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Food Crush: North Indian Rajma
by Natasha Sisodiya
Ever since I went gluten free after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, the majority of my diet consists of vegetables, meat, beans and lentils. I prefer to consume meat only two to three times per week, so rajma is one of my go-to dishes for vegetarian meals. If you love one-pot recipes, this one will be a keeper.
Rajma is a North Indian vegetarian dish of kidney beans simmered in a spiced tomato-onion broth. This is one of my favorite Indian comfort foods; as a bonus, it’s simple to prepare and the kids love it also. My version tends to be more soupy and not as spice-heavy as the traditional recipe. I guess you could call this the “Indian” vegetarian version of chili. For my friends that need meat in their meal: just add some ground meat to the dish and you’ve got a meaty meal.
I absolutely love cooking with aromatic spices. Growing up in an Indian household, we literally ate Indian food every day for dinner. Most Indian dishes involve tempering the spices in ghee, oil or butter until they become fragrant and crackly. The resulting smell is just divine and evokes many fond memories for me. All of the spices in this recipe, with the exception of the amchur (mango) powder, should be available at your local grocery store. If you are unable to find some of the ingredients and you have an Indian grocery store in your area, head on over there. The amchur powder is not necessary for this recipe — if you can’t find it, it’s all good.
For this recipe, I’m using organic canned kidney beans since I’m usually short on time, thanks to my lovely little angels and that so-called thing called life. If you’ve got the spare time, I recommend using dried beans but make sure you soak them properly to eliminate toxins. I add the liquid from the canned kidney bean cans in this recipe since I feel that it adds a certain kind of richness to the dish, but feel free to rinse and drain.
I prefer to use fresh tomatoes but you can use the boxed or canned, and if you don’t like tomato chunks in your food, just puree them before adding. If I don’t have fresh garlic on hand, I just use the jar version. Do what works for you!
When heating the spices, ensure that you cook them until they become fragrant, it makes a big difference in flavor. Do the same with the onions — they should be translucent and slightly browned before you move forward. I tend to use medium to medium high heat for my cooking since my stove is a bit crazy on high heat. All stoves are different, so you may need to adjust the heat accordingly.
Once the spices have simmered in the tomato-onion broth, I taste and adjust the spices as needed. This is the time to experiment and tailor the dish to your tastes. Please note that my recipe calls for dried red chili, chili powder and green chili. This maybe a bit spicy for some and not so spicy for others so adjust the heat to your liking. Also, if you find that the gravy is too thick for you, add more water and adjust the spices accordingly.
Usually, I serve this dish with basmati rice or naan (Indian flat bread) for the family. If I’m feeling creative, I pair it with polenta cakes or corn muffins. I also just eat it on its own. Hope you enjoy!
Rajma (spiced kidney bean soup)
Gluten free | Vegan option with no chicken broth
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 60 mins
Total Time: 75 mins
2 15-oz cans kidney beans
3 cups thinly sliced yellow onion
4 cups chopped tomato
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp ghee or butter
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cups water or chicken broth
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
2 tsp cumin seeds
3 dried red chilis
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp amchur(mango) powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice
1 green chili, finely chopped
Handful of chopped cilantro
1. Add butter and oil to pot and heat on medium-high heat.
2. Once butter is melted, add the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, cumin seeds and dried red chili. Stir and cook for 5 minutes or until cumin is lightly browned and spices are fragrant.
3. Add onions and sauté for approximately 7-10 minutes or until onions are translucent and slightly browned.
4. Add garlic and mix well and sauté for 3-5 minutes on medium heat, ensuring garlic does not burn.
5. Add tomatoes and cook for approximately 10 minutes or until they are softened.
6. Add water or chicken broth and tomato paste and simmer for 10 minutes.
7. Add turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, ginger powder, amchur powder, chili powder, green chili, lemon juice and salt. Simmer for 15 minutes.
8. Add kidney beans with liquid from the can and simmer for 30 minutes on medium-low heat. Towards the end of cooking time, add the chopped cilantro and mix well.
9. Garnish with cilantro and lemon wedges when ready to serve.
Follow Natasha on Instagram at @bytesofyum.