I am cooking rajma chawal today, a north Indian specialty consisting of red kidney beans in a tangy tomato sauce, garnished with chopped coriander and served with fine basmati rice. But instead of using the fresh beans my home city of Jammu in India is renowned for, I am content with a canned version from my local supermarket in Brisbane. The tomatoes and onions come from the bright and busy stalls of the West End farmers’ markets – a Saturday event in a riverside park in my neighbourhood. And the turmeric, red chilli powder, garam masala and rajma masala, which lend a balance of flavours to the sauce, were purchased at a city-based Indian grocery store in Adelaide – where I first arrived in Australia as an undergraduate, eight years ago. When my mother last visited me in Australia, I was chastised for using too many tomatoes and not cooking the beans enough. She promptly transferred my pan mixture into a pressure cooker which, a few whistles later, produced mushier beans and a thicker gravy. But today the pressure cooker lies unused in a corner kitchen cupboard as I embrace my cooking utensil of choice – the wok. No wonder my Australian rajma chawal has a hint of chilli con carne about it, and sizzles as though it were a stir-fry.
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