Rajma masala was one of my favourite dishes growing up. We probably ate kidney beans in my house more regularly than chickpeas which are now my go to legume. In fact, I think I might actually be part-chickpea.
After declaring I was vegetarian aged eight after solving together the pig = bacon equation my dad had to make veggie curries like this more regularly. However when I hit my teens I would moan that I didn’t want to just eat curry. Living in white, suburban Edinburgh nobody else I knew really ate curries and I was massively aware of how different I was. Plus I would be excluded from social groups or be the focus of notes passed round the class for always smelling like curry. This was when I realised that other kids can be right wee dicks. Let’s hope these kids in question grew out of that!
So instead of curries my dad started to make stews and hotpots but they were essentially the same thing, just a tad less turmeric. Looking back I really crave my dad’s curries and wish that I’d not only embraced them more at the time but also taken notice of more of his repertoire as there’s only a few that I’ve definitely got in the bag.
This kidney bean curry is somewhat bittersweet for me. It reminds me of delicious meals growing up but it also takes me to a time towards the end of my dad’s life when his vascular dementia had such a grip on him that it led him to paranoid and confused behaviour. He became convinced that kidney beans would kill him (raw kidney beans can actually poison you so he wasn’t completely off the mark) and threw them all out of the house and banned us from eating them. His rajma masala was no more.
For years since I’ve had a strange relation with kidney beans, enjoying them in chillies but subconsciously avoiding them in curries. When I went to make this recipe recently I realised that I hadn’t made it for years and I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to recreate the dish of my childhood. It’s probably not spot on Papa Puri’s vintage but it still tastes mighty fine and made me feel all warm inside. It’s definitely one that I’ll be revisiting again.
rajma masala (kidney bean curry)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 white onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
- 1 inch of ginger, finely chopped
- 1 fresh green chilli, finely chopped
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin powder
- Pinch of asaefotedia (hing)*
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 tin kidney beans, drained and washed
- Salt to taste
- Fresh coriander to garnish
*a pungent Indian spice available in Asian stores or online
Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat then add the cumin seeds. Lightly toast until browned and a lovely amora is omitted.
Add the onion and cook for a few minutes until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Add all of the dried spices and 1 tbsp of the chopped tomatoes to make a masala paste. Simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes to all the flavours to develop. Add a little more tomato if it starts to dry up.
Add the kidney beans (ensure they are well washed) and stir into the paste to coat them. Add the tomatoes and stir through again.
Simmer for 5 minutes and taste. Add salt to taste and feel free to add more chilli if you want more of a kick.
Simmer for another 5-10 minutes until the tomatoes have thickened in to a sauce. Garnish with coriander to serve.