Sharmila's Satwik Rajma Curry / No Onion-No Garlic Red Kidney Bean Curry

Sometimes you meet people at the weirdest of places but forge such a strong connection that they become a part and parcel of your life. I met my dearest friend Kate at the breakfast room of the hotel we were staying, when we first came to Cincinnati. And I met my other dear friend Sharmila at a Food Blogger's group on Facebook.

But this post is not about Kate but Sharmila and her delicious Rajma Curry which is a family staple now. Sharmila is the beautiful mind behind the blog Kitchen e Kichu Khonn, where she shares super simple recipes and snippets of her life. Its a joy reading her blog. She is someone I have never met face-to-face. Her profile picture hardly shows her face. I have no clue how she looks but still she is my soul sister. She was one of my anchor when I was going through a tough time last year. Her encouraging words, witty one liners and "picture of the day" made me go though the day. And she did it all, while herself struggling with medical complication inflicted by negligent and ignorant doctors. She is kind, she is emotional, she is witty, she is lively. She is every thing I am, only better. And I really hope she always find love, hope and laughter in her life.

Coming back to today's post, Sharmila's blog is filled with flavorful and fuss free recipes. Her Lahsooni Kadhi is a family favorite and hit with my friends too. When I tried her Niramish Rajma / No Onion-Garlic Rajma, I instantly knew my family found a new favorite. Rajma or Red Kidney Beans is a well loved dish in my family. As a diabetic, I try to incorporate a lot of beans and other legumes in my diet and that Sid is equally fond of them, only helps my cause.

Satwik is a Sanskrit word which means Pure. In the culinary context its means a pure vegetarian fare, devoid of  meat, fish, eggs, onion and garlic. I have no idea why garlic and onions falls under the "Non-Veg" category but it does. May be because of its strong flavor or may be because they compliment meat dishes so well; I am yet to find a satisfactory answer as to why they are banned for 'Pure' category.

From a truly gastronomical perspective, its fun once in a while to try food devoid of onions and garlic. The flavors are mild and subtle and the taste and flavor of the main ingredients pops out. And if you are still not convinced, there's an added bonus of "no chopping onions" and "no garlic scented fingers"!

The main flavor of this dish comes from the Black Cardamom. Its unique sweet and smokey flavor is the highlight of this dish. You can definitely use the regular green cardamoms but the flavors wont be so intense. I strongly recommend the use of Black Cardamons, which are easily available at any Indian grocery stores.

Sharmila's recipes asked for a paste of tomatoes, green chilies and black cardamom. Since I have separate wet and dry grinder, I made a paste of tomatoes, ginger and chilies and pounded the cardamoms separately in my mortar and pestle. Crushing and pounding the black cardamoms enhanced and intensified its flavor and created magic in the resultant curry.  I am groping for the right words to express the true flavor of the curry. But let me tell you, this version of Rajma (red kidney beans) tastes way better than its garlic-onion counterpart. And this comes from a person, who till few months ago, could not dream of cooking without onions and garlic.

Try it and I guarantee you'll fall in love with it.

Recipe Snapshot: Sharmila's Satwik Rajma Curry / No Onion-No Garlic Red Kidney Bean Curry
Adapted from Kichu Khonn's Niramish Rajma / No onion garlic Rajma

Serves: 4-6 serving
(1 serving = 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup)

What I used:
Kashmiri Rajma or Red Kidney Beans (dry) - 1 cup 
Red Kidney Beans - 2 (14.5 oz) cans, drained and thoroughly rinsed

Tomatoes - 2

Black Cardamom (Badi Elaichi) -  6 pieces

Green Chilies - 2 (or more if you prefer heat. I used seeded one as Sid is completely intolerant to heat)

Ginger - 1 small knob, grated

Red Chili Powder (or Paprika for milder version)- 1/2 tsp

Cooking oil (I used Canola Oil) - 1 tbsp

Water - at least 6 cups and more if required

Ghee (Clarified Butter) - 1/2 tsp (optional)

What I did:
1. Re-hydrate the kidney beans in ample water, overnight. (Kashmiri Rajma is smaller in size and soaks pretty fast. I soaked it only for 4 hour and they were ready to be cooked). The beans will double in size, so choose the container and the amount of soaking water accordingly. Skip this step if using canned beans.

2. Make a paste of tomatoes, ginger and green chilies. If you have a multipurpose blender, add the cardamoms too. But I have separate dry and wet grinder. So I made a paste of tomatoes, ginger and chilies and pounded the cardamoms separately in my mortar and pestle. 

3. I used a pressure cooker to cook my beans. But cooking it on the stove top or in the slow cooker is also possible. If you are using canned beans, no need to use the pressure cooker. 

