One of the most appealing features of Iyer's recipes is his assembly-line fashion of preparation and cooking using modern appliances, a restaurant-like approach that makes each of his dishes as easy to scale down for two people as it would be to scale up for a hundred. And if the picture of an assembly line seems aesthetically unappealing to the gourmand, try to picture instead the convenience for a parent who hasn't much time or who faces a lot of interruptions in the kitchen. Either way, there's no sacrifice of flavour or goodness in this book. There are more than a few interesting tips as well, such as whisking yogurt together with a little heavier cream before adding to heat to prevent curdling.
Rajma is a generic word meaning literally "red kidney bean," but which is applied more loosely as a name for the tomato-based red kidney bean curries found throughout northern India. In this version, adapted from one found in "660 Curries," fresh mint does not alter the spice of the curry but provides a pleasing added tone at the end of the palette after the tongue has savoured the spices. Potatoes are used here to provide a contrast in colour, taste and texture, but fried paneer cheese cubes could be substituted as easily and with as nice an effect — just add them during the simmer rather than before the boil.
This is my contribution to My Legume Love Affair, an event started by Susan and hosted this month by Sra of When my Soup Came Alive.
Mint and potato rajma
1 1/3 cups dried red kidney beans
1 large tomato, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 red cayenne peppers, stemmed
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh mint leaves
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
3-inch piece cinnamon, broken into pieces
2 tablespoons ghee or a mixture of butter and olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 medium potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup whole fat yogurt
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 tablespoons fresh coriander or parsley, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
Rinse the kidney beans under running water and soak overnight covered in several inches of cold water with a little yogurt whey or lemon juice added. Drain and discard the soaking liquid, and cover the beans in a medium saucepan with several inches of fresh cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender but not falling apart. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Set aside.
Using a blender, purée the tomato, onion, cayenne peppers, mint, ginger, peppercorns, turmeric and cinnamon until a smooth sauce, flecked with green and brown. Set aside.
Heat the ghee or butter and olive oil mixture over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Toss in the cumin seeds and fry until reddish-brown, less than a minute. Pour in the puréed sauce, partially cover the pan, and lower the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the oil begins to separate from the sauce, 10 to 15 minutes.
Stir in the potatoes, kidney beans, and the reserved cup of the beans' cooking liquid. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened slightly, 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together the yogurt, sour cream and garam masala. Once the potatoes are cooked, fold in the yogurt mixture, cilantro and salt. Simmer gently uncovered for another couple of minutes.
Serve in warm bowls with hot white rice or fresh bread on the side. Serves 6.