I come from a family where rajma, chole, kaali daal (urad daal or mah ki daal) were not the part of daily food. As kids we would head to the nearest dhaba or a small hotel (hatti) to savour these delicacies. When I began to experiment in the kitchen I tried making these “Panjabi dishes” but the taste would never be close to what we had in the dhabbas or at homes of friends. It took me some time to master the art of making perfect rajma, chole and mah ki daal and not to forget the delicious sarson ka saag and makki ki roti. Then there was no looking back. 😀 Rajma chawal or red kidney beans and steamed rice is one of my comfort foods and I relish it like nothing else. When I was younger it was a sunday meal special. Maybe alternate sunday meal. Then I got married into a family where it became an alternate day meal 😀 and I began to long for the simple varan bhat and all the home cooked simple meals from mom’s home. My MIL wont allow any “peeli daal (yellow daal” unless someone was sick :p but in her absence I began to balance the two different cuisines and it worked well for all of us.
Rajma again became my favorite over chole because of the wholesome feeling it provided. The creamy gently spiced curry with steaming rice in a bowl or a deep dish with maybe a dollop of butter or thick curds was all I needed to cease my troubles.
Rajma or kidney beans curry is synonymous with Panjab and Kashmir too. I love the Bhaderwah Rajma (the small deep red variety from Jammu). I find its strong color, meaty texture and robust flavour just right. We do get chitri wale rajmah and some other varieties too but these work best for me.
The key to making good rajma is that they should be soaked and boiled rightly and cooked with just the touch of spices added to onion and tomatoes. The Kashmiri rajma doesn’t have onions. They use fennel seeds powder that gives the dish a unique flavor.
Red kidney beans are so versatile that they are cooked in variety of ways, as a curry, in salads, in dips, as fillings with veggies and even in a pasta dish. while reading on internet I realized that bean rice esp red kidney beans and rice is popular in many other countries as well. Says a lot about this humble beanie wonder. The very picture of a nicely cooked rajma chawal makes you yearn for it right away. In Delhi you will find roadside pushcart vendors doing a brisk business selling rajma chawal per plate. People throng these pushcarts or small kiosks for a filling no mess lunch/dinner.
This is my version of the hearty rajma chawal. It is simple and tasty one pot meal.
Red Kidney Beans (Rajma/Rajmah) – 1 cup
Tomatoes – 4 medium finely chopped or (half cup purée)
Onions – 2 medium (finely chopped)
garlic -1/2 inch (2 tsp paste)
Garlic – 3-4 cloves ( 2 tsp paste)
Bay leave 1 or Curry leaves – 5-8
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Butter -1 teaspoon
Ghee – I tablespoon
coriander Powder -2 tsp
Turmeric Powder -1 tsp
Red chili powder or Kashmiri chili powder – 2 tsp or to taste
Salt – to taste
Coriander greens – 1/4 cup finely chopped
Garam Masala – 1 tsp
Asafoetida – generous pinch
Ajwain – 2 pinches
Clean and wash the red kidney beans properly under running water and soak in filtered water for 8-10 hours. When in a rush I boil some water for soaking and place the beans in a casserole along with boiling water for 2-4 hours and close the lid properly. It works well. The variety I have used here doesn’t need too much soaking time.
Once the kidney beans or rajma is soaked properly, drain the pinkish water and wash the beans at least twice with fresh water. This ensures the removal of water-soluble phytates which cause flatulence). Always throw away the water in which you soak the beans.
Pressure cook kidney beans with at least 4-5 cups of water, salt, turmeric powder, asafitida (hing) and two pinches of ajwain (aids in digestion).Four to five whistles are usually good to soften the rajma. It should be cracked and soft but not mushy.
Now, in a cast iron pot or any heavy bottom pan heat the ghee. Add cumin seeds and hing to hot ghee/oil and when the seeds splutter and give out a nice aroma add bay leave or curry leaves which I have used here along with finely chopped onions. Keep the heat low to medium and stir.Once translucent, add ginger and garlic to it and stir again. You can add a little salt and a 1/2 tsp of sugar and red chili powder here so quicken the browning of the onions. Add a tablespoon of water and give it a stir. Sugar gives a nice deep color to the gravy and cuts the acidity of the tomatoes too.
Saute the masala till onions are nice and brown, . Add coriander powder, turmeric powder a mix well. Once all the spices are incorporated nicely and the masala browns evenly add the finely chopped tomatoes. Give it a good mix and keep the heat low so that the masala is more flavourful with the juices of onion and tomatoes.
Once the mix starts drying up and leaves the sides of the pot add the boiled rajma to it. Mix everything well and let it simmer on low heat. At this point , add chopped coriander leaves.
Alternately, you can microwave chopped onions, garlic, ginger, a small green chilli and tomatoes for 5 min in a covered dish then take out and purée them to make a paste. Add this paste to the boiled kidney beans along with the spices for a no oil quick fix. You can add butter while serving. I do this when in a rush.
By now you would be dying to get the aromatic rajma off the heat. The moment you notice a creamy texture to the dish, take it off the heat and serve hot with steamed rice. I have used old pona basmati chawal or 1/4 broken basmati rice here. It is soft, fragrant and easy to digest. The older the raw rice the better it will taste.
Many people love rajma but avoid it as it hard on digestive system but by adding hing, ajwain, curry leaves/bay leave and throwing the soaking water away you can enjoy this fabulous nutritious dish anytime.
Did I tell you that red kidney beans are power packed with healthy nutrients? Like many other beans they have cholesterol lowering fiber, low in fat they are good source of folate, protein, thiamine (vitamin B1), phosphorus, iron, copper, magnesium, and potassium. And they taste heavenly.
Do give my recipe a try and let me know how you found it. Include red kidney beans in your daily diet.