Rajma

I have a tight budget to juggle until summer because of an unexpected move in December.

Eating well for cheap always leads me to cook vegetarian. Cooking vegetarian always leads me to Indian food.

I’ve always enjoyed cooking Indian food, but it was impossible not to learn more when I dated an Indian chef.

This recipe isn’t his, but it’s certainly inspired by him.

Rajma is a North-Indian dish. Its distinctly sour flavour comes from aamchur, or dry mango powder. In a pinch, you can use anardaana (dried pomegranate seed) powder, instead.

Aamchur (dry mango) powder, kasuri methi (dried fungreek leaves) and hing (asafoetida powder). Aamchur is sour, kasuri methi is earthy/bitter and hing is bitter. Hing also acts as a digestive (i.e. prevents flatulence).

Like most North-Indian wet curries, it begins with a flavour base of ginger, garlic, onion and cumin seeds (jeera).

The holy trinity + cumin = North Indian flavour base.

Rajma (Red Kidney Beans)

28 oz cooked or canned kidney beans

2 medium yellow cooking onions, sliced fine

1 ½ tbsp minced garlic

1 ½ tbsp minced ginger

2 green chillies, slit

1 inch cinnamon stick, 2 cardamom pods and 3 cloves, toasted and ground

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp-1 tbsp of hot red chilli powder, to taste

2 tbsp kasuri methi, crushed

Pinch of hing

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp or more Aamchur powder, to taste

4 tbsp finely chopped cilantro + more for garnishing

Ginger julienne, for garnish

Ghee

Using 2 tbsps of ghee, caramelize the onions in a heavy-bottomed pot. This pot needs to have a lid for later on.

Remove the caramelized onions from the pot and reserve.

Over medium flame, heat about 3 tbsp of ghee in the bottom of the pot. You need enough ghee to generously coat the bottom of your pot. If there isn’t enough, the cumin seeds won’t temper properly.

Sprinkle the cumin seeds evenly into the ghee and give a quick stir to coat them in fat. Sprinkle hing. Don’t touch the spices again until the cumin seeds start to crackle. Listen for it, then stir to prevent burning.

Add the ginger and garlic immediately. Stir until the raw smell dissipates. Don’t be afraid of browning the garlic. I know it sounds crazy but, in Indian food, the garlic is browned.

Add the onions back to the pot. Stir. Add garam masala. Stir and wait for the aroma of the masala to be unleashed – about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and a bit of water if needed, to prevent sticking. Cover with lid and cook until the tomatoes begin to break down – about 5 minutes.

Puree the mixture to smooth using hand blender or a countertop blender.

Stir in the cinnamon, cardamom and clove mixture, the red chilli powder, the kasuri methi, the beans and the green chilis.

Season to taste. Cover and cook for 45 minutes, to let the flavours marry.

Add splashes of water as needed to prevent sticking. But your ultimate goal is a thick gravy, so don’t add too much water!

Add aamchur powder. Adjust seasoning.

Stir in chopped cilantro.

Remove from heat.

Garnish with cilantro and ginger julienne and serve with rice, naan or roti.

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