Have you ever thought of using beetroot in Indian cuisine? Honestly, I had not tried it before until I came across beetroot poriyal. It can be used as a side for meat or can be eaten as is as a vegetarian meal. Beetroot is coming into season now and this is one exciting way to make use of them. I simply love the earthy umami flavour of beetroot and enjoy cooking with it. Especially, because it can be used for so much more than just the traditional pickled or roasted beetroot.
If you want to learn how to roast beetroot, click here. For more inspiration on how to cook with beetroot, take a look at my beetroot and goat’s cheese tart. Otherwise, if you've got leftover, why don't you try making a delicious beetroot starter such as a dip?
The preparation and cooking time of this beetroot poriyal is next to nothing so this is a dish you can easily rustle up, even when you don’t feel like spending all day in the kitchen. Plus, it's really healthy!
Poriyal is basically a kind of vegetable stir-fry originating from southern India. There are so many different versions that it is hard to say exactly which one is the original. The seasoning is normally more or less the same though. Built up around curry leaves, green chili, mustard seeds and coconut, the vegetables acquire a vibrant Indian flavour. The vegetables can vary from recipe to recipe. Some use carrots, others use green beans, okra or parsnips. I find beetroot works brilliantly with the other flavours of the dish, and is therefore the perfect substitute for the more traditional ingredients. After all, we also use mustard seeds for pickling beetroots in Britain so there is actually a nice link to the exotic flavours of the beetroot poriyal. Even if you go with my beetroot version, you can still chuck a couple of other vegetables in there.
Traditionally, you add urad dal to make the dish a little more filling. Urad dal is the Indian word for split black lentils. A black bean in the same family as mung beans. Urad dal, also known as split black gram, is one of the most commonly used stables throughout India. Like other lentils, urad dal is perfect for making a vegetarian dish more nutrotious. Lentils are rich on protein and therefore perfect for substituting meat without making the dish too light. Don't hesitate on adding it to this recipe.
beetroot poriyal recipe
As we all know, spices are an important component of cooking Indian food. Not that it necessarily has to blow your tongue away, but there has to be some heat in there. For my beetroot poriyal, I have used fresh green chilies. I find this more aromatic than using dried chili powder, however, you can substitute if you can’t get your hands on any fresh chili peppers. My general advice on cooking with chili is always to start with a little and let your taste buds guide you to the right amount. In my dish, I used two fresh green chilies, which might be either too much or too little for your taste. Therefore you will need to tweak to your desire.
Otherwise, a good substitute is hot curry powder or cayenne pepper. Just a bit of extra seasoning for those who like a bit spice.
Another quite unusual thing I have used to season this dish is asafoetida. Never heard of it? It is actually quite common in Indian cooking. It is made from the root of the ferula plant, which is a type of giant fennel, native to Central Asia. Today it is widely cultivated in India for the purpose of producing asafoetida. When you smell it you might think it smells awful, but don’t be fooled. Once mix it with the other ingredients over heat it actually acts as a type of flavour enhancer, boosting those umami flavours. It leaves behind a mild onion taste.
You will be able to find it in most Indian or Asian supermarkets. Try giving other Indian dishes a pinch of it and I’m sure you will be amazed. You only need very little to make an impact so be careful.
In order to make a good beetroot poriyal you need to tackle a coconut. There is actually a fairly simple trick to opening one. Pick up the coconut and hit it around its “equator” line with the back of a heavy knife. Keep turning the coconut, while trying to hit the same line all the way round it. After a few minutes of doing this the coconut should split in two almost perfect halves. Then scoop out the white coconut meat with a spoon and use a grade or a potato peeler to make some beautiful shavings of coconut to top off the dish. The coconut is an essential part of the flavour so unless you are allergic, try to not leave this bit out.
The half you don’t use, you can keep in the fridge for a few days, or break up into smaller pieces and eat as a healthy snack. Serve as a side dish or a main course dish.
Don't forget to reuse the leftover coconut flakes in a delicious korma recipe.
The beetroot poriyal makes a perfect side for any oriental meat dish you might plan to make. If you need some inspiration, please have a look at my Indian roast leg of lamb. Beetroot and lamb go great together and a beetroot poriyal would be the perfect side dish for a beautiful roast leg of lamb. Maybe you can treat your guests to an Indian feast at your next dinner party. Alternatively the beetroot poriyal is also an excellent side for lighter meats such as chicken or turkey. A simple grilled or smoked chicken breast for example, will be elevated to a new level when served with this exciting beetroot poriyal.
If you are more in the mood for an all vegetarian meal you can also serve the beetroot poriyal as a main dish. Why don't use add a lovely spice chick pea salad called masala chana chaat. This way, you'll fill up. Otherwise, you can add more urad dal to get the protein level up and make the dish more filling. You can also add a few more vegetables in there such as onion or carrot. That way you won’t even miss meat.Print