In this Lemon, Cinnamon and Curry Leaf Basmati Rice recipe:
This past week, my parents came to visit for a few days, to see the family, relax from the bustle of Las Vegas, where they reside, and to cook for their daughter (me!) My Mom is a cookbook collector of all cuisines, with an entire room in the house dedicated to her glorious collection.
During this visit, I let my Mom have a go at my own glut of cookbooks that I’ve collected over the years, many of which come directly from publishers, pitching their latest releases. In what I would describe as one of the greatest gifts that I could bestow upon my Mother, I told her, “You may have any of my cookbooks – take as many as you’d like!”
My Mom gleefully spent hours sitting in front of my bookshelf, sliding one cookbook off at a time, flipping through them, and sorting which she would like. Mom doesn’t have many hobbies, but cooking and cookbooks are one of them.
I didn’t peek. I didn’t tell her which books were hands off, and I didn’t even hide any of my favorites! Mom was thrilled and even sent me a photo after she arrived back home – of her haul.
It wasn’t until today, writing this post, that I panicked a little. “What if she took Plenty More Cookbook?!”
I’m not ashamed to tell you that I did run back to the bookshelves, scanned quickly but didn’t find it on my first pass – and my heart sank. My second pass on the shelves spotted the book, sitting safe and sound right in front of me. “Whew!”
I’m not the only who loves this book, Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi was nominated as a finalist in the James Beard Awards. It’s well deserved, with 150 recipes featuring vegetables, and stunning, earthy photographs that highlight creative cooking techniques beyond the simple braise, boil and bake.
Why I cherish Plenty More Cookbook:
We’re thrilled to be sharing with you a recipe from the book, Lemon, Cinnamon and Curry Leaf Rice.
Such a shame, because the technique produces rice that is cooked more evenly and produces a nuttier, more flavorful rice. If you add aromatics, like lemon, cinnamon sticks and curry leaf, “this will be a revelation…” notes Ottolenghi.
Curry leaf are the leaves of a South Asian curry tree, often used in Southern Indian, Cambodian and Malaysian cooking. The flavor is complex, pungently lemon, and is added to dishes as a whole leaf. The curry leaf is deeply aromatic, just a few leaves can flavor an entire dish. It’s called curry leaf, because the leaf is most often added into Indian curries, though I really love stir frying with whole curry leaves too.
We used have a curry tree growing at our old house, but sadly, it died after being forgotten in a corner of our garden. These days, when I need curry leaves, I head to a local Indian grocery store. If you can’t find the leaves fresh, they will probably have them frozen. The leaves freeze really well! If you buy a bunch, feel free to freeze the rest. The color of the leave will darken when frozen, but the flavor will be preserved.
More about Curry Leaves
No problem! Use any herb that you love – from basil, parsley, bay leaves….to sage, oregano, cilantro and dill. Of course, the flavor profile of the rice will be different from the intended recipe, but use any spice/herb combination with this same exact cooking technique.
Servings: Serves 4
Prep Time:5 minutes
Cook Time:40 minutes
This will be a revelation to those who tend toward plain steamed basmati. The method is fail-safe, and the result is stunning. Serve this rice with an Asian savory pickle to make a vegetarian meal, or next to a freshly roasted chicken. Try to look for fresh curry leaves for this dish, using them on the stem. They freeze well, so don’t worry if you end up getting a large bunch.
In a large bowl, add the basmati rice. Fill bowl with water, swish the rice around a bit, drain the water (just use your hands to cup the rice and keep from spilling out), and repeat again. Fill again with water and let rice soak for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, heat your oven to 400F. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the rind off of the lemon in large strips (yellow part only). Cut lemon in half, squeeze out 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice.
Put the cinnamon sticks, cloves, lemon rind, curry leaves, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a saucepan. Cover with 2-3/4 cups of water and place over high heat. As soon as the water boils, remove the pan from the heat.
Spread the rice out in a baking dish or roasting pan approximately 9-1/2 by 12 inches, cover with the boiled water and aromatics, and stir well. Lay a piece of waxed paper over the surface of the water and cover the dish with aluminum foil. Cook in the oven for 25 minutes, then remove and leave to sit, covered, for 8 to 10 minutes.
Just before serving, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Once it’s melted and very hot, carefully add the lemon juice and swirl together to mix. Pour this over the hot rice and fluff up the rice with a fork. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve at once (you can remove the curry stems and cinnamon sticks or keep for the look).