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Rajma Masala


Sinfully Spicy - Rajma Masala, Red Kidney Beans CurrySpice laden tomato(ey) sauce, gooey beans, hints of cinnamon and cardamom, steamed rice on the side and lots of fresh cilantro on top.This pretty much sums up rajma (kidney beans)-chawal(rice). Quite similar to the warming pot roast, we pretty much savor this dish every other Sunday afternoon in the house followed by a long nap which by all means is the necessary element of the brunch ritual. This north indian kidney beans curry is spicy and comforting, all of you who love beans and a side of carbohydrate (potatoes/rice) would know how addictive it can get, just few minutes into eating.

Sinfully Spicy - Rajma Masala, Red Kidney Beans CurryWhen I think something comforting – an event, a memory, food, travel or in general, any milestone of life, I want to be in that moment and think more and even more about it.These days, I seem to remember my home in India a lot. The routine of daily life back there keeps on flashing in my mind now and then.Our domestic help sitting on the floor peeling and chopping squash, talking about the other homes she works in, mum next to her and grinding fresh chilies and garlic in our decade old mortar & pestle. They discussed nuances of long power cuts- the preparations that precede it, casually chatting about unusually above normal temperatures and yet how late monsoons have been this year. In between, my mum would pour her elaichi chai with few crumbly rusks, both having a good ladies time.

While I brew my green tea on summer afternoons, my lil daughter napping, I also prepare dinner side by side, it is such a pleasant time to dig pockets of such spontaneous memories when I am all by myself in the house. It’s a warm feeling – nostalgic & bitter – sweet at the same time.

Sinfully Spicy - Rajma Masala, Red Kidney Beans CurryWhen I severely miss home, it’s just left to the meals to comfort us. Talk about comforting and rajma masala is my soul food. Not only because of how hearty it is but also because how uncomplicated the flavors are.Its bright and nourishing, its simple and doesnt need you to baby sit the pot. You could start with a simple masala, add the beans, let simmer and done. As a variation add vegetables (I am thinking whole baby potatoes or even few chopped greens here), why not? I personally like to serve it alongside paneer bhurji, rounding off our punjabi meal.

Sinfully Spicy - Rajma Masala, Red Kidney Beans CurryIf you happen to taste this dish at restaurants, it comes rich and heavy, the base recipe remains similar but the final dish is finished with butter and cream. Most Indian restaurants in the west do not cook like how indians cook at home. I don’t know how this piling on of the fat started.The way rajma masala is made in rural, punjabi homes is a far cry from the overbearing use of butter and cream, it is homely and essentially what true Indian food is like. That said, stay clear of butter pool and make this kidney bean curry –  delicious, healthy & comforting!

Sinfully Spicy - Rajma Masala, Red Kidney Beans Curry

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

  • 1 cup red kidney beans, raw (make sure the beans are not more than 6 months old, I buy my stock from Whole Foods)
  • 3.5 cups water
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 black cardamom
  • tejpatta (indian bay leaf)
  • 1/4 heaping cumin seeds
  • small twig of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1-2 fresh Thai green chillies, whole or slit (adjust to tolerance)

For the Sauce

  • 5 tbsp mustard or olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup finely chopped tomatoes (slightly sour)
  • 1.5 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder/cayenne (adjust quantity to tolerance)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • Salt
  • Chopped cilantro

Method

Cooking the beans

Note – Skip this step if using canned beans, add the whole spices listed under cooking the raw beans at the time when you make the sauce.

Soak the kidney beans in enough water overnight or for at least 8 hours. This is an important step if you are using raw beans, if not soaked enough, the recipe will not turn out well. Once the beans have swelled, drain and discard the water. Transfer the kidney beans to a pressure cooker. Add 3.5 cups water, cloves, cardamom, tejpatta, cumin, cinnamon, oil and 1/2 tsp salt. Close the lid of the cooker and pressure cook on medium heat for 2-3 whistles or till the beans are 95% cook. An easy indicator to know if the beans have cooked is that the skin starts peeling off from few of them but the shape is intact. You could cook the beans open in on stove top till tender for approximately 45-50 minutes.

Once the beans have cooked, pick up the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, tejpatta and discard. Transfer the cooked beans and stock to a bowl and mix in the ginger and whole chillies. Let sit while you make the sauce.

Making the Sauce

In the same cooking pot/pressure cooker that you boiled the beans,add the oil and heat on medium till you see ripples on the surface.If using mustard oil, you will need to heat tills it’s about to smoke so that the raw smell goes away.

Reduce heat to slightly and add the finely chopped onions and garlic and cook them till golden brown. About 6-8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the tomatoes next along with chili, coriander,turmeric and amchoor powder. Cook this masala on low heat till the oil starts separating from the mix along the sides of the pan. About 10-12 minutes. If you see masala sticking to the bottom of pan, add some stock. Cook thoroughly.This slow cooking is very important to develop flavors and color of the paste, please do not rush.Allow the masala to reduce till it acquires beautiful reddish to brown color.

Add the boiled beans to the pot next along with all the stock.Check and adjust the salt. Add the garam masala & kasuri methi. Cover and let simmer on low heat for 25-30 minutes.

Once the beans have simmered, removed from heat and let sit undisturbed for 2-3 hours.

Serve warm garnished with cilantro.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

20 replies on “Rajma Masala”

The rajma sounds delicious (well, minus the cilantro, I don’t like cilantro :P)

And the photographs are SO gorgeous! I love the contrast of the white plate against the dark background/curry. SOOO good!

I think all cuisines have a perfect bean recipe- just because they are so comforting! Thanks for your comment and I hope you get to make this.

We have a very similar dish Lubya-Challow which is just pure simple comfort food for me. I love kidney beans, and I like the arrangement of spices you have used that I never thought of like cinnamon, thanks for sharing 🙂

Hi Tanvi, I’m glad I found your blog today (through the WP dashboard). The pictures are stunning and the recipe is so well explained. Look forward to more posts as I check your old ones…

I loved the pictures , the way you have taken the shots , I can say you are really good photographer,but to be honest the Rajma’s didnt quite looked like what I have been cooking , looking at and eating throughout my life.Being a true punjabi , Rajma is one vegetarian dish that I worship , and so does everyone in our family and friends . We use “Jammu’s Rajma” , which are the smallest form of rajmas and are dark red colour . I am pretty sure the dish you posted would have tasted good , its just the texture that I feel is missing the point, the gravy should be a lil thick and rajma should not stand completely out of the gravy , they should form integral part of gravy and also at the same should stand out a lil bit (they should be cooked to perfection i.e. once pressure cooked, they must be simmered for about half an hour so that rajmas can blend into the gravy and give a nice smooth texture to the gravy). Well that was my view, please dont take it otherwise , trust me I never wrote about anything like this before, but rajma are very close to my heart and stomach 😉 so thought why not write something.

Hi Sahil,
I respect and understand your emotions related to Rajma. But, at the same time, I have always stated in this blog that all recipes I share are how I and my family eats and likes them. Trust me, we eat 100% of the food that you see on the blog and I always take pictures of the complete dish. No one in my family prefers that gooey rajma (pressure cooked and then simmered for long),so over the years I stopped making it that way.I pressure cook and simmer but do not let the rajma beans break down.This recipe has a flavorful sauce and its not very thick.
However, thank you for your viewpoint, I really hope that your feedback will help everyone else looking for a softer and melting in the gravy kind of consistency and texture in the rajma masala they prepare.

Your writing style is amazing..I visit your blog as much for the little stories that you share as for your delicious recipes:D . Nostalgic – warm and bittersweet memories indeed! It seems like I am constantly reminded of such memories from home.

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