This is an ironic recipe to be posting at the last minute on a Tuesday. I seem to be taking the holidays off from my To Try Tuesday posts–I promise they will resume after New Year’s–but life is hectic. Anyway, ironic because I have a gazillion Indian lemon rice pilafs stored in my to try files from Indian blogs I have read–but when I finally tried one I tried it from Suvir Saran’s Indian Home Cooking. Nonetheless it was inspired by all those blogs. See if I had been doing To Try Tuesday back then I would never have forgotten about lemon rice and it would not have taken perusing a cookbook to remind me of it!
Anyway, this was fantastic. John found it a tad sour I think but the kids and I loved it. Alex, who pretty much wants her rice plain, white, and more plain and white, pronounced it “the best rice you have EVER MADE!!!” (emphasis indicated by shouting of course). Sammy ate 2 servings–and did not pick around anything in the rice, although Alex of course picked out the onions. What, did I forget to mention Alex dislikes onions? It’s not true of course (how could it be when most of what we eat is totally flavored with onions–and you know she misses some of them), it is 4 year old visual pickiness, but I let it go because she is always polite about it and just eats around them. At any rate, I highly recommend this when you are looking for a more unusual (to those of us in America anyway) way to serve an Indian rice dish.
The pilaf is actually more of an Indian fried rice, albeit quickly fried, and therefore although it is very simple and comes together quite quickly, you do need to make the rice at least 20 minutes in advance, to have time to spread it out and let it cool to room temperature. Unlike stickier jasmine rice or Chinese rice, you do not need to let it dry out overnight.
2 cups of uncooked basmati rice, cooked by preferred method and spread out to cool to room temperature
3 T vegetable oil
1 T dark mustard seeds
1/2 cup roasted cashews, chopped (I used salted ones for convenience)
dried chiles, to heat preference, optional (I left out)
1 heaping t cumin seeds
3/4 t turmeric
12-18 curry leaves (more if frozen)
2 t urad dal (skinned black lentils)
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and light greens parts only
remaining dark green scallions, chopped
salt to taste
1/4 cup water
juice of 1 lemon
Place the oil, mustard seeds and cashew pieces in a large skillet–I found nonstick worked nicely–and heat over medium high heat. Cooking, stirring, for 1-2 minutes, until the mustard seeds start popping. When they finished, add the dried chiles (if using), cumin seeds, tuermic, curry leaves, urad dal and asafetida. Stir fry until the urad dal and cashews are uniformly golden, about 1-2 minutes. Stand back when you first add the curry leaves as they will pop.
Add the onions and white/light green scallions, with a pinch of salt to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are caramelized, 7-10 minutes. Turn the heat down if the onions start to burn.
Add the cooled rice and stir gently until the rice is completely yellow. Add the water and stir some more, scraping the bottom of the pan if any spices are sticking. Add the lemon juice and cook another 2 minutes to completely heat the dish through. Add the dark green scallion parts and taste for additional lemon juice or salt. My husband liked this dish with a sweet tomato chutney; the kids liked it plain–I liked it both ways.