Rajma curry is the Sunday lunch ritual in most Punjabi households. Butter Chicken and Rajma (besides the Makki Ki Roti – Sarson da Saag combination) have been the defining dishes of the Punjabi cuisine. However, if eating butter chicken is a sign of being a true-blue Punjabi, then I certainly don’t fit the mould. In fact most Indians love butter chicken while I can’t stand the taste of heavily tomato based sweetish gravy. However, the Makki Roti & Sarson Saag combo is all time favorite, one which I can have practically everyday.
But, Rajma Chawal (Red Kidney Beans w/ Rice) precedes even these two and the classic combination holds a very special place in the hearts of north Indians especially Punjabis. At my mother’s house, rice was served with a handful of dishes – Kadhi, Rajma and sometimes with Kala Chana. Rest everything was served with chapatis (soft and thin flat breads). In fact rice never was a staple in most Punjabi households. Flatbread were preferred over rice and they used to primarily be the accompaniment to most curries and veggies. But with time, rice has made its place on Punjabi tables and is much loved now.
There are many variations to making Rajma. Many people add whole spices such as cinnamon, black cardamom and cloves to it to enhance the taste of the curry. Some add a little bit of crushed kasoori methi (dry fenugreek leaves). I do not like my Rajma spiced except half a teaspoon of garam masala that I add towards the end of cooking. Speaking for myself, I feel that these strong whole spices overpower and conceal the robust natural taste of rajma. And I therefore prefer dishes and methods of cooking where one can actually ‘taste’ the star ingredient of the dish.
200 gm Rajma (Kidney Beans)
3 tbsp cooking Oil
Scant ¼ tsp Asafoetida (highly recommend using this as it helps in digestion)
½ tsp Cumin Seeds
100 gm / 2 medium Red Onions
1 tsp Ginger Garlic Paste
75 gm / 1 medium ripe Tomato
Salt to taste
½ tsp Red Chili Powder
½ tsp Degi Mirch (or Paprika)
½ tsp Turmeric Powder
1½ tsp Coriander Powder
½ tsp Garam Masala
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh Coriander (cilantro)
Wash and soak rajma overnight in plenty of water. (keep the pot covered)
Peel and wash the onions and thinly slice them (they will yield approximately one cup). Set aside.
Pulp the tomatoes in a blender or a grinder. Keep aside.
Heat oil in a pressure cooker or a cooking pot. Add asafoetida and cumin seeds. (If you wish to add whole garam masala, add it at this point)
Once they begin to crackle, add onions. Fry onions on high heat, stirring frequently to prevent them from burning. Fry the onions till they become brownish in color. Add three to four tablespoons of water and stir.
Immediately add the ginger garlic paste and fry it till it becomes aromatic (no raw smell should be there) and turns golden brown.
Again add three tablespoons of water and reduce heat. Add spices and fry for a minute. Now add tomato pulp and increase heat. (in case you wish to add kasoori methi, add at this point). Cook tomatoes till the mixture becomes thicker and releases oil around the edges.
Drain water from rajma and add rajma to the masala. Fry the rajma with masala for two minutes and then add water.
Fix the lid of the pressure cooker in place and allow the cooker to release one whistle. Then immediately reduce the heat to minimum and cook for another 15 – 20 minutes (depending on the quality and size of rajma being used)
If cooking in a pot, bring the curry to a boil and then cover and cook till the rajma is thoroughly cooked, stirring occasionally (you may need to stir more frequently towards the end of the cooking as the rajma begins to thicken) The rajma should take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to cook I believe. Keep checking on amount of water in the curry.
Add fresh coriander and serve with rice, raita and salad. Enjoy!
Serves – 4
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