Rajma Chawal (Curried Red Kidney Beans with Rice) 

Piping hot red kidney beans in a thick tomato gravy topped with fried onions. Ladled on rice, it makes for traditional North Indian comfort food called rajma chawal.

Rajma Chawal (Curried Red Kidney Beans with Rice)

Rajma Chawal is home-cooked comfort food that truly comforts!

A plateful of white, fluffy rice with curried kidney beans is delicious and filling. Kidney beans have a nutty-buttery taste which is enhanced by the sauce you cook them in. I cook kidney beans in a tomato-rich gravy as I feel tomatoes complement beans perfectly.

But that comes later. With beans, the big question is always ‘to soak or not to soak?’

Here’s the lowdown on this.

Most people soak beans (and nuts and seeds too) to improve their digestibility and prevent gas. Soaking also significantly reduces cooking time since the beans swell and soften with all that water in them. While people who don’t agree with this view do admit that soaking reduces the cooking time, they say that it does absolutely nothing to reduce the gas-producing properties of beans.

If you decide not to soak your beans, the matter ends here. Go ahead and cook your unsoaked beans and if you’re happy with the results, that’s it!

However, if you do decide to soak them, there is a further consideration.

Soaking beans brings us to the dilemma of keeping or discarding the water in which they have been soaked. Again, opinions differ on this one. The reason why some people throw away the soak water is because it is supposed to contain anti-nutrients (substances which cause flatulence). So, they say that if you don’t throw away this water, it is kind of pointless to soak beans in the first place.

But it is a trade-off. If you discard this water, you are also discarding the nutrients which have leached from the beans into the water. The taste and flavour of cooked beans is compromised as well!

Me? In the midst of all this fuzziness, I prefer to stick with traditional wisdom. My mother always soaks her beans and won’t hear of any new-fangled theories about cooking them as is. And she cooks the beans in the same water for a full-bodied flavour and taste. So, I follow suit. And really, I have found personally that this method works for me. The taste of beans cooked in the soak water is far superior to the ones without and I have not experienced any digestive discomfort thereafter.

If you want to really get into a spirited discussion of this issue and make up your own mind, check out this post by Vegan Coach http://www.vegancoach.com/why-discard-bean-soaking-water.html

Soak or no soak, kidney beans are a terrific source of protein, cholesterol lowering fibre, minerals and anti-oxidants. Include them in your diet if you want to pack a nutritional punch!

Rajma Chawal Recipe

INGREDIENTS 

  • 3 cups red kidney beans, washed and soaked in 6 cups water for 12-24 hours
  • 2 big tomatoes, chopped thickly
  • 1 medium onion, chopped thickly
  • 2 tbsp chopped ginger
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 4 tbsp cooking oil
  • Salt

For tempering (optional)

  • 1 small onion, sliced finely
  • 1 tbsp pure ghee

METHOD

1. Take the washed and soaked kidney beans and put them in a stovetop pressure cooker along with the water in which they were soaked. Add 1-2 glasses water plus salt and pressure cook for 30 minutes. Let the steam escape on its own.

2. While the beans are cooking, prepare the masala. Puree the chopped onion, tomato and ginger in a blender or food processor.

3. Heat the oil in a pan and add cumin seeds. In about a minute add the masala prepared in step 2. Add the chilli and coriander powders and sauté for 5 minutes.

4. Add half a glass of water and cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

5. Mix this masala with the cooked kidney beans and cook on medium to high heat for 20-25 minutes. At first, the beans are going to be watery, but as the masala mixes with the beans and the water evaporates, a thick gravy will form.  

6. At this stage, the kidney beans are ready. Spoon them out in a deep dish.

Tempering (optional)

1. Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a small fry pan and add the sliced onions. Fry the onions till they are brownish red and pour the oil and onions over the kidney beans while still hot.

Serve rajma chawal with boiled white Basmati rice.

Serves 6

TOP TIPS

1. Do not soak the kidney beans for more than 24 hours as this will encourage mould. If you live in warm weather you can even put the container in the refrigerator for the soak time.

2. If you’re not soaking the beans, add another 15-20 minutes to the cooking time otherwise you will be left with hard insides.

3. If not using a pressure cooker, you will need to cook the beans for 2-3 hours to soften them.

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