Red Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma)

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Sometimes life hands you lemons. Kernels of sourness. Little moments or truths or revelations that just make you pucker up and shake your head in disbelief. Like really universe? This is what you’re going to throw my way? You want to laugh and cry at the same time, on one hand feeling frustrated with the parade of disappointments, but on the other cherishing these moments for the inevitable memoir that will surely entertain the masses. In any case, I’ve learned that it’s best to take the Buddhist path in these instances – let go, live in the here and now and don’t sweat the future. Call up a good friend, shed a few tears, eat a cupcake, then laugh at the audacity of life. Good food helps. Especially a dish that warms from within to chase away the winter chill and nourishes your body with plant-based goodness that pairs plenty of exotic (but easy to find) spices with otherwise simple ingredients. This red kidney bean curry is known as rajma and hails from Northern India. Now let me qualify that a Polish-born Canadian girl making a very traditional Indian curry might take some  liberties with the recipe so this may or may not actually resemble what a real rajma looks or tastes like, but nevertheless I love (LOVE) the results. In fact, now that I think of it, I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually eaten authentic rajma. I’ve heard lots about it from friends and the families of South Asian decent that I counsel in my role as a dietitian (apparently rajma is a beloved dish for many children.) I’ve read and researched plenty of recipes when I decided to make my own many years ago – I can only guess at how close mine is to the real thing. In any case, as I said, the recipe that follows creates a beautiful, spiced dish that satisfies.

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Red kidney beans are part of the pulse family (which includes beans, peas and lentils) and Canada is the world’s second largest grower of this nutrient-packed bunch (right after India). Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec grow hundreds of varieties and exports are a billion dollar industry! Talk about home-grown gold. Pulse Canada does an amazing job curating recipes, factsheets and lots  of great information about pulses – please check out their website. While 2016 was the Year of Pulses,  they are not going anywhere. In fact, pulses are gaining popularity and a larger share of the real estate on our plates. And this is no surprise really, they are incredibly cheap, versatile, brimming with protein and nutrients and hailed as a sustainable crop. The future is pulses! Did I mention the nutrients??

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I used canned kidney beans for this recipe but give dried beans a chance too. They just require soaking overnight, then a quick rinse and boiling the next day. Mostly idle work. I make big batches at a time then store in zip top bags in the freezer. Check out cooking guidelines for various pulses here. I should  also say give (dried) peas a chance as well. Hehe.  

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Red Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma)

Serves 4

Prep Time 15 minutes

Cook Time 30-35 minutes

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons avocado oil, or other neutral tasting oil (grapeseed, canola)

1 medium/large sweet onion, roughly chopped

4-5 cloves of garlic

2 inch chunk of ginger, peeled

1 Tablespoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh red chile, or to taste

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

4 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 (19oz/540ml) cans of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 1/2 cups water

Cooked grain of your choice (rice, quinoa, sorghum, millet) or flatbread, for serving

Chopped fresh cilantro, lime wedges and chopped red chile to garnish (optional)

Directions:

1. Add ginger and garlic cloves to bowl of food processor and process until finely chopped (about 30 seconds). Add onion to the minced ginger and garlic and pulse until chopped. Alternatively, if you don’t have a food processor, mince ginger and garlic, and finely chop onion with a knife.

2. Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium heat, add ginger, garlic and onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 3-5 minutes.

3. Add in cumin seeds, red pepper flakes or red chile, garam masala, turmeric, coriander, salt and pepper, stir to combine and  cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

4. Add in chopped tomatoes, including any juices, stir to combine, and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until liquid has mostly evaporated and the oil starts to release from the mixture. Reduce heat to medium-low if mixture starts to bubble too fast and sticks to the pan.

5. Add in kidney beans and water, stir to  combine, cover with lid slightly askew (to allow steam to escape) and cook for about 8-10 minutes until curry thickens, stir from time to time to make sure curry does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Take off the heat. If desired, using a potato masher, mash some of the kidney beans in one corner of the pot; this will thicken the sauce a little bit while keeping most of the kidney beans whole.

6. Serve with cooked grains or flatbread and garnish with toppings as desired.

Tips:

You can add more water to the curry after the last step if you prefer a thinner consistency.

You can buy all the spices at a bulk store if you prefer to buy smaller amounts.

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