Citizens, Rājmā (Hindi: राजमा) masala is a popular Indian vegetarian dish consisting of red kidney beans in a thick gravy made from tomatoes, onions and garlic with many Indian whole spices and usually served with rice and roti.
Although the kidney bean is not of Indian origin, it is a part of the regular diet of people living throughout Northern India. The dish developed after the red kidney bean was brought to India from Mexico.
Being a popular dish, it is prepared on important occasions. This version of rajma is popular in the northern Indian state of Punjab. The combination of Rajma and rice generally lists as a top favorite of North Indians.
It is very important to remember that when making rajma, the kidney beans have to be cooked very well. They should melt in your mouth when you bite into them, offering no resistance. This is very crucial and the most overlooked aspect of cooking rajma!
Try and buy “new” beans – the older they are, the tougher they are. Check the packaging date when buying them and don’t buy rajma if they are older than 6 months.
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1 cup dried rajma or kidney beans (red variety) – canned kidney beans can also be used. In this case, just make the curry or sauce first and then add the rajma beans and water from the can.
¾ to 1 cup finely chopped onions
1 cup finely chopped tomatoes
4 medium garlic cloves + 1 inch ginger + 2 green jalapeños – crushed to a paste in a mortar and pestle or food processor. You need about 1 tbsp ginger-garlic-green chili paste.
1 tsp freshly-ground coriander powder or dhania powder
¼ to ½ tsp mild Kashmiri red chili powder or use hot paprika
¼ tsp turmeric powder or haldi powder
1 small Bay Leaf
½ inch long piece of Cinnamon
3 Green Cardamom, peeled and seeds crushed to a powder
a pinch of asafœtida
¼ tsp to ½ tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp Amchur/Dried Mango Powder (optional but recommended)
½ tsp whole cumin seeds or jeera
1 tsp kasuri methi or dry fenugreek leaves, crushed
2 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp oil or 3 tbsp butter
2 to 3 tbsp cream
3 ½ to 4 cups water for pressure cooking
1 ½ to 2 cups of rajma stock (the water which is used to cook the rajma) or vegetable stock (TFD prefers this) for the gravy or curry
salt as required
Minced cilantro leaves for garnish
First, rinse and soak the rajma or kidney beans in enough water overnight or for 8-9 hours.
The next day, discard the water and rinse the beans again in fresh water.
In a pressure cooker, add both the rajma and 4 cups of water. Pressure cook on a medium to high flame for 15-20 minutes.
While the rajma is cooking, you can chop the onions, tomatoes etc. When the pressure settles down on its own, open the lid, check if the rajma is cooked or not by taking a bite or pressing a bean.
If they are not cooked completely, then pressure cook again, adding some water if required for several more minutes.
Heat oil + butter in another pot or pan. Add the cumin first and let them crackle & get browned.
Then add the onions and sauté them until they have caramelized and turned golden brown. Take care not to burn them, as this will impart bitter flavor tones to the curry.
Keep on stirring the onions while sautéing them, for uniform cooking and also so that they don’t get burnt.
Now add the ginger-garlic-chili paste. Stir and saute for 5-10 seconds on a low flame. Then add the tomatoes. sauté for 2-3 minutes until the tomatoes become soft.
Now add all the spice powders and whole spices – stir and sauté for 3 minutes.
Use a slotted spoon or a strainer and remove the beans – add them to the masala. Keep the stock (soaking water) aside as well.
Stir and sauté for a minute.
Take 1 ½ to 2 cups from the stock and add to the rajma, then add salt to taste and stir the whole curry mixture.
Simmer without a lid for 10-12 minutes or more until the curry thickens slightly – it should not be watery.
If needed, mash a few rajma beans with the spoon as this helps to thicken the curry.
When the rajma masala has thickened and come to the right consistency (which is neither too thick nor thin), add the kasuri methi and cream.
Stir & simmer rajma masala for 30 seconds to 1 minute then switch off the heat.
Serve rajma masala with steamed basmati rice, jeera rice or naan. Garnish with minced cilantro leaves.
Important note – if cooking rajma in a pot or pan instead of a pressure cooker: first soak the rajma as usual for 8-9 hours. Drain and rinse them with fresh water. Then in a huge pot, boil water sufficient to cover the beans. Add the rajma and salt. cook covered for about 45 to 1 hour or more if required. Remember that it takes a long time to cook rajma without a pressure cooker!