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Healthy Vegetarian Foods

Upma-Indian Version of Couscous

Chat about, think about – Indian breakfast dishes be it from the north, south, east or west of India – and without a doubt Upma is one of those dishes that will come up amongst the most popular dishes. Upma originated in the South of India and its flavours of coconut oil and curry leaves are a sure giveaway to its origin, however today it is just as popular in all parts of India and the rest of the world. It is one of the tastiest, quickest and easiest Indian breakfast dishes to prepare. Upma has evolved leaps and bounds from its South Indian origin, simply because of its versatility and adaptability.

The ingredients of Upma are very easily adaptable, and thus this gives foodies and home cooks and chefs the scope of experimenting and adapting the ingredients using local and seasonal ingredients. It is one of those cereal based easy dishes, that can be prepared with cream of wheat, semolina, rice grain, semolina vermicelli, couscous, poha (flattened rice) or even quinoa. Traditional and conventional Upma is made using cream of wheat or rice grain, and it is spicy, tasty and full of flavour, as it is cooked with an array of seed spices, chilli, onion, nuts and other vegetables thus ensuring it balances taste and nutrition to the fullest making it a suitable breakfast dish for young and old. I personally don’t think it should only be served at breakfast – for me it is an anytime quick, nutritious and flavoursome dish. Since I am now living on my own (sadly my 2sons are all moved out), I tend to look for simple, quick and nutritious one pot meals for myself and Upma is one of those go to dishes for me.

My Upma is generally made with couscous, as I like the extra grainy texture of the couscous, and then the spices and nuts are the base – but the vegetables that I add simply depends on what is in the fridge-there are no rules pertaining to the addition of vegetables – for me seasonal veggies work well.

I will soon post an unusual, modern and healthy take on the traditional South Indian Upma—Upma made with oats—yes you read correctly—made with Oats-Watch This Space!!!!!!

Uppma (Spiced Couscous)

20ml coconut oil (or any other vegetable oil)

7-8 curry leaves

60ml finely chopped onions

1 green chilli

5ml mustard seeds

5ml cumin seeds

5ml fenugreek seeds

25ml sesame seeds

65ml peanuts (chopped)

5ml ginger paste

5ml garlic paste

65ml grated tomatoes

7ml salt (to taste)

10ml lemon juice or 5ml amchur (dry mango powder)

50ml finely chopped spinach

50ml chopped fenugreek herbs (or just add more spinach)

250ml couscous

45ml desiccated coconut (if possible use freshly grated coconut)

35ml chopped coriander leaves (garnish)

15ml chopped peanuts (garnish)


  1. Heat oil in a medium size pot, add the curry leaves and then the onions and allow onion to brown and then add the green chilli
  2. Lower the heat and add the all of the seed spices and allow to cook for a few seconds before adding the sesame seeds and peanuts
  3. And allow the above to cook before adding the ginger/garlic paste and tomatoes, and add about 350ml water and bring the mixture to a boil, lower heat and allow to simmer till the tomatoes are cooked and season with salt and lemon juice
  4. Add the chopped spinach and fenugreek herbs and stir well before adding the couscous, lower heat and stir the mixture well to ensure all the ingredients are well distributed.
  5. Turn of the heat and cover the pot and allow the couscous to absorb all the liquid and flavours
  6. Garnish with the coconut, coriander and chopped peanuts and serve warm


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