Strawberry Gojju| Savoury Strawberry Relish

Who says strawberries are only meant for jams and cakes and sweet treats of all sorts? Did you know that they go beautifully in a gojju or South Indian-style savoury relish? Oh, yes, they do! Today, I’m going to share with you all the recipe for Strawberry Gojju, something I tried out recently and was a super-hit at home.


Strawberries and me


Strawberries are rich in Vitamin C, manganese and antioxidants. They also possess a good amount of folate and potassium. (Information Courtesy: Healthline). And, of course, they are juicy, beautifully sweet with a tinge of sour, and so delicious!

I don’t get the best of strawberries in Bangalore, but I get really good ones sometimes. I’m somehow not a fan of eating them raw, but love using them in things like regular and fusion jam, jam and lassi. These are such versatile fruits, they fit right into several dishes.

About this Strawberry Gojju or Savoury Strawberry Relish


Strawberry Gojju is a wonderful thing to make when you have some fruits left over, and are tired of making the regular sweet stuff like cakes and jams with them. This savoury gojju makes for a nice, refreshing change. Considering that strawberries are highly perishable, you better use them up quickly too!

Oh, this Strawberry Gojju is delicious! Sweet and spicy and slightly tangy, it makes for a lovely accompaniment to idlis, dosas, rotis and everything in between. It’s super simple to whip up too.

This is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suitable to those following a plant-based diet. It can be made gluten-free too, by skipping the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most Indian brands of asafoetida contain wheat flour to a lesser or greater extent, and should therefore be avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, please do go ahead and use it.

How to make Strawberry Gojju?


Here’s how I went about it.

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

  • 1. 1 cup chopped strawberries
  • 2. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  • 3. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 4. A pinch of fenugreek seeds
  • 5. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  • 6. 1 sprig of fresh curry leaves
  • 7. 2 dry red chillies
  • 8. Salt to taste
  • 9. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 10. 3/4 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste
  • 11. Tamarind pulp to taste
  • 12. 1 teaspoon red chilli powder or to taste
  • 13. 1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin powder

  • Method:
    1. Grind the chopped strawberries to a coarse puree.
    2. Heat the oil in a pan. Add in the mustard, and allow them to sputter.
    3. Now, add in the curry leaves, dry red chillies, asafoetida and fenugreek seeds. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds. 4. Add the strawberry puree into the pan. Also add in salt, red chilli powder and turmeric, the tamarind pulp and jaggery powder. Mix well.
    5. Allow the mixture to cook on medium flame for 3-4 minutes or till it thickens up a bit. Stir intermittently. Switch off gas.
    6. Add in some roasted cumin powder. Mix well. The Strawberry Gojju is ready! Allow it to cool down fully before transferring it to a clean, dry, air-tight bottle, in case you don’t plan on using it immediately. Keep refrigerated.

    Tips & Tricks


    1. Use fresh, ripe and juicy strawberries that firm and unblemished. Strawberries that are a good mix of sweet and sour work best for this gojju.
    2. Adjust the quantity of salt, tamarind, red chilli powder and jaggery powder, as per personal taste preferences.
    3. Add in the roasted cumin powder at the very end, for best results.
    4. To make the roasted cumin powder, I dry roast a couple of tablespoons of cumin on medium flame till fragrant, then allow them to cool down fully and grind coarsely. I store this roasted cumin powder in a clean, dry, air-tight bottle at room temperature and use it as needed.
    5. The Strawberry Gojju stays well for 10-15 days when refrigerated and used hygienically. However, it is best used sooner rather than later, as we aren’t using much oil and/or preservatives in it.

    Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

    Manga Thokku| Tamilnadu’s Instant Raw Mango Pickle

    There are an insane number of pickles made using raw mangoes, across India. Come summer, when the markets are flooded with the best of unripe mangoes, people in every part of India get busy pickling. The raw mango is so very versatile too, lending itself beautifully to so many different pickle avatars. Today, I am sharing with you all our family recipe for Manga Thokku, one of the many types of pickles made from raw mango in South India.

    Manga Thokku!

    A bit more about Manga Thokku

    In Tamilian households, Manga Thokku is an emotion, more than just another pickle. It is a favourite with so many people I know, including myself, slathered on everything from dosas and rotis to bread. It is with the humble curd rice, though, that the Manga Thokku makes the best pair.

