Being from western India, I've never quite experimented with south-Indian cooking a lot, but my husband being one of the true south-indian food fans, I had no choice but to jump right in! And I have to say I loved this!! Dosas and Idlis is something everyone finds interesting, but I was new to the wide variety of rice dishes that my friends kept cooking. So after trying stuff like Puliyogare, Tomato Rice, Curd Rice and Tamarind Rice, next in line was the famous Lemon Rice. I was intrigued by the subtle taste of this dish, and how the flavors of lemon and spices gave a nice touch to the simple art of making rice. I made some modifications to the traditional recipe and decided to add coconut to this, which made it taste even better. We had the Lemon-Coconut Rice with the not-so-traditional sambhar. I'm not sure if this is a widely accepted pair or not, but I can tell you it had us licking our fingers and the plates!!
For the Rice
4 cups long-grain basmati rice
a fistful of peanuts
a fistful of chana dal (raw, soaked in water for at least 5-6 hours)
6-7 curry leaves
2 dry red chillies
7-8 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp sugar
3-4 tbsp ghee
1/2 cup shredded coconut
4-5 green chillies - finely chopped
1/2 cup coriander - finely chopped
3-4 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp jeera
a pinch of asafoetida
salt - to taste
For the Sambhar
5-6 cups tuver dal - pressure cooked
water - to give desired consistency
4 tbsp tamarind paste
2 tsp mustard seeds
spices - red chilly powder, turmeric, salt, garam masala - to taste
4-5 tbsp sambhar masala (you can get this in Indian stores)
1/2 cup onions - chopped
1/2 cup other vegetables of your choice - boiled (optional, you can use potatoes, peas, etc)
3 tbsp oil
Make the rice as you would in a rice cooker or pressure cooker. Add a tbsp of ghee to it while cooking. In a wok, add 3 tbsp ghee, then add the jeera, mustard, green chillies, dry red chillies, soaked chana dal and asafoetida. When seeds start spluttering, add the peanuts and saute them till they get roasted. Now add the cooked rice to it. Add salt and sugar amd mix well. Next add the turmeric powder and half of the lemon juice. Gently mix everything so the rice get evenly coated by the masala. Keep adding more lemon juice till you get the tangy flavor in your rice that you are comfortable with. It should not be too sour, but the flavor of lemon had to be highlighted. Finally add the chopped coriander and the shredded coconut. Leave some of the rest for garnish. Let it cook on medium flame for 8-10 mins, not more.
For the sambhar, pressure cook the Tuver dal as you would for any normal dal. Now take some oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds and the onions and saute them till lightly golden. Then mix in the tamarind paste and the sambhar masala and let it cook with some water till it becomes thick and oil starts to separate. Next add the boiled vegetables of your choice, and the cooked dal. Mix everything together. Add salt, turmeric powder, red chilly powder and garam masala according to your taste. Add enough water to make it like a curry, but not too liquid. Sambhar is supposed to be a little thick. Bring the mixture to a boil and keep stirring occasionally. Garnish with chopped coriander if you want.
Serve the hot Lemon and Coconut Rice with the Chatpata Sambhar and enjoy a delicious meal with a tangy twist which is sure to arouse all your taste buds!!