This dish makes it into my top 5 comfort foods of all time. Unlike the kind served in most restaurants, this version of rajma is low on spice, much lighter, as it uses very little oil, and has this mellowing effect that very few other dishes can come close to!
There are few steps that make a whole lot of this difference to this recipe: 1) Retain the water that you soak the rajma in and use it again to boil / cook the rajma. 2) Retain the water that the rajma is cooked in, and add it to the masala for the gravy. [These steps ensure maximum flavor retention!] 3) Boiling / cooking the rajma with a couple of cloves just adds a little more magic to each bean! 4) The Desi Ghee at the end ties it all together! Its probably the element that contributes most to the characteristic comforting taste. (Then again, skip the ghee for a vegan version😄)
- A food processor / blender
- A karahi/ kadai OR a large heavy bottomed pot
- 1 cup Dried Rajma (Kidney beans) [if using canned, pre-cooked beans, I’d suggest using 2.5 times the quantity and adjusting the final cooking time]
- 2 tbs Oil [Any flavorless oil]
- 1 tsp Jeera Seeds (Cumin seeds)
- 1 tsp finely minced Ginger
- 3 tsp finely minced or crushed Garlic
- 2 cups chopped Onions
- 5 medium sized Tomatoes [pureed]
- 2 Green Chilies [slit]
- Salt [to taste]
- 1 tsp Dhanya powder (Coriander powder)
- 0.5 tsp Red Chili powder
- 0.5 tsp Garam Masala powder [skip if you can’t find this]
- 0.5 cup fresh Coriander/Cilantro Leaves [roughly chopped]
- 1 -2 tsp Ghee Clarified Butter)
- 6 – 7 cups Water [4 cups to soak the rajma, + 3/4 cups to cook]
- Wash and soak a cup of dried rajma / kidney beans in water for 6 – 8 hours or overnight. Add enough water so that the level of the liquid is at least 3 inches above the soaking beans.
- Fast forward to 6 – 8 hours later, and the beans should have doubled in size. Transfer the beans and the liquid to a pressure cooker or large pot. Add 2 cloves and a tsp of salt to the rajma; pressure cook or boil until soft. You should be able to squish them between your thumb and index finger with very little pressure!1
- Prepare the remaining ingredients while the rajma cooks2.
- Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot / karahi. Add a tsp of cumin seeds. Once they pop, add the crushed ginger and garlic and sauté until the garlic begins to go crisp around the edges.
- Add the onions to the pot and sauté till shiny and translucent. You do not need to brown them! Add a little salt while sautéing the onions to help them sweat quicker.
- Once the onions are translucent3, add pureed tomatoes, salt and slit green chilies4. Stir fry for about a minute, then put a lid on and allow to simmer on a low flame for 12-15 mins. Check intermittently, and stir to ensure it doesn’t burn. You should cook the tomatoes until you see oil separating from the masala5.
- Make a little well in the middle of the sautéed masala, add 1 tsp of coriander powder and half a tsp of red chili powder. Stir fry on low heat for a minute.
- Drain the rajma, but reserve the water that it was cooked in! Add the rajma to the masala and stir fry for about a minute, now add the cooking water to the pan and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes.
- Add half a tsp of garam masala and stir well. Now comes my favorite trick! Using the back of a wooden spoon (or large metal spoon), smush some of the rajma against the sides of the karahi. This is what gives the gravy it’s comforting consistency. Allow to simmer for an added 5 – 7 mins. You’ll now notice a distinct change in both colour and viscosity!
- For the finishing touch, turn the heat off and add half a cup of roughly chopped coriander/cilantro leaves plus a tsp full of desi ghee!6 Stir well and serve over hot rice.
- To cook rice: Wash and drain rice. Add rice and water in a 1:2 ratio to a pressure cooker OR pot with a lid. Also add one fourth of a tsp of salt. * If using a Pressure cooker – cook for 2 whistles.* If using a Pot – cook on, low heat, with the lid on, until all the water is absorbed and the grains are soft and fluffy.
1 The rajma took about 20 mins (10 whistles) to cook in my pressure cooker, but can take longer or less time depending on the kind of cooker you are using. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, just boil the rajma in a pot with a lid on; make sure to use enough water so that the beans are always submerged. Here’s a little video to give you an idea of how well the rajma needs to be cooked:
2Chop the onions, crush ginger & garlic, puree tomatoes and slit green chilies. Ze ‘mise en place’:
3This is what the onions should look like once cooked:
4De-seed or skip the green chilies if you prefer less heat!
5Here’s what I mean by ‘oil separating from the masala’:
6Please skip the ghee for a vegan version!
Here’s a quick play-by-play of the whole recipe:
Give it a shot on a day when you are in need of a little comfort! and let me know in the comments below if you need any further instructions! 🖖