There’s snow on the ground and a definite chill in the air as we move closer to yet another Christmas and so it’s time to make that chilly weather a bit more tolerable…. with something spicy and yummy from the kitchen to warm Carolyn and I up from the inside out.
This time out… a twist on an old “South-of-the-Border” favorite, “Chili Con Carne”…. but done with a North Indian Punjabi styling known there as “Rajma Chawal” (राजमा), or “Red Bean Curry with Rice”. Mmmmm!! Spicy fruity curry…. how this wee Catgirl loves you!!
Now my sweetie, Carolyn… she likes a good chunky chili… and eating out at a Mexican restaurant is definitely something she always enjoys. However, despite my best efforts, I’ve yet to convince her that partaking of a good spicy curry is as close to heaven as you are likely to ever get at mealtime. That changed forever last week when I remembered this particular dish while rummaging through our cupboard looking for some ingredients for a dinner surprise. On my shelf… hidden behind some cans of corn and green beans was a big lonely #5 can of red kidney beans… sitting right next to a big ol’ can of diced tomatoes. It was a clear and unmistakable omen from the Kitchen Fairies… and Neko would never disregard such a clear mandate from them…. 😉
Wanna know how you, too, can unleash the wondrous power of this familiar and yet sooooo exotic tasting curry for yourself and those special people you love? Why then you are gonna have to “Read On” then aren’t you?
Traditionally this particular Punjabi recipe was originally intended to be a vegetarian dish… but along with her love of all things Curry, yours truly is an unashamedly carnivorous lil’ Catgirl. Besides, what’s a good chili without the savory taste of those meaty bits that always swim in that spicy bean sauce? So for my version of Rajma, I decided to ramp things up a bit, adding the idea of chunks of well browned chicken to the whole mix…. and bringing it closer to the effect my sweetheart would be expecting when she first saw it.
So… to start things off I chunked up a pound of chicken breasts I had in the refrigerator to bite size and set them to browning in a heavy pot on my stove in a couple tablespoons of peanut oil. Once they were nearly done, all covered with those tasty brown bits we know and love, I added two onions, peeled and sliced into thin strips. Stir them occassionally, letting the onions get translucent before adding the following:2 tbsp of minced garlic 1 tbsp of Sambal Olek (Or any fresh crushed hot peppers you might happen to have…. I just love the salty, vinegary goodness of Sambal and can’t resist sneaking it into just about everything… Hehehehe!!) 2 tbsp Garam Masala (You really need this…. seriously… no curry is really complete without a good Garam Masala blend. Find some… your spice rack will love you for it!) ½ tsp of regular curry powder ½ tsp of cinnamon (or a good 1-1½” stick of cinnamon bark) 1 pinch of salt
Let thse all simmer together for a few minutes at low heat until you can smell the wonderful aroma of the spice joining together with the onion and chicken. Do a quick de-glaze with a little chicken stock… only an ounce or so…. before adding your Kidney beans. Having dried ones is best… but they’ll have to be soaked ahead of time of course… so if you don’t have that kind of time (or patience), two 14 oz. cans of beans will work in a pinch. Add in your chunked tomatoes… two 14 oz. cans or so, and a single 6 oz. can of tomato paste. Stir it all together and let it simmer for a few minute before adding these final sweet fruity ingredients to balance the spice:1 tbsp of brown sugar 2 oz. of crushed pineapple (You could also throw in fine diced raisins… whatever sweet fruity bits you might love.. Go wild, have fun!!) 1 oz. of apple juice 1 tbsp lemon juice
Nearly done…. all that remains is to let the Rajma simmer for about an hour or so, slowly reducing and thickening until it reaches the appearance and consistency of a good chili. Seriously… at first glance you won’t be able to tell the difference, but the wonderful, amazing smell…. now that’s something else completely!! As with a chili, the longer this cooks, the thicker it will get, and the more intense the flavor… definitely one of those dishes better the second day!!
Serve it atop a bed of simple white rice, and you just can’t go wrong. It’s also great with slabs of hot buttered homemade bread…. The possibilities are endless. 😉
Hehehe…. and if you are so inclined, you can follow this silly Catgirl’s example and dance around your kitchen as you put this all together to the sound of Hindi dance music on your stereo… It’s certainly not necessary, but it is loads of fun. 😉 (Although it will freak out your cat if you have one…. trust me on that… Someday I’ll probably completely “grow up”…. but not anytime soon….)
So… in that spirit I leave you with a colorful lil video to enjoy…. just to get you in the proper “curry mood”… something from the Hindi action/adventure film, “China Gate”…. (Think “The Magnificent Seven” crossed with “The Dirty Dozen”…. and a big heap of Hindi singing and dancing action thrown in for spice and you’ve just about got the idea…. the perfect thing to accompany your Rajma!!)