Rajma is a very traditional and popular dish in the northern part of India. Red kidney beans are simmered in a curry with spices. The end result bears such an uncanny resemblance to American/Mexican chili that I had to do a double-take when I first tasted chili in the USA. It could be because in my brain I tend to equate cumin with Indian. Or it could be because there is really a connection somewhere, hundreds of years ago...
There are many different recipes for rajma. This is the minimalist Indian version. I tend to sometimes streamline this recipe even further. There are days when I don't add bay leaf or skip the onion. What I would not skip is the tomato, ginger and cumin though. They form the backbone of the dish. And the cinnamon adds a nice sophisticated dimension to the earthy flavour of the beans. The onion takes the edge out of the ginger and rounds out the dish. But I like it without as well. So play around and even add meat if you like. —The Minimalist Indian
Soak the beans in plenty of water for about 8 hours. Drain and rinse.
In a large pot or pressure-cooker, heat oil. Add cinnamon and bayleaf. When you smell their fragrance, add the onion.
Saute for a minute and then add the tomatoes.
Add the spice powders and mix well. Saute until the moisture has evaporated and the mixture looks brownish and shiny with oil.
Add the ginger, briskly stir for a few seconds.
Add enough water to cover the beans. Bring to a boil, season with salt to taste. Simmer or pressure-cook until the beans are soft (15-20 minutes in a pressure cooker, at least 45 minutes in a pot). When you press one between your thumb and fore-finger it should break up easily.
Serve with a grain of your choice. Meat-lovers, you can easily use this dish to take care of that left-over roast meat. Just cut into chunks and add when the beans are already cooked. Stir well and let sit for 5 minutes.