Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Classic South Indian Lemon Rice

The myriad of mouthwatering flavours and tastes, the intoxicating parade of aromatic spices and the diverse splendour of the many regional cooking techniques are just a few of the reasons why Indian cuisine is my absolute favourite culinary tradition. Could you tell? Just thinking about it inspires me to become poetic.

Indian cooking has evolved significantly over 4000 years, during which time the culture has changed, geographical boundaries have shifted and a multitude of culinary influences have been assimilated from the various foreign invaders and exotic travellers that have permeated the country's ever changing borders. With these historical influences, Indian cooking has become rich in it's diversity and has developed into one of the world's great cuisines. 

Rice was first mentioned in India in the Yajur Veda (1500-800 BC) which was one of four ancient religious texts of Hinduism. Also, according to Ayurveda, Basmati is the king of all rices, and means 'the fragrant one' in Sanskrit. Warm, fragrant and wonderfully aromatic with a tangy lemon flavour, my golden Indian Lemon Rice owes it's vibrant colour to turmeric, which also gives it a warm spicy aroma. And with the redolent undertones of oil roasted spices and fragrant kari leaves, this is one of my best-loved and most popular Indian recipes. All of these Indian spices, kari leaves and so much more can be purchased in many Indian grocery stores. In Toronto, I go to B.J. Supermarket at 1449 Gerrard Street East just west of Coxwell Avenue. I always pick up a bunch of kari leaves and keep them in the freezer for curry emergencies.

Indian Lemon Rice

2 cups Basmati rice
1-3/4 cups hot water
1/2 cup onions, peeled and diced
1 lemon, juice & zest
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp oil

1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/8 tsp asafoetida
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
3 dried whole red chilies
1 tbsp oil
1/4 cup kari leaves

Heat some oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add onions. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the rice and stir for 2-3 minutes, making sure all the grains are well coated and slightly toasted. Add the hot water, turmeric powder, salt, lemon juice & lemon zest and bring to a boil, then cover until done. Remove from the heat and set aside. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a small saucepan on med-high, and 'temper the spices' by adding the mustard seeds, asafoetida, fenugreek seeds, and whole red chilies to the oil and heat for about 3-5 minutes. When you hear the mustard seeds start to crackle and pop, add the kari leaves and cover for a few seconds. Remove from the heat and wait a moment for the seeds to calm down, then add the tempered spices to the rice and mix well. Serve immediately with Chicken Tikka.