Right now, there are four types of tomatoes on the kitchen counter. There are tiny cherry tomatoes, colorful heirlooms and no-name cooking tomatoes from the Farmers' market, and more heirloom tomatoes from a friend's yard. Yes, sounds like fall around here! September through early November usually yields some of the best local tomatoes in our area. As the weather starts to cool off, it is also a perfect time to use these tomatoes in long simmered dishes, like Rajma, which is a household favorite. I did not grow up eating Rajma, and I don't recall it ever being made at home, so I have had to try various recipes to get it right. The one I finally settled on is based on Sanjeev Kapoor's 'Khazana of Indian Vegetarian Recipes'. Some of his recipes are really foolproof and delicious, like this one for instance. Even though it looks like a standard 'onion-tomato-masala' gravy, the proportions are so perfect that I never need to wing it. The few changes I have made are reducing the amount of chili powder, and usually doing away with the garam masala.
While having good tomatoes is quite necessary, the key ingredient here is of course, the rajma itself. Many years ago I landed on a truly dud batch of red kidney beans bought in a local Indian store. Despite the standard soaking and pressure cooking the beans were rock hard, or barely cooked. This happened on multiple tries. Soon after that, during a trip to India I went looking for 'rajma' at my neighborhood grocer. He brought out two kinds, one that was pink and he called as 'regular' rajma, and a deep maroon one that he called as 'Kashmiri rajma'. Both were much smaller in size than what I usually see here. I bought back a kilo of the 'Kashmiri' variety, and was hooked. The beans are so creamy and delicious when cooked that I could never again bear to buy the gigantic beans from the Indian stores here.
Types of Beans
If you can find the dried 'Kashmiri' or other rajma from India, definitely use those. If not, Italian Borlotti beans or Cranberry beans are quite good too, or use small pinto beans. Some of the darker bean varieties from Rancho Gordo would be definitely worthwhile too, with some experimentation. I was once gifted a bag of their 'Red Nightfall' beans, and cooked some of them rajma style. The beans were very flavorful on their own so I had to go easy on the spices, but the result was excellent.
Adapted from 'Khazana of Indian Vegetarian Recipes'
1 cup Kashmiri rajma (dried beans)
2 ripe tomatoes, medium sized
2 Tablespoons oil
1 cassia leaf
1 small red onion
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 inch piece of ginger
3/4 - 1 teaspoon red chili powder (cayenne) or to taste
2 teaspoons coriander powder
3/4 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon mild garam masala (optional)
1-2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
Soak the beans in plenty of water for 6-8 hours or overnight. Drain the water, add fresh water and cook until the beans are tender. I use a pressure cooker and use my 3-whistle regulation.
Puree the tomatoes. Chop the onions fine. Grate the ginger and finely mince the garlic, or make a paste of the ginger and garlic together.
Measure out the red chili powder (cayenne), coriander powder, cumin powder, and turmeric in a small bowl.
Heat the oil in a large and wide heavy bottomed pan. Add the cassia leaf, followed by the onion and saute until they start to turn slightly brown. Add the ginger and garlic and saute for a minute. Add the spice powders, and stir around, reducing heat if needed.
Add the tomato puree and some salt, and stir it around. When the tomatoes have lost their moisture and are completely cooked, add the cooked rajma, with its cooking liquid as needed, and simmer on medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Add salt to taste. If using garam masala, add it.
I usually check the beans after they have simmered with the rest of the ingredients, and if they taste flavorful enough I do not add any garam masala.
I also do not add any chopped cilantro in this, but that would be a common addition as well.
I am sending this to SunshineMom for World Vegan Day.