Thursday, 14 July 2011

Simple Tangy Lemon Rice

A few years ago, when i was living in Melbourne, i hardly did any cooking. Most days i would eat both lunch and dinner out. Breakfast was the only thing i would definitely eat at home, not because i was conscious about getting a healthy start to the day, but because i would be hungry within ten minutes of waking up and was too lazy to get to work early enough to eat breakfast out. I was working in the office tower adjoining Melbourne Central with its huge shopping area and numerous food outlets. You could have something new for lunch everyday and never get bored. And i was living within walking distance from my work place. So why would i even think about cooking? There was another senior work colleague P, and we were the only two people from India working in that project in Melbourne. Mr P had never been out of India before that, and had never had to cook for himself, and as a typical old-school type Indian husband - he had always had a woman cook for him. I think he did experiment with cooking in Melbourne, seeing as i was never going to cook or invite him to home-cooked meals. But what i am getting to is that, one day i did invite him (and another senior lady colleague who was there for a fortnight) to dinner on a work day. Not before several hints that they wanted to try out the cooking of this young girl they were working with.
Being a novice at cooking, having rarely cooked for anyone other than myself till then, and having come home after a long day at work, i opted for the easy lemon rice. I overcooked the rice and the rice became very slightly mushy. And because i was feeling bold, i added chopped fresh coriander to the dish instead of the usual curry leaves (Ok, actually it was because i didn't find curry leaves where i bought my groceries but found lots of fresh coriander). I think i made some tomato raita to go with it, my brain cells can't remember all the details anymore. Mr P's verdict was that what he was eating was definitely not lemon rice; apparently he had eaten some on his previous visits to South India; but whatever this was, it was delicious. See! even as a novice, you can't go wrong if you have tangy lemon rice on your menu.
Lemon rice (called Pulihora in my state) is no stranger to South Indians and is a dish that makes its appearance at every festival table. It is very flavourful, easy to make, keeps good for long enough time, can be eaten on its own without any accompaniment, hard to go wrong when making it, and easy enough to fix if you do go wrong. Doesn't my description make you want to try it right away, if you haven't made it before, or make it again anyway just because you read about it?

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon split bengal gram (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon cashew nuts (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon peanuts (optional)
  • 2 medium green chilies, sliced
  • 1 dry red chili, broken in 2 parts
  • 1/2 inch ginger, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves 
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or according to taste
  • Juice from half a lemon or according to taste
If you don't have left over cooked rice, first cook one cup of raw rice with 2 cups of water in a pressure cooker or microwave. Fluff up cooked rice with a fork and allow to cool.
Heat the oil in a pan on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the mustard and cumin. Keep a lid ready for the pan as the mustard seeds thrown in oil tend to splutter and fly and aim for your eyes. Once the mustard stops spluttering, add the bengal gram, peanuts, and cashew nuts. You can add all 3 or any of them based on how much crunch you like along with the soft rice. Fry for a minute stirring once in between. Add the turmeric, green and red chilies, ginger and curry leaves. Fry for 2 minutes. Add the cooked rice and salt. Mix gently with all the ingredients in the pan until the rice is heated through. Remove from flame, add the lemon juice and mix gently. Taste and adjust for salt and lemon juice.
Serve hot, warm or at room temperature. It will keep at room temperature for 24 hours and upto 3 days in the refrigerator. But you may want to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner till its gone. I know i do that.
As an afterthought, it also makes a great lunchbox idea combined with plain yogurt or raita.

1 comment:

  1. Photos are good.Mouth watering dish indeed.A pinch of asafoetida powder added along with curry leaves will bring great flavour to the dish.You don't like it.or forgotten.


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