Wednesday, March 4, 2009

To beet or not to beet

Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the beetroot is also its downfall—its colour, which leaves a trail, and literally so. Memories of stained faces, dresses, especially when they are white, loom large and the beetroot has often been pointed out as the guilty party.

Back in my childhood, my dad usually stayed a mile away from it (the beetroot didn’t awaken the restless chef in him, nor his tastebuds), but my mother often rustled up a quick sabzi, sautéing it with onions and tempering with mustard and green chillies, and we were usually delighted to mix it with curd rice and watch it turn all pink (though today, that sight might be a tad offensive to me). She also grated some into a salad with carrots or cabbage and no one really complained.

Much has been said about the beetroot’s high glycemic index, something that most tubers are guilty of, but the beetroot takes the cake, so to speak, and even supercedes the often- guilty potato. Moreover, its iron-richness and resultant role in blood formation (the colour association is back again) has often rendered it to the status of anemia-alleviator, but that is far from what its real goodness is all about. Being rich in folic acid, fiber, manganese, potassium and phosphorus, beetroots are a healthy and a nutritious form of food, and one can also get creative with it, much against popular opinion.

Sadly, the views on the beetroot are often antipodal, the chief culprit being the fact that either it was served in too bland or regimented a format (“Eat this boiled beetroot, its good for you”) or too pickled (gross misuse of vinegar).

The most exotic it got for me was in Goa when, in this exotic French restaurant called Le Poisson Rouge in Baga. It was an Arugula Salad with parmesan served on a bed of beetroot carpaccio—thinly sliced raw beetroot with a herb vinaigrette—that too in a beetroot reduction, for those fascinated by molecular gastronomy. It was one of the best salads I have ever eaten.

In the meanwhile, these are a few of my favourite concoctions.

Beetroot soup


2-3 beetroots, boiled and grated

Carrots (optional)

One large onion

2 teaspoonfuls of cornflour

Lemon juice

Black pepper

Salt to taste



1. Boil and grate the beetroots and keep them aside.

2. Dry roast the cornflour till golden brown and keep aside.

3. Sauté the chopped onions in oil till light brown.

4. To this, add water, beetroot, cornflour, and cook for 10-15 minutes.

5. Transfer this to a blender or liquidizer and churn well

6. Re-boil the mixture, turn off the gas, add lemon juice, black pepper to the soup and a dollop of yogurt or butter for added flavor.

7. Garnish with thyme or parsley

Beetroot raita


2 cups beetroot, finely grated

1 cup Curds


Oil, mustard, green chillies and curry leaves for tempering


1. Heat oil in a pan, add mustard. When mustard splutters, add a green chilli, curry leaves and the grated beetroot.

2. Stir on low fire till lightly cooked.

3. Add salt, remove from fire and let it cool.

4. Beat the curds, mix with beetroot and serve.


  1. The beetroot soup is my favourite! My aunt used to make the same recipe and we had it with deep-fried bread crumbs and a spoon of fresh cream added to each bowl, yum!

    I now try to eat the boiled variety coz its simpler to make and need to have it coz of anaemia!

  2. I just discovered a polish version of the soup at a friend's xmas dinner. she marinated the beetroots with garlic, salt and sugar for a few days and then added this marinade to fresh boiled beet .. it was fabulous and soulful!