I have a confession to make: For years, I have been cooking a dish that I love very very much but I haven’t told you about it because it comes from two words that I cannot bring myself to publicly own up to.* Especially on a site where if you suggested I use one, I’d suggest you haven’t been paying attention.
It’s a box mix, people. And it makes the most fantastic rajmah, or kidney bean curry. Wait! Let me explain. Long before I had cooked a single Indian dish, I was overwhelmed at the thought of it. I didn’t have the spices. I didn’t know which spices I’d want. I was sure I’d use them all wrong. There’s like an art and a science to this and I am a dilettante in the world of Indian cooking.
And one day we were at Whole Foods, and they of course had some cooking samples out, these provided from a company that was packaging Indian spice mixes for classic dishes, for which they helpfully provided recipes on the back. The aloo gobi was okay. The chicken tikka masala was, you know, not bad either. But the kidney bean curry? Swoon. We took it home with us that very night.
In the years since, I have found Indian recipes I can’t get enough of. There are Curried Lentils and Sweet Potatoes, Tangy Cabbage Salads and an Everyday Yellow Dal, Red Split Lentils with Cabbage, Indian-Spiced Vegetable Fritters and my favorite, the one that we make many times a year, Indian-Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes.
And we always serve it with my super-secret rajmah mix. In fact, my shame associated with taking spices from a packaged mix was so great, I failed to note this wee detail: I was actually cooking this dish from scratch! There are beans, chopped tomotoes, canned sauce, fresh ginger and onion and garlic and chiles and you prep them all yourself and seriously, does this sound to you like a box mix? No? That’s because all it provides is the spices. Spices that, as it turns out, are already in my spice rack.
Once I did realize this, it wasn’t long before I no longer even needed it for that. Free at last! And free to share without shame.
* I promise, you will never see a Smitten Kitchen recipe that says, “first, buy this thing from this brand at this store.”
Red Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma)
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (we use less)
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (reduced from original 4T)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 plum tomato, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 large green chili, chopped (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 8 ounce can of tomato sauce or 1 cup of one of your choice
- 3 cups cooked red kidney beans or 2 15-ounce cans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or parsley, if you’re cilantro-averse)
Heat oil in a deep sauce pan over medium heat for one minute. Add ginger, garlic, onion, green chili, and let sizzle for one minute. Add the tomato sauce, salt and remaining spices and cook for an additional five minutes, stirring frequently. Add red kidney beans plus 2 additional cups of water, and tomatoes. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and let cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Garnish with cilantro.
Serve over rice or with naan. A dollop of plain yogurt (if not keeping the dish vegan) on top is heavenly.