Recipe: Red Kidney Bean Curry with Rice (Rajmah Chawal)

Recipe: Red Kidney Bean Curry with Rice (Rajmah Chawal)

(Image credit: Michelle Peters-Jones)

Rajmah Chawal, a red kidney bean curry served with rice, is a rustic, traditional Indian meal that is cooked in households all over India. Originally a staple of the village kitchen, this is a simple, nutritious meal that is naturally gluten free, vegan and suited to people with allergies.

Traditionally, rajmah, or red kidney beans, are soaked in water the night before, and cooked until tender the next day. If you want to go all out for this dish you can start by soaking and cooking dried kidney beans. You can also make a fresh garam masala, which adds a great deal of flavour and fragrance to the dish.

However, using canned beans, canned crushed tomatoes, and pre-ground spices significantly cuts down preparation time and makes this dish suitable for a quick weeknight meal.

Rajmah Chawal is traditionally served with plain, steamed rice. I changed it up a bit and added a touch of saffron to make the rice a little more special. You can also serve it with quinoa, bulgur wheat or herby couscous, for a twist on tradition.

(Image credit: Michelle Peters-Jones)

Red Kidney Bean Curry with Rice (Rajmah Chawal)

Serves 4

2 cups basmati rice
3 cups boiling water
Generous pinch of saffron
2-3 tablespoons neutral cooking oil, like grapseed or canola
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
1-2 green bird's eye chile(s), finely chopped
1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes and juices, or passata (See Recipe Note)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala + 1/2 teaspoon to garnish
1/2 teaspoon amchur (dried mango powder) (optional)
2 (540-ml) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (US equivalent: approximately 2 16-ounce cans)
1/2 cup vegetable stock (look for gluten free options, if using a stock cube)
Hot water, as required
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Fresh cilantro, chopped, to garnish
Julienned strips of ginger, to garnish (optional)

Wash and drain the basmati rice. Place in a heavy pot with a tight fitting lid. Add the boiling water and saffron, bring it to a slow simmer, and turn down the heat to its lowest setting. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid, or seal it with aluminum foil.

Steam the rice for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it sit for an additional 5 minutes. Open the lid, or foil, and fluff up the rice with a fork.

To make the rajmah, heat the oil in a heavy based pot and add the diced onions. Fry over a medium high heat, until the onions are soft and start going golden around the edges, 7 to 8 minutes.

Add the garlic, ginger and chiles, and fry together until fragrant, another minute.

Add the crushed tomatoes, ground coriander, cumin, garam masala and amchur, if using. Season with a little salt. Turn down the heat and cook, stirring every so often until the masala starts reducing, comes together in a sticky mass and the oil starts separating from it, 7 to 10 minutes

Add the kidney beans and the stock. Simmer for a few more minutes, until the beans are heated through. Add a little more hot water if the sauce is too thick.

Stir in the reserved garam masala and cilantro, taste, and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper if needed. Top with julienned ginger strips (if using) just before serving.

Recipe Notes

  • You can use fresh tomato puree for this recipe, if you prefer. Blanch and peel two large, ripe tomatoes and discard the seeds. Blend to a fine puree and use as directed.
  • You can also make the rajmah ahead of time. If making ahead, do not garnish with cilantro. Reheat and stir in cilantro just before serving.
  • I like the texture of onions in my rajmah. If you prefer a smooth sauce, blend the onion-tomato-spice mixture to a fine paste and return to the pot before adding the beans and stock.
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