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A Right Royal Rollickingly Robust Rajma

Rajma could be described as the North Indian equivalent of Mexican chili. My version is laced with cubes of protein-rich homemade panir cheese It is robust, nutritious, filling and spicy. Rajma is the name of the bean (red kidney) from which this spicy stew is made, and also the finished product.


Ana C from Melbourne writes: "I would like to know if you can give me a good Rajma recipe. I tried it at a friend's place and I totally loved it. Thank you."

Here's my recipe:

Punjabi Red Bean Curry (Rajma)

Although ideal for a winter lunch, Rajma can be served successfully with any bread or rice selection and as a part of almost any menu. Serves 6-8 persons.

For the beans:

2 cups dried red kidney beans,

3 small bay leaves,

1½ teaspoons turmeric,

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper.

For the spice paste:

1 tablespoon cumin seeds,

1 teaspoon fennel seeds,

½ teaspoon ajowan seeds,

3 tablespoons shredded fresh ginger,

2 tablespoons coriander powder,

1½ teaspoons garam masala,

1½ teaspoons turmeric,

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper,

2–3 teaspoons salt,

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice.

The remaining ingredients:

fresh panir cheese, made from 1.5 litres milk, cut into
1.25cm cubes,

5 tablespoons ghee or oil for frying the panir,

4 medium-sized tomatoes, diced into
1.25cm cubes,

2 tablespoons tomato paste,

1 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves.

To prepare the beans:

Soak the beans in ample cold water overnight. Drain.

Place the beans in a large saucepan of ccold water and bring to the boil over high heat. Add the bay leaves, turmeric and cayenne, reduce the heat and simmer the beans, covered, for 1– 1½ hours, or until the beans are soft and tender, but not broken down. Note that bean cooking time varies immensely for different varieties of kidney beans, so check them carefully.
Pour the cooked beans through a colander, being careful to collect all the cooking liquid in a bowl underneath — you’ll need it later. Transfer the beans into a bowl.

Separate ½ cup cooked beans, mash them to a puree and set them aside in a small bowl.

To prepare the spice paste:

Combine the cumin, fennel and ajowan seeds in a coffee mill or mortar and grind them to a powder. Transfer the powder to a small bowl. Combine the shredded ginger with ½ cup water in a blender and process to a smooth liquid.
Add this ginger liquid to the bowl of powdered spices. Add the coriander powder, garam masala, turmeric, salt and lemon or lime juice, and stir to mix well. The spice paste should have a consistency of thin cream. Add a little water if it is too thick.

To fry the panir cheese:

Place 2 tablespoons ghee or oil in a heavy non-stick frying pan and set it over moderate heat. When the ghee is hot, add the panir cheese and stir-fry for 5–7 minutes, carefully turning the cubes with a spoon to brown them on all sides. Remove the pan from the heat and set the panir cheese aside.

To assemble the dish:

Heat the remaining ghee or oil in a saucepan over moderate heat, and add the spice paste. Fry the paste for 1 or 2 minutes over moderate heat, or until it begins to stick. Stir in the tomatoes and continue to cook the mixture for 5–8 minutes, or until the tomatoes are reduced to a thick paste, and the ghee or oil starts to separate. Add the reserved mashed beans and stir well until they are fully incorporated.

Drop in the cubes of the fried panir cheese, the cooked beans, tomato paste and 1½ cups of the reserved bean cooking liquid, or more if a thinner consistency bean dish is required. Allow the beans to come to the boil, then reduce the heat to low, and simmer for another 10–15 minutes, or until the panir cheese cubes are soft and juicy. Stir in the chopped coriander leaves, and serve hot.