The other day I was talking to one of my ‘bestest‘ friends, B. Now married and living in the Middle East, she is one person who comes closest to being my replica. A fellow Capricornian, her traits are quite similar to mine. We have had our ups and downs, periods where either did not know what’s happening with the other, but, somehow, and mostly because of the effort she has put in staying in touch, we are still the ‘bestest’ friends.
Growing up, we have had numerous meals in each others houses- her mom, for me, is one of the best cooks I know and for her, the same holds for my mom. These days, both living the lives of housewives, our phone conversations have evolved from normal school bitching to talks about our housewife roles! Its quite funny to see both of us exchanging recipes on the phone- two people who never entered the kitchen before marriage! How life takes a turn!
B religiously views my blog. She wanted my mother’s rajma recipe. So here I am posting it for her.
Rajma Chawal (red kidney bean curry served with rice) is a dish very dear to north Indians. It was and still is one of my favorites. My bhua (my father’s sister) would make it for me every time we went to visit her. For long, I hardly used to eat rice. The only time I would serve myself some would be when there was rajma as an accompaniment (Yup, that’s how much I like rajma!). It’s also one of V’s favorite dish. In fact, I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t like rajma chawal.
Its a very popular favorite Indian dish. Its comfort food in the true sense. A statement made true from the fact that at Vaishno Devi, the holiest Hindu temple, the staple food served is rajma chawal. After a tiring trek, getting piping hot rajma chawal is just purely heaven, especially when you are in God’s abode!
The trick to good rajma is the grating of the onions. I have tried both- with finely chopped onions and grated onions. The results have been significantly better with the latter. Go figure! I think its the “juice” from the grated onion that helps permeate the dish with flavor. I also think grated onions gives a thicker gravy. These are just my assumptions, and even though grating the onions is definitely more effort, I find the results worth it.
I have also learnt that the Rajma masala freezes really well. When you want to make the rajma, just remove the masala from freezer and put in pan on low flame. Pressure cook the soaked rajma with salt, and once beans are soft add the rajma masala and cook till you get the required consistency.
- 1 cup red kidney beans (rajma), washed and soaked overnight
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 green cardamom
- 3 black cardamom
- 6-8 cloves
- 1-2 cinnamon sticks
- 3.5 cups water
- 2 small or 1 big onion, grated
- 1 tbsp ginger paste
- 1 tbsp garlic paste
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 3 roma tomatoes
- 2 tbsp cilantro leaves
- 3-4 green chillies
- ½ tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp aamchoor powder
- 1 tbsp rajma masala/ garam masala
- 1 tbsp kasoori methi, crushed
- 1 tbsp clarified butter/ghee, optional
- Soak the red kidney beans overnight. Drain the water and wash them. In a pressure cooker, add the red kidney beans, 3.5 cups water, bay leaf, cardamom, black cardamom, cloves and cinnamon stick. Pressure cook with 1 tsp salt till the beans are soft. It usually takes 1-2 whistles for me, but depending on how long you soak the beans and your cooker, it might take more whistles.
- If you hate cleaning the pressure cooker like I do, I have now started making this in the slow cooker. I am yet to try a version where I dump everything in the slow cooker and let it do all the work, but I do the final part of the cooking in the slow cooker. I do boil the beans with the whole spices on the stove first for 15 minutes to avoid red bean poisoning. Once boiled, I put them with the spice and water in the slow cooker and cook on high with the cooked masala added.
- In a blender, puree together the tomatoes, coriander leaves and the green chillies.
- In a wok (kadhai), heat 2 tbsp oil. Add the cumin seeds and let sizzle. Add the grated onions and fry till golden brown, about 8 minutes on medium flame. Add the ginger-garlic paste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and coriander powder. Sauté for a minute or two on medium flame.
- Add the pureed tomato mixture and fry till the oil separates (can take about 15-20 minutes). At this point, you can freeze this masala and use it later.
- Pour the cooked rajma masala in the cooker with the boiled rajma. Mix. Mash some beans with the back of your ladle. Add salt, if necessary. Add the rajma masala/garam masala powder and the amchoor powder, and 1 tbsp ghee (optional). Add the kasoori methi.
- Once the masala is poured in with the boiled rajma, you should let cook on medium flame for about 10-15 minutes for all the flavors to be soaked in by the kidney beans.
- Add the rajma masala to the partially boiled beans in the slow cooker. Cook on high for 6 hours.
- Garnish with coriander/cilantro leaves. Serve hot with rice and curd.