Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Lemon Rice - very basic, very delicious

Lemon rice has been one of my favorite lunch box recipes for ages. There is something about recipes that makes them click as lunch box recipes and I know what I am talking about since I have been carrying lunch box from my high school days. I love single pot rice items including the humble, every day staple like yogurt rice, I take variations with poha, quinoa. BH is on to salads or oats with vegetables and chickpeas. Our lunch boxes get dressed up with ildis or chapathis/paranthas but never with Dosa :-).

When I got married, amma not only cooked for all of us office goers at home but since she heard that I was used to lunch boxes from nammamma, she started making lunch for me specially. The son never was in the habit of carrying lunch from home so it was a new experience for her making lunch. She went out and bought a 3 tier lunch box (the steel tiffin carriers you see in India) which I never had before and started packing me lunch. I was, to say the least very uncomfortable with this arrangement for one I could never finish all that was stuffed into those boxes and secondly I felt extremely guilty for not only leaving home without any daughter-in-law chores done but also making my MIL prepare lunch for me.

Being the new DIL, I didn't have the heart or guts to tell her not to take the trouble of getting my lunch ready. However I told her that I would carry the breakfast for lunch too with some mosaranna (yogurt rice) to fill that 3rd box. She had made Dosa one morning and packed dosa and chutney with the usual mosaranna. BH & I, while on our way to work, decided on a whim to take a day off and go on a picnic. We packed some naan and curry from a dhabha, called home to let them know and went away. At lunch time, I opened my lunch box also and the dosa had become a cardboard and was in stark contrast to the buttery curry and melt in the mouth hot naans. I always said no to lunch boxes on the days we had dosa breakfast from then on :-).

Back to the lemon rice, this is a very humble (see the ingredients list and you will know what I am talking about) and standard item in most South Indian homes with regional variations. This is called 'Chitranna' in Kannada. Once you have the basic recipe, you can play around with this lemon rice to either dress it up or down depending on your preference and the occasion. Look for some ideas at the end of this post. I made this lemon rice for the Ganesha habba recently and the post has been in my draft ever since.
What do you need to make Lemon rice? 
1 cup rice (preferably Sona masoori variety)
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (more or less based on tartness you prefer)
1 Tblsp grated coconut (fresh or frozen)
1/4 Tsp turmeric powder
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
For seasoning:
2 Tblsp oil
1 Tsp mustard
1 Tsp Urad dal
1 Tsp chana dal
1 Tblsp peanuts
1 Tblsp cashew nuts (optional)
6-8 curry leaves
3-4 green chilies - chopped into small pieces
1/2 Tsp asafoetida

How do you make Lemon rice? 
  • Cook rice (rice cooker, open vessel or pressure cooker) so the grains are completely cooked but separate. 
  • Spread the rice in a wide plate, add salt and let it cool.
  • Heat the oil in a pan, add the mustard, dals, peanuts and cashew nuts (if using) and fry until mustard starts to sizzle. 
  • Add the chopped green chilies, asafoetida, turmeric and curry leaves and continue to fry until green chilies form small blisters, switch off and pour it over the rice. 
  • Add the grated coconut, lemon juice and mix everything together gently so the rice doesn't get mushy. 
  • Use fresh lemons for the lemon juice if you can, the taste is different when you use bottled or preserved lemon juice. 
  • Make fresh rice for this simple recipe to taste truly delicious. 
  • You can skip coconut but I would strongly recommend using it.
  • When you cook rice, add a few drops of oil to get a fluffy texture. The rice should be cooked well, else the lemon rice turns dry.
  • Add turmeric towards the end to the seasoning to avoid burning. 
  • Add the lemon juice to the mixture only when the rice has cooled down.
  • If you are using frozen coconut, thaw it and bring it to room temperature before using.
  • Use longer pieces of green chili to make it easier for little hands to pick them out. I slit them vertically before cutting them into pieces to increase the chili heat.
  • Increase the amount of turmeric powder upto a 1/2 Tsp for a brighter yellow color, I like it mildly off white. Too much of turmeric brings a faint bitter taste.
  • Add cubed, par boiled and shallow fried potatoes for a carb rich lemon rice. 
  • I add cooked green peas to the rice for some proteins. You can use frozen peas, just thaw them to room temperature and add them in the seasoning with the green chilies.
  • Garnish with finely chopped cilantro or coriander leaves for added flavor.


LG said...

Nodi nan lunch box alli ide irodu ivattu. I love coconut in lemon rice, and it is just what you have shown in the picture. Love it!

Priya R said...

I also love groundnuts to my lemon rice, yum

Cook like Priya

Kaveri Venkatesh said...

This is a regular in my daughter's lunch box...
never added coconut to lime rice..will try it the next time I make.

Vijayalakshmi Dharmaraj said...

yummy rice...
Vegetable Fried Rice using Normal Rice
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NamsVeni Pothas said...

tasty and simple preparation. Lemon Rice is a very light rice dish .

Roshni said...

Interesting read :-) We do not add coconut to lemon rice.. perfectly made

Kannada Cuisine said...

Love Chitranna

Priya said...

Even i love to add peanuts n cashews in lemon rice, my fav rice.

Misty said...

Nagashree, thanks for sharing this recipe. I love exploring different recipes of rice, and this one is a must-try. One of my favorites is turmeric rice. Has anyone tried that?