Semiya Paayasam (kheer)

I made this yesterday for Diwali. This makes enough for 2-3 people.

You need: 1/2 cup semiya, 1/2 cup sugar (or 3/4, if you like it really sweet), 2.5 cups milk, 1 pinch saffron, 1 tbsp ghee

How to:

  1. Heat the ghee in a saucepan on medium heat. Add the semiya and stir. Roast until golden-brown, stirring constantly.
  2. Warm a little milk and mix the saffron in it.
  3. Add just enough water to cover the semiya and let it cook. When the semiya is half-done, add the milk, sugar, and saffron. Stir well.
  4. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Eat hot or cold.


Upma is a great big breakfast meal, or a good tiffin (that’s the four o’clock large-ish snack). I usually eat it as brunch, because it’s so filling. There are a number of ways to make upma, using semiya (vermicelli), sooji (semolina), poha, or even bread. Here’s all the recipes, the first four from my mum:

Semiya Upma

You need: 1 cup semiya (vermicelli); 1 small potato, peeled and finely chopped; 1/2 a small onion, finely chopped; 1 roma (or similar-sized) tomato, finely chopped; 1/2 tsp mustard seeds (sarson); 1/4 cup roasted cashew nuts, coarsely chopped; 1 dried red chili; 2-3 curry leaves (kadipatta); salt to taste; ghee (optional); oil

How to: Heat 2-3 tbsps oil, keep heat on high. Add the mustard seeds, red chili, and kadipatta. Add the onions and stir; cook for about a minute. Add the potatoes. Stir frequently till potatoes are almost cooked (this should take less than five minutes). Add the vermicelli and stir quickly. Keep stirring till it turns golden-brown. Add the tomatoes and salt. Add just enough water to cover the vermicelli – 1 to 1.5 cups should do it. Stir and turn the heat down to medium. Stir now and again. When the water is fully absorbed, turn off the heat (make sure the vermicelli is cooked). Add cashews and ghee.

Sooji upma

You need all the same things, except 1 cup semolina instead of 1 cup vermicelli. Semolina also takes longer to cook, so when you put in in the pan, stir and cook for about five minutes before adding the tomatoes.

Poha upma

Poha is flattened rice. This recipe calls for mostly the same ingredients, except replace the red chili with a green chili (like a jalapeƱo), the cashews with roasted peanuts, and use poha instead of sooji or semiya. You also need 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 tsp turmeric, and 1/4 cup cilantro. No ghee.

How to: Soak the poha in water for about 10 minutes. Drain well and keep aside.

Heat the oil. Add mustard seeds, curry leaves, green chili, and onions. Cook for a minute. add the potatoes and let them cook. Add the poha and turmeric and stir. Add the tomatoes and salt and stir. Cover and let it cook for 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the peanuts, lemon juice, and cilantro and mix well.

Bread upma

You need the same ingredients as sooji upma, except 3-4 slices of bread istead of sooji, and no potatoes, nuts, or ghee.

How to: Crumble the bread roughly. Add desired amount of salt to 1/4 cup water.

Heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds, curry leaves, red chili and onions. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for a minute more. Add the bread and stir carefully. Add the salt water, stir well but carefully – don’t break the bread up too much. If the bread gets soggy, leave the heat on until it dries a little, then turn the heat off.

My Quick-And-Dirty upma

You need: 1/2 cup frozen mixed vegetables; salt; 1 cup Creamy Wheat or some other brand of farina; oil

How to: Boil the vegetables. Heat the oil, add the farina, stir for a minute or so. Add salt. Add 1 to 1.5 cups of water and the vegetables. Stir and cook until the water is absorbed. This will probably take about 5 minutes. Keep stirring now and again.

This tastes NOWHERE as good as the others, but I’ve eaten it in lazier moments.

Why I’m vague about water quantities: It’s an experimentation thing. If you have too little, the stuff won’t cook. If you have too much, it will be gloopy. So add 1 cup, see how it looks, add a bit more, figure it out. It might take a few tries before you figure it out.