The traditional way of eating beetroot in Pakistan is as part of a rich, spicy lamb curry. And while my carnivorous side loves cooking lamb with beets, there is no denying the alluring simplicity of how the ruby rich beetroot is treated in this dish. Perfect with lashings of sour cream and a flatbread of your choice.
1kg raw beetroot
75ml vegetable oil
2 onions, cut into 2cm chunks
6 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 teaspoon grated ginger
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 green chilli, finely chopped
½ teaspoon chilli powder
3 ripe tomatoes, cut into large
500ml warm water
75g sour cream
Zest of 1 lemon
Handful of fresh mint leaves,
Wearing plastic gloves to prevent your hands becoming stained, peel the beetroot and cut them in half lengthways. Now slice each beetroot half into semicircles about 1cm thick and set aside.
Pour the vegetable oil into a pan and place over a medium heat. Add the onions and fry for 3–4 minutes. Once the onions start becoming translucent and soft, add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, nigella and cumin seeds, green chilli and chilli powder and stir well to make sure that the spices don’t catch. Add the chopped tomatoes and half the measured warm water and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes until the sauce has reduced down, oil rises to the surface and the tomatoes start breaking down.
Add the beetroot slices to the pan and mix well, ensuring that each piece of beetroot is coated in the sauce. Add the remaining warm water and simmer over a low heat for 30–40 minutes, or until the beetroot is cooked through but still holding its shape (top up with a little more warm water if pan starts to look dry).
Before serving season to taste with salt, drizzle over the sour cream and scatter with the lemon zest and sliced mint leaves.
Recipe extracted from Khazana by Saliha Mahmood Ahmed, published by Hodder & Stoughton, £25
Photography credit: Kristin Perers