Thursday, February 18, 2010

Exciting Red Bean Indian Curry: Rajma

As Lent starts once again, I lean toward dishes without meat, a carryover from my pre-Vatican II Catholic childhood. I say I lean. I don't quite fall all the way.

The season, however, makes me think of my vegetarian favorites. Many of those are Indian.

Here's a dish I can't believe I didn't get onto the blog earlier. It's a family favorite, meat or no meat. And we make it at the restaurant. Like most Indian curries, this is not a simple cooking task. And the red beans, rajma in Hindi, have to be soaked then cooked until tender with spices before adding them to the curry gravy.

The recipe is as I made it for Christina's staff meeting lunch at St. Barts. It's not quite how we make it for business at the restaurant -- I won't give that recipe away -- but it's a delicious rajma.

This should be served with basmati rice, lightly salted, with yogurt and a chutney to accompany.

The recipe serves six with leftovers.

Rajma -- Punjabi Red Bean Curry

1 pound (2 1/2 cups) dry light red kidney beans
1 large clove garlic, crushed and peeled
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 large onions
1/3 cup canola oil
2 thin sticks cinnamon
6 whole cardamoms
4 whole cloves
1 1/4 inch fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 (6-ounce) can tomato paste, about 5 tablespoons
Salt
1/2 cup cream or undiluted evaporated (canned) milk
Coarsely chopped cilantro, including part of stems, for topping

8 or more hours before making curry, prepare the beans. Pick over dry beans and discard stones and spoiled beans. Rinse. In cooking pot, soak beans at least 8 hours in water to cover by 4 inches.

Drain. Add water up to the level of beans. Bring to a boil. Skim off foam that collects. Add the next 4 ingredients. Simmer beans covered, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if level goes below surface of the beans, until beans are tender, 45-55 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt. Remove from heat. Do not drain.

Meanwhile, dice onions and fry them in 1/3 cup oil, along with whole spices. Stir frequently, until onions turn golden.

Peel and slice ginger, then pound it plus the peeled garlic in mortar, or puree them in small food processor, or mince together very finely on cutting board.

When onions are light golden, fry in ginger-garlic mixture for a minute, stirring constantly. Add ground spices and fry 1 minute, stirring and scraping.

Add several tablespoons of bean liquid plus tomato paste. Stir well and let simmer 3-4 minutes, or until a little oil emerges from the mixture.

Add beans, lifted from liquid with slotted spoon. Add enough of the bean liquid to make a soupy gravy around the beans. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Simmer, stirring frequently, 5 minutes.

Stir in cream or evaporated milk. Heat one minute. Remove from heat.

After 10 minutes, stir, taste, and add salt, if needed.

This is best if made ahead and rewarmed to serve. When serving, sprinkle heavily with chopped cilantro.

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