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The Battle of The Rajmas


There is hardly any North Indian child in the world who doesn’t like Rajma. It’s as if we were born with a “like gene” for Rajma.

It’s savoured with delight by all children and us mothers love it because our decisions of what to cook (especially for weekend lunches) becomes easy!

Rajma is kidney beans cooked in a thick gravy with different spices, usually eaten with rice. It’s like our comfort food and one doesn’t need any accompaniments with it. I remember simple sautéed cumin potatoes always being made with this dish at our home.

Just drained, after soaking overnight

When we were young , we were fed countless Rajma lunches and this was one of the very few lunches that was eaten in time by me. I was a very slow eater and usually I would end up with my table placed in the garden since I would finish my lunch by 4 p.m. (Yes! I was that slow!). But not when Rajma was on the menu!

It’s always an easy option especially when lots of children are dining at your home, because otherwise planning a menu for kids can be a hard task.

Rajma Chawal(Kidney bean curry with rice) is found on almost all menus in highway eateries in the North. It is especially popular in the hills of Himachal and in Jammu (northern states of India). In Jammu, the beans are smaller in size and a bit sweeter in taste. From experience, I can say that while trekking on pilgrimage to the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu, the only respite one gets is Rajma Chawal on the way…you can fuel up and continue your climb again.

Kidney beans are not Indian in origin. These beans are native to Central Mexico and Guatemala, and were brought into Europe by the Spaniards and Portuguese returning to their homelands. The sailors incorporated this in their diet, and so kidney beans made their way to India along with these explorers.

Creamy Rajma , the Punjabi way

It was only after I got married did I discover the other avatar of Rajma…cooked in Kashmiri style…when my mother in law presented me a book of recipes by Pandit Shiv Ram Raina.

As I leafed through the recipes , I came across the recipe for “Razma” which is cooked with turnips.

In the Punjabi style, the Rajma is cooked in a thick tomato gravy fused with ginger and garlic, and has many spices; but the Kashmiri way is much simpler and is cooked with turnips and is equally delicious.

So the battle began when I started cooking the Kashmiri style of Razma. My daughter clearly loves the Punjabi style while my son doesn’t quite mind the Kashmiri style. I have started loving the Kashmiri style since it’s different from what I am used to and I love simple flavours.

As I announce the plan to cook Rajma for lunch during the weekend, I get to hear shouts of Punjabi! …Kashmiri! and the voting starts.

The shouts drown when I enter my kitchen - I always take turns to prepare the Rajma in both styles, so that both traditions are kept alive in our home..

In the pressure cooker....just done!

Rajma- a la Punjab


1 cup Rajma (Red kidney beans)

1 cup Tomatoes or tomato puree

1/2 cup chopped onions

Whole garam masala

2 black cardamoms, badi elaichi

1 bay leaf, tej patta

2-3 green cardamom

4-6 cloves, laung

1 tsp cumin seeds, jeera

1 tsp ginger paste

1 tsp garlic paste

½ tsp chopped green chillies (optional)

1½ tsp cumin powder

1½ tsp coriander powder

1 tsp garam masala powder

Salt to oil

2-3 tblsp oil

Freshly chopped coriander leaves to garnish

To prepare:

1. We soak the Rajma overnight in water since it destroys the toxin –lectin.

2. Drain the Rajma beans in the morning and keep aside.

3. In a pressure cooker, heat some oil and add the whole garam masalas.

4. Add the chopped onions and let them become a little brown.You may grind the onions to make it into a paste .When you cook it the water must dry out from the paste.

5. When they crackle , add the ginger and garlic pastes and sauté for a few seconds.

6. Add the tomatoes/ tomato puree and the cumin and coriander powder.

7. Cook (adding a little water if the paste gets too thick and dry).

8. Put the Rajma in the cooker, mix and add 2.5 cups of water so that the rajma is fully immersed in the water.

9. Add salt to taste.

10. Put the pressure cooker lid on and let it whistle at least 18-20 times.

11. Switch off the gas and let it rest for some time before you open the lid. Make sure all the steam is out of the cooker before you remove the lid. Check if the Rajma is cooked thoroughly. The bean should be very soft and should melt in the mouth.

12. When the rajma is cooked, put the cooker on the flame and add garam masala powder to season it .

Garnish generously with green coriander.

Serve hot with Rice and sautéed cumin potatoes

Serve with steamed rice and sauteed cumin potatoes

Razma Shaljam or Razma t Gogje from the Kitchens of Kashmir (Red Kidney beans with turnips)

Serves 6


1/2 kg Red kidney beans, Rajma

2 no.s medium sized Turnips, Shaljam

3 tsps Coriander powder

2 tsps Turmeric powder

4 Black Cardamoms, badi elaichi

1 tsp Asafoetida, Hing mixed with water

A few Cloves

2 -3 Green chillies

1 small pc of Jaggery, gur

1 teaspoon of Oil, can be mustard oil

Juice of 1 lemon or 2 chopped tomatoes(optional)

A bunch of Coriander leaves

Salt to taste

To prepare:

1. Take half a kilo Razma in 1 lt water and keep overnight.

2. In the morning, add water and bring to boil 02 to 03 times. (Though this recipe does not call for pressure-cooking, but it is easier to cook in a pressure cooker).

3. Cut 2 round pieces of turnips and put it in the Razma.

4. Add turmeric, green chilli, coriander powder, black cardamom, ,asatoefatida (hing) water, a few cloves,1 small piece of jiggery , a small teaspoon of oil and salt to taste.

5. Cook on low flame overnight. Of course I couldn’t keep it overnight so I kept it on slow flame for 30 minutes or so!.(in the pressure cooker)

6. To make it zesty, you could add tomatoes or lemon in the morning.You can add these while cooking the razma on slow flame.This is optional.

7. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Serve hot with plain steamed rice.

Tip: This dish tastes better if cooked the previous day.

Razma ...Kashmiri Style ...without tomatoes!

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