    If you are still wondering what Manga Thokku is, let me tell you that it is an instant pickle made using grated raw or unripe mangoes. Redolent of sesame oil and fenugreek seeds, this is a beautiful sour-and-spicy pickle with a hint of sweet. The cooking of raw mango shavings, along with a few other ingredients, on a slow flame gives the thokku a consistency not unlike jam.

    About our family recipe for Manga Thokku

    The different states of South India have their own popular styles of making Manga Thokku, as far as I understand. What I’m sharing today is the Tamilnadu style of making the pickle, a heritage recipe that has passed on through the generations in our family.

    The making of this Manga Thokku is rather simple, with no fancy ingredients or elaborate cooking techniques involved. This makes it suitable for beginners, those who are new to the process of pickling, but would love to get initiated.

    This is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suited to those following a plant-based diet. It can be made entirely gluten-free too, by skipping the asafoetida used in the recipe – I wouldn’t suggest that personally, though, as I think asafoetida is a critical component of Indian pickles. However, most Indian brands of asafoetida contain some amount of wheat flour and are, hence, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. If you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you could definitely go ahead and use it.

    Our family recipe for Manga Thokku

    The detailed proceedure follows.

    Ingredients (makes approximately one 200 gram jar):

    1. 2 big raw mangoes
    2.4-5 tablespoons oil
    3. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
    4. 1/2 teaspoon asafoetida
    5. 1/8 teaspoon fenugreek (methi) seeds
    6. 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves
    7. Salt to taste
    8. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
    9. 1 tablespoon red chilli powder or to taste
    10. 3/4 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste
    Method:
    1. Peel the raw mangoes. Grate them medium-thick.
    2. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the mustard seeds and let them sputter.
    3. Add in the asafoetida, curry leaves and fenugreek seeds. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.
    4. Turn flame down to medium. Add in the grated raw mango. Cook on medium flame for about a minute.
    5. Add in the salt and turmeric. Mix well. Continue to cook on medium flame till the raw mango gets soft, 2-3 minutes.
    6. Add the jaggery powder and red chilli powder. Mix well. Continue to cook on medium flame for 3-4 minutes or till the mixture starts coming together well and attains a shiny feel and a jam-like consistency. Switch off gas at this stage. The Manga Thokku is ready.
    7. Let the thokku cool down fully before transferring it to a clean, dry, air-tight glass bottle. Store refrigerated when not in use.

    Tips & Tricks

    1. We always use Totapuri or Kilimooku Manga to make this thokku, and that is what I have used here.

    2. Use good-quality raw mangoes when in season. The mangoes should be raw and firm, not at all squishy or damaged.

    3. Adjust the quantity of salt, red chilli powder and jaggery powder as per personal taste preferences.

    4. Sesame oil or nalla ennai works best in the making of this thokku. However, if you do not have it, you may use any other variety of oil you prefer.

    5. You may skip using the jaggery powder if you so prefer. However, we love adding it in.

    6. Use a heavy-bottomed pan to make this thokku. Cook the thokku on medium heat.

    7. Do not skimp on the amount of oil used. The oil ensures the pickle tastes lovely and stays well for long.

    8. When refrigerated and used hygienically, the thokku stays well for at least a couple of months.

    9. Make sure the top of the thokku is always covered with the pickle oil. This will prevent fungus from forming on the top layer of the thokku. This is a common problem with the thokku, even while it is refrigerated. Stirring up the thokku once in a while, with a clean and dry spoon, will bring the oil to the top of the pickle and prevent the fungus from forming.

    10. Some families add powdered roasted fenugreek seeds (methi) and asafoetida at the very end, after the thokku is done cooking. We add these ingredients at the start, along with the other stuff used in tempering.

    11. Don’t overcook the thokku, as it will become quite hard. Cook till it reaches a nice, spreadable consistency only.

    12. For a good Manga Thokku, don’t grate the raw mangoes too thick. Grate them fine or medium-thick so they integrate well with the other ingredients and attain a nice, jam-like consistency.

    13. Once the cooked and cooled Manga Thokku has been bottled, add some steamed rice to the pan, and mix well with the oil and pickle residue left over in the bottom of the pan – trust me, it tastes heavenly!

