Recipe: Rajma from the pantry

Spices and eggplant.
Spices and eggplant.

This started out as an idea for yet another bean salad, but I finally decided to make a non-salad lunch this week. I wanted something flavorful and healthy, with a nice mix of carbs and protein to fuel recover for after racing in BUMPS! (Yay!) I’d mentally bookmarked a recipe for red kidney bean (rajma) curry on the lovely Smitten Kitchen, but ended up adapting a recipe I found by Googling “rajma.” This one was a bit easier than Deb’s to start with, and I adapted it further to use up more pantry ingredients. Since I hate food waste and I’m leaving Cambridge in less than 2 months, I want to use up as many of my neglected pantry staples as possible.

Stirring frozen spinach into the tomato-eggplant-onion mix.
Stirring frozen spinach into the tomato-eggplant-onion mix.

In my opinion, at least, it turned out pretty well! I like the mix of textures and flavors, and I bet it will be even better re-heated, as the spices will have more time to sink into the food and blend. I just wish I had time to make naan to go along with it. It’s just the right texture to be scooped up with flatbread.

Done, and tasting better than it looks! :)
Done, and tasting better than it looks! ūüôā

This is a very flexible recipe; you could use plenty of other vegetables alongside or in place of the eggplant and I’m sure it would be great (though I’d stay away from really strongly flavored ones asparagus or fennel)!¬†¬†I can see carrots, bell peppers (or spicier peppers), and cauliflower being especially good.¬†It’s also a¬†chunky curry more than a soupy one; if you want more liquid, just use another can of chopped tomatoes or about half a can of chicken or vegetable broth.

Rajma (Red Kidney Bean Curry)

Yield: 4-5 servings.

Adapted from Archana’s Kitchen.

1/2 to 1 Tbsp oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced (optional; I ran out)
2 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
1-2 tsp ground turmeric
1-2 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp crushed chiles
1 eggplant, 1-cm cubes
1 (14-oz) can chopped tomatoes
1/2 – 2 tsp sugar or honey (optional; I used 1/2 tsp honey)
200 g frozen chopped spinach or fresh baby spinach
2 (14-oz) cans red kidney beans, drained
Fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)
Yogurt for serving (optional)

Heat oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, then add spices and eggplant and stir to blend in spices. Cook, stirring occasionally, until eggplant pieces are lightly browned, about 5-7 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes along with spinach if using frozen. Stir to mix thoroughly, reduce heat to medium-low, and let cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. (This is particularly important if using frozen spinach; stirring helps to break up chunks and encourage thawing.)

After 10 minutes, taste and adjust seasoning (if your tomatoes are very acidic, you may want to add a teaspoon or two of sugar or honey). Add drained kidney beans and fresh spinach (if using) and stir to combine. Let cook another 5 minutes, until eggplant is tender, (fresh) spinach has wilted, and beans are warmed through.

Serving suggestion: over rice or naan, topped with fresh cilantro and/or yogurt. If there isn’t enough turmeric in this for you, you can whip up a turmeric lassi while it cooks. Otherwise, I’d stick with a nice cup of chai, hot or iced.

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