

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