Rajma (Kidney Beans in Gravy)

[My post on “Authentic Indian Chutneys” has been translated and shared in Serbian by Belogrlik Dubravka, on the Croatian blog teslio. Thank you, Belogrlik, for featuring this Indian heirloom recipe for your series Foodgazama.]
Versatile Kidney Beans: A Vegan’s Meat!

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Rajma (kidney beans in gravy)

Are you on a lookout for the perfect protein alternative to meat and milk in your diet? Or are you looking for a perfect legume for adding a zing to your soups, salads and simmered dishes! Use your imagination and explore the endless possibilities you can spoon up with this wonder food!

Buying the right quality
One should always check whether the beans are whole (not cracked). Of course, no insect manifestation should be there. Buy the ones with very recent manufacturing dates, as old beans tend to get harder, tasteless, involve larger cooking time and are nutritionally degraded.

You can readily go for canned kidney beans too! The nutritional value of the canned ones is almost the same as the dry ones. We, in India, prefer dry, red and long kidney beans, because these are available in plenty in that form and come much cheaper than the canned ones.

Soaking and boiling the kidney beans
If using canned ones, rinse these thoroughly in a colander to wash away the sweetened or salted water in which these were canned.

Dry kidney beans should be soaked atleast for five hours (better if soaked overnight) before these are ready for the boiling stage. This shortens the cooking time considerably and makes the digestion easier. To speed up the soaking process, some people prefer adding a little sodium bicarbonate. Alternately, these can be boiled for two minutes and then soaked for two hours.

The soaked water should always be discarded and the beans should be rinsed with clean water before proceeding to boil them.

These are now pressure-cooked (cook them on a high temperature to get rid of the toxins in them) till the beans reach a stage when they are firm, but can be mashed if pressed between two fingers. I use my pressure cooker for this, which needs five whistles in a medium flame. But please note that the cooking time may vary depending on the age of the beans: the older the beans, the longer the time needed to cook!

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The perfectly boiled kidney beans: firm outside, yet soft and creamy inside!

Please avoid adding salt, sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, sauces and tomatoes during the boiling process as this will lead to undesirable hardening of the beans.

Why should you eat them when you are happy with meat and dairy?
Why not? One cup of kidney beans is rich in essential nutrients, such as Iron, molybdenum, folate, tryptophan, potassium, dietary fibre and manganese!

If you are still not convinced, read this:
  • Research has now proved that it lowers the risk for heart attack.
  • Rich in cholesterol-lowering fibre, it helps in easing constipation and prevents irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis, apart from fighting against bad cholesterol.
  • It helps in balancing the blood-sugar levels, thus helping them who suffer from hypoglycaemia and diabetes.
  • Since it is rich in molybdenum, it is good for people who are intolerant to sulphites (these people are generally molybdenum-deficient).
  • Rich in magnesium, it ensures a healthy cardiovascular activity by improving the blood flow, among other benefits.
  • Kidney beans are highly recommended for iron-deficient people and for pregnant and lactating mothers. For this reason, it is very good for growing children too!
  • Improve your memory and prevent the risk of Alzheimer’s disease to a great extent with kidney beans. This is due to Vitamin B1 levels in them.
  • These provide a healthy alternative to meat and dairy foods by providing comparable protein levels to the body, minus high calories and saturated fats!

The magic dish called “rajma”
Kidney beans and rice make a great combination. So while the Monday Creole Dish is famous in Southern Louisiana and New Orleans, it has acquired a different form in India by the name of “Rajma Chawal” (a rich kidney-bean gravy with rice): also a popular street food in Delhi.

The red kidney bean (bigger-seed variety) is called rajma in Hindi. It is a very popular North Indian food: now famous not only all over India, but spreading its reach to the global spoon too! If you are planning an Indian party menu, consider rajma as one of the most sought-after dishes!

[Note: You can also add boiled and cubed potatoes fried with a little salt, before adding the boiled rajma to the gravy. Garam masala powder is readily available in Indian stores, or make it at home by dry-roasting and fine-grinding two one-inch cinnamon sticks, two green cardamoms, one black cardamom, five cloves and five peppercorns. The amounts may be varied according to individual taste.]

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Indian Rajma: a perfect accompaniment to steamed rice!

Rajma

Ingredients:
  • Boiled kidney beans or rajma: 3 cups
  • Bay leaves: 2
  • Cinnamon stick (one inch long): 1
  • Green cardamoms: 2
  • Cloves: 4
  • Cumin seeds: ½ tsp
  • Coriander powder: 1.5 tsp
  • Cumin powder: 1 tsp
  • Onion paste: 1 cup
  • Garlic paste: 1.5 tbsp
  • Ginger paste: 1 tsp
  • Red chilli powder: 1 tsp
  • Yogurt (unsweetened, optional): 2 tbsp
  • Fresh tomato puree: ¾ cup
  • Salt: 2 tsp
  • Sugar: ½ tsp
  • Turmeric powder: ½ tsp
  • Garam masala powder: 1 tsp
  • Lime juice: 2 tbsp
  • Green or red chillies (optional): 3
  • Onion (chopped, for garnishing): 1 tsp
  • Coriander leaves (chopped, for garnishing): 1 tbsp
  • Water: 3 cups
  • Oil: 4 tbsp
  • Butter (optional, but recommended): 1 tsp
Method of preparation:

Heat oil in a deep non-stick pan till it smokes. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cardamom and cloves to the oil on a medium flame. After 1 minute, add cumin seeds and wait till the seeds become light brown. Immediately add the onion paste and cook for 5 min on a medium flame, sauté-ing the mixture continuously. Now add garlic and ginger pastes, along with the coriander and cumin powders, turmeric powder, red chilli powder salt and sugar.

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Continue sauté-ing continuously till the mixture becomes dry and leave the sides of the pan.

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Mixture is now dry and is leaving sides of the pan

Add the tomato puree, mix well and cover, simmering for 5 min.

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After 5 min, open the lid and add the yogurt and the garam masala powder. Mix well.

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Adding the yogurt

Add the cooked rajma (boiled kidney beans) to this. Add water and green or red chillies and stir. Simmer for 25 min and cover with a lid, allowing the flavours of the gravy to infuse slowly into each bean.

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Boiled kidney beans are added at this stage

Now add the lime juice and stir properly. Add the butter, switch off the gas and put the lid once again. After 5 min, open the lid and give the rajma a final stir.
Serve with steamed rice and garnish with chopped onions and coriander leaves.

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