Friday, May 6, 2011

Rajmah (Kidney Bean Curry)

Curry-Palooza #2

Grapefruit chose the recipe for our second curry cooking project.  She chose Rajmah from the blog, Quick Indian Cooking.

I found this recipe milder than most curries I have eaten, but I did serve it with a hot and spicy chili relish because I like my curries to be quite assertive.

Grapefruit found the recipe simple to make. She has much more experience with curries than I do and the whole point of this Curry-Palooza project is to help me hone my Indian cookery skills.  I found the recipe rather difficult to follow and I certainly wouldn't consider it "quick cooking".   I like a recipe that lists ingredients in the order they will be used and Malika's did not. I found myself going back and forth between the ingredient list and the directions. Even after I had all my ingredients, which were many, assembled, it still took more than an hour to cook.

Also, I didn't really understand some of the wording on the recipe, such as "fry this masala mixture until the pungent aroma of the spices goes". Goes? No clue what that means. Another one was, "lower heat and simmer until you see oil coming out in little pores in the mixture". I watched the mixture and guessed at that one. And finally, "simmer the mixture until you can smell the beans in the mixture and the onions disintegrate". I simmered the mixture for an hour, until the beans were beginning to split open, but the onions never "disintegrated". 

The finished dish was delicious and in all fairness, I should reveal that I had a screaming headache while I was cooking the Rajmah, which was likely part of my difficulty. I have tried to simplify the recipe below.

(adapted from Quick Indian Cooking)
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 bay leaf
4 whole cardamom
4 whole cloves
1" cinnamon stick
1 small onion, finely chopped
2" fresh ginger, grated
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. coriander powder
2 tsp. cumin powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. turmeric
1 large tomato, roughly chopped
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Water, as needed
1/2 tsp. garam masala
Salt, to taste

In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil and add the bay leaf, whole cardamom, whole cloves, and whole cinnamon. When the spices start to sizzle, stir in the onion, ginger, and garlic. Fry until golden brown.

Add the coriander, cumin, black pepper, chili powder, and turmeric. Fry for five minutes them add the chopped tomato. Cook and stir this mixture for a few minutes, then add water to cover. Lower the heat and simmer until very fragrant.

Stir in the beans and add water to cover. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring and adding more water, as necessary. Finish by adding the garam masala and salt to taste.

Note: the next time I make this, I will add about 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper. We needed some heat.


  1. Ah, we need to stand in the kitchen together and cook next time! ;-)
    Your Rajmah looks perfect, by the way - better than mine.

    Indian/Pakistani cooking comes so naturally to me that I may have overlooked any confusing parts in the directions. So let me walk you through the difficulties you had with the recipe:

    - by 'fry till pungent aroma goes' she meant that when you first begin frying the masala, it begins to smell quite overpowering after a minute or so, and the longer you fry it, the less pungent it smells. This is something that I don't usually do and I should have added a note in my post to say that frying the masala mixture for 5 minutes (before the addition of tomatoes) is bound to, firstly, make it quite dark and also lends a bitter tone due to the presence of coriander powder. . I fried for 5 mins in a different recipe I tried from the site, but I didn't do so this time because of the reasons I've mentioned.
    Also, whenever adding powdered masalas, it is always advisable to either throw on a splash of water as soon as the masalas are added, or even to mix enough water to the masala to make a paste and then add that to the onion mixture. this way the masala doesn't burn or get that bitter taste.

    - 'lowering the heat and simmering till oil comes out' - this is essential. it means that the masala base is well-cooked. the only reason you may not have seen oil coming out in pores is because you used oil sparingly (which I also do). In the case of the latter, you will notice that the oil separates from the masala base and may be barely visible but you can see it around the edges if you look carefully or if you scoop the masala in towards the middle of your cooking pan/pot.
    Once the beans & water are added and left to simmer, in about 20 mins you will see that the oil rises and pools at the top of the beans and this usually looks like a yellow-tinged watery blot.

    - 'onions disintegrating' - if they are chopped fine and were evenly browned at the beginning, they will be barely visible at the end & this is what she means by disintegrating. Sometimes they blend in so well into the curry base that they seem to have disappeared/melted into it.

    Hope that helps! I'm sorry you found the recipe hard to follow! It just never hit me that for those not used to this kind of cuisine, some instructions can be puzzling. I'll be sure to keep this in mind when choosing something next time!

  2. It is funny how a writer will describe something that makes perfect sense to them and complete lacks any understanding to the reader. Such can be cookbooks! Your finished dish looks good.