The cracked wheat upma is inspired by a recipe I saw this week at Chitra Amma's Kitchen and wanted to make right away. I made the upma more like I usually make a regular rava upma with the only real difference being that I was using cracked wheat instead of rava, which is also wheat but more finely ground.
I became a fan of cracked wheat as a rice substitute when one of Desi's diabetic relatives recommended it to us. Because cracked wheat is made from the whole wheat kernel, it is a high-fiber food that makes a healthy addition to any diet. I usually cook it exactly as I would rice-- boil two cups of water, add a cup of cracked wheat, bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until done. Eaten with curries just like you would rice, it is really delicious.
For the upma, I varied this basic technique just slightly, but I first roasted the cracked wheat because I like the nuttier flavor the dry-roasting creates.
For the Thai-Style curry, I used my homemade red curry paste which I usually have in the freezer and which is completely vegan, unlike store-bought pastes. Instead of using peanut butter, which usually goes into Thai peanut curries, I used whole peanuts boiled to nutty tenderness. They gave the curry great texture alongside the silky sweet potatoes, the slightly-crunchy spinach, and the smooth coconut milk.
The spicy upma and the mellow curry were a match made in kitchen heaven. Enjoy, all!.
1 cup cracked wheat (this is not the same as bulghur which is used widely in Middle Eastern foods. Bulghur is already partially cooked when you buy it. Cracked wheat is just the broken raw wheat kernel)
2 cups water
2 tsp vegetable oil like canola
1 tsp mustard seeds
A generous pinch of asafetida/hing (optional)
1 tsp grated ginger
2 dry red chillies, broken into halves
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 bell peppers, finely diced (I used red and yellow, but green would be fantastic here. Also, feel free to substitute with any vegetable that doesn't need too much cooking time, like cabbage or carrot. Even boiled potatoes could be added)
1 cup frozen green peas
Salt to taste
Heat a dry skillet. Add the cracked wheat and dry-roast, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes over medium heat. The wheat should turn a couple of shades darker. Remove to a plate and set aside.
Add the oil to the skillet.
Add the mustard seeds and asafetida. When the seeds sputter, add the onions and saute for a couple of minutes until the onions start to soften and turn translucent.
Add the red chillies and turmeric and stir in.
Immediately add the ginger and peppers and stir-fry a couple more minutes.
Add the peas, water and salt and bring to a boil. Add the roasted cracked wheat and stir to mix, then cover with a tight lid, turn the heat to low, and allow it to cook for 15 minutes.
Turn off the heat and let it stand about 10 minutes before opening. Garnish with coriander leaves or even some shredded coconut, if desired.
Serve hot with the peanut-veggie curry (recipe follows).
Thai-style Peanut and Sweet Potato Curry
1 cup peanuts, boiled until tender (I do this in a pressure cooker, but you can just as easily boil them on the stovetop after covering them with water.)
1 tsp canola or other vegetable oil
1 large sweet potato, peeled then diced into small pieces
1 cup thick coconut milk
2 cups baby spinach leaves, whole. If using regular spinach, chop into strips.
1/4 cup Thai red curry paste (I reserve about a tablespoon to stir in at the end of cooking-- it gives a real flavor wallop)
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add 1/4 cup of the coconut milk and the Thai red curry paste and stir together until they are well mixed and fragrant.
Add the sweet potatoes and some of the water from boiling the peanuts or, if you don't have any remaining, just add 1/4 cup of water.
Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let the sweet potatoes cook until tender.
Add the peanuts with 1 cup of the water they were boiled in (use regular water if you don't have enough). Add salt and stir well. Now add the spinach and the remaining curry paste. Turn off heat when the spinach just wilts--don't cook it too long because you don't want the spinach to turn too soft.
Serve hot with the cracked wheat upma