This will be a revelation to those who tend toward plain steamed basmati. The method is fail-safe, and the result is stunning. Serve this rice with an Asian savory pickle to make a vegetarian meal, or next to a freshly roasted chicken. Try to look for fresh curry leaves for this dish, using them on the stem. They freeze well, so don't worry if you end up getting a large bunch.
- 5 short cinnamon sticks (1/3 oz/10 g)
- 10 whole cloves
- shaved rind of 1 lemon, plus 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 stems fresh curry leaves (about 25 leaves), or 35 dried curry leaves
- rounded 2 cups/400 g basmati rice, rinsed, soaked in water for 15 minutes, and drained well
- 1/4 cup/60 g unsalted butter
- salt and white pepper
Preheat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC.
Put the cinnamon sticks, cloves, lemon rind, curry leaves, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a saucepan. Cover with 2 3/4 cups/680 ml water and place over high heat. As soon as the water boils, remove the pan from the heat.
Spread the rice out in a baking dish or roasting pan approximately 9 1/2 by 12 inches/24 by 30 cm, cover with the boiled water and aromatics, and stir well. Lay a piece of waxed paper over the surface of the water and cover the dish with aluminum foil. Cook in the oven for 25 minutes, then remove and leave to sit, covered, for 8 to 10 minutes.
Just before serving, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Once it's melted and very hot, carefully add the lemon juice and swirl together to mix. Pour this over the hot rice and fluff up the rice with a fork. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve at once (you can remove the curry stems and cinnamon sticks or keep for the look).