    Did you like this recipe? Do tell me in your comments!

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    Check out the other raw mango recipes on my blog: Raw Mango Salsa Chaat| Aambe Dal| Instant Chhundo

    Baked Handvo| Gujarati Savoury Cake With Rice & Lentils

    Handvo, a traditional Gujarati dish, is a big family favourite. My grandmother used to make finger-licking delicious Handvo, a recipe she learnt from her Gujarati neighbours. This recipe then passed on to my mom and, from her, to me. In course of time, the husband was introduced to the wonders of Handvo too, and he took to it like a fish to water. 🙂 I continue to make it the same way I learnt all those years ago, and do so at least once every fortnight. Today, I’m going to share with you all the very same family recipe, with very few variations of my own.

    What is Handvo?

    Handvo – never ‘Handva‘ – is a savoury cake made using a fermented batter of rice and mixed lentils. Often, vegetables like bottle gourd, carrot and corn are added in, as well as greens like spinach and fenugreek leaves. Considering this, and the fact that very little oil is typically used in the preparation of Handvo, it is a very healthy, protein-rich dish. Green chillies, garlic, ginger, carom seeds, jaggery and sesame are used to flavour the cake.

    For the uninitiated, the Handvo is a delicious, delicious thing, one you’ll surely get hooked to once you taste it! It is not too tough to put together, and makes for a great, filling breakfast or dinner, or even a tea-time snack. It can be had warm or cold.

    How is Handvo cooked?

    Handvo is traditionally cooked in a special type of cooker, the bottom of which is filled with sand. The batter goes into a separate compartment, and the entire contraption is placed on the gas. The Handvo cooks on a low flame for 40-60 minutes, the interior getting nice and crumbly, the top crusty. With time, people started to use ovens to bake the Handvo. Mom uses a shortcut to make it, pouring a couple of ladles of the batter into a heavy-bottomed pan and then cooking it covered on low heat.

    I don’t own a traditional Handvo cooker, so I usually pop the batter into my OTG or, sometimes, adopt mom’s shortcut. The OTG also yields a delectable savoury cake, with the same type of crusty top that is achieved in the Handvo cooker. And, oh, the house smells heavenly while it’s baking!

    Our family recipe for Handvo

    Different families use different permutations and combinations of ingredients for making Handvo. However, please do note that the bottle gourd is a key ingredient, which gives a soft texture and lovely flavour to the Handvo.

    This here is the version of Handvo I have stuck to, the recipe I am most comfortable with after several trials and tribulations. This is a completely vegetarian recipe. I have used curd here, due to which it is not vegan. To make the Handvo gluten-free, skip the asafoetida used in it. Most commercial brands of asafoetida available in India include wheat flour to a greater or lesser extent and are, hence, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you are able to find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, please do go ahead and use it.

    Ingredients (makes 2 batches, each one serving 3):

    1. 1 cup idli rice
    2. 1/4 cup urad dal
    3. 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek (methi) seeds
    4. 1/2 cup toor dal
    5. 1/2 cup chana dal
    6. 1/4 cup moong dal
    7. 1/2 cup curd
    8. 5-6 cloves of garlic
    9. 3 green chillies or as per taste
    10. A 1-inch piece of ginger
    11. Salt to taste
    12. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
    13. 2 tablespoons of jaggery powder or as per taste
    14. 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder or to taste
    15. 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida powder
    16. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
    17. 2 sprigs of curry leaves
    18. 1 small carrot
    19. A small piece of bottle gourd, about 2 heaped tablespoons when grated
    20. A fistful of green peas
    21. A fistful of sweet corn kernels
    22. 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
    23. 1 teaspoon ajwain (carom seeds)
    24. Oil, as needed to grease the baking tin
    25. 1/2 tablespoon oil
    26. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

    For the finishing touches:

    1. 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds per batch

    2. 1 teaspoon of Eno Fruit Salt (plain) per batch

    Method:

    1. Measure out the idli rice, urad dal, fenugreek seeds, toor dal, chana dal and moong dal into a vessel. Wash everything well under running water. Drain out all the water, then add in enough fresh water to cover all these ingredients fully. Let them soak for 5-6 hours or overnight. When they are done soaking, drain out all the water from them.

