Mexican rajma chawal

You have never even had beans unless you’ve soaked them for 24 hours to take out their farty venom before cooking them in a cast iron pot. In other words, short cuts are poisonous, so please get rid of your toxic aluminimium pressure cooker. 

I mean, I assume you’ve already gotten rid of all the other aluminium in the kitchen, right? Right??

Beans are high in iron and something magic happens when in contact with their own element, especially when I know that tomorrow is a holiday and I will want my own food: what I call MEXICAN RAJMA CHAWALl, red beans and rice, once again in my  fusion between India and Mexico.  You have to start with a ‘sofrito‘, which means you’ll calmy melt onion and tomato: Heat a heaping tablespoon of ghee or olive oil slowly, then add one large chopped onion. One of the wonders of cast iron is that is protects food and you can turn your back on it to prepare other things. Stir occasionally so that the onion turns to gold evenly, when it is out of moisture and threatens turning brown, you add and equal amount of chopped tomato without seeds. Stir for eveness. Let it reduce before adding 2-3 cloves of chopped garlic, a fat sliver of chopped ginger, and a small stalk of chopped celery. Reduce before adding the dry ‘masala‘ (teaspoon hot chili powder, teaspoon of tumeric, 2 teaspoons of of freshly toasted and ground cumin and coriander, a pinch of cinammon, a teaspoon of dry thyme). Add two fresh bay leaves. Mix well before adding the generous 1 cup of beans that had been strained from their soaking water and rinsed. Then mix the beans so that they are coated completely by the masala sofrito before adding water enough to cover them generously, and bring them to a boil before turning the flame to the lowest heat. Let them simmer for 2+ hours, stirring once in a while. You might add more water to top them off, or to easily multiply the beans for unexpected guests. When ready, turn off the heat and add a big sprig of fresh epazote or sage and serve with plain white basmati rice (don’t dare use whole grain rice!) — and you will know why I have always refused to own a microwave, aluminium pots, or a television!

Is cast iron a bitch? Well, depends. Yes, it is uncomfortably heavy and does rust quickly. You cannot just wash it and let it drip dry. You have to dry it on the flame and always make sure it is oiled, which is not difficult — especailly if you don’t even bother washing it because you have a serious problem with popcorn about three times a week!


(Depending on what you have made, cast iron can be burned clean, wiped clean and/or simply wait to be washed just before the next use)

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A native of Chicago, Ricky Toledano has lived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for over twenty years as a writer, translator and teacher. [a]multipicity is multi-lingual collection of reflections through the humanities.

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