Raajma

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Raajma is the queen of daals, being a hearty and thick stew whose long beans (the kidney beans) are the perfect texture for scooping up with naan or roti.

Raajma is not only a festival/celebration dish, it's also a particularly North Indian dish. In my opinion, the best Raajma comes from the Punjabis. As I'm sure you're well aware, festival dishes tend to have a slightly heightened fat content. It's what makes them taste good. Add to that the fact that North Indian dishes tend to be high in fat to taste right. Add THAT to the fact that Punjabi dishes in particular tend to be even higher in fat than the rest of the North. In other words, if the recipe calls for anywhere between 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon of oil per cup of dry kidney beans, you're not even CLOSE. The trick with good Raajma is to not skimp on the fat. It needs it to taste right.

Another thing to note is to always use fresh ginger, and fresh garlic. The ginger garlic paste is an abortion, and changes the taste. It's one of those things you cannot substitute something else with.


Ingredients[edit]

  • 2 cups dry kidney beans
  • 1/3 cup oil, vegetable (NOT olive)
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seed
  • 2 tsp coriander seed, crushed
  • 5 - 7 cardamom pods (the green ones), lightly crushed, with the husks removed
  • 6 cloves
  • 5 whole dried or fresh red chiles, broken in half (stems removed)
  • 3 medium Spanish or white onions, sliced into half-moons
  • 5 - 6 scrapes of nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (reserved)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 3 cm of ginger, peeled and cut into julienne
  • 5 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • 500 g (1 lb) fresh tomatoes (or tinned tomato that does NOT have calcium chloride; you need the tomato to break down), with skin and seeds, chopped roughly
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped finely

Method[edit]

  • Sort through the kidney beans to remove any stones or other foreign material that is bound to show up. Wash the beans well under cold running water. Soak in cold water (covered with a towel or something similar to prevent any stuff from landing on the surface) overnight, or at least 6 hours. Drain the soaking liquid, and rinse the beans off again. In a pot, add the beans, and cold water enough to come up about 4 cm above the surface of the beans. Turn on the heat to high, and let the water come to a full, rushing boil. Allow the beans to boil fiercely for at least 10 minutes.
  • Drop down the heat to medium low, and let the beans simmer until tender. This should take roughly an hour, which is perfect, because now you have time to make the spice blend that will flavour them. Before doing so, however, set a pot of plain water to boil on another burner. This way, if the liquid in the bean pot gets too low, you can replenish it with boiling water without any problems. You should only use boiling hot water to replenish the diminishing water in your bean pot, so as not to slow down the cooking time.
  • If you own a slow cooker or a pressure cooker, feel free to use those. Do not feel at liberty to substitute tinned kidney beans for raajma. It'll taste awful.
  • Have all your spices lined up in a row in an easily accessible place. In a large stock pot, heat the 1/3 cup of oil over high heat. Add the fennel seeds. Wait for about 30 seconds, and allow them to crackle and pop. Add the cumin, coriander, cardamom, and cloves in rapid succession. The cumin seeds will pop as well. Your house will begin to smell amazing. Add the chiles, and swirl the pot around a bit.
  • Add the onion, nutmeg, cinnamon, and turmeric. Stir well to combine. When the onions get softened through, add the ginger and garlic. Cook until the raw smell of garlic is gone. Add the tomatoes. Allow the tomatoes to cook on high heat for a minute or two. Drop down the heat to medium. Let the tomatoes simmer until they're completely broken down, and become a thick sort of gravy. Turn off the heat, and wait for the beans to finish cooking. Add the beans, and as much cooking liquid as you fancy (depending on how thick you like your daal), and stir to combine. Let the beans and spices boil together until the whole thing looks cohesive (about 10 minutes).
  • Add salt to taste, and garnish with chopped coriander.

Serving[edit]

  • Serve with roti, naan, or piping hot rice.