Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Tikki Rajma Masala

Tikki Rajma Masala

This masala is enshrouded in mystery, so much so that it literally came enshrouded in a green and gold dupatta, mailed to me at a relative’s home in Goa, all the way from either the mysterious north east, or mysterious north west of India.  It was hard to say as the sender was in the process of moving, and who knows where the package was placed into the care of the postal worker.

Although I’d mentioned to a relative that I was expecting a package, he didn’t mention it to the relatives who actually lived in the house where the package would be delivered, so the mystery was intensified when it did arrive.
Doesn't this little guy remind you of Popeye?
And how did the Canadian relative have connections in India with anyone other than themselves, and who would be sending her a package?  So much curiousity was aroused.

The sender was Shalini, at Baketitude, a favourite Indian website that specialises in astonishing cinnamon buns, fabulously decorated cakes and exquisite cookies.  (She had been lamenting the lack of muffin tins available near her, so I sent her a couple last year.)  In turn, she shared with me her Tikki masala, a Jammu and Kashmiri specialty, wrapped in said dupatta, which has since been laundered and stored with my collection of dupattas.  In case you're wondering, a dupatta is a large shawl, and yes, I collect them.  But Shalini didn't know that, so there's another mystery enshrouded in an already enshrouded mystery. 
My kitchen in India wasn’t equipped to do much more than make ginger tea, so I took some of the masala to the relatives’ house at Christmas, but they’d already prepared their own masalas, and had been marinating morsels for hours, so I never have found out if they’ve used them.  Hopefully I will hear when they do!

Meanwhile, I have used this masala twice, the first time just blindly barging around my kitchen following my intuition, which resulted in something delicious, and the second time after asking Shalini if I had followed the best procedure.  She tweaked my recipe here and there, and this is the result:

Tikki Masala comes in an oily stiff cake.
1 tablespoon mustard oil
large cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 red onion, diced
3 tomatoes, diced finely
equal amounts of fresh ground ginger and garlic paste, totalling about 2 heaping tablespoons
½ teaspoon salt perhaps more to taste
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 finely chopped green chilli
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ Tikki masala cake, ground with a mortar and pestle
1 green cardamom, husked and ground
1 black cardamom, husked and ground
4 cups cooked rajma beans (red kidney beans)

Up to 2 cups water
1 teaspoon melted ghee (optional)
fresh cilantro leaves (optional)

The tomatoes need to be cooked before the spices go in.
Heat oil to medium high and add cumin seed and cinnamon.  As the cumin splutters, add the onion and fry, turning the heat down to medium, and stirring.  When the onion is golden and translucent, add the tomato.  Follow the tomato with the ginger, garlic and salt, and let cook till much of the moisture is released.  
You’ll need to stir this from time to time to prevent it scorching.  Most of the moisture has to go because you want a dry and oily environment for the spices.  
As the moisture evaporates from the cooked tomatoes, add spices.
You don’t want to be boiling those spices in some watery mix.  So, once you have a fairly dry but still oily pan, toss in the turmeric, chilli, coriander, ground Tikki masala, and the two ground cardamoms.  Cook for about five minutes, stirring often.  
This will need to be reduced.
Add the cooked beans.  At this point you’ll need to add some water.  I started with a cup of water, stirred it in, then went with another cup. Wanting the flavours to combine, I knew I needed enough water to simmer and yet partially evaporate within about forty minutes.  

This is best served with rice, topped with a bit of ghee and cilantro.  I served mine with some sag paneer as well, because the fellow on the masala box put me in mind of Popeye.

There is a pungency to this masala that is deep and satisfying.  The flavours linger so that you can’t help wanting more at breakfast, then lunch, then dinner again, if there’s still some left.  

Thanks to Shalini at Baketitude for sending me this wonderful package of Tikki Masala. Apparently I have enough to last a year, so maybe next year I’ll have to go on a quest to find more of this treasure.  


  1. hi...your rajma looks pretty nice...like mine...
    and the masala tikki guy...pahalwan as the name states is supposed to be super strong ...funny I never noticed this in all these years....but did you find a differnece in the flavour of the rajma with the tikki and without???...
    I'm going to make rajma chawal super soon...finally shifted to my house...
    super sigh of relief!!!!
    cheers ...
    did'nt know about your liking for duppattas...

    1. Thanks for the compliments. Yes, the tikki definitely has a flavour all its own. Thanks again, and thanks for the duppatta as well! So glad you're finally settled. Moving is hard work! I look forward to reading about your rajma recipe!

  2. Mary, you would not believe this but my Mum bought these tikkis for me this year. She always buys them from Delhi and used them to make dum aloo and Rajma!! Aren't they just wonderful.

  3. Hi Apu,

    It is a wonderful masala! If you have a recipe for dum aloo, I'll have to try it! Meanwhile, your recent cauliflower looks pretty good. I'll try it with coconut milk powder, to get the thickest sauce possible. (More calories too, unfortunately, with my crazy alterations.) Thanks for dropping by and letting me know that you've been using this masala too.