Have I told you earlier about A?
A is a buddy of Mr. P, so close that I quite often call him ‘sowtan’! 🙂 To most people, A at first sight, seems an over clean (he has this odd hobby of checking his cuffs and flicking non-existent dust particles quite often), no-nonsense guy and most probably his one liners will make you cross and put you off him. Once the ice is broken, A will have you doubling with laughter with his quick wit and presence of mind, and you will find yourself forgiving him for his constant digs and end up revelling in them.
One Saturday morning A landed in our house when I had just wrapped up the kitchen for the day. I had a good book to devour and had no inclination to cook much. It so happened that I only made a simple vegetable pulao and some raita to go with it, that day. A was surprised to see the kitchen closed and asked, “Aaj kitchen bandh?” (Is the kitchen closed today?”). I told him what was on the menu and about the book as he is a voracious reader himself. This is what he had to say. “I had warned P about this. Marrying a Palakkad Iyer has its own hazards. Your menu will be limited to rice and rasam on Monday, rice and sambar on Tuesday, lemon rice on Wednesday, tamarind rice on Thursday and coconut rice on friday. On weekends, since it is a somewhat special day you will get treated to tomato rice on Saturday and pulao on Sunday. For special occasions you might turn lucky and get to eat fried rice. But whatever the day, the last course will be thair saadam and dessert will be rice payasam!” 🙂 I hardly ever make mixed rice though I do love tamarind rice and coconut rice a lot but when hit by time constraint or sheer laziness I usually resort to these flavourful and tasty, yet easy dishes. So while many end the standard cliche “when life hands you lemons..,” with exoticas like lemoncurd, lemon cheese tart etc., I simply end it with mix up lemons and rice. For the record, A cannot do without his plateful of rice and dal for dinner!
A dish for all times – may I say? In Tamil ‘elmichampazham’ is the word for ‘ripe lemon’ and ‘chaadam’ means ‘rice’, hence the rather long, tongue-twisting title.
Recipe: Lemon Rice / Nimboo Chaawal / Elmichampazham chaadam
Rice (preferably ambemohar) – 1 cup
A ripe, big, juicy lemon – the size of a table tennis ball
Turmeric powder / haldi – A pinch
Asafoetida / Hing – A pinch
Salt as per taste
Seasame oil / Til ka tel – 1-1.5 tsp.
Mustard seeds / Rai dana – 1/2 tsp.
Bengal gram / Chana dal – 1/2 tsp.
Split black gram dal / Urad dal – 1/2 tsp.
Broken cashews or peanuts – 1 tbsp.
Curry leaves – 1 Sprig, chopped
Ginger – 1 inch, chopped fine
Green chillies – 1, chopped fine
Cook rice in 2 cups of water until fluffy and all the water is absorbed. Let cool completely. If sticky add a little oil and fluff gently with a fork when cool. Adding a little lemon juice while cooking also helps in grains remaining separate.
Meanwhile, chop the ingredients listed. Heat sesame oil in a heavy, wide wok (kadai or cheenachatti).
Crackle mustard seeds. Add dals, cashews or peanuts and roast till cashews change colour.
Add ginger, green chillies and curry leaves. Remove the wok from fire.
Sprinkle turmeric powder and salt all over the rice. Squeeze juice from the lemon and pour evenly over the rice.
Add the rice to the seasoning in the wok. Mix gently with a brass or wooden spoon or with a fork, taking care not to break up the rice.
This dish is best enjoyed with potato chips, rice crisps or other fritters and pappadams.
Now, shut that kitchen, get back on that chair, lean back, relax, enjoy the book.
Ladies and gents, boys and girls – Lunch is served!