My love affair with cookbooks started about thirty-three odd years ago when cooking became a part of my life. It was only once married did I even venture into the kitchen to cook. Prior to that I was my mother's chief taster and each weekend on my return from university I would devour the feast that she had so lovingly prepared for me. Despite my cooking skills being honed out of necessity, cooking developed into a passion and I now stand before you, a die-hard foodie.
There is always a teetering stack of cookbooks by my bedside; food porn dare I say! Thus, I must confess that I am a cookbook addict. There, my 'secret' is out in the open! I love to pore over those antiquarian treasures, gifted to me so long ago, just as much as the clean glossy coffee table variety. There is however a place to go to; not quite rehab, but a trove in fact, which literally feeds my addiction. Books for Cooks in Notting Hill in London, is a quirky bookshop crammed with thousands of cookbook titles, where they actually 'cook the books' by testing out the recipes and selling the prepared dishes in their cafe.
One such coffee table tome, entitled My Last Supper was bought for me several years ago by one of my sons. Fifty of the world's most famous chefs share their last supper fantasies, disclosing the chef preparing it, the location, the invitees and of course the meal itself. This book by Melanie Dunea, is a culinary revelation of the world's leading authorities on food. Despite enjoying the finest, most expensive, exquisite ingredients on the planet, most of these chefs wish for simple more rustic foods as their last supper. The book is actually food for thought and I've posed this question to others numerous times. The overwhelming result is that we are inclined to turn to comfort foods. For me personally, I'm once again in the halcyon days of my childhood, at my mother's kitchen table yearning for a hot bowl of rajma chawal, which translated, is a red kidney bean stew with basmati rice. Rajma is a popular North Indian, Punjabi vegetarian dish of red kidney beans cooked in a thick, spiced gravy. For me this is basically a big hug in a bowl. It is comfort food laced in nostalgia. I hope you too will add this to your vegetarian repertoire and savour this big bowl of happiness.
680g Dried Kidney Beans
2 Large Onions, finely chopped
4 tbsp Sunflower Oil
6 Cloves of Garlic
4 inch piece of Ginger
1 Green Chilli
400g Tin Chopped Tomatoes
2 dessertspoons Tomato Puree
3.5 tsp Salt
3 tsp Garam Masala
2.5 tsp Ground Coriander Powder
50g Fresh Coriander (Cilantro), finely chopped
100ml Double Cream (optional)
Soak the dried kidney beans overnight, in a large pan in 2 litres of water and cover.
The following day, drain in a colander and rinse the kidney beans thoroughly under cold water for several minutes.
The kidney beans can either be cooked in a pressure cooker, as per the manufacturers instructions, or boiled in a pan.
I put the beans into my pressure cooker with double the quantity of water and place the lid on. Once the pressure is reached, I reduce the heat to a moderate setting and cook for 20 minutes. After this time I remove from the heat and once the pressure is released remove the pan lid. The kidney beans are now tender and have split slightly.
If you don't have a pressure cooker, the kidney beans must be boiled in plenty of water for around 60-90 minutes, until the beans are soft, tender and slightly split. (You may need to top up the water regularly whilst boiling the beans).
Grind the garlic, ginger and chilli together to a paste.
Fry the chopped onions in the sunflower oil and add the garlic, ginger, chilli paste.
Cook this onion mixture on a moderate heat until the onions are golden brown.
Add the chopped tomatoes and the tomato puree into the onion mixture and cook slowly for about 40 minutes until the tomato mixture has turned a dark red and the oil starts to emerge around the edge of the pan.
Add the salt, garam masala and ground coriander powder.
Add the tomato mixture to the cooked kidney beans and add about half a litre of boiled water to loosen the curry.
Cook on a low heat for about 1 hour, or until the gravy has thickened. You may need to add more boiled water if needed.
You will end up with a thick stew and mix in the chopped coriander and double cream before serving.
Serve the rajma with basmati rice or hot roti.
If you are using a pressure cooker, it is imperative to follow manufacturers instructions.
If you are considering investing in a pressure cooker, I recommend buying a stainless steel one, as opposed to an aluminium one.
The rajma recipe can be halved if you do not want to make a large pot of it, or alternatively it is suitable to freeze in freezer friendly containers.