Beetroot Subji

Faced with the prospect of beetroot curry, I was very sceptical but I think I’ve been converted now. I associate beetroot with south Indian or Sri Lankan food but it is also made in northern India. Pushpesh Pant’s Kashmiri version is made with caraway seeds and his Punjabi recipe uses yoghurt. I think my favourite way to cook beetroot is to roast ibatons and prepare it relatively simply, thoran-style.

My local supermarket sells bunches of earthy beetroot – usually 3 or 4 in various sizes. You can roast chunks of beetroot or grate it from raw for this recipe. Made with roasted beetroot it’s more substantial but it’s sweeter with grated, and quicker to make. Beetroot shrinks quite a lot when roasted but when grated, there suddenly seems to be an awful lot of it. If you do grate it, it has more surface area so use a bit less beetroot and some more coconut milk & spices. If you’re trying to use up surplus beetroot, having bought an enormous bowl for a pound from a local market, roast it!


2-3 beetroot if grating, 4 if roasting

a teaspoon of black mustard or mustard seeds

1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

12 curry leaves

a thumb sized piece of ginger

1/2 teaspoon asafoetida

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

a glug of coconut milk (you won’t need a whole tin)

1 green chili

1/2 teaspoon of salt

lime juice

  1. Scrub and peel the beetroot. If you want to use roasted beetroot, cut them up into medium sized pieces, toss in a glug of olive oil and roast at 180C for 45 minutes to an hour. Keep an eye on them – roast them until they are nice and soft. If you prefer, grate the beetroot
  2. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a non-stick pan and add the (black) mustard seeds, followed by the fenugreek seeds and curry leaves. When they crackle, add the ginger, asafoetida, cumin and chili – stir so the mixture doesn’t stick.
  3. If using grated beetroot, add to the spice mixture and allow to cook for five minutes over a low heat, until it softens. Add a glug of coconut, stir and allow to cook for a minute or so – the coconut milk will start to evaporate.
  4. If using roasted beetroot, add it and the coconut milk to the pan after frying the spices. Add the salt, lime juice and more chili (if you would like) – I found I needed to be quite generous with salt and chili to cut through the sweetness of the beetroot when I used it grated.