Rajma Chawal (Kidney Beans with Rice) recipe

Rajma Chawal is one of my favorite Indian foods of all time.  Growing up in cold Cleveland, Ohio, it was a welcome treat on a cold autumn or winter day. "Rajma" is the name of the bean that in America is called kidney beans, as well as the dish.  It is a simple yet delicious meal after a hard day’s work but a little planning is required.

This one meal dish served steaming hot with rice is so delicious, the flavors of the spices and vegetables we incorporate into the curry get absorbed in the rajma and combined with rice awakes that lost energy in you and piques your senses up until you sigh in contentment. Rajma is a North Indian classic dish and is often served over plain white rice.  It is rich in iron and protein from the kidney beans and carbohydrates from the rice and makes a very wholesome meal and an Indian favorite much like Macaroni and Cheese or a grilled cheese sandwich is considered quintessential comfort food. 

For the dish we made at Morgan Carroll's house, I used Kashmiri Rajma  which are a variety of Rajma that are smaller and deep red in color. They tend to be smaller than the kidney beans you commonly find in grocery stores and I prefer this variety over other varieties as it takes only 15 minutes to cook Kashmiri Rajma whereas other varieties take over 25 minutes to cook. Also, they are tasty and look beautiful when served over steaming rice!



 •2 cups dry kidney beans (rajma).  You can use light rajma, dark rajma, or as we have for this recipe, Kashmiri rajma which tend to be smaller and cook a bit faster.

                Now, a very important facet of making this dish perfect:  it is of critical importance to soak the kidney beans for 6-8 hours before cooking them.  After the kidney beans have soaked for at least 6-8 hours or overnight, was how my mother did it, they will double in volume.  I tend to start with 2 cups of dry kidney beans which will double in volume after soaking.  In the morning, drain and discard the water from the soaked beans and wash the rajma by flushing them through clean water 2-3 times.  Set aside.

•2 cups Basmati Rice

•4 tablespoons oil (We used olive oil to keep the meal vegan, but ghee, which is clarified butter is wonderful to use and adds a rich flavor) (We use 3 tablespoons in the Rajma and 1 tablespoon in the rice)

•3 1/2 teaspoons salt (adjust to taste) (1 teaspoon for the rice and 2 1/2 teaspoons for the Rajma)

•2 red onions chopped

 •3 inches (about the size of two fingers together) fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin slices

•1 green chili (Serrano chili is flavorful) discard seeds if you don't like it too spicy

•5-6 cloves of fresh garlic, chopped into thin slices

•4 chopped Roma tomatoes

 •1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds (jeera) (This is for the rice)

•1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds (jeera) (this goes in the Rajma)

•1 or 2 whole cinnamon sticks, 3-4 whole bay leaves

 •2 tablespoon ground coriander powder (dhania)

 •1/2 teaspoon turmeric (haldi)

 •1/2 teaspoon red chili powder (adjust to taste)

 •1/2 teaspoon black pepper

 •1 teaspoon paprika

 •1 cup fresh chopped cilantro for garnish



1.       Combine the chopped onions, chopped ginger and sliced raw garlic and green chili (slice green chili lengthwise and take out the seeds, if you prefer mild) into a large cooking vessel like a quart pot or non-stick frying pan, something with a thick bottom and a lid. Cook on medium heat and cook for 15-20 minutes until nicely browned and cooked down.

2.       While the onion, ginger, garlic & chili masala (mixture) browns, Cut the tomatoes in small pieces, and once the above masala is almost browned, add the chopped tomatoes and the 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (haldi) and 1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds (jeera).  Cook a little further until nice and saucy and fragrant. Turn heat off.

3.       Let mixture cool and blend into a fine paste.  You can either transfer to a blender, use a hand-held blender or place in a food processer.

4.       In a pressure cooker add the soaked kidney beans and double the amount of water into the pressure cooker.  So if the soaked beans fill about 1/3rd of your pressure cooker, fill the pressure cooker with enough water to at least double the volume, but make sure you don't add water over the "maximum" line in your pressure cooker. 

5.       Before closing and sealing the pressure cooker, add the 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt, a full cinnamon stick or two and 2-3 Bay leaves. 

6.       Give the salt a stir and close the pressure cooker.  Cook on high heat to bring the contents to a boil.

7.       In the same pot or vessel you used to sauté the onions, garlic & ginger mixture, add 1 tablespoon butter or canola oil and 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds. No need to rinse the pot, the residue will add fragrance to the rice. Roast cumin seeds in the butter or oil until slightly browned and fragrant.  Add the 2 cups of basmati rice, 1 teaspoon salt and 4 cups water.  Bring to a boil.  Once it comes to a rolling boil, stir gently and reduce to a slight simmer.  Cover tightly with a lid.

8.       As the pressure cooker starts steaming turn the heat down to medium and cook for about 12 minutes.

9.       Turn the heat off and wait five or ten minutes before opening the pressure cooker.

10.   After 10-12 minutes have passed while the rice simmered, it should be done.  So without opening the lid, stirring it or messing with it too much, just turn the heat off and allow to cook in its own steam until ready to serve.

11.   Once the pressure cooker has released its steam, open it.  Remove the whole cinnamon sticks and whole Bay leaves and discard. Kidney beans should be soft and tender. Using a long wooden spoon, lightly mash a few spoonfuls against the side of the pressure cooker while mixing. This will thicken the gravy a bit.  Give the mixture a taste.  Sense if the salt is appropriate. 

12.   Now add the beautiful onion, garlic, ginger, chili and tomato mixture to the contents of the pressure cooker.

13.   Add a the remaining spices now, the 2 tablespoon ground coriander powder (dhania), 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder (adjust to taste, add more if you like it spicey), 1 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and more salt if more salt is needed.  Simmer the Rajma for another 15-20 minutes until all the flavors are nicely married together.

14.   Place hot steaming rice into each guests plate. 

15.   Garnish Rajma with fresh chopped cilantro before serving.

16.   Pour a healthy ladel full of the Rajma over the hot steaming rice and enjoy!





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