Saturday 10 April 2010

SOS KC: Beets, Greens and Chickpea Curry

Last week I had one of those days. A sleepless baby, pointlessly idiotic blog comments, a stopped watch, busy workload in the office and some difficult conversations. Fortunately I had made dinner the previous night and was able to come home to a huge pot of beetroot curry.

It is a dish I have long wanted to try, ever since ordering one in Darwin, only to find that it was full of fiendishly hot dried chillis. And who doesn't love beetroot! It features frequently in many of my recipes. What glorious crimson colour it brings to our dinner plates! But it is not just me. Beetroot seems to be everywhere I look right now.

This morning E, Sylvia and I went to Collingwood Children's Farm Farmer's Market. One of the first stalls I saw had amazing bunches of beetroots. They were so big that they dwarfed my fist. Honestly! I took a photo and considered coming back later to make a purchase but they were gone. I am reading The girl with the dragon tattoo by Stieg Larsson and the hero was eating sausages, beetroot and potatoes in a recent scene. There are also posters around Melbourne for a Creamfields Festival in Australia and the headlining act is the Bloody Beetroots.

So it was no surprise to see, when my friend Ricki of Dessert, Diet and Dogs and her friend Kim of A Living Affair announced a new monthly Sweet or Savoury (SOS) Kitchen Challenge event, that the first month's theme would be beets (or beetroots to my fellow Aussies). I was only too happy to participate.

Both bloggers have been following special diets and intend this event to help direct others on with dietary restructions to find lots of wonderful dishes. Hence they are asking that we make recipes that are vegan, use whole grains, natural sweeteners and other whole foods. This is a challenge to me in baking but a cinch when it comes to savoury dishes. The beetroot curry is effortlessly vegan and gluten free but might not quite make it within the guidelines of Kim's Lyme Disease diet though I think Ricki could eat it on phase II of her Anti Candida Diet.

Blog events are often about embracing the new and going outside our comfort zone. While beetroot makes regular appearances in my recipes, I have yet to embrace beet greens. I firstly went to a recipe from Lisa's Kitchen but, in search of a recipe using less chillis and more vegetables, I stumbled across beet curry recipes and found one that also had chickpeas and beet greens.

I didn't even know you could eat beet greens before I started blogging. Since then I have learnt that they are a nutritional powerhouse but have never enjoyed them when I have tried them previously. The idea of using them in a curry was new but intriguing. They were so good in the curry that I am waiting for another opportunity to use them in this way. If you are looking for a simple, easy, painless way to eat your beet greens, this is it!

The curry was fantastic though not terribly spicy. (E doused his with tabasco sauce.) I made it the evening before while Sylvia was being unsettled so I was too distracted to look at times for the recipe. I served it up to Sylvia with some rice, expecting that I might need to add more vegetables to reduce the spiciness but she loved it. It was her first encounter with beetroot but she was chomping away at it like it was her favourite vegetable. The chickpeas also were a huge hit with her. Don't think that this means that the curry was bland. Far from it! It was full of flavour but not a lot of heat in it.

The one disadvantage of beetroot is that it is not shy when it makes a mess. You should have seen Sylvia's face by the time she had finished. Of course, it was a night when she had to use her fingers rather than let me feed her with a spoon. The floor was also studded with crimson offerings. Beetroot is no friend when it comes to the laundry either but a bib kept Sylvia's clothes mostly clean.

So I highly recommend to you the beetroot curry recipes for a tasty way to enjoy beetroot and the beet greens. It is far better with brown rice than white and cold leftovers are excellent in a sandwich. I would also recommend you have a look at Ricki and Kim's event and think about submitting a dish (by 20 April if you want to participate this month) or drooling over the dishes that are in the round up at the end of the month.

Beetroot, Greens and Chickpea Curry
Adapted from Cheap Health Good and Lisa's Kitchen
Serves 4-5
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp whole mustard seeds
  • small handful of curry leaves
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch of small to medium beets (I had about 5 medium), peeled and cubed
  • 1 carrot, cut into matchsticks and 2 cups of shredded cabbage, fried for about 10-15 minutes (I had done this on a previous night for a stir fry and had some leftover but you could just cook them a bit earlier in the curry if your aren't already cooked)
  • 1 inch of ginger, finely grated
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 green chill, finely chopped
  • 1 small (165ml) tin of coconut milk
  • 400g tin of diced tomatoes
  • 400g tin of chickpea, rinsed and drained
  • beet greens from the beetroot bunch, roughly sliced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp chili paste
  • ½ tsp salt
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Cook until the mustard seeds turn grey and begin to pop. Toss in the curry leaves, stir once and then add the onion to the pan. (I stirred the curry leaves in after onion because I wasn't concentrating.) Stir and fry until the onion softens and turns translucent.

