Rajma Masala

Rajma or Red Kidney Beans are a staple in almost every North Indian household. Rajma Chawal – Rajma served with Steamed Rice, is a legend in Punjab.
About their health benefits, I can go on and on…
High fiber aids weight loss. They are loaded with proteins, powerhouse of energy and stuffed with antioxidants that increase immunity. They maintain the blood sugar levels, thus preventing diabetes. They also maintain the blood pressure, leading to a healthy heart. Anti-aging, excellent for glowing skin and lustrous hair. Need I say more…

Move over the restaurants that lure you with a good-looking dish and then dig a big hole in your pockets. And all that with really small portions that make you think whether to eat it or just look at it. After Version 1, 2, 3… I’ve finally nailed it with Version Lipsmaking, that’ll beat these hole-diggers hands down.
rajma-masalaSoaking time: Overnight or minimum 10 hours
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
200 grams Rajma (you can also use the canned beans)
3 tbsp butter (I’m very generous with butter)
1 tbsp oil
3 medium or 2 large onions, finely chopped
2 medium size tomatoes, pureed
11/2 tbsp ginger+garlic+green chili paste
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp Kashmiri / red chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp corriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) – optional
2 tbsp fresh cream
1/2 to 1 cup water…as per your desired thickness of the gravy
Salt as per taste
2 tsp lemon juice
Chopped coriander for garnishing

Method:
Soaking and Cooking Rajma:
1. Wash the beans and soak them in enough water overnight or for at least 10 hours. This softens the beans and expedites the cooking process.
2. Discard the liquid and wash the soaked beans under cold water.
3. Pressure cook the beans till done. They should be really soft… melt-in-mouth kind of soft.
4. If boiling, remember Rajma is a really stubborn bean. It’ll consume whole lot of time and fuel. So pressure cooking is advisable.
5. Save the cooking liquor – the liquid that’s left after cooking the beans.
6. Mash 2 tbsps of the cooked beans. They thicken the gravy.

Rajma Masala:
1. Heat oil, then add butter in a kadhai or a non-stick heavy bottomed pan.
2. Add cumin seeds and let them splutter.
3. Add the cinnamon and bay leaf. Fry for few seconds till aromatic and the oil is flavored.
4. Toss in the onions and fry till translucent and golden brown. Be careful not to burn.
5. Add the ginger+garlic+chili paste and saute for a minute. The raw smell should go away.
6. Add the spice powders – turmeric, coriander, cumin, red chili, garam masala and saute for a minute.
7. Add the tomato puree and fry till the oil starts leaving from sides.
8. Tumble in the beans, add the cooking liquor, mashed beans, sprinkle salt and give it a good stir. Add more water if needed.
9. Let it simmer without lid, on low for around 10 minutes.
10. After the gravy has attained the desired consistency, sprinkle the kasuri methi, add the fresh cream and lime juice.
11. Let it cook on low for another one last minute.
12. Garnish with coriander and serve hot with Steamed Rice, Jeera (Cumin) Rice, Roti or Naan slathered with butter.

P.S. : *There are two varieties of Rajma available in the market – Red and pinkish one. Cooking time varies for both. I prefer the red ones.
*If undercooked, the beans aren’t as flavorful as they should be. Also, under-cooked Rajma isn’t good for your stomach. So ensure it’s cooked thoroughly.
*If using canned beans, discard the liquid and take just the beans after giving them a quick run under cold water.

Advertisements

Spicy Kerala Chicken Curry

I came across this recipe while scouring the YouTube for Chicken curries cooked the Kerala way. The video was shot entirely in Malayalam (predominant language spoken in Kerala) and I am Malayalam-illiterate. But one look at the process and I was already drooling.
It tastes mind-blowing more than it looks; not to forget the super-easy part.
spicy-kerala-chicken-curryPreparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
For curry:

500 gm chicken
3 medium size onions, sliced
2 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
10-12 cloves of garlic. Leave them whole
2 green chilies, slit (those thin, dark ones are really hot. So use accordingly)
1 medium size tomato, sliced
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp coriander powder
2 tbsp red chili powder (Alter as per your spice-tolerance level)
1 tsp black pepper powder
1/2 tsp fennel seeds powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
3 – 4 tbsp coconut oil
Salt as per taste
1/2 to 1 cup water, as per the desired thickness

For tempering:
1 tbsp coconut oil
3/4 tsp mustard seeds
3 dried red chilies, broken
2 green chilies, slit
8-9 curry leaves

Method:
For Curry:
1. Heat oil in a kadhai or a heavy bottomed pan.
2. Add onions, chilies, ginger and garlic. Fry till soft and translucent.
3. Add all the spice powders and saute for one minute.
4. Toss in the tomatoes and fry till soft.
5. Now add water, sprinkle salt and bring it to boil. Now reduce the flame and let it simmer for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture turns into a thick gravy.
6. Slowly tumble in the chicken pieces. Stir, so they are all coated in the gravy.
7. Let the curry simmer for around 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked.

