The Army Public School in Delhi served the best Rajma at school lunches. I knew this because my sister & I would watch enviously while my brother pleaded with mom to give him 2 rupees to eat lunch on Rajma Chawal(rajma rice) days. A few weeks ago I was off sick nursing a cold when the doorbell rang. There stood my friend Ritu who generously brought a bowl of Rajma her husband had made –delicious, spicy, complete, it hit all the right spots. Working off my taste buds and the flavours I remembered from his rajma, I did my best to replicate in this post.

1 cup rajma or red kidney beans
3 tomatoes, or 1/3 cup tomato paste
1 tsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped
3 hot green peppers or to taste
1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
1 tsp garlic, chopped finely
4 grains cumin seeds
1 red onion chopped
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
pinch hing
salt to taste
Spice Mix
1 black cardamom, pods removed
3 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
Serves 2

Pots n pans
Pressure Cooker
Wok or Frying Pan


  1. Rinse and wash rajma thoroughly in running cold water a couple of times. Discard water & soak in fresh water overnight or at least 4 hours. SOS canned kidney beans may be an option if you’re pressed for time, but please do rinse out the canned beans a few times to remove all the sodium.
  2. Heat Skillet. Dry roast all the spices in the spice mix except the black cardamom. SOS Keep the heat even when you dry roast & don’t be tempted to up heat in an effort to speed up otherwise you’ll end up with spices which are burnt on the outside & raw in the inside. Even and low heat will take care of roasting the spices inside out. Take off heat once spices are roasted & let cool. Add black cardamom pods and grind to a fine powder in coffee grinder. Reserve in an airtight bottle. SOS my suggested portions will end up with some remaining garam masala that you can keep for another recipe, another time.
  3. Pressure cook beans till they are soft.
  4. Heat oil and add cumin seeds. Quickly add onion and stir till cooked and soft. Add ginger and garlic and stir quickly till lightly brown.
  5. Add green chillies, tomatoes(or tomato paste), turmeric and 1 heaped tbsp garam masala powder and fry till the oil separates from the masala.
  6. Add cooked kidney beans, ½ cup water, hing, salt to taste and cook till beans are soft . SOS From my channa masala post  you might recall the gravy is made up of the beans so go ahead & coarsely mash some of the beans.
  7. Take off heat. Garnish with corainder.

Featured Spice
I’d like to introduce you to the magic spices called garam masala, meaning hot mix, a blend of a few different spices like the ones I listed above. These spices are used liberally in northern Indian cooking in the cold winter months. I really wanted to highlight black cardamom in this post & remove any misconceptions that its a cheaper spice than its more subtle cousin, green cardamom. Black cardamom has an amazingly smoky flavour & is mostly used in savoury dishes like rajma, while green cardamom is used in desserts for the most part, think carmelized cardamom bananas.

Health benefits
To my pleasant surprise my research uncovered the fact that black cardamom or kali elaichi is used in chinese medicine as well. Black cardamom is used to alleviate cold and damp in the digestive system, particularly the spleen, and is used to help prevent pregnancy induced nausea. It is also used to prevent miscarriage.

Fun facts
I really enjoyed reading how garam masala doesn’t have any actual heating spice in it like chilies. Its a pungent spice mix that’s able to raise body heat even without intrinsic heating spices & is perfect for cold winter months to get your body metabolism to dance with nature. Thanks to food writer Vikram Doctor for his lovely explanation.

Suggested Pairing
Serve rajma with steamed white basmati rice & you have a protein-carb pairing that’s second to none in the world. Now tell me how many gluten free recipes have you tasted before that are this healthy, pretty to look at and delicious all in the same breath!


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