The beauty of Indian cuisine lies in the diverse culture and the regional variations in climate, terrain, palate and cooking techniques. It's the difference in permutation and combinations of spices and ingredients which gives us so many avatars of the same dish. Rajma (Kidney beans) is one such core ingredient which is cooked in every Indian household across the world with varying flavours and consistency. It's not hard to find a plate of Rajma chawal (rice) in any canteen, cafeteria or public dining mess in cities. From the alleys of Jammu, where Rajma and rice is available in abundance for locals and tourists to gobble up, to the Highways in Punjab, Rajma finds its place on the best sellers.
Despite all the recipe variants, the creamy and smooth texture remains the characteristic which makes or breaks the dish. Rajma from Jammu is the most sought after due the same reason. These beans are boiled after soaking overnight; later cooked in an onion-tomato based spicy gravy which is paired with rice and topped with papad, sliced onions, anardana chutney and pickled chillies. This spicy version gained popularity in no time as the ingredients were easily available but there is one recipe which was kept guarded and intact over years by the Kashmiri Pandits.
Kashmiri pandits traditionally don’t use onions and garlic, and tomatoes are rare. “People are baffled when they hear this, they ask us how we make your gravies. Our curries are curd-based and flavoured with fennel seed powder,” says Nalini Moti Sadhu, the Chef/Curator at Matamaal Restaurants. Vegetables are cooked with whole spices, or tamarind paste or turmeric “where the herb or spice or flavouring agent is the hero. So there is turmeric paneer, or turmeric mutton and even turmeric radish…turmeric rules this dish,” says Mrs. Sadhu. Cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and whole pepper are used. Hing (asafoetida) has a special place and sourcing the best Hing is a family occupation. Mrs. Sadhu shares the recipe from her kitchen where she cooks Rajma as it has been done for years in Kashmiri Pandit community. She cooks the dish in the most subtle and balanced way possible.
- Rajma - 250 gms
- Turmeric Powder - 1/2 teaspoon
- Black Cardamom/ Badi Elaichi - 1 crushed
- Ginger Powder - 1 teaspoon levelled
- Fennel Powder - 1 teaspoon heaped
- Red Chilli Powder - 1 tablespoon
- Mustard Oil - 1 tablespoon
- Salt - To taste
- Heeng - Pinch
- Vaer Masala - 1 teaspoon (if available)
- Bay leaf (Tej Patta) - 2 small
- Cinnamon Stick – 1 (approx 2-3 inches)
- Clove - 4
- Coriander powder (Dhaniya Powder) - 1 tablespoon
- Water - 3 levels above Rajma
- Wash and soak the Rajma for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.
- Drain the water and add the Rajma in a pressure cooker along with 3 cups of water, 2 tsp of salt (preferably according to the taste), fennel powder, ginger powder, turmeric powder, cloves, cinnamon, black cardamom, tej patta and heeng.
- Pressure cook until the rajma is soft - 10 to 15 minus approx.
- Remove the cooker from the heat and keep it aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of mustard oil in a pan, add cumin seeds and let them crackle, add red chilli powder (be careful not to burn the spice - can add a few drops of water). Cook till oil separates
- Add cooked Rajma along with the water, to the tadka. Mash few pieces of rajma while it is simmering.
- Add coriander powder and Vaer tikki masala (if available) and let it simmer till you get a creamy consistency.
- Alternatively, you can add Anardana powder / Amchoor powder or lemon juice. This helps in bringing the flavours together.
- Before serving add a dollop of ghee or butter.
Information and recipe by Mrs. Nalini Moti Sadhu, Chef/Curator at Matamaal restaurant; Scripted by Priyanka Bhardwaj.