Rajma (Kidney Bean Curry)

This was one of my favourite dishes growing up and is very popular at celebrations – it’s not to everyone’s taste, but if you’re a fan of kidney beans, then this is the dish for you.  It’s simple in its construction, but still rich and earthy.  Don’t be fooled by the lack of ingredients, it packs plenty of punch and means the kidney beans are the star flavour, rather than being masked.



1 can of kidney beans
1/2 an onion, finely chopped
3 medium sized tomatoes, cut in to segments
1 dried Kashmiri chilli (or fresh chillis, chopped)
1 cm knob of ginger, peeled and grated
8-9 peppercorns
3 cloves
1 tsp of ground turmeric
2 tsp of ground coriander
2 tsp of ground cumin (or garam masala, for a bit more punch)
1 tsp of fennel seeds (optional – I don’t like the taste, so I take it out, but others do)
2 tbs oil
25 grams (small knob) of butter or ghee
1 cup of water
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Salt to taste (BUT ONLY AT THE END!)


Start by gently frying your whole spices (chilli, peppercorns, cloves, and fennel, if using) in the oil and butter.  Don’t have the heat too high or you’ll burn the butter and make the spices go bitter – take things easy.  Fry for about 3 mins – this infuses the oil with the richness of the whole spices.


Add in your onions and ginger and gently fry some more (slowly, again, so not to burn the onions – this will make them bitter – gently fry for 5-8 mins). I made this for my kids, so I removed the chilli at this point.  Keep it in for a more powerful chilli flavour.


When your onions are translucent, add in your ground spices and mix together.


You want to fry this mixture for 2-3 more mins until you get a rich spice base (we call this the masala)- this is the foundation for your flavouring – everything else will taste like this – so make it good!  You want to keep frying until the oil and the spice mix separate a little – this is how you know it’s done.


Time to add in your tomatoes – I like to cut mine into segments, but chopped is fine – you can also add in a can of chopped tomatoes if fresh ones aren’t easily accessible.


Mix the tomatoes with the spice base


Before you add in your kidney beans, make sure you drain any liquid and rinse them – soaked kidney bean juice isn’t the best for your system


Add in your kidney beans and water.


Finish with a squeeze of lemon – this will add a fresh tang to the dish.


Bring to the boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer.  Cover the dish with a slight crack in the lid – this will allow the sauce to thicken.  Simmer for 10-15 mins – the longer and slower the cooking, the richer the dish – just don’t let it dry out!  If you want to add salt, do so at the end – if you add it in too early, the skins of the kidney beans will peel – not the best texture!


Serve on soft basmati rice and a popadom – enjoy!


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