I’ve indulged in a few wanton and delicious splurges lately. One involved a long lunch at a nearby restaurant. Mr Tranquillo and I, tired of picking, prepping and pickling produce, agreed it was time someone else cooked our lunch. We chose Mercer’s Restaurant in Eltham, not only because of it’s ‘hat’ awards over the years, but also because the menu looked like it might please my very fastidious palate. The degustation menu for two looked perfect, and at $90 each, a steal. The whole experience was delightful and exquisite: the setting, elegant with soft lighting, the staff discreet but well-informed, the food exceptional, cheffy but very good. No photos were taken. I was rather pleased to discover a vacuum in my camera’s memory card slot. It was a sign not to spoil a heavenly experience with the tedious, pedestrian business of the taking of photos. Enough said. Just go to Mercer’s when you need to be spoilt.
As an antidote to this splurge, and in keeping with my resolution of the New Year, I now return to my $1.00 per head feasts with this Rajma Masala recipe. The Indian ( Hindi) word for red kidney bean sounds more exotic than the English, the latter with allusions to tie-dyed hippydom. This is a classic Indian vegetarian curry. Break out the Bollywood and dance as you prepare your simple feast. Rajma Curry for 2 (or many as part of a larger banquet)
- 200 gr red kidney beans/rajma
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 medium to large tomatoes, chopped
- 3-4 garlic cloves + 1 inch ginger, peeled and chopped + 1 green chilli, crushed to a paste in a mortar and pestle ( or small blender)
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- ¼ to ½ tsp red chili powder
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder
- a pinch of asafoetida
- ¼ tsp to ½ tsp garam masala powder
- 2 cups of stock or water
- 2 to 3 tbsp cream
- Rinse and soak the beans in enough water overnight or for 8 hours. The next day, discard the water and rinse the beans again in fresh water and cook in a pressure cooker, or on the stove till soft and cooked.
- Heat oil in a large pot or wok. Add cumin seeds and let them crackle and brown a little, then add the onions and cook gently until soft and caramelised
- Add the ginger/garlic/chili paste. Stir and saute for 5-10 seconds on low heat.
- Add the chopped tomatoes. Saute for 2-3 minutes till soft.
- Add all the spice powders- turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder, asafoetida and garam masala powder and stir through until the oil separates from the masala.
- Add the drained beans to the mixture. stir through. You may decide not to add them all.
- Add 1+ 1/2 cups or stock, water or bean cooking liquid to the mixture and add salt to taste.
- Simmer uncovered for 10-12 minutes or more till the curry thickens slightly.
- Mash around a third of the bean mixture in a mortar and pestle and add back to the mixture to thicken the curry.
- When the curry has thickened, add the cream and stir through. Check seasoning.
- small cucumber, peeled , seeded, diced.
- 1 cup plain yoghurt
- small handful chopped coriander
- pinch salt
- 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin seeds and mustard seeds
- a little plain oil.
Mix the yoghurt and cucumber together, add the chopped coriander and a little salt. Heat the oil in a small frying pan, add the seeds till they pop and brown and add to the yoghurt mixture, Return mixture to fridge to cool further. Make this ahead of time.