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Upma 'Polenta' Cakes with Mushroom Sauce


I seem to be getting quite a flair for competitions this year. First there was Kitchenaid Probaker. And then, a couple of months back, I saw this Facebook post for a contest that Lufthansa was running, called Cook and Fly. Since all you needed to do was send in an Indian inspired main course dish that could potentially go on the Lufthansa in-flight menu, I send out several entries from the blog's archives. Then, with just a day to go for the contest, I created a new dish - the one you see above. As luck would have it, this dish went on to win the 'dish of the week' contest for the last week and then got picked as the top 8 entry for the finals.

The finals at The Leela in Gurgaon were pretty much like the masterchef. We had an hour to recreate the same dish that we sent from home. When I got there in the morning of the contest, the folks at Leela had already prepped and laid out all the ingredients so all we had to do was cook. And pose for interviews and stuff. Did I say this is going to be a show on NDTV Good Times. Super exciting stuff all the way.

But the most exciting thing to me in the whole process is this recipe. It's a dish I've made four times since I sent the first entry in. And I really enjoy eating it so I hope you do too.

Ingredients

For Upma
1/2 cup sooji
3/4 cup coconut milk
3 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
salt

For mushroom sauce
10-12 mushrooms
3 garlic cloves
1 inch piece of ginger
1 tbsp oil
1/2 cup coconut milk
5-6 basil leaves
salt and fresh ground black pepper

4-6 hours before you want to eat this, make your upma. Take 1/2 cup sooji and dry roast in a pan for about 10 minutes until it is lightly browned. My mum always tested the sooji is roasted enough by going into the next room - if you can smell toasty cereal, it's done. Remove the sooji to a bowl. In the same pan, heat 1/2 tbsp oil. Add 1 tsp cumin seeds and 1 tsp mustard seeds and let cook for a couple of minutes until they start to splutter. Add the roasted sooji. Mix 3/4 cup coconut milk with 3/4 cup water and add the liquid to the pan, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Add salt and keep stirring until your upma is like a thick porridge. Immediately spread in a thin layer on a small baking sheet, making it as smooth as possible. Let cool, then cover and put it in the fridge for 4-6 hours.

When you are ready to cook the cakes, take the pan out of fridge and cut the upma into squares. You can also use a cookie cutter to make round cakes. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a nonstick frying pan. Shallow fry the cakes 2-3 at a time, making sure not to crowd the pan so you have room to turn the cakes (they will get quite soft as they cook). Make sure the cakes are lightly browned on both sides.

To make the curry to go with the upma cakes, wash and thinly slice 10-12 mushrooms. Finely chop 3 garlic cloves and a 1 inch piece of ginger. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan. Add the ginger and garlic and stir fry until it gets golden brown. Add mushrooms and stir fry for 5-6 minutes. The mushrooms will exude water as they cook so let most of the water dry up before you add 1/2 cup coconut milk. Also add salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste and let the sauce cook until the gravy is a bit thick. Turn off the heat and add 4-5 basil leaves, chopped into thin slivers. Pour the sauce over the upma cakes and garnish with basil.

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