I woke up this morning, ok I lied, I woke up this afternoon with a craving. I really wanted to eat some Rajma Chaval. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this dish, it’s a staple all over India. Although, it’s primarily a North-Indian dish, I know plenty of South-Indians who love the stuff. It’s sort of like a dal (what some of you non-Indians call lentil curry) made with red kidney beans. Rajma refers to these beans and chaval (or chawal) simply means rice.
This is a very simple dish, it’s comfort food really. If you’d like to try this recipe out, here goes:
1 cup dried kidney beans (see below for how to prepare these beans, you need to prepare them at least 7 hours before you start cooking)
1 tablespoon Ghee (Indian clarified butter) or oil (you can find ghee in an Indian store; if you’d like to make it at home, here is my recipe)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1-2 teaspoon grated ginger
1-2 teaspoon crushed garlic
2-4 Indian green chillies (I used dried red ones because I couldn’t find green ones in my neighborhood store)
2-4 Bay leaves
1 pinch of Heengh (asafetida)
1 large onion or two small onions, finely diced. (red or white)
2 small tomatoes, or 1 large tomato, pureed or finely chopped (choose depending on whether you like small chunks of tomatoes in the rajma, some do, some don’t)
1-2 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon haldi (turmeric)
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
Lots of butter 🙂
Some cream (optional)
Coriander as garnish
Note: For some of the ingredients I haven’t listed a precise quantity because it’s really up to you how spicy you want to make the dish. You might also like one spice better than another one, so you pick and choose how much you want to add within the range I specified (you can of course add even more than the upper-limit of my range, but then I can’t speak to how the dish will turn out, since I’ve never tried it that way).
Also, I am using Canadian vegetables. Onions, tomatoes, garlic, ginger etc taste different in different countries and regions; they also come in varying sizes. You’re going to have to experiment a little and you may find that you have to tinker with the measures I have recommended.
Preparing the beans: Soak the Rajma in plenty of water (at least tree times as much water as beans) overnight or for at least 7 hours. This soaking is important; if you don’t soak the beans, they won’t be soft enough and the final product won’t taste as good. There are allegedly short cuts to this, but I personally don’t believe they can produce the same results.
The next step is to cook the beans. Here’s a little tip, don’t use the water the beans were soaking in, to cook them. This water contains ‘oligosaccharides’ released from the beans, and they cause.. eerm.. well..eerm flatulence! If you don’t follow my advice, there is always this yoga pose:
(Image by The Holistic Care Yoga Wiki. The above image is CC licensed, for more information go here.)
So anyway, back to the recipe. With fresh water, pressure cook the beans until the cooker whistles about 4 times. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can simply boil them, it’ll just take longer. If you’re cooking them in a pot with water, the beans will be done when you can take one out and squish it between your fingers. I suppose you could use canned beans instead of going through all this trouble, but I am somehow not a big fan of things in cans. I feel, and obviously this is subjective, that beans from a can don’t taste as good as beans that have been soaked and cooked.
We’ll start with one tbsp of ghee/oil in a deep, preferably thick-bottomed sauce pan that comes with a lid. Lay aside the following spices:
When the red chillies change colour add the onions. Saute them until the become soft and brownish (as seen in the photograph below). Then add the chopped tomatoes (or puree). Next, add the red chili, turmeric, coriander, and cumin powders.
In the meantime take a few tablespoons of the cooked beans in a separate bowl and mash the beans up a bit. Once the tomato-onion-spice mixture has cooked for a while and the raw tomato smell has gone, add the cooked beans along with the mashed beans to the mixture. Then add as much butter as you think you can get away with (without feeling guilty) and stir well. Place the lid back on the pot and let the mixture cook on low for about 20-40 minutes.
The Rajma is ready! You can serve it on top of hot steaming rice, add a bit of cream (if you like) and then garnish with coriander leaves.
As I said before, this isn’t a fancy dish at all- it’s a simple recipe that reminds me of home.