Rajma and rice is a very popular dish in India and each family would have their own version. Red kidney beans are little powerhouses of nutrition – they are low GI, high in fibre (the cholesterol lowering kind), complex carbohydrates and iron. When combined with whole grains such as rice, kidney beans provide high quality protein. So all the more reason to make rajma part of your repertoire.

Rajma served with pickled red onion


300 grams red kidney beans

7-8 centimetres ginger, divided

4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

150 grams onions, peeled and chopped

200 grams tomatoes, chopped

1-2 bay leaves

3 tablespoons ghee or oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1-2 green chillies, slit lengthways

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

½ – 1 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon Punjabi garam masala or Rajma masala (available in Indian store)

2 teaspoons coriander powder

Salt to taste

Coriander leaves to garnish

Pickled onions to serve


Pour the measured beans onto a white plate and pick out any stones or misshapen beans. Rinse and soak overnight in plenty of water for a minimum of eight hours.

Once beans are soaked, discard the water and rinse well.

Place beans and 2 cups of water in a pressure cooker along with bay leaf and a 2 centimetre piece of ginger. (20 minutes on low flame after the first whistle) The beans need to be soft and almost mushy. Alternatively, you can pour two to three cups of water (4 centimetres of water above the bean level) in a large pot and cook on low to medium heat for 60 – 90 minutes. Fish out the bay leaves and ginger piece and lightly mash the beans.

Add the chopped onions to 3 cups of hot water and boil for 3 minutes until transparent. This is to get rid of the rawness. Once cool, puree and set aside.

Blend the chopped tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of the cooked kidney beans to a fine puree. Set aside.

Julienne the remaining ginger and set aside 5-6 pieces. Use the rest of the ginger and garlic and make a fine paste using a mortar and pestle.

In a large saute pan or sauce pan, heat the ghee on a medium flame. Add the cumin seeds and once they start crackling, add the onion, ginger and garlic pastes. Saute until it turns golden.

Mix in the tomato puree and add all the spice powders – turmeric, garam masala, coriander and chilli powder. You may have to fry vigorously for a few minutes to prevent burning. Add a couple of teaspoons of water if the mixture is sticking to the bottom of the pan.

When the spice powders are sufficiently fried (about 3-4 minutes), add the cooked red kidney beans and half a cup of water along with the ginger julienne and the slit green chillies.

Cover and simmer for a further 15 minutes. You know it is done, when it is all thick and together.

Stir in the coriander leaves and serve immediately with steamed rice and pickled red onions on the side. Serves 6 as a main course.

Cook’s notes:

  1. You can add a couple of small pinches of bicarbonate of soda to aid in the cooking.
  2. This dish can be prepared with tinned kidney beans although my preference is to use the dried beans. You can mash beans lightly to replicate the texture.
  3. Some people like to stir in thickened cream. If you wish to do that, you can stir in a couple of tablespoons of cream before adding the coriander leaves.
  4. This dish freezes well, so you can make two batches one to eat, one to freeze.


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