Chicken thighs and now rice. We get it, you’re feeling the pinch of buying a home for the first time and saving on groceries to avoid declaring bankruptcy. This is what I imagine you all are thinking. Well the first part at least. The second bit I’m pretty sure is me projecting.
I’m staying with some family friends in Hillsboro Beach while I work on getting a place of my own and when I first moved in, one of the neighbor’s cousins was in town for a two-week vacation. Annabel, who lives in London and works as a nurse, loves Indian food. Typical Brit.
Annabel and I enjoyed a few meals together while she was here and one night she made a lentil curry, some cucumber and tomato raita, and homemade roti. There wasn’t a recipe in sight. I was impressed to say the least and interested in her know-how when it came to Indian food, its reliance on spices and its ability to transform the simplest vegetables into such flavorful dishes.
Inspired, I’ve been playing around with recipes that use lots of spices, or at least “exotic” spices like turmeric. While your best best for capitalizing on turmeric’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-cancer properties is to eat it fresh, you can still enjoy some on the health benefits with ground turmeric. The spice’s flavor is enhanced through heating, hence why the spices are toasted a bit in the warm vegetable oil first. The incredible color of turmeric is what makes this dish yellow.
In the process of making this spiced rice a few times, I’ve learned a few things about cooking rice. You can substitute brown rice for white rice when the latter is called for in recipes, but this will often mean adjusting the amount of liquid and cooking time. Brown rice typically takes a 1:2 rice to water ratio while white rice is more often a 2:3 rice to water ratio. Cooking times are generally longer for brown rice, averaging 40-45 minutes while white rice cooking times average 20-25 minutes. I’ve seen a lot of variation among brands, so your best bet is to follow the instructions on the bag of rice you’re using as opposed to following the recipe.
This recipe does deliver some kick so, for the faint of spice like me, I’ve developed a riff on the original recipe that forgoes the pepper and swaps ground ginger for the mustard powder.
Spiced Lemon Rice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ½ teaspoon mustard powder
1 ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 onion, minced
1 Fresno chili or red jalapeño, cut into thin rings and seeded if you like
2 cups brown rice
4 2×1-inch strips lemon peel (yellow part only, no pith)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ cup roasted cashews
Heat oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add mustard powder and turmeric and cook to perfume the spices, 1 – 2 minutes. Add onion, garlic and chili and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 7 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat. Add lemon peel, salt and 4 cups water; bring to a boil and cook until rice is tender, 45 minutes.
Stir in lemon juice. Cover and let stand off heat for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and toss with cashews.