70,000 People Watched Me Cook This Recipe Live. No Pressure.

Homestyle comfort food in under 20 minutes (and it’s vegan too!)

I was thrilled when I was invited to do my very first Facebook Live. The challenge: to cook a healthy dinner in 20 minutes for just $12. I had never before done a live cooking demo on-camera, so I was excited to give it a try. Little did I know at the time that over 70,000 people would be watching me from around the world!

The dish I chose to make is upma, which is savory cream of wheat, scented with cumin and mustard seeds, dotted with cashews and vibrant mixed vegetables. And if you watch the video below, you’ll see me prepare it step-by-step, trying to beat the clock.

Upma is comfort food. It’s an example of the type of meal you’ll rarely find in Indian restaurants here in the U.S., but one which we eat at home all the time. Typically, it’s served for breakfast or brunch, but I find that it also doubles as an easy, one-pot, weeknight dinner. Although this recipe is vegan, a great addition is to fry an egg and serve it on top of each bowl.

A few notes about ingredients: Black mustard seeds are available on Amazon or at Indian grocery stores, but you could substitute yellow mustard seeds from your local supermarket. Urad dal and Indian green chillies (sometimes called Thai birdseye chillies) can be found in Indian grocery stores (though neither ingredient is absolutely necessary to make this dish). Curry leaves (no relation to curry powder) can also be purchased at Indian grocery stores. Buy a bunch and keep them in the freezer. They’re a wonderful herb to have on hand, with a uniquely savory and slightly citrusy flavor.

Of course, you can find this dish and many others in my book, Bollywood Kitchen. Buy The Book

Indian Comfort Food With Chef Sri Rao

It’s the $12, 20-minute Slice Challenge! Cookbook author Sri Rao is preparing Upma, Homestyle Indian Comfort Food. Can he beat the clock and come in under budget? Find out now on Slice!

Posted by LittleThings on Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Savory Cream of Wheat with Mixed Veggies and Cashews

Serves 4

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon urad dal (split black gram without skin) (optional)
3 Indian green chillies, cut in half (or 1 tsp. cayenne)
10 to 12 curry leaves
1 small-to-medium onion, roughly chopped
½ cup cashews
3-inch piece ginger, peeled and cut into 4 or 5 thick slices
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables (e.g., peas, carrots, green beans)
1½ cups cream of wheat (2½ minute variety)
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
Mango pickle, for serving
Melted butter or ghee, for serving (omit if vegan)
Fresh cilantro, for garnish

  1. Bring 5½ cups water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, in a 5-qt. nonstick saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering hot, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, urad dal (if using), green chillies, and curry leaves. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the onion and saute for 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the cashews, ginger, and salt. Saute for 2 minutes, until the cashews turn golden.
  4. Add the mixed vegetables and stir into the onion and spices, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Add the cream of wheat, toasting the grains until they begin to turn light golden brown, about 2 minutes.
  6. Add all of the boiling water at once, stirring continuously to avoid lumps. Continue stirring until the upma comes together as a smooth, thick porridge.
  7. Decrease the heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  8. Stir the upma well with a squeeze or two of lemon. Turn off the heat and let sit for a few minutes to allow the dish to absorb more flavor.
  9. Adjust the salt to taste. Give the upma another stir to keep it smooth. Serve hot in dinner bowls, accompanied by mango pickle (a spicy chutney available online or at Indian grocery stores). Garnish with fresh cilantro and drizzle with ghee or melted butter (if desired) for extra richness. Inform your guests to remove the ginger and curry leaves while eating.

Reprinted from Bollywood Kitchen by Sri Rao (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017). Buy the Book

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