Have you ever picked up a cookbook and opened it right to the page with the perfect recipe, the one that exactly suited your mood and for which you had all the ingredients? No? Well, neither have I. Normally I pour over multiple cookbooks, imagining this recipe and that–or this recipe combined with elements of that–but I never just pick the first recipe I come to. Until yesterday.
I was all set for a long perusal of Neelam Batra’s The Indian Vegetarian, a book which miraculously had no torn bits of paper or sticky notes marking its pages. I settled into my comfy chair, sipped my coffee, and allowed the book to fall open, to page 266 as it happened: Kidney Beans in a Curry Sauce on the left, Black-Eyed Peas with Garlic and Scallions on the right.
I was immediately drawn to the kidney bean dish because it sounded a lot like an Indian version of my home-state comfort food, Red Beans and Rice. I checked over the list of ingredients, and except for fresh ginger, I had all the ingredients. After a 15-minute trip to the nearby Indian grocery, where the ginger is the freshest in town, I had everything I needed for a complete Indian dinner, including a package of onion naan, brown basmati rice, and tender young okra to be roasted with curry powder.
I took several liberties with the recipe, including leaving out the 1/2 cup of cilantro which Ms. Batra adds to the beans along with the ginger. (I’m one of those people who doesn’t like cilantro, though I have been training myself to tolerate it in small amounts as a garnish; feel free to use it if you like.) I also changed the cooking method of the beans, omitted the oil, and adjusted the seasonings a bit. My dish, while still mild, may be a little more highly spiced, but I think it’s true to the flavor and style of the original–simple home-cooking, the kind that’s universally comforting, nourishing, and delicious.
Rasedar Rajma (Kidney Beans in Curry Sauce)
Rasedar Rajma is a homestyle kidney bean curry, with fresh ginger and garam masala. This vegan version can be sped up by using the pressure cooker or Instant Pot.
- 2 cups dried kidney beans
- 6 cups water
- 1 tablespoon ginger root
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 onion ,minced
- 1 teaspoon garlic , minced
- 1/2 teaspoon ajwain seeds or dried thyme
- 2 cups tomatoes , finely diced
- 1/4 cup unsweetened non-dairy yogurt (or soymilk thickened with 1 tsp. lemon juice)
- 2 tablespoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
- 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/8 teaspoon red chilli pepper or cayenne (more to taste)
- chopped cilantro (optional garnish)
Rinse the kidney beans and put them in a large pot or pressure cooker along with 6 cups water, the ginger root, and the salt. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. (In a pressure cooker, bring to high pressure and then remove from heat.)
Remove from heat and allow the beans to rest, covered, for at least 1 hour. Drain the water, add another 6 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Simmer until beans are tender, about an hour. (Alternately, pressure cook the beans: bring to high pressure and cook for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow pressure to come down naturally.) When the beans are done, leave them in their cooking liquid while you make the sauce.
Heat a non-stick saucepan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the minced onion, and cook until it’s beginning to brown, stirring constantly. Add the garlic and ajwain and stir for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook until their liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in the non-dairy yogurt and the coriander, fenugreek, turmeric, garam masala, and chilli pepper.
Drain 2 cups of liquid from the beans and stir half of it into the sauce. Add the sauce to the beans and stir. If the sauce is too thick or dry, add some or all of the reserved bean cooking liquid. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for at least 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and flavors have blended. Check seasonings and add salt to taste. Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with cilantro if you like, and serve with basmati rice or chapatis, paranthas, or naan.
I’m sure you could use canned beans instead of cooking them from dry. I would probably start with step 3 and add the ginger with the garlic and put 2 cups of water into the sauce. Then I’d add 3 or 4 cans of kidney beans that had been rinsed and drained. Simmer for about an hour, adding water as needed. I don’t think they’ll break down or get as soft as dried, but if you want, you can mash some of the beans to thicken the gravy.
By the way, my husband insists that Black-Eyed Peas with Garlic and Scallions should be the next thing I cook from this book, and if I can get around the whole cup of cilantro it uses, I just might give it a try.
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