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Kidney Comfort: Hearty Rajma for a Cold Wet Winter

Rajma is ReadyIt’s only in the last few years that Rajma, a rich kidney bean curry that hails from the Punjab, even came up on our food radar. Rajma is rarely on menus at Indian restaurants here in the States which is a shame, because it’s super delicious.  Loaded with warming and healing spices, it’s comfort food particularly suited to winter, especially this cold, wet, polar vortex one.

We stumbled upon it because we were after something beyond kidney beans in hearty Southwestern bean chilis and tomato-based soups and we have 25 pounds of red kidney beans in the pantry (stored in 3 pound long-term Mylar bag storage packets).  We follow our own rule:  use our storage food regularly.

Rajma is easy to make though like other Indian dishes, the list of ingredients can seem daunting.  Just remember the rule: Seeds, Pastes, Powders and Leaves, which is the order the ingredients should be added.  And, like much Indian food, it tastes better the next day so plan ahead!

Rajma Garlic Ginger Paste IngredientsINGREDIENTS:

4-6 Garlic Cloves

1 Inch Knob Ginger, Peeled

2 Tbsp. Peanut or other Cooking Oil

1 Medium Onion, Chopped

1 Hot Pepper, finely chopped (Jalapeno or other preferred type)

Rajma Seeds½ Tsp. Hing, Crushed (Optional-can obtain in Indian markets or Internet)

2 Tsp. Cumin Seed (We sometimes use a mix of regular and black cumin)

2 Tsp. Mustard Seed (We sometimes use a mix of yellow and black mustard seeds)

1 Tsp. Ajwan Seed (Optional-can obtain in Indian markets or Internet)

1 Tsp. Kaljoni or Onion Seed (Optional-can obtain in Indian markets or Internet)

Pastes and Peppers2 Tsp. Turmeric Powder

2 Tsp. Coriander Powder

2 Tsp. Cumin Powder

1 Tsp. Red Pepper Powder (Cayenne or other)

1 ½  Cups Diced Tomato (Fresh or Canned)

4 Cups Cooked Dark Red Kidney Beans (canned is ok but a bit soft)

4 Cups Water or Kidney Bean Cooking Liquid

2 Bay Leaves

Rajma Cooking1 Tbsp. Salt (or to taste)


Step One: Make the Paste.  Using a food processor, stick blender or even by hand, blend the garlic and ginger to a smooth paste.

Step Two: Cook the spices.  Heat oil in a heavy pot and when hot, add the seeds to release their fragrance.  Act quickly as the seeds have a tendency to pop so you’ll want the lid nearby.  Reduce heat to medium and add the garlic-ginger paste and hot pepper.  Cook for about one minute.  Add the onion and cook until it begins to lightly brown.  Add the hing if you are using it, stir and add the remaining powdered spices, cooking for about one minute additional.

Step Three:  Cooking the Curry.  Add the tomato and stir until mixture is fragrant and comes together.  At this point, add the kidney beans, water or bean liquid and bay leaves.  Heat should be at medium-low so that it comes to a slow simmer.  Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  With the back of a spoon or a potato masher, crush some of the beans which will thicken the curry.

Step Four: Adjust Seasoning.  Add salt to taste and adjust seasonings to taste.  Simmer 15 minutes more to allow flavors to blend.

Step Five: Serve Over Rice.  We like rajma served over hot basmati rise seasoned with saffron, cardamom, and cinnamon but plain white rice is great too.

Indian CondimentsOPTIONAL:  You can also make this in the pressure cooker, starting with pre-soaked or quick soaked beans (bring dry beans to a boil and let stand, covered, for one hours).  Follow steps 1-3 above, increase water by a cup or two, and cook on high pressure 10 minutes.  Be sure to add salt after cooking.  If too runny once cooked, simply cook on high until broth reduces.

Rajma and RiceEnjoy with chutney, pickles and other condiments of your choice.  Namaste.