Rajmah, the red kidney bean curry

We had read in our science classes that beans are leguminous plants and acquire their nitrogen through association with “rhizobia” a species of nitrogen fixing bacteria that reside in their roots. High in protein, starch and fiber, it is an excellent source of iron, thiamine, folic acid and vitamin B6. Dried beans are almost always cooked by boiling often after having been soaked for several hours. Soaking shortens cooking time and results in more evenly textured beans. In addition, discarding one or more batches of soaking water leaches out hard-to-digest complex sugars that can cause flatulence/ gas (though those who eat beans regularly rarely have difficulties with flatulence as intestinal microbes adjust). There are several methods including overnight soaking, and the power soak method, which is to boil beans for three minutes, then set them aside for 2–4 hours, then drain and discard the water and proceed with cooking.

Red kidney beans or rajmah grow plentifully in the northern side of India. The area around Vaishno Devi temple in Kashmir is famous for its rajma curry ladled over hot steaming  rice and the weary travelers who walk long distances to seek the blessings of the Goddess are offered this wholesome meal at every little eatery or restaurant.
Preparation time: 8-10hrs presoaking, 10 minutes      
Cooking time: 30-45 minutes
Serves: 4

  • 1 ½ cup red kidney beans, soaked in lukewarm water over night
  • 2 medium onions chopped finely
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 tbsp ginger grated
  • 2-3 green chilies finely chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes chopped finely
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • A pinch of asafetida/hing
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp red pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp Oil
  • Coriander for garnishing

  • Wash the presoaked red kidney beans thoroughly 2-3 times and keep aside. 
  • In a pressure cooker, heat some oil on medium heat and add hing and cumin seeds. When the seeds pop add green chilies, ginger and garlic. Stir for a minute .Add onions and fry till light pink. Add tomatoes and cook till tender or the masala starts to leave oil on its sides. Now add turmeric, salt, red and black pepper.  Mix well. 
  • Add 4 cups of warm water and let it come to a boil. Add the red kidney beans and cover the pressure cooker. Cook for up to 4-5 whistles on medium heat and let the rajmah sit in the cooker. Open lid of the cooker only when the pressure inside dies on its own (approx. after about 10-15 minutes).
  • Check the seasonings and add garam masala. Mash some of the rajmah with a ladle and garnish with coriander leaves before serving.
  • Serve with chappati or plain rice.