Yes, this is my fifth recipe for rajma—what’s your point? I am forever tinkering with my rajma masala. And when I recently saw dried pomegranate seeds on the shelf at my local desi store (here in the southern Minnesota “local” means “20 miles away”) I grabbed some just for this purpose. A good rajma masala needs some sourness and pomegranate seeds are a good way to get it. If your local desi store doesn’t carry them, or if you don’t have a local desi store, you can find them on Amazon [affiliate link] or doubtless at many other online outlets. Or I suppose you could sub amchur/dried mango powder. It’s also true that you could save yourself a lot of hassle and just use a good commercial rajma masala—there is no shame in that. Of course, if you’re going to do that you don’t need to read further as the main thing that distinguishes my rajma recipes from each other is the masala I use for them (well, there are other differences too but this is the one that really counts).
As always, I recommend the use of Rancho Gordo beans for all Indian bean cooking in the US. Any of their red beans will do. On this occasion I used a bean I’ve not cooked with before and I think it may be the perfect bean for rajma: the King City Pink. But, as I say, any of their red beans will do.
- 1 pkt Rancho Gordo King City Pink beans or similar, roughly 1 lb, rinsed
- 2-3 tez patta/dried cassia leaves
- 1 large piece cinnamon
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 1 tspn freshly crushed ginger
- 1 tspn freshly crushed garlic
- The following ground together into a fine powder: 2 tspsns coriander seed, 1 tspn zeera/cumin seed, 3/4 tspn methi/fenugreek seed, 3/4 tspn fennel seed, 1 tspn black peppercorn, 3/4 tspn dried pomegranate seeds, 1/2 tspn ginger powder, 1/2 tspn haldi/turmeric powder, 2-3 Byadgi chillies [affiliate link] or other dried chilli of choice
- 3/4 cup crushed tomatoes
- Cilantro for garnish
- Place the rinsed beans in your bean pot, add enough water to cover by a few inches, add the tez patta and cinnamon, bring to a hard boil for 10 minutes or so.
- Add more water to cover the beans again by 2-3 inches, bring to a simmer, cover the pot and cook till almost done. Add more water as you go as necessary—when cooked the beans should just be peeping over the surface of the liquid.
- While the beans are cooking prepare your masala base as follows:
- Heat 2-3 tblspns of oil in a deep pan over medium heat and when the oil shimmers add the chopped onion.
- Saute the onion, stirring often for 10-12 minutes or till browned around the edges.
- Add the ginger-garlic paste, mix in and saute, stirring constantly, for another minute or two or till the raw aroma is completely gone.
- Add the powdered spices, mix in and saute for another minute or so.
- Add the tomatoes and salt, mix in and cook, stirring often, till the whole is reduced to an aromatic sludge and the oil begins to separate. If the beans aren’t ready turn the heat off and hold.
- When the beans are almost done, heat your sludge back up if necessary and pour the contents of the bean pot into the deep pan. Mix and simmer till the beans are completely done.
- Garnish with 2-3 tblspns of cilantro and serve with rice or chapatis and some pickle on the side.
- Yes, there’s a Reel of this being made on Instagram—how did you guess?
- You can modulate the heat by using a hotter or milder red chilli in the spice mix. Keep in mind that there’s pepper in there as well.
- You can also add a bit of sweetness if necessary via 1/2-1 tspn of sugar at the end if the gravy tests a bit too tart for you.
- For rajma I like to cook the beans a little softer than I otherwise would. And for some extra depth of beany flavour you could crush a ladle’s worth against the side of the pot when you add them to the sludge at the end. Okay, maybe sludge isn’t the best word.
- Yes, you can soak the beans overnight if you want.