Beet poetryJanuary 18, 2011
Is it a particularly Australian thing to love beetroot? I have never heard other Anglo people praising it as we do, and clearly the idea of a tinned slice of beetroot on a hamburger is just weird where other Western cultures are concerned.
My childhood was full of tinned beetroot, and I grew to dislike it. I still gag at the thought of soft, gluggy white-bread salad sandwiches soaked in beetroot juice – ugh.
But once I discovered fresh, real, roasted beetroot as as an adult, it became one of my favourite things. Roast beetroot seems to have a deeper, earthier flavour than boiled, I find. Or it could be my imagination – but the excess of leaky pink juices in the boiling takes me back to that sandwich-soaking issue, so roasting is the only way in our house.
Beetroot chunks are especially good in a salad with some feta, don’t you think? Not to mention grated in the Empress’s delectable beetroot dip courtesy Madhur Jaffrey.
Unaccountably, the other day I had a craving for beetroot curry. It’s unaccountable because I had never eaten such a thing, or was even sure it existed. The internet yielded quite a few recipes, many of which sounded to my ears either rather bland or too sweet, so instead I experimented a little with a couple of made up versions. The best was this riff on the aforementioned beetroot and feta combination – basically a palak paneer with beetroot. And I have to say, it is rather good – the cheese is essential, it seems to me, to balance out the otherwise rather watery potential of this dish, and since I discovered paneer in the supermarket alongside the haloumi (more on that soon – a festival of salt and fat; is there anything finer?), I’ve become a major fan.
Beetroot palak paneer
- 2 medium beetroots, roasted, peeled & cut into chunks
- 2 tbsp vegetable / olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 2 cm piece ginger, finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 bunch English spinach, finely chopped
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 1-2 birdseye chillis, roughly chopped
- 1 small pack paneer (Indian cottage cheese), cubed
- a few curry leaves
- pinch garam masala
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped dill leaves & stalk
1. Fry garlic, onion, ginger till soft, then add spices and curry leaves and fry till aromatic.
2. Add spinach and fry a few minutes till wilted and coated in the spices, then season liberally with salt.
3. Add tomatoes & chilli and bring to the boil.
4. Add beetroot and simmer gently, covered, for 20 or 30 minutes for flavours to develop.
5. Add cubed cheese and garam masala and stir to combine.
6. Sprinkle with chopped dill.
7. Serve with rice and split peas for a sturdy accompaniment, with yoghurt and lemon wedges on the side.
Now, what about you? Do you too love beetroot, and if so, may I urge you to count the ways?