Gujaratis love to get the whole family over, and food is always central to the occasion. The only problem is that the family is usually pretty big. There’s an art to cooking for a lot of people. You need a dish that doesn’t require much prep, isn’t technically challenging, and doesn’t have to be tended to continuously. Above all else, it has to be delicious. My pick is always rajma or kidney bean curry. It’s simple to put together, yet feels both rich and festive. I’ve given quantities for four and forty people here.
NOTES: You will need to soak the beans the day before you make this, and you’ll also need a blender.
Serves 4 as a main course
1 generous cup dried kidney beans
2 yellow onions, diced
1 x 14-ounce can of plum tomatoes
1 Indian green chile
1¾-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon ground red chile
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
5½ pounds dried kidney beans
7 pounds yellow onions, diced
8 x 14-ounce cans of plum tomatoes
8 Indian green chiles
7 ounces ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
25 cloves of garlic
1 cup canola oil
5 teaspoons cumin seeds
3 teaspoons ground red chile
6 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
6 teaspoons ground coriander
6–10 teaspoons salt (to taste)
It’s best to cook the 40-person dish in two batches, halving the ingredients of the recipe to cook in two large pots and tasting as you go. The quantity of salt and ground red chile are purposefully under what they should be in the 40-person recipe to allow you to adjust the final flavors yourself.
First wash the beans. If any of them float in the water, remove them. Soak overnight, and the next day place in a big pot for which you have a lid, cover with fresh cold water, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 10 minutes, then cover with a lid, reduce the heat, and simmer for up to an hour until tender (though please note that the larger batch may take up to an hour longer to cook), adding water to top the pot up if necessary. Then drain, saving the boiling water for later.
In the meantime, put the onions, tomatoes (and their liquid), green chiles, ginger, and garlic into a blender and whizz to a fine consistency. Pour the oil into another large pot (big enough to hold the beans) over medium heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds and the blended paste. Cook for around 30 minutes, until the paste becomes rich, thick, and a few shades darker, stirring every now and then. Then add the ground red chile, ground cumin, turmeric, and ground coriander. Cook for a further 5 minutes.
Transfer the beans to the pot and add 2 cups of the water used to cook the beans for the 4-person serving, and 4 quarts of the water for the 40-person serving. Cook for another 10 minutes, then taste and adjust the salt, chile, and consistency as you wish, and serve with a very big salad, a quart of yogurt, and lots of pickles.