Rajma Chawal (kidney beans with rice) is a popular Punjabi dish, traditionally prepared with red kidney beans and a simple blend of spices. A homely one-pot dish, rajma chawal is considered comfort food and widely enjoyed across north India.
The inspiration and knowledge behind this recipe comes from an excellent food programme, currently airing on the BBC. A Cook Abroad whips a famous food personality off to the country of his or her choice every week and explores the culinary minutiae of that particular locale. It makes for compelling and educational watching.
India is a country of adopted culinary influence, of which rajma chawal is an excellent example. Kidney beans, after all, aren’t indigenous to the country. But as a frugal ingredient, perfect for a generally vegetarian culture, they have been adopted with vigour.
Like most legume-based Indian dishes, rajma chawal is incredibly simple to throw together. There are no real pitfalls either. But remember to be generous with your teaspoons of spice; there’s little more disappointing than a poorly flavoured masala.
- 2 tbsp oil, preferably mustard
- 1 onion
- 1 tomato
- 1 tsp garlic puree
- 1 tsp ginger puree
- 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 4 cardamom pods
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 400g tins of kidney beans (or dried equivalent)
- 1 tsp garam masala
- coriander and yoghurt to serve
- Heat the oil in a large pan. Puree the onion and tomato and begin to fry, adding the garlic and ginger after 2 minutes.
- Grind the toasted cumin seeds and tip into the pan, along with the turmeric and cardamom pods.
- Add 500ml of water, along with the kidney beans and salt. If using dried beans, they’ll need to have been soaked overnight and cooked for 30-40 minutes.
- Turn the heat up and boil quickly for 10-15 minutes, giving the beans time to break down slightly.
- Add the garam masala just before serving, alongside a little yoghurt and fresh coriander.
Cost: Spices, beans and a vegetable or two. Rajma Chawal was never going to be an expensive dish to make. In fact, at around £1.10 for the entire dish, it’s among the cheapest I’ve ever prepared.