This is my all time favorite comfort food. Being a Tambrahm family Rajma (red kidney bean curry) wasn’t really a dish we had every other day. My dad would actually make a face and ask “what kind of dish is called Rajammal?”
So I actually only had this dish for the first time when I was 4. And the fact that I remember it says a lot:) We were living in Srinagar back then, yes the Jammu & Kashmir Srinagar which is the farthest back I can remember of my childhood. We were friends with this warm and kind hearted Punjabi family next door and Badi Ma (grandma) would make the best rajma ever. I would live in their home reveling in all the finger licking Punjabi food- kaali dal, kadhi and rajma. So you could say this Tambrahm girl got her loyalties all mixed up – rasam wasn’t so much my comfort food as was rajma. And it still is, to this day. This is one dish I could literally eat every day and not get bored. Well, within reason:).
I call this recipe “The Rajma” as it is the best recipe ever that comes close to the taste of my childhood rajma days. This is a contribution from my sister-in-law, Mathangi, who is an Army wife and who grew up in Jammu, Delhi, lived in Pathankot and who you could say is a Punjabi at heart thanks to all the traveling and living in North India. She is an exceptional cook and this is only one of her many famous recipes. So while you would think this is a cliched dish, her recipe involves some slow cooking which truly brings out all the flavors of the spices and the gravy is absolutely finger-licking. Have it with some hot rice and ghee and you will agree, this is the ultimate comfort food for those lazy Sundays.
Ingredients: (serves 4)
- Rajma (red kidney beans) – 1 cup. I usually get the lighter red smaller kidney beans also known as Jammu Rajma, though you can make it with any variety. I feel the smaller ones cook faster and when you mash a few it blends well with the gravy, but to each his own.
- Garlic – 3 small or 2 large pods, crushed
- Ginger – 1 1/2 inch, grated or crushed
- Red onion – 2 small or medium sized, chopped roughly
- Tomatoes – 3 small or 2 large, chopped roughly
- Cumin seeds (jeera) – 1 tsp
- Whole coriander seeds (dhaniya) – 1 tsp
- Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
- Red chili powder – 1 tsp
- Rajma masala – 1 tsp (available in Indian stores)
- Salt to taste
- Olive oil – 1 tbsp
- Soak the rajma in about 2-3 cups of water overnight. Alternatively soak it in hot water for about 4-6 hours.
- Boil the rajma in a pressure cooker or you can add water in a saucepan and boil over a stove till cooked. You may also use a slow cooker to cook the rajma.
- Make a fine paste of the garlic and jeera with a little water.
- Grind the onion and ginger separately to a fine paste.
- Dry roast the dhaniya or coriander seeds in a flat pan without adding any oil. Now grind the roasted dhaniya with the tomatoes in a blender to a fine paste.
- Keep the 3 pastes separately.
- Take a heavy bottomed vessel and add about 1 tbsp of olive oil.
- When the oil gets hot, add the garlic and cumin seed (jeera) paste. Saute for about 2 minutes till the paste becomes light brown and the raw smell goes away.
- Now add the onion and ginger paste to this mixture. Saute this mixture on a low to medium flame for about 5-10 minutes, until the raw smell of onions goes away. This step is important as the onion needs to be cooked well. The mixture will become golden brown (more than what you see in the pic below).
- Then add the tomato-dhaniya paste. Saute well once again for about 10 more minutes till the mixture blends well together and oil begins to seep out from the sides. This indicates that the onion tomato paste is well cooked.
- Now add salt, turmeric powder, red chili powder to the mixture.
- Saute again for about 5 minutes till the spices get mixed and cooked.
- Drain the boiled rajma and keep the rajma water aside. You will use this later instead of water for the gravy.
- Add drained rajma to the onion-tomato-spice mixture in the vessel and mix very well till the beans get coated with the paste. Saute for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add the rajma water slowly to this mixture until you get the desired consistency for the gravy. Keep in mind that rajma thickens as it cooks so you can be a bit generous with the water, maybe 2-3 cups or as needed.
- Let this mixture come to a boil first and then keep it on a slow flame and let it slow cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. At this stage you may also transfer to a slow cooker and leave it on low for 20-30 minutes.
- Add rajma masala, mix well and cook again for about 5 minutes.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve hot with hot rice or jeera rice and a dollop of freshly made ghee. Yum!
- You can also use this in the Bollywood Burrito recipe:)