Rajma is a staple punjabi dish. Easily available in (almost) all roadside dhabas in north India, it is a dish that is also one of the rare, non-fattening dishes in the north Indian cuisine. I’ve grown up eating a lot of rajma chawal(rice), eaten it out of dhabas and hotels and restaurants all over the country. This is my recipe for cooking rajma. As with all recipies, read it thoroughly a couple of times before you start cooking.
Serves – 4
- Rajma (kidney beans) – 400g (I prefer to use punjabi/white rajma and not kashmiri/red rajma as the red ones are really REALLY difficult to soften up)
- Red onions: 2 – 3 medium sized
- Tomatoes: 3 – 4 medium sized
- Green chillies: 1 – 2
- Ginger: Fresh grated or paste (1 tsp heaped)
- Garlic: Fresh grated or paste (1 tsp heaped)
- Coriander leaves to garnish
- Bay leaves: 1 – 2
- Cinnamon sticks: 4 – 5 medium sized
- Cloves: 5 – 6 whole
- Cardamom pods: 5 – 6 whole
- Black peppercorns: 10 – 12
- Cumin seeds: 2 tsp
- Turmeric powder: 2 tsp
- Red chilli powder: 1 tsp
- Coriander(dhania) powder: 2 tsp
- Garam masala: 1 tsp (good to have)
- Salt – to taste
Rajma needs to be soaked overnight before they can be cooked. Soak them in water, fully immersed for at least 12 hours before you plan to cook.
Chop up onions, green chillies and tomatoes really fine. You can do this in a blender if you like.
- Rajma needs to be soft and mushy before it can be cooked. The best way to do this is to put the soaked Rajma in a pressure cooker with any remaining water from the soak. Add more water to cover the rajma well. Add 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 cloves, 5 peppercorns, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp of turmeric and 1/2 tsp red chilli powder, then close the cooker. White rajma usually needs 3-4 whistles to be done, but once you open the cooker, check it. Perfectly done beans at this stage will hold their shape(maybe a bit puffed up) but be soft when you mush one between your thumb & index finger. If you are not able to mush it at all, add more water and give it another couple of whistles.
- After the rajma is ready, to a deep vessel on medium heat, add 3 tbsp of cooking(vegetable/sunflower) oil. When the oil is hot, add bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom pods and peppercorns.
- As soon as you start smelling spice in the air, add cumin seeds.
- Once the cumin has broken, add ginger and garlic paste to it. Stir for a minute or two, then add the green chillies and onions. Do not burn the cumin seeds.
- When the onion has browned, add the tomatoes. Stir for a minute, then add turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder and salt. Keep stirring till the mix has lost most of its water and is looking like a paste.
- Add the rajma from your pressure cooker to this paste now, and add enough water to cover up the rajma.
- Now cover the pan and leave on low-medium heat for 10 minutes. Keep stirring every couple of minutes. The gravy should start to thicken.
- Taste the gravy. Add more salt if you need to. At this stage, take a couple of beans from the gravy and taste them. When you can taste the spices in the center of the beans, the rajma is cooked. Boiled rajma on its own has a very bland flavour, you should not get any of that when you eat the cooked one. If you are not familiar with this taste, you should taste a bean or two after it comes out of the pressure cooker.
- Once the beans are ready, add the garam masala. Stir well and cook for another 2-3 minutes. (optional)
- Garnish with coriander leaves.
Serve hot with steamed rice. However, if you add extra effort to add cumin & onion to your rice before boiling it, it will taste heavenly with Rajma.
- If you absolutely must use kashmiri/red rajma, make sure to soak it for at least 24 hours. Add 2 extra whistles to the pressure cooker stage and boil it for longer. Red rajma will NOT soften in the gravy, it should be sufficiently soft when adding to the gravy otherwise it will end up tasting like stones covered in gravy.
- If you do not have a pressure cooker, then you need to boil the rajma. Follow the same process as you would when making rice by boiling. Just make sure that you have enough water as rajma needs a lot of water in this process. Don’t forget to add all those spices to the boil though.
- Don’t overdo the chillies. The star of a good rajma is always the bay leaf, cinnamon & cardamom mix, not the heat.
- If you think its too much hassle getting all the spices right, don’t fret. You can get ready made rajma masala from MDH, Everest etc. at Indian grocery stores pretty easily. I’d still recommend adding those whole spices to the boiling rajma as it infuses the flavour deep in the rajma beans.
There you have it. Enjoy this recipe and let me know how it came out for you.