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Kidney Comfort: Hearty Rajma for a Cold Wet Winter

We’re still grateful that Rajma, that rich kidney bean curry that hails from the Punjab, came up on our food radar some years ago. 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 the cold, wet ones.  

We stumbled upon it because we were after something beyond kidney beans in hearty Southwestern bean chilis and tomato-based soups. We had roughly 25 pounds of red kidney beans in the pantry (stored in 3 pound long-term Mylar bag storage packets). We needed kidney bean ideas. This recipe is a reminder why we store this food in the first place. Bless the humble bean! 

Rajma is easy to make though like other Indian dishes, the list of ingredients can seem daunting.  There is a basic rule for this: Seeds, Pastes, Powders and Leaves, which is the order the ingredients should be added.  It’s the way they’re listed here too. And, like much Indian food, it tastes better the next day so plan ahead!

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

Rajma Garlic Ginger Paste IngredientsRajma SeedsPastes and PeppersRajma Cooking

Kidney Comfort: Hearty Rajma for a Cold Winter

INGREDIENTS:

  • 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)
  • 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)
  • ½ Tsp. Hing, Crushed (Optional-can obtain in Indian markets or Internet)
  • 1 Tsp. Kaljoni or Onion Seed (Optional-can obtain in Indian markets or Internet)
  • 2 Tsp. Turmeric Powder
  • 2 Tsp. Cumin Powder
  • 2 Tsp. Coriander Powder
  • 1 Tsp. Red Pepper Powder (Cayenne or other ok)
  • 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, Veg broth or Kidney Bean Cooking Liquid
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. Salt (or to taste)

HOW TO MAKE IT:

  1. Make the Paste.  Using a food processor, stick blender or even by hand, blend the garlic and ginger to a smooth paste.
  2. 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. If you have a mortar and pestle, you can grind them up a bit at this point for a smoother texture (optional).
  3. Reduce heat to medium and add the garlic-ginger paste and hot pepper.  Cook for about one minute. 
  4. Add the onion and cook until it begins to lightly brown. 
  5. Add the hing if you are using it, stir and add the remaining powdered spices, cooking for about one minute additional.
  6. Add the tomato and stir until mixture is fragrant and comes together. then add the kidney beans, liquid (water, broth or bean liquid) and bay leaves. 
  7. Adjust heat to 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.
  8. Adjust Seasoning.  Add salt to taste and adjust seasonings to taste.  
  9. Simmer 15 minutes more to allow flavors to blend.

Recipe Notes - Pressure Cooker Option

There are many perfect spice blends so don't worry if you don't have all the spices. It's still delicious and nutritious. Make your Rajma your own! We like rajma served over hot basmati rise seasoned with saffron, cardamom, and cinnamon but plain white rice is great too. OPTIONAL:  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 hour).  Follow steps above, increase water by 1-2 cups, 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.
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