Recipe credit: Darshana Muzumdar
Serves 4 as part of an Indian meal.
There are two types of rajma: the maroon kind that takes longer to cook and the other lighter colored striped one called Chitra rajma that cooks more easily and is the one used in Punjabi homes. Rajma is a specialty in the north especially among Punjabis and is usually cooked on a Sunday in large quantities and is eaten with rice. The leftover rajma is eaten the next day. Most people say they enjoy the leftover one more because the flavors have really penetrated the beans till then. Many add a handful of whole urad (black gram) to the dish to give it body. And many add a handful of rajma when they cook whole urad as a gravy dish. Very few people add kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) but it is not uncommon either. Try it a couple of times to see if you like the added flavor. A kachumber made with finely chopped tomatoes, onion, coriander leaves, and green chillies goes well with Rajma-Chawal.
Most beans double in size when soaked. 1 cup rajma (around 200 gms in weight) should become at least 2 cups after soaking for 8-9 hours.
- 1 cup rajma (kidney beans) – the chitra variety
- 1-2 tbsp whole urad (optional)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2″ piece of cinnamon
- 2 black cardamoms
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 large onion (150 grams onions or about ¾ to 1 cup finely chopped onions)
- 3 medium or 2 large tomatoes (250 grams tomatoes or 1 cup finely chopped tomatoes)
- 3 to 4 medium garlic cloves
- 1 inch piece of ginger
- 1 to 2 green chilies (adjust to taste)
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder (dhania powder)
- ½ teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (haldi powder)
- 1 pinch asafoetida (hing – optional)
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon garam masala powder
- ¼ cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
- 1 teaspoon crushed kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves) optional
- 3 tbsp coconut or groundnut oil, preferably cold pressed
- salt to taste
Use rock salt instead of refined salt.
Clean, wash and soak the rajma, and urad if using, in enough water (about 3 to 4 cups) overnight or for 8-9 hours. Discard the water and rinse the beans again in fresh water. Put the rajma (and urad) in a pressure cooker and add the bay leaf, 2 cardamoms, cinnamon stick, half a teaspoon of salt, and 4 cups of water and pressure cook on a low flame for 15 to 20 minutes after the first whistle or for 5 whistles on medium heat. Cool the pressure cooker and check if the rajma is cooked well. It should be soft and mash easily between two fingers. If the rajma is not cooked well, then pressure cook again for a few more minutes adding some water if required. Alternatively, put the rajma in a pot, add the dry spices as above, and salt and bring to a boil on high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook covered for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. The liquid tends to spill over so use a larger than required pot. Its very important to soak the rajma beans overnight so they cook. Always use fresh rajma as old rajma takes a long time to cook.
While the rajma is cooking, chop the onion and tomatoes separately and keep them aside. Grind the ginger, garlic and green chilly to a paste with a mortar and pestle to get about 1 tablespoon of ginger, garlic, green chili paste. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a thick bottom steel pot. Add cumin seeds and let them crackle. Add the chopped onion and sauté till translucent and lightly brown. Add the ginger-garlic-chili paste and sauté for 5-10 seconds on low heat. Add the tomatoes, give it a mix and cook covered till the tomatoes become soft and mushy. Mix well and sauté till the fat starts leaving the masala. Cool slightly and blend this masala to a paste. Heat the rest of the oil, and add red chili powder, coriander powder, and saute for a few seconds. Add the turmeric powder and asafoetida (hing), give it a stir and add the masala and cooked rajma beans keeping some cooking liquid aside if it is too thin. Simmer without a lid for 10-12 minutes or more till all the flavors of the masala are absorbed by the beans. Mash a few rajma beans with a spoon to thicken the curry if necessary. When the rajma masala has thickened and has the right consistency which is neither too thick nor thin, add the coriander leaves leaving a few for garnishing, and the kasuri methi crushing it between two palms. Mix well and simmer for 30 seconds to 1 minute more. Garnish with the remaining coriander leaves and serve hot with steamed basmati rice or jeera rice.
For the Whole-Food Plant-Based (WFPB) version:
Do not use oil. For the whole plant version do not use oil. Add a little salt to the chopped onions and keep them aside in a thick bottom steel pot for 15 minutes for them to release moisture. Turn on the heat and sauté it. Add a couple of tablespoons of water or more, if necessary, till the onion is cooked and soft and then continue to sauté it till it is translucent and a light golden brown. Add the chopped tomatoes and continue cooking till they are soft and mushy. Alternatively, put the chopped onions and tomatoes in a pressure cooker, add half a cup of water and pressure cook for one whistle. Once the pressure cooker is cooled, open it and blend the mixture to a paste.
Heat an iron tempering ladle and add the cumin. Mix it gently and allow it to crackle. Transfer it immediately to the onion tomato paste. Repeat with the coriander powder, red chilli powder, hing and turmeric individually in the ladle taking care not to burn them. And add each to the onion tomato paste as they get done. Do not peel the ginger before grinding it into a paste along with the garlic and chilly. Sauté the ginger garlic chilly paste in the hot ladle on low heat till it gets a cooked aroma taking care not to burn it. Add a teaspoon of water if required if it starts sticking to the ladle. Add this to the onion tomato paste.
Continue with the rest of the recipe as above. Eat this delicious oil-free rajma with steamed brown rice or jowar bhakri (sorghum flat bread)