Beets are a very overlooked root vegetable, taken for granted and ignored mostly. I however love beets, their colour and flavour. In the US we had a variety of beets available to us, from regular red beets to pink, yellow and striped Chioggia beets, to name a few, these added a variety of colours and flavours to the table.
Sri Lankan cuisine is full of the delicate aromas and flavours of pandanus leaf. It belongs to the screwpine family, (kewra water is also from this family), and grows as grass. It is native to Southeast Asia and India and is used as a flavouring agent in food. In Sri Lankan cuisine it is added to curries and rice where it imparts a delicate flavour, while in other parts is is also used to wrap meats for the grill.
This is a delicate dish that brings out the sweetness of the beets. I loved this recipe as it also uses the leafy greens and stems making it a zero-waste dish. The curry is lovely, sweet from the beets and then the mild spices take over. The aroma of pandanus is dominant and gives the dish its umami taste. This is a colourful and beautiful dish, one that will attract the eye on a large table adding some much-needed colour.
This recipe is found in two books listed below.
This is an amazing cookbook, so much so that I rarely now go to the other Sri Lankan cookbooks on my shelf. It is a gorgeous cookbook, from which I have cooked at least half the recipes, every one spectacular. I believe what makes this book special is the attention to detail, including recipes for every spice blend, The Roasted curry powder in this recipe, allows this dish to shine.
For more recipes from this cookbook click here.
Peter Kuruvita's second cookbook is a more recent addition to my shelf and is a true hidden gem of beautiful flavours from the South East Asian islands. The recipes are tropical, fun and take us back to the beaches and sea. A wonderful cookbook from a master chef explores this region's diverse flavours.
For more recipes from this book, click here.
2 tablespoons ghee
1 large onion, finely chopped
1-2 green chillies, cut into fine round circles, or to taste
1 2-inch piece of pandanus leaf
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
15 curry leaves
1-inch piece of cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon chilli powder, or to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
3 teaspoons apple cider or white vinegar
1/2 cup coconut milk
3 cups water
Salt, to taste
6-7 baby beets with stems and leaves.
Heat the oil in a pot and add the onions and green chillies. Sautè on low till the onions are very soft but have not taken on any colour. Add the pandanus, garlic, curry leaves and cinnamon and toss for 30 seconds till the garlic is cooked and no longer smells raw.
Peel the beets. Cut the leaves and stems finely. depending on the size of te beets, quarter them or cut them into 6 pieces longitudinally. Set aside.
Add the ground coriander, chilli powder, sugar and toss well. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer gently for 45-60 minutes till the beets are just cooked through, you want them to have a gentle bite and not turn completely mushy. The curry should be runny and thin, pay attention towards the end of the cooking time and top up with more water if needed. Taste the curry and adjust salt.
Serve hot with rice as part of a larger table.