I’ve never put together this particular combination together before. I was adding spices as I went along. The combination of the brown rice and red lentils go pretty well together because they cook for the same amount of time. The red lentils almost disappear, adding a richness to the texture of the rice. It had a nutty flavor from the rice and a touch of sweetness from the raisins that goes really well with the cardamom flavors. A great rice dish that goes with so many proteins like pork chops, gola kabobs (that’s how we ate them) and as a light meal by itself.
Ghee or clarified butter is a big part of South Asian cuisine. It has such amazing flavor that a little goes a long way. I’ve tried making ghee at home but it never seems to taste or smell like the amazing stuff we get back home (meaning the “homeland” of course). In Bangladesh, there is a famous brand called “Baghabari Ghee” with a picture of a Royal Bengal Tiger on the label. It’s famous flavor is renowned . Every time I went home for a visit I would try to sneak a few jars of the stuff back with me. I even tried to bribe my relatives who were going home to get me some ghee. They would look at me in disbelief. Really of all the things I could request someone bring back on a long journey and it’s ghee? That’s a foodie for you. I’m well-known for trying to schlep food in luggage. One time I had curried Hilsa fish in my carry-on luggage (this was before the TSA liquid restrictions) and it exploded all over everything. The WHOLE plane smelled like Bengali Hilsa Fish. I tried to look innocent and blend, which is hard to do on a flight from Los Angeles to Boise, Idaho because I was the only brown person on the plane. Flight attendants were walking back and forth sniffing the air and saying things like, “do you smell that?” or “what is that smell?”
For years, my attempts at making ghee seemed a waste of time since I couldn’t tell the difference between the ghee or just regular butter. Why bother if the flavor is not improved? The whole idea behind a good ghee is to remove the milk protein from the butter leaving behind a nutty unclouded liquid. My problem was that I was not heating it long enough at a low enough temperature. The trick here is to use a heavy bottomed pan like a cast iron dutch oven or something similar and heat the butter for 20-30 minutes and to add curry leaves halfway through the process. It’s also important NOT to stir the melted butter but to let it simmer unaided. This helps to separate the milk proteins properly. The curry leaves add a depth of flavor that I was missing all these years. I have to say that this ghee smells and tastes even better than the famous “Baghabari Ghee”. That’s one less thing that I have to hide in my luggage.
How to make Ghee
1 pound unsalted butter
4-5 curry leaves
In a heavy bottomed pan melt the butter and let it simmer over very low heat. Do not stir but keep an eye on the butter, when small brown chunks begin to appear on the bottom of the pan and the top part of the butter looks pretty clear (about 10-15 minutes) add curry leaves and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. When the top layer of butter looks light brown and very clear, take out the curry leaves and strain ghee through a fine mesh strainer into a mason jar. Don’t throw away the brown protein bits. Save them to make Ghee Laddoos, a sweet treat made with the leftover protein (we don’t like to throw anything away).
1/4 cup chickpea flour (besan)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
In the same pan the ghee was made, heat the browned leftover milk protein with 1/4 cup chickpea flour (Besan) and 1/4 cup of All-Purpose flour and 1/4 cup sugar. Cook over medium heat until everything is a nutty brown color and the sugar has incorporated well. Roll into small balls and enjoy.
South Indian Lemon Rice is one of those quick and easy dishes to prepare when you have some left over rice on hand or need to make a quick side dish that goes well with a variety of main dishes. I love the fresh flavors and the unique taste of the curry leaves along with the crunch of the toasted cashews and split gram lentils. No wonder it’s such a popular dish all over the Southern part of India. The key to the flavor of this dish is keeping it at a high heat and allowing each ingredient to toast and pop to add to the depth of taste. You have to work fast though and have all the ingredients nearby because it can burn really fast. Recent studies have linked Turmeric with lower incidences of Alzheimer’s disease and as a great anti-inflammatory agent. In this dish the Turmeric gives it that light, golden color with a hint of flavor that does not overshadow the lemony taste. A great way to get in some added health benefits while enjoying great taste.
Here’s the Recipe:
Lemon Rice~South Indian Fried Rice
4 cups cooked rice (I prefer Basmati Rice)
5 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
5 dried red whole Chilies
1 tablespoon Split Gram yellow lentils
1 tsp raw Sesame Seeds
3 tablespoons Golden Raisins
1/4 cup raw unsalted Cashews
1 lemon, zested
Juice from one lemon
1 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
2 tsp Kosher salt
10-12 fresh Curry Leaves
In a large wok or frying pan heat oil and stir fry mustard seeds and dried chilies until mustard seeds begin to pop. Add in Sesame Seeds, lentils and salt and stir fry another 50 seconds. Add in Cashews, Raisins and Turmeric stir fry a few seconds before adding in curry leaves and then the zest of one lemon and the juice of the entire lemon. Stir to blend flavors and add in cooked rice, tossing well to coat. Serve hot as a vegetarian dish or as a great side dish.