Beans and rice or rajma chawal as it is called in the north of India is not as Indian as I have grown up thinking.There are other places in the world where this meal is cooked in different ways. Check out here if you don't already know. Now I wonder it may have come to India through the spice route and welcomed by the curry loving folks.....
The variety of kidney beans and black beans available in our country is a testimony to the grand welcome this kind of beans received here. Welcome would be a wrong word to say in this age as we have grown up knowing it as a truly indian khana. Somewhere deep in my heart it hurts to acknowledge that rajma chawal is not truly Indian by origin, you know what I mean ....
Rajma chawal is such a punjabi favorite that it is the most favored comfort food in this part of the world. A delicious filling meal of rajma chawal once a week is what a true punju needs to go through the rigors of life.....true bliss on a plate. It is such a popular meal that small stalls or rehris (push carts) of rajma chawal can be seen in almost all the north Indian cities to cater to the low budget traveler or even the office goers during lunch break.
Rajma is usually served with plain boiled basmati rice. I cooked small grain govindbhog rice for this meal as it is very very soft and goes well with this mildly flavored smooth kashmiri rajma.
Now about the rajma being kashmiri, this is a variety of kidney beans smaller in size and darker in color, very smooth n creamy and flavorful when cooked, called badarwahi rajma or kashmiri rajma.
It grows in the hills they say, I get it from a small shop owner from katra whenever we visit Vaishno devi. It is available in Delhi too you just need to look out for very small grains of rajma with dark skin color.
There are other varieties of kidney beans too, chitre rajma, pahari rajma of uttarakhand, and many other varieties which differ in taste and texture though all of them are great if prepared accordingly.
This recipe of rajma is kashmiri too , it is mild in taste as the flavors of the rajma beans is so wonderful you'd not want to mask it with overpowering spicing. So it is just the onion-garlic-ginger-tomato gravy and a hint of butter brings the richest flavors of rajma. This is the favorite rajma of Arvind while I sometimes like it a bit spicy n hot made the punjabi way but he always prefers this one whenever asked.
I used to love it at one of my Aunt's place and learnt it quickly as the recipe was very simple and tastes unbelievably creamy mild and full of earthy rajma flavor. Every family has it's own version of rajma and another kashmiri version uses the fennel-dry ginger- kashmiri masala and that version is very different from this one....
This one is absolutely our favorite kashmiri rajma...
( for 4-5 servings )
rajma / kidney beans 250 gm
( i used badarwahi or kashmiri rajma as this recipe is best suited for this variety)
the beans have to be soaked overnight
red onions medium sized 2 nos. or coarse onion paste 1 cup
ginger paste 2 tsp
garlic paste 2 tsp
tomatoes large and fully ripe 2 nos. ( or 200 ml tomato puree )
red chilly powder 2 tsp
( i used regular chilly powder, use kashmiri chilly powder if you want a brighter red color )
cumin seeds 1 tsp
bay leaves 2-3
ghee 1 tbsp
butter 1 tbsp or more
salt to taste
Boil the soaked rajma in pressure cooker for 12-15 minutes under pressure, with enough water to submerge the beans and salt to taste, till the rajma beans look cracked.
Do not use the soaking water for cooking as it causes flatulence (due to phytates that are soluble in water and get washes away when soaking water is discarded), traditional cooks cook along with this pinkish water though. Some cooks don't even soak rajma and cook it directly, I wouldn't ever do that.
Make a coarse paste of onions and tomatoes separately and keep aside, the onion paste should be about a cup full and the tomato paste should fill up 2 cups, juice n all.
Heat ghee in a kadhai or any thick base pan and throw in the cumin seeds, wait till they splutter and get fragrant and then pour in the coarse onion paste ....
Fry with a pinch of salt and throw in the bay leaves after a couple of minutes, bay leaves should not be put directly into the hot ghee as the essential oils get lost at such a high temperature, it releases great flavor in a watery-oily cooking mixture. Add the ginger n garlic pastes too and fry till the ghee separates...
Now add the fresh tomato paste too or tomato puree if using , and fry for another couple of minutes, adding salt to taste.
Wait till the tomatoes are cooked and then pour the boiled rajma into the kadhai ...
Because of such a mild spicing the actual taste of the rajma is enhanced by the butter even though it is used in minimal amounts and the rajma is not at all oily. No ghee floating on top.
This Kashmiri rajma needs a perfect mate. White (rice) is right with this.....the beans are melt in your mouth texture and the puddle of gravy beneath the rice is something to relish without any hindrance of a side dish.
Do you need sides with your rajma chawal? Really?
For me just a few slices of onions and cucumber and I am set.
Other versions of rajma will be featured soon as I like to cook according to varying moods and seasons and different spices are needed at different points of time. That is why we cook the same things differently I think...