    2. Take half of the soaked ingredients in a mixer jar. Peel the ginger and garlic, chop roughly and add to the mixer jar. Chop the green chillies roughly too and add to the mixer jar. Grind together coarsely, adding a little water if needed. Stop at intervals to scrape down the sides of the mixer jar. When the batter is coarsely ground, transfer to a large, clean vessel.

    3. Now, grind the rest of the soaked and drained ingredients, along with the curd. Grind them coarsely, stopping at intervals to scrape down the sides of the mixer jar. When done, transfer this batter to the large vessel too.

    4. Add salt to taste to the batter. Mix well, using your hands. Set the batter aside, covered, for 5-6 hours or till it ferments.

    Top left and right: Steps 1 and 2, Left bottom and above: Step 3, Right bottom: Step 4

    5. Once the batter ferments, mix it gently.

    6. To the batter, add the turmeric powder, red chilli powder, asafoetida, jaggery powder, carom seeds and sesame seeds.

    7. Chop the coriander and curry leaves roughly. Add to the batter.

    8. Peel the carrot and bottle gourd. Grate medium-thick. Add to the batter.

    9. Add the sweet corn kernels and green peas to the batter too. Mix everything up gently.

    10. Now, heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a tempering pan. Add in the mustard, and allow them to sputter. Transfer this hot oil to the batter. Mix well, gently. The batter is now ready to make Handvo.

    Top left: The fermented batter, all the other pics show the veggies, the tempering and other ingredients being added to the fermented batter

    11. Divide the batter into two equal parts. One part can be used to make Handvo immediately, while the rest can be refrigerated to use the next day. Start by preheating the oven at 200 degrees for 10 minutes.

    12. Now, grease a large baking tin with a little oil. Keep it ready.

    13. Just before the preheated oven is ready, add 1 teaspoon of Eno Fruit Salt to the batter you are using, and mix well. The batter will start bubbling. Pour this batter immediately into the greased baking tin, and sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of sesame seeds all over the top. Place the in the oven immediately.

    14. Bake at about 160 degrees for 35-40 minutes or till a knife inserted into the centre of the tin comes out clean. Now, place the tin back in the oven and broil for about 5 minutes. Allow the baked Handvo to cool down a bit, 5-7 minutes, then cut into pieces and serve. The second batch of batter can also be baked the same way.

    Top: The batter before going into the oven, Bottom: The baked Handvo, just out of the oven

    Tips & Tricks

    1. Do not be intimidated by the long list of ingredients or the proceedure. It is a rather simple recipe, and seems long because I have outlined everything in great detail.

    2. You can use any kind of rice to make the Handvo. I prefer using idli rice. Sona Masoori, Ponni or Kollam rice, Basmati and par-boiled rice all work equally well.

    3. You may skip the ginger and garlic in the batter, if you do not prefer them.

    4. Adjust the quantity of green chillies and jaggery powder as per personal taste preferences.

    5. Use fresh, thick curd for best results.

    6. Make sure you grind the batter coarsely and not too fine. Grind the batter in intervals, as stated above, to stop overheating of the mixer.

    7. I prefer using carrots, sweet corn, bottle gourd and green peas in the Handvo. You can use any vegetables of your preference, but the bottle gourd is a must. The bottle gourd is believed to soften the Handvo and make it flavourful.

    8. Use plain Eno Fruit Salt (not flavoured). It needs to be added just before putting the Handvo to bake.

    9. The baking time and temperature suggested above works best for me. Please adjust as per the make of your oven and consistency of your batter. I use a Morphy Richards OTG.

    10. After 30 minutes of baking, keep a close eye on the oven to prevent burning.

    11. The second batch of batter might become a bit thick due to the refrigeration. Loosen it up with a little water, and allow it to come to room temperature before setting it to bake. Don’t forget to add Eno Fruit Salt to the second batch too and top it with sesame seeds, just before you start baking.

    12. The 1 teaspoon of Eno Fruit Salt per batch can be substituted with 1/4 teaspoon of cooking soda, though I haven’t ever done that.