4. In the pressure cooker, heat up the oil till shimmering, add the tomato-ginger-chili paste, followed by the pounded cardamons. Cook till the raw smell is gone.

5. Add the red chili powder or paprika and mix well. Add a splash of water if you feel the masala is sticking to the bottom of the pan. 

6. Add the soaked rajma/ kidney beans (or the washed and drained canned beans) and mix it well with the masala.

7. Add salt and enough water, about 4-5 cups. Close the cooker and cook for 6 to 8 whistles, on low heat. (Sharmila's tip: Remember, the water should last that long ... if you use less water, it will start to burn at the bottom). 

If using slow cooker, dump the masala coated kidney beans into the slow cooker, add the water and cook on low setting for 8 hours (5 hours if using canned beans).

If cooking on stove top, after you add the water, bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to low and cook covered on low heat for 2 to 2.5 hours, stirring intermittently. (If using canned beans cook for 45 mins to one hour).

8. You know its done when beans are super tender. It will still hold its shape but will give away when pressed.

9. At this point add more water, if required (specifically if you are doing stove top cooking) and put it back on simmer, stirring gently and mashing the beans a little, along the way. It adds to the thickness of the gravy as well as brings out the flavors.

10. Turn off the heat, once it reached the desired consistency. Note: the gravy will thicken as it cools, so its a good idea to leave it slightly soupy when you take it off the heat. 

11. Add a dab of ghee (clarified butter) for an extra bust of aroma and flavor. 

12. Serve hot with plain white or brown rice. 

Diabetic Platter:
Kidney beans are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, as are most other beans. In addition to lowering cholesterol, kidney beans' high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal, making these beans an especially good choice for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia. When combined with whole grains such as rice, kidney beans provide virtually fat-free high quality protein. But this is far from all kidney beans have to offer.

1. Its a A Fiber All Star - Kidney beans, like other beans, are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract that binds with bile (which contains cholesterol)and ferries it out of the body. Research studies have shown that insoluble fiber not only helps to increase stool bulk and prevent constipation, but also helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.

2. Lower Your Heart Attack Risk - Kidney beans' contribution to heart health lies not just in their fiber, but in the significant amounts of folate and magnesium these beans supply. Folate helps lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is an intermediate product in an important metabolic process called the methylation cycle. Elevated blood levels of homocysteine are an independent risk factor for heart attack, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease.

3. Kidney Beans Give You Energy to Burn While Stabilizing Blood Sugar - In addition to its beneficial effects on the digestive system and the heart, soluble fiber helps stabilize blood sugar levels. If you have insulin resistance, hypoglycemia or diabetes, kidney beans can really help you balance blood sugar levels while providing steady, slow-burning energy. 

4. Protein Power Plus - If you're wondering how to replace red meat in your menus, become a fan of kidney beans. These hearty beans are a good source of protein, and when combined with a whole grain such as whole wheat pasta or brown rice provide protein comparable to that of meat or dairy foods without the high calories or saturated fat found in these foods. And, when you get your protein from kidney beans, you also get the blood sugar stabilizing and heart health benefits of the soluble fiber provided by these versatile legumes. A cup of kidney beans provides over 15 grams of protein.

4. Iron for Energy - In addition to providing slow burning complex carbohydrates, kidney beans can increase your energy by helping to replenish your iron stores. 

In addition to the above listed health benefits, Kidney bean is also an important source of Iron, Thiamin (Vitamin B1), which maintains memory and Manganese for energy production and antioxidant defense. Read the detailed article here


  1. Colorful gravy:)

  2. Thank you for such beautiful words. I'm proud to have you as my friend too.
    So glad you liked the recipe.

  3. Lovely recipe! So easy to make... Soh loved it!

  4. Lovely post! Full of information about your flavourful recipes :)
    Thanks very much for sharing!
    Chinese Restaurant in Karol Bagh


  5. oh that is a killer combo!!! so tempting and so interesting.. Thanks for sending this yummy recipe to my event.. Looking for more yummy recipes... chowringhee satyaniketan

  6. Very yummy recipe!!
    I wanted to share about your mention why Oninion & Garlic comes in Non-Veg Category. Actually it is not non-veg category. It is in Veg category only, it comes in Tamasik category. As per Aayurveda food quilities are Satvik, Rajasik, & Tamasik. Every fruit,veg,grain, legumes create different energy(prana) in our body as per their qualities. Onion & Garlic creates Tamas in your body. It has negative pranic energy hence it is to be avoided if you want your mind and body to be active , alert and aware. Thats why during fasting or festival diet onion garlic is strictly avoided, as if you eat that your mind and body becomes negative pranic. I hope this explanation helps.


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