Uppu saaru, or sappe saaru as its called, is the most staple food of Mandya, a prominent district of Karnataka, India, famous for its sugarcane and kannada ( language of Karnataka ) lovers!
It can be made from a combination of lentils and vegetables or greens. I have posted some combinations at the end of the recipe. I have used hesarkaalu (green gram) and cabbage.
Here is what I used:
1 cup hesarkaalu (green gram lentil)
1 cup cabbage diced medium or small pieces
4-6 green hot chillies
1 cup fresh cilantro (coriander)
1/2tsp jeera (cumin seeds)
1/4tsp black pepper seeds
2-3 medium sized garlic petals
1/2tsp tamarind paste or 1/4 inch fresh cleaned tamarind.
1tsp salt to taste
1 small onion diced ( to temper the boiled vegetables)
1 small onion (cut into two, keep one half on the stove, on direct flame or electric coil, so its charred,use the other raw half as is, set aside)
First, dry roast the hesarkaalu, in a thick bottom skillet or shallow cooker pan, till they get pretty hot, add about 2-3cups of water. Bring to a boil on high heat for about 10 minutes till the gram is soft. Add the diced cabbage and whole green chillies and salt. Boil on medium heat till the cabbage is slightly soft but crunchy. You can smell the aroma of the green pepper too.
Turn off the heat now, and strain the whole water and vegetable mixture in a colander (strainer bowl).
Let the cabbage cool.In the meantime, get the charred and raw onion, the boiled green chillies from the colander, garlic, jeera, pepper seeds,cilantro, tamarind and the filtered vegetable water. Grind it all together to a thick paste.
Traditionally, uppu saaru is served as a thick green paste, on the side, the filtered vegetable water, and boiled vegetables with boiled rice or ragi mudhe (finger millet flour formed to a dough ball in boiling hot water). My kids and I prefer the modified form. Mix the ground paste with the boiled vegetable water to form a curry. Temper it with mustard and cumin seeds in ghee or hot oil.
For the boiled vegetables, they can be eaten as is, or tempered with some onions, red pepper flakes, kadale and uddina bele (again dals). Dont forget to add some more salt!
Here are some combinations you can make the curry with. Basic recipe stays the same, Boil the lentils and vegetables in enough water, strain out and separate the cooked vegetables and water, use the vegetables as a side dish, and the water to grind with the curry ingredients.
Green beans and thogri bele (toor dal)
Hesarkaalu (green dal) alone, or with cabbage
Avarekaai ( Papdi liva or green kidney beans)
Thogarikaalu (Pigeon peas)
Dhantu soppu ( Amarnath leaves or chinese red leaf greens)