Beet poetry

January 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?




  1. Yay! Sounds gorgeous Charlotte. And I note you don’t fry your paneer first. I’m totally with you on that, even though it’s common and probably authentic practice to get it golden in ghee before dropping into the sauce. Too much faffing I reckon.

    • I didn’t realise one was supposed to fry, Empress – the recipe I saw didn’t so I didn’t. Agreed re faffing – and now we are trying to shift some cargo, any frying reduction in this house is probably a good thing …

  2. oh I love REAL beetroot, but am disgusted by tinned beetroot. Just yesterday I was complaining about the beetroot placed on my sandwich without my permission. Ugh! But REAL honest to goodness beetroot is so lush and beautiful…

  3. Lovely beetroot – SO under-rated! My (almost) most favourite thing to do in the kitchen is simmer whole beetroot until tender then cool them enough to handle and SLIP off those skins. Love the feel of how they just part company so easily and you have a shiny smooth beetroot ready to use. Forget using gloves – I don’t mind shell-pink fingers for an hour or two.

  4. Hey Charlotte, with you on the joys and pitfalls of beetroot. Annabel Langbein quarters her beetroot before roasting for the classic beetroot, fetta, rocket salad. Bad! Bad! Bad! Roasting them whole gives better flavour and keeps the juices. Not sure about beetroot palak paneer though? Love the spinach version.

  5. We discussed the beetroot tin in the pantry just recently, but I am also the proud owner of four tiny beets that grew in the Fibro garden. Not enough to make this curry, but one day…

  6. grew my own for the first time this year, and they’re one of the few things in the vege garden that have survived this weirdly wet summer. My fave way is to steam them whole so the juices stay where they should, then slip the skins off (not so sure about the very sensual experience of Sally!)and quarter. Add a bit of oil, honey, and good balsamic vinegar – enough of this combination to moisten well but not sit in a lot of liquid – pop in the oven for 10 or 15 minutes or until the liquid is taken up. You’re also browning a handful of walnuts in the oven at the same time.

    To serve, combine beetroot and walnuts and add a goodly dollop of goats milk cheese.

    Food of the gods!

  7. Love the curry recipe! Have you tried http://www.lovebeetroot.co.uk – lots more ideas there, too. (and it’s a UK site, so that answers your opening question!).

  8. To say I love beetroot would be an understatement. I love the tinned stuff, but the fresh is of course a gazillion times better. I’ve told you about my beetroot curry and I don’t mind slipping a bit of beetroot into a cake. But most commonly I roast it in the oven with olive oil, balsamic and thyme, all wrapped up in a foil package. And then have that with salads, other meals, or just eaten straight from the fridge. Love the look of your palak paneer.

  9. I love beetroot, even the tinned stuff, which got me some baffled reactions during my time in the US. I like beetroot roasted and tossed in salad, or turned into borscht. I also have a recipe for a chocolate cake with beetroot that is lovely and moist. Beetroot curry sounds like my kind of dish!

  10. I am very envious of you homegrown beet peeps – I can never get them to do anything beyond provide good sharp salad leaves. Kathryn and Glen, your salads sound totally moreish – think am going to have to get into some more beetroots today on these recommendations. And Sally, I know what you mean about the slinky slipperiness, but I can tell you that it also happens with roasting.

    Antonia, a whole website of beetroot love! Let me at it … nice to see the poms love the beet too.

    Adele, do you know, I think borscht is almost the only thing I don’t like to eat. I wonder why. I must have had a horrid one once, and have avoided it ever since. It was icy cold, way too sweet and sort of sour and thin at the same time. Ick. But I can see the appeal of beetroot in a cake, though I have been scarred by carrot cake in the past so have studiously avoided vegetable cakes – too much like bad hippie cooking of old … I could be converted, maybe …

  11. I’m a pom and love beetroot! Not tinned or pickled but roasted…Mmmmm!
    or try this: grate it and soften in a pan in butter, then add sour cream and lots of dill. Turns magenta and beautiful and is great with wholemeal toast or pittas.

    • Fantastic Sarah – always happy to have another beet lover round these parts. And your butter-softened, dill sprinkled delight sounds *amazing*. Must try soon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: