Monday, June 23, 2014

Recipe : Gharwala Rajma - Indian Homestyle Kidney Beans (Vegan)

Rajma in some ways is comfort food for me, which is strange. Mum and grandma hardly ever made Rajma when we were growing up (since our diet was primarily non vegetarian, we did not need the proteins from lentils/dhals, when a tastier meat, egg or fish curry was almost always on the menu) except occasionally in the monsoons, when fish wasn't available and to have a change from meat.

But we kids often turned up our noses at dhals in those days and much preferred the humbler saar / daali thove - a thin lentil dish, to the time and effort intensive rajma or channa. So, obviously mom and nana, hardly cooked with rajma.

When I was in hostel in Jamshedpur however, rajma was on the menu once a week and this was one of the few dishes that was made in the mess that went well with rice, so I hardly missed a meal when rajma-chawal was on the menu. I later had much better tasting Rajma, cooked by mothers of my Punjabi and UP friends when they knew that a South Indian rice-eating girl was headed to their home for a meal. My husband's mom and maami (mothers brothers wife) make some kick-ass rajma too.

This recipe however, is my own. You can stir in some cream in the end if you want to make the whole thing creamier. I prefer stirring in some smoothly beaten yoghurt/dahi to keep it low fat. But it can be served as is, especially if you want to keep it vegan.

You do get "rajma masala" powders in the market, my Mother-in-law feels that the "meat masala" powder works very well with Rajma. In a pinch, I have also used "channa masala" powder. Most Indian mixed-masala powders would work reasonably well with this dish. Ideally the masala powder will have a bit of powdered amchoor (dried mango), jeera (cumin), haldi (turmeric), dhaniya (coriander), cinnamon and chillies. You can use any masala powder that has these spices and maybe a  few more, don't worry about it too much.

How much masala you add will depend on which brand you are using, how strong their masalas are and how spicy you like your food. So keep stirring, smelling and tasting to find your balance.

2 katoris / 150-200 gms rajma / red kidney beans
3 medium onions
5-10 chillies to taste (according to its spiciness and your spice tolerance)
10-12 cloves of garlic
2 inches ginger (1 inch for grinding, 1 inch julienned for tempering)
5 red tomatoes or 200 ml tomato puree
1 tbsp oil
pinch of hing (asafoetida)
pinch of methi (fenugreek seeds)
1 inch cinnamon
1/2 tsp jeera seeds
1-4 tbsp rajma masala (to taste - depends on brand. See above)
2 tbsps chopped fresh coriander to garnish

Optional : 
2 tbsp smooth cream or smoothly beaten yoghurt

Soak the rajma for 8 hours / overnight and pressure cook till done.
Discard the water that rajma is boiled in. This is the only dhal whose cooking water we discard.

Grind the onions,  half the chillies, garlic and half the ginger to a smooth paste.

In a large pan, heat the oil.
Add the hing and methi seeds (this with the jeera, helps reduce the gassiness caused by rajma)
As the seeds start to brown, add the cinnamon and the jeera seeds.
When the jeera seeds splutter, add the julienned ginger and fry till it crisps up.
Now add the ground onion paste and fry on a slow flame, till the onion paste is cooked.

In the meanwhile, grind the tomatoes in the same mixi that the onion paste was ground in.

When the onion paste is cooked, add the tomato puree (fresh or packaged) and the rajma masala and cook for a few minutes.
Slit the remaining green chillies and add to the curry paste.
Rinse the mixi in a little water and add this water to the curry.
Cook on slow flame until there is no raw taste left.
Now add the cooked rajma.

Let it bubble away on a slow flame for 5-10 minutes.

Take it off the fire and add the smoothly beaten cream or yoghurt if using.

Garnish with chopped coriander and serve hot with phulkas or rice.

I love serving this with a side of onion raita and we have shifted almost completely to brown rice at home now.

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