For tempering:
1. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a separate pan.
2. Add mustard seeds and let them splutter.
3. Now add the curry leaves, green and red chilies and fry on slow flame for a bit. Red chilies tend to burn soon. So take care here.

Now add this tempered mixture to the simmering curry and cook for another 3-4 minutes till the curry is flavored.
Serve with steamed rice and a wedge of lime.

P.S.: *You will also enjoy it with Appams – Kerala style pancakes made with fermented rice batter and coconut milk.
In Sri Lanka, they are known as Hoppers.
*Coconut oil is the stellar ingredient here. All the flavor that the curry has, is because of the coconut oil. Do not use any other oil for this recipe except this one. 
*Do not add too much of water in Step 5. You don’t want a really runny curry.
More water can always be added in Step 7. This way you get your desired consistency and also save your curry.
* Alter the amount of green chilies and chili powder as per you tolerance level.

 

Powai Sarvajanin Durgotsav

Heart filled with anticipation, we manoeuvre towards the entrance. Cars jostle for parking space, dhoti-clad men and alluring women draped in Devdas-style sarees sashay gracefully in and out, halogens radiating their perfectly decorated faces. It’s the ninth and last night of Navratri, the night before Dussehra and my last chance to experience the much revered Sarvajanik Durgotsav – Public Celebration of Goddess Durga.

Now in its 11th year, the Powai Sarvajanin Durgotsav is organised by the Powai Bengali Welfare Association, also known as the PBWA and ranks among the top ten Durga Puja Pandals in Mumbai.

It’s amazing how despite such a massive turnout, everything is so organised and well under control. The entrance opens to an enormous ground, its every corner oozing festive energy.
pandalIrresistible aromas of delicious Bengali food follow you everywhere. We somehow manage to control our urge and head first for the blessings of Goddess Durga. enclosureEnter the beautifully themed enclosure and get bedazzled to  the larger-than-life idol of the Goddess. Riding her roaring lion, looking resplendent draped in vermilion red, her dark, lustrous hair flowing beneath her sparkling gilded crown like an unstoppable raging river, festooned with garlands, she looks spectacularly ferocious and yet breathtakingly beautiful. Her big, round, kohl-lined eyes look mercifully at you while she slays Mahishasur, the demon, the symbol of all things negative.durga-maDarshan, done. Time to hit the food stalls. Whether you are a vegetarian or otherwise, they are sure to wow you with a wide variety of gastronomic delights.
Hungry crowds hover over the counters, frankies sizzle on massive skillets, biryani tossed onto the plates, aroma of Chinese food beckons. But it is the traditional Bengali delicacies that steal the show. I struggle, crane my neck, stretch my hand, for one click. Seeing my plight, the guy at the counter gladly obliges.
foodWe chomp on Steamed Rice drenched in the flavorful Bhapa Ilish, the succulent Hilsa fish first steamed then cooked in luscious mustard based curry. This accompanied by Fish Fry, deep fried skillets of Bhetki, juicy and tender on the inside, enveloped in the crunchiest and most delicious crust there can ever be. It’s amazing how the coating is seasoned and flavored to make up for the blandness of this river fish.
We wash all these down with a soft drink and head towards the desserts.

The stalls have run out of the much-in-demand Sondesh. So we make do with its another popular cousin, the Mishti Doi – sweet and thickened curd set in an earthen pot. What’s so special about that? you ask. Honestly, nothing. It’s the earthen flavor and the feeling of having everything Bengali tonight that makes the difference.
mishti-doiWith the muscles of our stomachs starting to protest, we have no option but to parcel the Lancha – a larger version of the Gulab Jamun. lanchaLittle further, old Hindi and Bengali melodies fill the air. A well-known singer performs live, enthralling the audience, belting out one hit after the other in his soulful rendition.
singingWhile my ears are on his singing, my eyes scout hard to capture one of the many Bengali belles parading around. I’ve always been awestruck by their beauty – luminous complexion, voluptuous figure, dense dark hair and big almond eyes.
My lens finally finds its muse…
museWhile ambling the grounds in an effort to get our digestive system working, I bump into an ex-colleague-cum-friend after eight long years. Looking at his son I realize how time has just flown by.

World is indeed small and such occasions are a wonderful way to meet people who you may not otherwise, in this enigmatic conundrum called Life.
All you need to do is get yourself out there…