Spice 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.
When 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.
When 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.
If 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!
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
- 1 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)
- Chopped cilantro
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!