Back to basics 2 – Rajma (Kidney Beans in a Tomato-Onion gravy)

Rajma and Paratha

This is another classic that I had managed to ruin over the years with my experimentation. Given the success of going back to basics on my cholle (garbanzo beans) recipe, I decided to have another go at Rajma.

Rajma is a dish that is eaten pretty much all over North India. It is not a dish that you will find often at Indian restaurants in the US. This is the North Indian equivalent of a chicken pot pie. Comfort food at its best. In a land where vegetarianism is common, this dish provides the missing protein in a herbivore’s diet. It is typically eaten with either bread (roti or paratha) or rice. This is food of my childhood and I have many a fond memory of my mom making Rajma with parathas for us to eat on a cold night. I am sure many of my readers share similar memories.

Rajma is such an integral part of the North Indian menu that you would never guess that kidney beans are not native to India but came over from South America. Anyway, there you have it. It was this great heritage that I was having to deal with. The self-inflicted pressure was intense but I think I did OK. The Rajma turned out pretty well, even if I so so myself.


1 cup dry kidney beans – soaked overnight and then pressure cooked with a little salt – you can also use a couple of cans of kidney beans (make sure you wash them and get the preservatives off)

1 Tbsp cooking oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 medium onion – finely chopped

1 tsp ginger – minced

1/2 tsp garlic – minced

2 large tomatoes – diced

1 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/4 tsp chili powder

1 tsp kasoori methi (fenugreek) – toasted

Salt to taste


1. Heat oil in a saucepan on medium heat.

2. Add cumin seeds and fry till they sputter.

3. Add the onion and fry till slightly browned (you may need to increase the heat).

4. Add the ginger and garlic and saute for about 2 minutes.

5. Add the tomatoes.

6. Add the coriander, turmeric and chili powder and saute 1-2 minutes.

7. Crush the kasoori methi into the mix.

8. Add the cooked kidney beans to the mix.

9. Add enough water where it is a little more dilute than what you eventually want it to end up. You want this pretty thick at the end – like chili.

10. Add salt to taste.

11. Lower heat and let this thing simmer for a while – longer is better (30 mins is good). Stir occasionally.

12. Mash a few cooked beans against the side of the saucepan to thicken the sauce. Add more water if the mixture is getting too dry – you can always evaporate it if you add too much. There is little danger to overcooking this recipe.

13. At the end of the simmer time, serve garnished with cilantro.

14. Enjoy!

15. After a week or so, repeat from step 1.


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