Rajma – the Punjabi Staple

Rajma is the hindi word for red kidney beans. These are very popular in north India. In most Punjabi families, Rajma-Chawal(beans with rice) is a standard Sunday lunch menu.They taste great both with rice and roti. Beans are also very high in protein. In this Punjabi recipe, the kidney beans are soaked and boiled and then mixed with an onion-tomato gravy seasoned with Indian spices.
These can either be finely chopped or blended into a paste before adding to the gravy. Also, some people add the onion-tomatoes when boiling rajma while others do it in two steps: boiling rajma first and then adding the onion-tomato masala.

There are also different varieties of rajma having different colours: light coloured called ‘chitra’ are used in Delhi and Punjab while the reddish variety is popular in Jammu and Kashmir, hence called Rajma Jammu. There is a third blackish, smaller variety that is used in mexican cuisine.

For my recipe, I am using the Jammu variety that is available in Sydney but I suggest using the chitra variety if available.

  • Serves: 3
  • Preparation Time: 15 min
  • Cooking time: 45 min

What you will need

  • 1 cup raw rajma
  • 1 medium onion, blended into a paste
  • 2 medium tomatoes, blended into a paste
  • ginger garlic paste
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • Dry spice powders: turmeric, red chilli, coriander, garam masala(optional)
  • Fresh coriander leaves for garnishing (optional)

Boiling Rajma:

  1. Rajma should be soaked overnight before boiling. If you do not have enough time to soak them overnight, soak them in warm water for 2-3 hours minimum before boiling. Warm water will help to expedite softening of the beans.
  2. I prefer to soak them in the pressure cooker itself so that in the morning I just add salt and put them to boil. 7-8 times water should be added to rajma for soaking.
  3. Once soaked, add 1 tsp salt and put to boil in a pressure cooker.
  4. After the 1st whistle, lower the heat and let them simmer for 15-20 minutes. Switch off the heat.
  5. Once the pressure is released from the cooker, check if the beans are soft enough to bite.They should well cooked but not mushy. There should be enough liquid left after boiling.

Preparing the masala for gravy

  1. Heat 2-3 tbsp oil in a pan. When hot, add 1tsp cumin seeds.
  2. Saute them till they are brown. Add 1 tsp ginger garlic paste.Lower the heat
  3. When the raw smell of ginger garlic goes away, add the onion paste.
  4. Cook until starts leaving oil on the sides. This is an indication of the masala being cooked. Add 1/4 tsp turmeric powder.
  5. Then add the blended tomatoes.
  6. When the tomatoes are half cooked, add 1/4 tsp chilli powder(add more depending on the heat in your powder) and 1 heaped tsp coriander powder.Add  1/4 tsp salt.
  7. Cook until the tomatoes also leave oil on the sides. You can add 1/4tsp garam masala but is optional.
  8. Add the masala to the boiled rajma. If the consistency is too thick, add more water. Some water will reduce when we boil it again.
  9. Taste the salt, add more if required.  Finally close the pressure cooker and boil until the 1st whistle. Lower the heat.
  10. Simmer for 10 minutes on low heat.
  11. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

Serve with rice and pickled onion.


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