Everyday Indian Food
So the word ‘Raj’ translates as King and ‘Ma’ as Mother. But, Rajma somehow translates to the rather more humble Kidney Bean.
However, there is something of the ‘Mother of all Beans’ in this north Indian signature dish. It’s a staple, but definately one that’s drooled over when it’s served up. It has the X factor.
Rajma reminds me of Kashmir where kidney beans are grown and traded.
When I was lucky enough to find a lull in the troubles of this region about 8 years ago I visited Dal Lake in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian administered Jammu & Kashmir.
What can I tell you of Dal Lake and Srinagar?
It was heaven on earth.
It was rich in colour, culture, music, crafts, art, dried fruit, flowers, saffron, houseboats and just plain gorgeous.
The people were bewitchingly beautiful, with their green-grey eyes, dark hair and fair skin. In another world they would have been signed up by modelling agencies selling mundane objects like toothpaste or shampoo.
Kashmiri’s certainly don’t strut around like they know they are the peacocks of this world. They just get one with their every day lives trying to make a living in a dramatically stunning place with the usual theatre of life; it just so happened to be in a divided – heavily armed – state as the backdrop.
It was deeply sad to see what the troubles there had done to people desperate to have their lives and livelihoods restored with a return to tourism and trade.
The one thing, (apart from Kashmir shawls, walnuts, dates etc.,) that everyone asked me to come back with was hessian sack loads of Kidney Beans for them.
Saffron is easier to carry.
If I had the chance, I would go there again in a heartbeat. In the winter this time – to see the snow capped mountains that enveloped the Lake.
Here’s how I cook Rajma in my Punjabi kitchen in the UK, thinking of Kashmir:
This is very similar to my Channa Massala recipe. So, often I will cook a bulk load of the onion-ginger paste, keep in the fridge and use when I need it.
First a quick completely unrelated aside –
How very exciting!!
You need this:
1 cup dried kidney beans
1 medium onion
1/2 – 1 inch piece of fresh ginger
4-5 tbs oil (veg, olive or ghee – whatever you have)
1 1/4 tsp salt (to taste)
1/4 tsp chilli powder (to taste)
1/4 tsp haldi (turmeric powder)
1 tsp dunia powder (coriander powder)
1 tsp paprika powder
1 fresh tomato – blended
Optional Extras: (often I use the below for special occasions – while the above simple ingredients will do for every day Rajma!)
* Pinch of Hing (asafoetida powder) – this is great for digestion as Kidney Beans can be difficult for some people!
* 1/2 tsp Garam Massala
* 1 tsp Amchoor powder (dried mango powder)
Just like the Chickpeas, Kidney Beans need to be soaked to help them cook.
NB: This is really important for kidney beans, because if they are eaten even a little bit hard, they can give you tummy pain!
1. Sift and wash Kidney Beans: make sure there are none with holes, or that there any stones in the mix. Wash thoroughly.
2. Soak in 5- 6 cups of cold water, overnight if you can. They will swell to double in size. You need to soak them for at least 4-5 hours. If you add them to boiled water you can get soaking time down to 3-4 hours. Soak them in the pan you will be cooking in.
3. Keep the water the beans have been soaked in. The water always needs to be 1 inch above the swollen kidney beans throughout the cooking process. If you need to top up, do so now with hot water, and keep it topped up throughout the cooking process. Cook for around 30 -40 minutes until the kidney beans are tender and soft.
Do this on a medium heat, in a pan with a lid.
4. While the kidney beans are cooking you can get on with the massala.
Blend onion and fresh ginger to a paste in an electric mixer. If you do not have one you can chop very finely, or go all traditional and blend in a pestle and mortar.
5. Heat oil in a pan or wok.
6. Add the onion ginger paste. For this small amount of paste, cook for around 10 minutes on a slow – medium heat, with the lid on the pan.
The steam generated will ‘slow cook’ the onions.
The onions need to turn a golden colour brown.
You know when the paste is cooked when the oil is released or ‘separated’ from the onion mix. (There will be a tiny edge of oil around the paste).
7. Add all of the spices and salt apart from the amchoor, and ½ the quantity of the garam masala. Allow to cook on a medium heat without the lid on the pan for a few minutes. Add a little water if it sticks to the pan.
8. Add the blended tomato and cook for 3-4 minutes.
9. Once the kidney beans have cooked, drain them, keeping the cooking water to one side. Add the tender chickpeas to the massala. Adding a little of the cooking water at a time – depending on how runny or soupy you want the final mix. I usually add all of the water. Rajma is classically eaten with rice which soaks up the juices. Allow the rajma to cook for at least 5 minutes to let the water thicken with the paste.
10. After 5 minutes, add the amchoor powder and home made garam massala (if you have it) and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
11. Garnish with chopped chilli, chopped tomatoes or fresh coriander if you have it.
12. Serve with Steam Cooked Basmati Rice, flavoured with Cumin Seeds. Recipe to follow soon!