Punjabi Rajma Masala (Red Kidney Beans Curry)

Punjabi Rajma Masala recipe

For the third time in the past five minutes, I raised my head from the book and sniffed the air. Sigh, nothing yet. I was 12 years old, and it was so hard to concentrate on my weekend homework ever since mom announced half an hour ago that she's making Rajma Masala for lunch. The weekend became better, the sun shinier, and the words on my book blurry as soon as I heard the announcement. Another expectant sniff, and this time a spicy mouth-watering aroma wafted into my nostrils and tango-ed with my taste buds. I rushed into the kitchen, and my mom smilingly pointed to the cup full of the delicious Rajma Masala on the counter she had set aside for me. This is one dish I can never get enough of, I thought as I gobbled it up as fast as its piping heat would allow. To this day, I haven't :)

Rajma-chawal (Red Kidney beans Curry with rice) has long been considered as a staple dish in Punjab (a northern state in India), and has gained popularity in most parts of India. It consists of red kidney beans in a thick gravy flavored with Indian spices and usually served with rice. Rajma has high folate, protein and mineral content that gives various health benefits including keeping your heart healthy. Also, since it is high in proteins, it makes a good meat substitute for vegans. Variations of this dish are popular in other parts of the globe like Mexico and South America. Being a Punjabi (native of Punjab) myself, Rajma-chawal was a weekly lunch ritual in our household. Mom served it with steamed Basmati rice, a long-grained fragrant rice that enhanced the flavors of Rajma Masala and made it an irresistible combination.


Serves : 3

    1 cup Red Kidney beans
    2 medium-sized Onion; grated
    3 medium-sized Tomatoes; pureed
    1/2 tbsp Ginger paste
    1/2 tbsp Garlic paste
    1-2 Green chillies (such as Serrano) or to taste; thinly sliced
    2 Bay leaves
    2 Black Cardamom
    1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
    2 tbsp Coriander powder
    1/2 tsp Roasted Cumin Powder
    1/2 tsp Garam masala powder
    1/2 tsp Red chilli powder, or to taste
    1 tbsp Dried Fenugreek leaves (Kasoori Methi ); lightly roasted in a pan & ground to a fine powder
    Salt to taste
    2 tbsp Fresh Cilantro leaves; finely chopped
    1 1/2 tbsp Oil

      How to make Rajma Masala

        1. Wash & soak the kidney beans in 5 cups of water overnight (or for at least 6 hours). Rinse & drain in cold water.
        2. In a pressure cooker, add the kidney beans, 5 cups of water & salt. Pressure cook the kidney beans until they are soft and tender, typically takes 5-6 whistles. Keep aside.
        3. Heat oil in a deep pan on medium heat. Add bay leaves & cardamom. Stir.
        4. Add onions & sauté till golden brown in color.
        5. Add ginger & garlic paste. Sauté for another 2 minutes.
        6. Add the tomato puree. Mix & cook till the oil starts to separate.
        7. Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder & green chillies. Mix & cook for 2 minutes.
        8. Open the Pressure Cooker once the pressure/steam has subsided completely.
        9. Add the kidney beans along with the cooking liquor to the mixture prepared in the pan. Mix well. Lightly mash few of the kidney beans with the back of your spoon/spatula.
        10. Add garam masala & dried fenugreek leaves. Mix & cook on low heat for 15 minutes, stirring at intervals.
        11. Adjust seasoning to your taste.
        12. Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with cilantro leaves & serve hot with steamed rice. 

          1. Pressure cooking time may vary, so it may take more or less than five whistles to cook the kidney beans.
          2. Add more water if the gravy's consistency is too thick for your taste. Conversely, if you want a thicker gravy then simmer the Rajma for a longer time till you get the desired consistency.

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