Grind the Toor Dal, Peppercorns and Cumin seeds coarsely. Just pulse it for 3-4 times.
until it resembles coarse bits.
Pulse it for another 5-6 times or until it resembles small coarse powder. This breaking it down into smaller pieces is what we call as "Rava" in Tamil. This Rava though is coarser than regular Rava/Sooji you get at the market. Its OK if you powder them a little more or they look little bigger than this. The world will still go round and the dish will still turn out alright :)
Sieve this mixture a bit to remove the finer grains. Set aside.
In a skillet, add some coconut oil. I use a mix of 1/2 tbsp Coconut oil and 1/2 Sesame oil (not the toasted variety). When hot, add the mustard seeds.
Once it pops, add the rest of the ingredients - asafoetida, red chilli, channa dal and urad dal, in that order.
When the lentils start turning red, add 2-1/2 cups water. Add curry leaves.
Let it come to a boil.
Now add grated coconut and salt. Stir to combine.
Lower the heat and now slowly add the rice-lentil mixture.
and cook for another 8-10 min in low heat.
Give it a stir on and off
its done when the water is absorbed and the grains are soft (and cooked). If it looks dry (which is why low heat is essential) and/or if you think it needs to cook a little more, simply "sprinkle" a little water, stir, close the lid again and cook for another few minutes until done.
Though this is entirely optional, I would personally recommend this step. Add a little ghee right at the end and give it a mix. That beautiful aroma when the ghee hits the hot Upma is sublime to say the least, not to talk about that extra oomph that it adds to this upma. Mix and keep the lid closed until serving.