    13. A Gujarati friend of mine suggested heating up a little oil, then mixing about 1/2 teaspoon of red chilli powder to it and pouring the hot oil over the top of the batter, just before setting it to bake. This gives the Handvo a beautiful colour and flavour, but I typically avoid this step.

    Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

    Elumichhai Sevai| Rice Vermicelli Made With Lemon

    Elumicchai Sevai or rice vermicelli made with lemon is a popular breakfast option in Tamilian households. No surprises there, considering how quick and easy it is to prepare, and how delicious it tastes! Today, I’m going to share with you all the recipe for Elumicchai Sevai, the way it is made in our family.

    Elumicchai Sevai or rice vermicelli made using lemon

    A bit about Sevai or rice vermicelli

    If you are still wondering what sevai is, it is a type of vermicelli made using rice. In the olden days, raw rice would be soaked, then ground, and passed through a vermicelli press to make fresh sevai – not unlike freshly made Italian pasta or Chinese noodles. These fresh sevai are then cooked in a variety of ways – with lemon, tamarind, coconut, sugar, etc.

    Sevai is similar to Idiyappam, yet there are a few differences between the two. Sevai originated in Tamilnadu, while the Idiyappam hails from Kerala. Both are ancient foods from South India, but while Sevai is made using rice, Idiyappam is made using rice flour. Idiyappam used to be made fresh too, in Kerala households, often served with coconut milk and sugar. And then, there’s Semiya, which is another type of vermicelli, but very different as it is made using wheat or refined wheat flour (maida). Semiya too used to be made fresh, in ancient India – with wheat I understand.

    In today’s times, we get ready-to-use, dry versions of sevai, idiyappam and semiya. In fact, it is these dry versions that are hugely popular, while the fresh versions have almost become ‘lost recipes of India’. There are very few families that make these from scratch any more, including mine. So, when I talk about sevai being a quick dish, I’m referring to the ready-to-use rice vermicelli available today. There are many different brands available – MTR, Dragon, Anil, 777, Concord and Manna being some of them. These instant versions need to be soaked in hot water or cooked in boiling water – like pasta – to ‘refresh’ them.

    It wouldn’t be wrong to say that sevai, idiyappam and semiya are all Indian versions of Italian pasta or Chinese noodles.

    How to make Elumicchai Sevai

    Elumicchai Sevai refers to rice vermicelli cooked using lemon, like I was saying earlier. They taste tangy, with mild heat from green chillies, absolutely awesome. We make it using dry, ready-to-use sevai, and it is a big favourite with everyone at home.

    Without further ado, let us check out how to make Elumicchai Sevai, my family’s way.

    Ingredients (serves 2-3):

    1. 1-1/2 cups sevai aka rice vermicelli
    2. 1 tablespoon peanuts
    3. 1/2 tablespoon oil
    4. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
    5. 2 pinches of asafoetida
    6. 2 sprigs of curry leaves
    7. 4-5 green chillies
    8. Salt to taste
    9. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
    10. Juice of 1 lemon or to taste
    11. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

    Method:

    1. Cook the rice vermicelli as per package instructions. Drain out all the water. Allow to cool down completely.

    2. Dry roast the peanuts on medium flame till crisp. Ensure that they do not burn. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool down fully.

    3. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep ready.

    4. Heat the oil in a pan. Add in the mustard, and allow to sputter.

    5. Turn the flame down to medium, and add in the asafoetida, curry leaves, roasted peanuts and slit green chillies. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.

    6. Still keeping the flame medium, add in the drained rice vermicelli. Also, add in salt to taste and turmeric powder. Mix well. Cook on medium flame for about 2 minutes or till everything is well integrated together, stirring intermittently. Switch off gas.

    7. Add in the lemon juice and finely chopped coriander. Mix well. Your Elumicchai Sevai is ready. Serve it hot.

    Is this Elumicchai Sevai vegan and gluten-free?

    This is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suited to those following a plant-based diet. If you skip the asafoetida used in the tempering, this can easily be made gluten-free too. Most commercial brands of asafoetida available in India include wheat flour to a lesser or greater extent and are, therefore, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, please do go ahead and use it.

