Isn't this pretty?
Once you serve it, it looks like, well, plain old rice. But it is oh-so-pretty on the table if you serve it with all of its spice-accouterments. Seriously, this would work on any holiday table (except the one I am about to sit down at, given that we're having a pretty traditional roast pork; okay, not any holiday table).
Curry leaves are the key here. This herb has no relation to the jarred (or perhaps self-prepared) spice mixture that you can find on the supermarket shelves. Curry leaves are an essential ingredient in southern and west-coast Indian cooking (although certainly they make appearances in Cambodian and Sri Lankan cuisine): they have this pungent, lemony flavor that is not really able to be replicated by another spice or herb. Seriously. If you cannot find curry leaves, skip this recipe. Sure, you could substitute with makrut lime leaves, which would probably be quite tasty; however, it would not be this recipe.
If you see some, grab a whole bunch, as they freeze well (no need to defrost them when you need them again--just toss them into the dish). Just stay away from dried curry leaves, as they have little to no flavor and none of the heady aroma. Another option is to grow your own: be sure, however, to use the curry leaves plant (Murraya koenigii), not a curry plant (Helichrysum italicum)--totally different plants.
Okay, let's get down to this dish. It's as simple as it comes. Make a little spice broth, pour it on rice, put wax paper atop rice (to help it steam), and then bake. Nothing to it. However, you don't have to tell anyone that it was easy. Just serve it with all its pretty spices and herbs, and you're certain to get some oohing and ahhing.
(Do you want to see the rice in (a plainer and simpler) action? Go here, and you can see it on a plate (with really yummy squash).)
And with that, I am off to do some cooking for tonight's dinner--we were charged with making appetizers and salad. Currently, I have a pound of chicken livers soaking in cognac in preparation for pâté--and, yes, I have intentions of posting all about it. (Updated: see here!)
Ottolenghi's Curry Rice
Adapted from Plenty More
10 whole cloves
shaved rind of 1 lemon, plus 1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup unsalted butter
salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC.