It is late January and the weather is shifting from chill to pleasant. Cloudy most days, its just right for hot tasty meals. Time for Nimona or Tehari from my Eastern Uttar Pradesh recipes, both with fresh green peas, or spicy Biriyani, Aloo mutter, Chole or of course, the all time favourite, Rajma. On weekends its nice to make a pot of Rajma Masala Curry and have it with rice maybe for lunch and chapatis at dinner. It is also a perfect dish on festive occasions or when there are guests to cater to, as you can serve a great meal with just rajma and rice or roti with a simple salad of onion and tomato slices with lemon wedges.
My recipe for Rajma Masala Curry recipe is one I have been following for decades, and the taste always comes out exactly the same. There are a few criteria to making a really tasty Rajma:
- Pre soak the Rajma overnight
- Cook the Rajma till soft
- Use the best available and fresh Garam Masala powder
- Be generous in the volume of onion and tomatoes used (in my recipe, equal volumes of rajma, onion and tomato are suggested)
- Stir the Rajma well with heavy ladle while sautéing. The more you ‘bhunav’ the masala and the rajma, the better it tastes.
- Ensure the masala does not catch at the bottom of the pan.
Just as in making the Hummus of the right flavour and texture, every step in making Rajma Masala is significant – the soaking, the cooking, making the gravy and sautéing the Rajma, the garnish. I have tried to share with you all the little things that go to make this curry flavourful, nutritious and easy on the stomach. As the red kidney bean is hard and difficult to digest, soaking and cooking till the beans are really soft and fall apart at the touch, is essential. It is definitely possible to soak the beans for just a few hours in hot water, instead of soaking them overnight, but this fast track method does not give the total softness that you will find after soaking them overnight. It is interesting to note that even when cooked very well, the bean still gives texture to the curry and you don’t land up with a mushy dish.
Strain and Discard the water in which the Beans are soaked:
Straining and discarding the water in which the bean is soaked is an important step. After straining, throughly rinse the soaked beans in fresh water before cooking them. This is a practice I have always followed (without any logical reasoning) though I have had some doubts as to whether nutrition is lost when the water in which the beans are soaked, is discarded. An item I recently came across in Wikipedia gives insights into why this practice is followed, and validates the cooking process laid down in the recipe below:
“Raw kidney beans contain relatively high amounts of phytohemagglutinin, and thus are more toxic than most other bean varieties if not pre-soaked and subsequently heated to the boiling point for at least 10 minutes. The US Food and Drug Administration recommends boiling for 30 minutes to ensure they reach a sufficient temperature long enough to completely destroy the toxin. Cooking at the lower temperature of 80 °C (176 °F), such as in a slow cooker, can increase this danger and raise the toxin concentration up to fivefold.”
Pramod taught me how to make Rajma Masala Curry, and it is a family favourite. Though some of the steps I have followed in this tested and tried recipe may differ from that of popular recipes online, just try making it this way and see how delicious it is.
Note: Plan sufficient time for making the Rajma Masala Curry, as, apart from soaking the beans overnight, you may need to pressure cook it twice if it doesn’t cook well the first time around. I have observed that rajma from different sources that I purchase from, have different cooking times.
The cooking process below is easy, but it needs patience as there are various steps to be followed.
The quantity of garam masala depends on its potency and freshness. Too much of it can spoil the taste. I use a strong garam masala (bought from a speciality store which has maintained the same standards of taste and quality for the last 15 years), so 1 teaspoon is more than sufficient.
Serve with hot rice and a salad. Goes well with roti and phulka too. Or even with a lightly toasted focaccia or bread. Thick rajma without its liquid is a nice filling for a wrap or quesadilla.
Health and Nutrition:
Kidney Beans are rich in protein. They are also high in fibre including insoluble fibres called alpha-galactosides, which can sometimes cause diarrhoea and flatulence. The fermentation of these fibres also results in the formation of short-chain fatty acids are considered to improve colon health and to reduce the risk of colon cancer
The Beans have a high carbohydrate content, predominantly made up of starch, and are often advised for controlling high sugar in diabetics. This starch is a slow-release carbohydrate, hence it takes longer to be digested than most foods and the resultant rise in blood sugar is gradual and does not cause large blood sugar spikes. Kidney beans have a low glycemic index (the measure of how each food affects the rise in blood sugar after it is consumed).
Kidney beans are a good source of various vitamins and minerals including vitamin K1, iron, molybdenum, folate or B9, copper, manganese, potassium, and phosphorus.
Studies have suggested that bean consumption may give lower risk of overweight and obesity.
Raw or inadequately cooked kidney beans are not advisable as they give risk of toxicity. Use fresh spices to get the best flavours from the Rajma Masala Curry.