Rajma is what I usually bring to real-life potlucks, so it only makes sense I should bring rajma to a virtual one! Especially a late-autumn potluck.
I must admit, I was skeptical the first time my partner made this for me, three years ago. Maybe because he called it “red beans and rice,” instead of the more exotic sounding “rajma”.
“Red beans and rice, indeed!” I turned up my nose, although it was kind of exciting to see a shirtless man with long, flowing black hair and the body of an Indian god cooking dinner. To this day, I’ve rarely seen anyone doing that much justice to a pair of faded jeans. “I’m a Southern girl,” I continued. “I grew up on red beans and rice! I can cook a mean Creole red beans and rice that would make you swear you were standing in New Orleans as you ate it.”
And then I tasted the rajma and – oh, wow, it really was completely different!
Sometimes rajma is referred to as North Indian chili, but calling it “chili” doesn’t do justice to it either.
It’s classic Punjabi comfort food – I don’t know what the American equivalent would be, maybe macaroni and cheese? Mention it to any Indian and see their face light up.
Oddly, this is one dish you never see in Indian restaurants. Maybe, it’s too common in India? Not fancy enough?
And I’ve rarely seen a good recipe for rajma in a cookbook. Usually, the recipe is either too Americanized (one recipe called for canned beans, chili powder, and hot sauce!) or “restaurantized” (calling for cream).
Seriously, if I had to pick just one Indian dish, this would be it.
- 2 cups Light Red Kidney Beans, sorted and rinsed (You could also use dark red kidney beans or pinto beans, but I prefer the light red ones). PLEASE DO NOT USE CANNED!
- 2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
- 2 Yellow Onions, diced
- 5 Garlic Cloves, pressed
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped Ginger Root
- 5 small Green Chili Peppers, diced
- 1 cup canned Crushed Tomatoes (Not diced, not stewed – crushed. Not tomato sauce, not tomato paste – crushed tomatoes.)
- 1 or 2 Roma Tomatoes, chopped
- 1 TBL Sea Salt
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric
- 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
- 1 teaspoon Ground Coriander
- 1-2 teaspoons Garam Masala (not curry powder)
- Handful fresh Cilantro, chopped
- Sort and wash the kidney beans, then cover with water and let the beans soak overnight. This will dramatically reduce the cooking time.
- In the morning, drain the soaking water and add enough fresh water to cover the beans with a few cups extra. You want the final product to be a little “soupy” since you’ll be serving it over rice.
- If using a pressure cooker, the beans will usually take about an hour to cook. If using a regular pot, plan on the beans taking at least 90 minutes to cook.
- While the beans are cooking, make the masala. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, saute the onions and green chili peppers in vegetable oil, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 5 minutes, until the onions start to turn golden brown. If the onions start to burn, add more oil. Add the crushed tomatoes and stir. Add the turmeric, cumin, coriander, salt, and chopped tomatoes. Stir, then reduce heat and cook for another 10 minutes or so, until the oil starts to separate from the sauce. Set aside.
- The beans are done when they are soft and the water looks a little “brothy”. Add the masala mixture to the beans as well as 2 teaspoons garam masala, and simmer on low heat another 10-20 minutes.
- Taste; you may need to add more salt.
- Serve over basmati rice and top with chopped cilantro, and, if desired, a dollop of plain, unsweetened soy yogurt.
- To save time, the masala mixture can be made the day before and refrigerated.
- Always make a large batch so you’ll have leftovers. It tastes even better after sitting overnight in the refrigerator!
- Indian cooking is not an exact science, so relax and have fun with this!
Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes is bringing the next dish to the table! I can’t wait to try it!
A.B.C. Vegan brought the last dish to the table before mine. Mmmm…I just may have to go back and get some more …