Lemon rice is a simple, home-style, Indian spiced rice dish. I was hooked the first time I tried it—slightly citrusy, with bursts of flavor and spice from the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and peanuts. It’s a dish that goes well with just about any meal. We sometimes have it as a snack too, alongside strong, Indian-style tea. —Amanda Waddell
2 to 4 tablespoons
oil or ghee
raw peanuts or cashews
black mustard seeds
5 to 6
fresh curry leaves
1 to 2
Indian green chilies, finely chopped (optional)
2 to 3 cups
cooked basmati rice (leftover, cold rice is best)
Heat 1 tablespoon of your oil/ghee in a large pan with lid. Once hot, add nuts, lower heat and fry until lightly golden. Remove from oil and set aside.
Add remaining oil and heat until very hot (this is essential for getting the mustard seeds to pop—do not use regular butter or an oil like olive oil for this, as it will burn before it gets hot enough). Add the mustard seeds and immediately cover with the lid. The seeds should immediately start popping and spluttering wildly, just like popcorn. Let them do their thing for a minute or so, until the popping dies down, then lower heat to medium. You don’t want it as hot when you add the next ingredients, or they will burn.
Add the cumin seeds, curry leaves, and green chili and fry for another minute. The cumin seeds and curry leaves will turn a deeper brown—again, just be careful not to let them burn. Add the turmeric powder and allow it to dissolve into the oil.
Add cooked rice and stir to combine. The rice will absorb the tumeric-tinged oil and begin turning a lovely shade of yellow. You can add a pinch more turmeric if you don’t think yours is yellow enough, though give it a few minutes first, as it sometimes take a little time for the full color to come out. If your rice begins sticking to the bottom of the pot, add a bit more oil (or a little water) and lower the heat.
Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the rice is hot and the flavors are well absorbed. Add lemon juice, mixing well, then sugar and salt to taste.