The fragrant parrot-green lemon, the gandhraj, or the ‘aroma king’ of lemons, is rightly named so. Not yet a part of mainstream Indian cuisine, this lemon is Bengal’s answer to the Thai kaffir limes and Caribbean key limes. Richly perfumed, these lemons add an incredible amount of flavour to any dish or beverage!
Bengalis use it to flavour rice and fish curries, and often serve wedges as a garnish for curries. The gandhraj lemon is also making its way into modern gastropubs, widely used in gin and vodka based cocktails. For a lemon that has such an incredible flavour that only a few drops of the juice can amplify a dish, it has been largely absent from the mainstream Indian food scene.
Bored of regular pastas drenched in sauce, I was looking for a fresh take on spaghetti, and my mom’s friend suggested I try it with gandhraj lemon. I didn’t want the creamy sauces or the garlicky aglio e olio. I wanted a sauce that is light and fresh, perfect for a quick lunch. And this recipe is quick!
No really, I promise. All you need to do is cook the spaghetti. Everything else can be combined in the same bowl you want to eat from. The gandhraj lemon has a rather thick skin that is perfect for zesting, unlike the more common Indian nimbu. As you whisk together the olive oil and the lemon juice, the sauce comes together as if by magic (well, actually it’s science but who’s keeping track)!
It’s creamy, but without being heavy. And to think it takes only minutes to make.
- Spaghetti, enough for 4 servings
- ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1 gandhraj lemon
- Zest of 1 gandhraj lemon
- ⅔ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- Salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Boil the spaghetti in a pot of salted water until cooked. Drain the spaghetti, saving one cup of the cooking liquid.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil with the lemon juice, lemon zest, Parmesan cheese, and salt.
- Add the cooked spaghetti to the bowl, and toss it to combine.
- Slowly add the reserved cooking liquid in batches as you toss until the lemon sauce coats the spaghetti.
- Crack freshly ground pepper over spaghetti if desired before serving.