I then added the beetroot and gently cooked this while I chopped up the ginger, garlic, and chilies. (if your carrot and cabbage aren't already cooked for a bit then add them now.) I then stirred these into the beetroot mixture and fried it another 2 minutes. (Though if you looked at the recipes I was following they put in the garlic, ginger and chilis before the beetroot.)

Add carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, coconut milk and chickpeas. At this stage I turned off the heat and looked after Sylvia for a while. Then I returned the saucepan to the heat and added the beet greens, cumin, chilli paste and salt. Stir and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes or until your beetroot is soft.

It is best to leave it overnight but can be served straight away. Serve with brown rice or bread.

Update: I made this again and still loved it (have posted updated photo at the top).  I added a tin of brown lentils this time which I think made it less lurid but still yummy.

On the stereo
Andre Zeiten (Brown edition) - Various Artists


  1. Thanks so much for this, Johanna--our very first entry! Your curry is fantastic--just look at that glorious crimson color! I'm glad it stretched you a bit to try out the beet greens as well (and aren't they delicious?). :) And it sounds as if Sylvia is an instant fan as well--she couldn't have picked a better veg to favor! ;) What a great submission to the roundup--thanks. Can't wait to try this one!

  2. Looks great, oh my goodness! I can't eat tomatoes (allergic!) and am sensitive to some of your spices, but I know that I would absolutely LOVE the flavor that you created in this awesome dish. Thanks so much for participating and I'm excited to include this in our roundup. Beautiful! -Kim |

  3. What a glorious-looking curry! Makes me think that I need to make my beetroot risotto again when I get home... but after I make this, because I love me some chickpeas.

    And thank you, because you've reminded me that while I've missed out on summer fruits, at least I'll be home for beetroot season.

    P.S. I hope this week is one of "those awesome" weeks instead!

  4. Feel like I've had a good healthy meal just looking at your blog - well done!

  5. Beautiful curry, not seen anything like that and just would love to try it.
    And that bunch of beets ... NEVER seen a more beautiful bunch.

  6. I never know what to do with fresh beetroot, but that looks really good!

  7. This is such an interesting curry! I've never seen a beetroot one but I don't see why not. It would give an earthy sweetness to it! :D

  8. Thanks Ricki - that is exciting to be the first to enter your blog event! I was amazed that sylvia loved it too but I guess she wanted to be part of the event too :-)

    Thanks Kim - I thought the tomatoes would be too much acid for you but I didn't realise you couldn't eat all of the spices - would love to think there is enough in the curry you can eat to inspire you to try a beetroot curry - they are excellent! (depending on the spices you can eat)

    Thanks Hannah - I had fun with a beetroot risotto last year (I think) and served it with some grated dark chocolate (it is on my blog) - I think this would be right up your alley! Don't worry about missing summer - there are many wonderful 'fruits' of autumn

    Thanks Is It Just Me - glad you left here feeling healthier :-)

    thanks Tanna - I couldn't believe that the beetroot bunches were sold out when I came back soon after this photo

    Thanks vicki - I know the feeling - I always feel blank when I see fresh beetroot for sale - am sure we will both get some wonderful ideas from ricki and kim's round up

    Thanks Lorraine - I'm glad I have made a beetroot curry because I have been seeing them in the blogosphere for a while now

  9. I love beets! I never thought of them in a curry before, what an excellent idea!

  10. Delightful! I am glad you enjoyed it. I do so enjoy beetroot. Hope all is well with you.

  11. Thanks for the wonderful recipe. Was having one of those total lack of inspiration for cooking afternoons, had a few beets kicking around the fridge, saw a tin of chickpeas in the pantry, googled beetroot chickpea curry and this came up. Luckily had everything else i needed and it's simmering on the hob now, looking FANTASTIC and smelling divine.


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