In some ways, Rajma is to North Indian cuisine what Macaroni and Cheese is to North American cuisine: it is ubiquitous and seen as a comforting food that reminds one of home. Rajma is also similar to Mac and Cheese in the sense that it is often made badly. And bad Rajma is especially like bad Mac and Cheese in that it’s often bad because its texture is all wrong.
Having said that, it takes a bit more time to make good Rajma than it does to make a decent Mac and Cheese. Moreover, and this might prove to be controversial, I think Rajma represents a more complex harmony of flavours than Mac and Cheese does.
As you can see, I love Rajma! And as it happens, I’ve recently put together a delicious Rajma recipe, which I am very excited about. If you’d like to give it a try, here’s what you will need:
- A Pressure Cooker (if you don’t have one, you could just use a large saucepan)
- A saucier pan or a saucepan
- A Knife
- A Cutting Board
- A Spatula
- A Bowl and a Plate
- 2 Cups Red Kidney Beans, soaked for at least 7 hours in a lot of water
- 3 Cardamom Pods
- 3 Cloves
- 1 Large Bay Leaf (or two small leaves)
- 1/2 Stick of Cinnamon
- 1 Tsp Cumin Seeds
- 1 Red Onion, finely diced
- 3 Large Cloves of Garlic, crushed
- 1 Inch Piece of Ginger, grated
- 4 Green Chillies, chopped coarsely
- 1 Tsp Cumin Powder
- 1 Tsp Coriander Powder
- 1-2 Tsp Garam Masala
- 1-3 Tsp Chilli Powder (adjust the amount of chilli to your preferred spice level. If you use 3 tsp (which I do) the Rajma will have a bit of a kick to it ;))
- 1/2 Tsp Turmeric Powder
- Salt, to taste
- 2-3 Medium Tomatoes, chopped
- 3-4 Tbsp Oil or Ghee (I prefer ghee; here is my recipe, if you want to make it at home)
- As much butter as you like 🙂
- A Sprig of Coriander/Cilantro, optional
Note about Serving Size: This makes enough Rajma for 6 people if they’re eating modest portions or if it is served with something else, like a dal (lentil) or a vegetable or chicken based preparation (as it generally would be in, in India).
1. Drain the excess water out of the bowl/pan in which you soaked the beans. Add about a half cup of water to the beans and cook them in a pressure cooker, on medium-high heat, until the whistle of the cooker goes off about 4-5 times. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, place the beans in a large saucepan and cook them with several cups of water until they become soft and cooked through. You can figure out if the beans are properly cooked by squishing one between your finger (or between two spoons). If you’re able to press through the bean and reduce it to mush, the beans are done are ready to be used in the recipe.
2. Pour the oil into a saucier or saucepan. Place the pan on medium-high heat. Once the oil becomes sufficiently hot (you can test the oil temperature by adding a cumin seed to the oil and seeing if it begins to sizzle) add in the cumin seeds. Just as the seeds begin to pop, lower the heat to medium and add in the cardamom, cloves, bay leaf, and a stick of cinnamon. Toss these about in the oil for a bit, until you can smell their fragrance.
3. Increase the heat to medium-high again and add in the chopped onion and sauté it until it begins to brown.
4. Now, reduce the heat to medium again and add in the ginger, garlic, and chillies. Toss them about constantly, until the raw smell of the garlic dissipates.
5. Next, add the cumin, coriander, garam masala, and chilli powders to the pot, along with salt, and stir everything together. Let the masalas cook in the oil for a minute or two, before adding the chopped tomatoes to the pot. Stir well, cover the pot, and let the this tomato-onion-masala mixture cook on low-medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, checking on it and stirring as needed every few minutes. You will know the mixture is cooked enough once the oil starts to separate from the rest of the ingredients.
6. At this stage, I recommend fishing out the bay leaves, cardamom pods, cloves and cinnamon stick. This is so the finished product feels smooth and creamy, without little bits of crunchy spices ruining the overall mouth feel of the dish,
7. Finally, add the cooked Rajma to this mixture, along with a cup or two of water and loads of butter. Cover the pot and let the beans cook with the onion-tomato-masala mixture for about 4-6 hours, on low heat, stirring intermittently. This slow cooking will allow the flavours to intermingle and “mature”.
6. Serve the Rajma with rice or roti and yoghurt! (My current favourite way to eat it is with a Rumali roti.) You can garnish the Rajma with a sprig of fresh coriander/cilantro, if you like. Enjoy!