Well, the worst of our national nightmare is over. The orange oaf is not going to go quietly, and he’s not going to go completely—and he’s going to do a lot more damage on the way out—but he’s been fired. No better fate for the loser who hates to lose than to be declared a loser on every TV set in the world (well, prison would be even better). Like everyone else in the US I spent the week unable to think about anything but the elections—and like most people on the Left I spent most of the first two days since the evening of November 3 in a state of dread, bracing for the worst. It began to become more apparent on Thursday that Pennsylvania and Georgia would make the final count in Arizona moot but I couldn’t bring myself to embrace it until Biden’s margins of victory became recount-proof (yes, recounts will happen in a few states but his lead is too large now to be overcome by a small plus/minus here and there). I began to hope yesterday but it was only this morning that I finally unclenched and exhaled. The only thing I did all week—other than obsessively check the vote counts—was cook. Cooking is not always relaxing but this week it kept me from going crazy. I thank my many-armed gods that the week ended the way it did; because if it hadn’t, no amount of good food would have taken that taste out of my mouth.
On Thursday I posted a recipe for the dry-style potato sabzi I’d made on Wednesday. Here now is a recipe for the rajma I made on Friday. I’d gone to bed on Thursday night beginning to feel the stirrings of confidence; and when the vote count updates on Friday morning confirmed it hadn’t been a mirage, the first thing I did after drinking a cup of tea was put a pot of beans on the stove. The first packet that came to hand in the pantry was of Rancho Gordo’s Good Mother Stallard beans. This may be the bean that built the Rancho Gordo empire back in the day, and for good reason. The beans have wonderful texture—and hold their shape really well—and the pot liquor is just lovely. And like all Rancho Gordo beans they cook very fast, even if not soaked overnight. I put the beans on at 8.30 in the morning and started prepping the masala at 10. By 10.30 the beans were done and by 10.45 the whole thing had come together.
Don’t fret if you don’t have Good Mother Stallards on hand (they’re currently out on their site—but I think Steve said on Twitter recently that their stocks are going to be replenished very soon). You can make this with pretty much any other similar Rancho Gordo bean or, for that matter, with any non-Rancho Gordo bean you have on hand. That said, this employs very few spices—relatively speaking—and that because of how much the Good Mother Stallard pot liquor brings to the party. With a milder bean or with non-Rancho Gordo beans you might be better off trying this recipe (the first I ever posted on the blog, just under six years ago).
- 1 lb Rancho Gordo Good Mother Stallard beans or similar
- 1/2 tspn haldi/turmeric powder
- 2 tez patta or dried cassia/bay leaves
- 4-5 cloves
- 1-2 small pieces of cinnamon
- 5 pod green cardamom
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 1 tspn freshly pounded ginger
- 1 tspn freshly pounded garlic
- The following roasted lightly over low hear and when cool ground to a fine powder: 2 tspn coriander seeds, 1 tspn cumin seeds, 1/2 tspn black peppercorns, 1/2 tspn methi/fenugreek seeds, 3-5 Kashmiri chillies
- 2 cups diced tomatoes
- 1 tspn sugar
- 2-3 slit Thai chillies for garnish
- Rinse the beans, put them in a deep pot with enough water to cover by a few inches along with the turmeric, the tez patta, the cloves and the cinnamon. Bring to a rapid boil for 10 minutes, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook till the beans are almost done. You’ll need to replenish the water along the way.
- While the beans cook, roast, cool and powder the spices and prepare the masala as follows:
- Heat oil over medium heat (2-3 tblspns?) and add the cardamom pods.
- As soon as they become fragrant add the chopped onion. Saute over medium heat till nicely browned around the edges.
- Add the ginger and garlic and saute for another minute or till the raw aroma is gone.
- Add the powdered spices, mix in and saute for another minute or so.
- Add the tomatoes and salt, mix in and cook till the tomatoes have completely cooked down and the oil separates.
- Add the sugar and a ladle or two of the bean liquor to loosen the contents of the pan and when the beans are all but done add the cooked masala to the bean pot, mix in thoroughly, cover and simmer for another 10-15 minutes to meld.
- Taste and add salt if necessary, garnish with the slit green chillies and serve with rice or parathas/chapatis, or just by itself in a bowl.
- Remember, Kashmiri chillies are pretty mild—if subbing a hotter chilli or chilli powder, reduce the quantity a bit.
- Maybe two cups of tomato are too much for you; if so, reduce to a cup.
- Normally with bean preps of this kind I follow the usual practice of mashing some of the beans into the gravy but the Good Mother Stallard pot liquor is so tasty it’s really not necessary to do that.
- I let it sit for 2 hours before lunch. The flavours came together nicely and the aroma and heat of the green chillies were nicely infused in it. Like most Indian curries it was even better the next day.
- You could also, of course, add a bit of chopped dhania/cilantro and raw onion to the garnish but it’s best I think to leave it mostly alone.