Comfort Foods … (6)

This one took a while to make the cut, but for a while now, it is my go-to zatpat (quick to make) dish..that is hot, yummy and oh-so-satisfying..

It’s a rainy Saturday morning, and the Scientist is away at a conference. Following a friends’ WhatsApp message to not let the housework “virus” catch you unawares, I dutifully ignored the overflowing sink with its dirty dishes, and lounged around some more till I could hardly ignore the rumblings from the tummy..

As I wandered into the messy kitchen, but couldn’t get to the idea of cooking anything till the whole place was clean. So rolling up my sleeves, and turning on the hot water, I tackled the dishes, and then gave the platform and stove a good scrub. What remained then was the sink and the floor, and no better time like the present, I said to myself. On a sugar induced high (from a second cup of tea today), I had succumbed to the bug, WA message notwithstanding.

To my dismay, it was already 3 PM. So trying to come up and dismiss the usual options, the idea slowly started to form in my mind: Uppitt (Btw it’s not up-it, but oooppitt). Sure it’s a breakfast item, but why not change some rules and have breakfast for lunch (or dinner)..especially since it’s so easy and quick to make. The idea of warm, gooey bowl of spicy-sour garlick-y carbs, with just the right hint of sugar, drenched with fresh ghee, made the idea all the more appealing. And the weather being just perfect, to justify the laziness and need for comfort food.

So I set to work, whisking curds into the rice flour, made a quick tempering with the usual spices, some hot chillies and kadipatta (from my own woefully neglected kitchen garden), poured in the rice batter, and gave it a good whisk. 3 minutes must have been all it took to get this ready..I lost no time in serving myself this custardy goodness, topped with fresh coriander and ghee (and not forgetting to click a pic, so I can write about it later)..I returned to the bed, and slurped off ..licking the spoon clean, and going back for seconds.

Uppitt is traditionally a breakfast item, which is no-fuss easy to make with mostly items which are a staple in any Indian kitchen. It was not something I grew up eating though, as it was more eating perhaps in the coastal Maharashtra region and in specific communities. My first taste of the said uppitt was at my aunt’s place in Aurangabad, only this one was made from whole wheat flour (which is nicely roasted), minus the curds, plus roasted groundnuts (giving it a crunchy texture, in between the soft cooked flour). I lost no time in learning the said recipe and promptly introduced in our household (this was way before my marriage). My father then remarked this is a typical Marathwada item, and his grandmother, whom we called Nena, would make this in his (father’s) childhood, and it brought back a lot memories and anecdotes of the small village of Yedshi and the summer holidays he spent there, which in turn he regaled us with…

After my marriage, when I offered to make this when all of us were gathered for our annual Mahalakshmi pooja, everyone looked nonplussed. And then someone asked “Ukarpendi?” Now I it was my turn to be puzzled, for I had never heard this term before. So describing the recipe and procedure, we all agreed that we were on the same page and proceeded to make it in copious amounts and polishing off hearty bowlfuls, accompanied by chaha (tea) and much gappa (gossip), with some wondering what other vocabulary the new soon (daughter-in-law) had in her kitty. (Side note 1: In my world, somehow, tea is the perfect accompaniment to uppitt, whereas coffee and upma are always linked together. I alternate between being  a tea and coffee drinker, as it suits the mood and the dish, much like the exotic wine pairings I have always read about but never understood. End of side note)

Another version or cousin of this uppitt, called the upma, made with rawa (semolina) is more phamous, thanks to almost all Udupi restaurants who have it on their menu, and serve it with chutney and sambhar to boot. (Side note 2: I have always wondered who went to restaurant to eat upma, but was shocked to find that this dish is a favourite with regulars and so in demand, that disappeared around 11 am in most joints and you could only have it again the next day!!) The home made fare is sans the accompaniments, but can have a lot of left over veggies sneaked into it. Of course, each household has it’s own way of making this – but two prominent versions are the dry, grainy one (where each semolina grain is sort of separated, made by sprinkling just enough water to ensure the rawa is cooked) and squishy, gooey one (no marks for guessing which is my favourite) – the latter just sliding down the tongue, burning your throat and happily filling your stomach – if you happen to be greedy, impatient girl like me.

Now the version which I mentioned earlier, the rice flour version, came into my kitchen, following membership of a secret food group on Facebook, where regular mentions of the above uppitt with pictures and recipe to boot, had piqued my curiosity. For a while, I would just go through the procedures again and again, to wrap my head around the fact that this was made with rice flour, had garlic in the tempering (as against ginger in our usual upma), a pinch of sugar (which many Maharashtrian Kokanastha recipes are wont to have, and which my somewhat South Indian roots frown upon) and dollops of ghee, to be drizzled later. But the proof of the pudding (or uppitt) is in the making (and eating)..and nothing ventured, and all that – so I picked up the courage to experiment, and took this to work one morning. I can’t say it was love at first bite, but I remember the lingering taste of garlic, sour curd and a very satisfied belly that day.

Then I did, what I naturally do next – I tried making the same with ragi, jowar and of course wheat flour, but it did not appeal much to me. Rice flour was the key (rice is so nice!). And so off and on, over the course of the year, uppitt made a regular appearance at our breakfasts, the usual rainy grey Taipei weather, providing an apt backdrop to make it over and over again, that I did not realise when it actually sneaked into my comfort food list..But there it is now.



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