    #LemonLove at Foodie Monday Blog Hop

    This recipe is brought to you in association with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop, a group of very talented food bloggers that I am part of. Every Monday, the members of the group share recipes based on a pre-determined theme. The brilliant photographer and recipe developer Waagmi of Cooking Is Funn suggested the theme for the week – #LemonLove, or recipes made using lemon. Well, thrilling for me considering that I adore lemon and have several lemon-based recipes on my blog already. I chose to showcase our family favourite, Elumicchai Sevai, for the theme.

    Some other interesting lemon recipes

    You must check out these lovely lemon-based recipes from my blog, as well as those of my friends.

    – Waagmi’s gorgeous Eggless Lemon Cake

    Lemon Rasam, another of our family recipes

    Bruschetta With Lemon Marmalade & Stir-Fried Veggies from my blog, a delicious fusion

    Home-Made Lemon Coriander Soup

    Pahadi Nimbu Ka Achaar

    Colour-Changing Butterfly Pea Lemonade

    Lemon Thokku or Instant Lemon Chutney

    Home-Made Lemon Squash

    Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav

    – Poonam’s Lemon Semolina Cake

    – Archana’s Spaghetti With Green Olives & Lemon

    – Mayuri’s Lemon & Lavender Scones

    Tips & Tricks

    1. I have used MTR rice vermicelli or sevai here. You can use any other brand you prefer. Dragon and Anil are two other brands of rice vermicelli I have tried and loved.

    2. MTR rice vermicelli is thicker than that of several other brands, and has to be cooked in boiling water, in an open pan, for 6-7 minutes. Other brands require the vermicelli to just be soaked in hot water for 3-4 minutes, covered, and they are ready. Please read the instructions on the package carefully before use. Cook the vermicelli as per package instructions.

    3. Allow the cooked rice vermicelli to cool down completely before using it in the dish.

    4. Adjust the quantity of green chillies, depending upon personal taste preferences. I have slit them length-wise here, but you can even chop them finely if you so prefer. We prefer this Elumicchai Sevai to be quite mild, and not very spicy.

    5. Adjust the quantity of lemon juice as per personal taste preferences.

    6. I first dry roast the peanuts separately and then add them to the hot oil later. I find they stay much more crisp that way.

    7. Some fresh grated coconut can also be added to the Elumicchai Sevai before serving.

    Did you like this recipe? Do tell me in your comments!

    Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav| Fragrant Lemon-Scented Rice

    Here’s presenting to you the recipe for Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav, a delightful rice dish that is fragrant with lemon zest and juice. You have to try this out to believe how divine it tastes!

    Smells and tastes absolutely gorgeous!

    What is Gondhoraj Lebu?

    I was introduced to the majestic Gondhoraj Lebu on our trip to Calcutta, a few years ago. For the uninitiated, the name literally translates to ‘King of Scented Lemons’. This is no ordinary lemon, mind you, but an extraordinarily fragrant one, its almost oval shape its distinguishing feature. No wonder it is also referred to as ‘King Lemon’!

    The Gondhoraj Lebu is the pride of West Bengal, where the lemon is typically grown. A slice of the lemon transforms a simple dal into something majestic. The skin of this lemon is particularly fragrant, and it works wonders when zested and added to lassi, desserts and the likes.

    The beauty of a Gondhoraj Lebu from our neighbour’s balcony garden

    In Calcutta, we encountered the Gondhoraj Lebu in many foods. It made an appearance in roadside puchkas, making them smell heavenly. I still remember the gorgeous Gondhoraj Ghol or Gondhoraj lemon-scented lassi we had the pleasure of having at Koshe Kosha in Calcutta. For a lemon lover like me, it didn’t take much to fall in this love with this perfumed fruit. I brought some back home with me, and they filled every corner with the scent of Calcutta for days afterward…

    Sadly, these special lemons aren’t available very easily here in Bangalore, though I believe there are a couple of online sellers. I didn’t try them out. It was years after our Calcutta visit, some time in January this year, when a Bengali neighbour and dear friend of ours presented us with a Gondhoraj Lebu grown organically in his little balcony garden. It was the size of my palm! I couldn’t stop gushing, and kept mulling over what to use it in for a couple of days. Then, Basant Panchami arrived, the onset of spring, an auspicious occasion for Bengalis, a day when yellow-coloured food is commonly consumed. Everything fell into place then, and I decided to use the lemon to prepare a yellow Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav.

