Serves 2-3

My cousin Andrea shared this recipe which her family have been eating a lot during Lockdown due to an abundance of potatoes in their veg boxes, and a vegan daughter being at home from Uni. It is delicious and, as Coz said, very quick to make. It is traditionally a breakfast dish in Southern India but makes a great lunch or supper. It will be great as part of a spicy feast to celebrate seeing friends again.

Print the recipe here.

Simple and delicious

• 6-8 small new potatoes, or 1 or 2 big ones

• 50g red lentils

• 150g polenta

• 1 large onion

• 5cm piece root ginger

• 2 chillies, ideally green

• 100g frozen peas or 2 handfuls leafy stir-fry veg

• Oil – rapeseed, groundnut or coconut

• 1 tsp black mustard seeds

• Coriander leaf to garnish

1. Peel the potatoes if using main crop. Cut the potatoes into 2-3cm chunks and cook them in boiling water until just cooked – 10-12 minutes – while preparing the rest of the dish. Boil a half filled kettle.

2. Wash the lentils in a sieve and shake dry. Dry fry the polenta over a low heat, stirring occasionally, while chopping the onion, peeling and finely chopping the ginger and seeding and chopping the chillies. Keep the chillies separate. Don’t worry if the polenta forms little clumps in the pan.

3. Heat enough oil in the base of a wok or sauté pan to cover the base without tipping. Add the mustard seeds and cook until they are fragrant and start to spit, then add the lentils and stir fry them. They will go pale then start to darken again, which is when you add the onion and ginger. Stir-fry over a moderate heat until the onion is translucent and almost cooked. Add any leafy veg to stir-fry now and cook for a couple of minutes. Drain the potatoes.

4. Increase the heat and add the frozen peas with the potatoes and chillies and stir, then add 350ml of the hot water from the kettle plus 1/2 tsp salt.

5. Gently pour the polenta into the pan and combine it into the mixture. To quote Coz “It will look weird at first but keep gently moving it about until it is all combined.”

6. The polenta will quickly take up the water and the Upma is ready. Check the seasoning and add more salt if you wish, then garnish with plenty of coriander and serve.

I think I shall add tomatoes next time…

Top Tips:

• This is a quick dish but needs 3 pans so have some hot water ready for washing up as you go – that way you’ll only have the main pan left to wash after you’ve eaten (I haven’t got to dishwasher-ing pans yet!)

• I always wash lentils as they can be dusty so make sure you shake them well before adding to the hot oil.

• The texture of the fried lentils and polenta reminded me a little of Bombay Mix – which I love!

• Get creative with the veg in this dish – it might make it a less likely breakfast dish but the possibilities are exciting.

• So much flavour comes from just using mustard seeds – and they are quite a cheap spice.

• I didn’t have coriander but did have flat leaf parsley…

  • Post author:
  • Post Category:Food