    About this Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav

    I made the Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav inspired by this recipe from Maumita’s blog Experiences Of A Gastronomad. Maumita’s is a lovely, lovely blog, full of beautifully recounted anecdotes from her life, including several heritage Bengali recipes from her grandmother. I tweaked her recipe to suit my family’s preferences and it turned out simply gorgeous, much loved by everyone in the family. The Gondhoraj zest and juice used in the pulav give it a mesmerising fragrance. The sweetish, slightly sour and mildly spicy flavours of the pulav are unique. I hope I have done justice to Maumita’s nostalgic recipe!

    This is a completely vegetarian recipe, which is gluten-free too. I have used ghee here, due to which this recipe isn’t vegan. For a vegan version, you may substitute the ghee with oil or any other vegan fat, though I would strongly recommend using ghee.

    Now, without further ado, let’s get to the recipe for this beauty!

    How to make Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav

    Ingredients (serves 4-5):

    To pressure cook:

    1. 1-1/2 cups rice
    2. 3-3/4 cups water
    3. Salt to taste
    4. 3 green chillies, slit lengthwise

    Other ingredients:

    1. 1 big Gondhoraj Lebu (used in part)
    2. 1-1/2 tablespoons water
    3. A pinch of saffron strands
    4. 1 tablespoon ghee
    5. 10 whole cashewnuts
    6. 2 small bay leaves
    7. A 1-inch piece of cinnamon
    8. 4 cloves
    9. 4 green cardamom pods
    10. 2 tablespoons sugar
    11. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

    Method:

    Top left and right: Steps 2 and 3, Bottom left and right: Steps 3 and 4

    1. Wash the rice well under running water. Drain out all the water. Now, pressure cook the washed and drained rice with 3-3/4 cups of water, salt to taste and the slit green chillies. Allow 3 whistles on high flame. Allow the pressure release naturally.

    2. Meanwhile, heat the 1-1/2 tablespoons of water. Switch off gas and add the saffron strands. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, by which time the saffron would have released its beautiful orange-red colour into the water. Keep this aside.

    3. Zest the Gondhoraj Lebu and then juice about half of it. We will need about 2 teaspoons of lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Keep this ready.

    4. When the pressure from the cooker goes down fully, allow the rice to cool down completely. Now, fluff up the rice gently.

    Top left and right: Steps 5 and 6, Bottom left and right: Step 6, continued

    5. Heat 1 tablespoon ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan. Turn the flame to medium. Add in the cashewnuts, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves and green cardamom. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds or till the cashewnuts brown nicely.

    6. Now, add in the fluffed up rice, along with the sugar and Gondhoraj Lebu zest. Add in the saffron water too, along with the strands. Mix well. Taste and adjust salt if needed. Cook on medium flame for a minute, stirring intermittently, then switch off gas.

    Top and bottom: Step 6

    6. Mix in the Gondhoraj Lebu juice and finely chopped coriander. Your Gondhoraj Lebu Pulav is ready. Serve hot or warm.

    Tips & Tricks

    1. The original recipe uses fragrant Gobindobhog rice, which is commonly used in several Bengali dishes. I used Sona Masoori rice instead, because I wanted the fragrance of only the lemon to rule the dish. Not that I had any Gobindobhog rice either. I’m guessing Basmati rice would work too.

    2. I have used zest and juice of the ultra-fragrant Gondhoraj Lebu here. You can use the juice and zest from a regular lemon too. While it might not be as fragrant as Gondhoraj, it will still smell awesome and taste delicious.

    3. Adjust the quantity of green chillies, lemon juice and sugar, as per personal taste preferences.

    4. I have added a lot more lemon zest than the original recipe suggests. While the hubby and I loved the fragrance, my mom found it a bit overpowering. Please do go easy on the lemon zest, if you so prefer.

    5. Don’t overcook the rice. Cook it till done, but don’t make it overly mushy. The above rice:water ratio worked perfectly for us. Adjust the quantity of water you use as per personal preferences.

    6. The original recipe uses a mix of water and curd to cook the rice. I haven’t used any curd here.

    7. Mix the rice well but gently, so that the grains don’t break.

    8. You can use a pinch of turmeric to colour the rice, instead of saffron.

    Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!