You may have just done a double take. Beetroot PUDDING, I hear you ask, with horror in your voice? Yes, indeedy. You see, beetroots have a higher sugar content in them than most vegetables. They’re already partial to dessert; they take to extra sugar and ghee and milk like I take to wine. (Really.)
Somebody recently told me that beetroots had become a really fashionable vegetable; all the best chefs were cooking with it, the best restaurants were serving it, and the best people were all rediscovering the humble beet. I was amused; I’ve always been beetroot’s biggest fan; I insist on the honour because I’ve loved it since I was very very little. My grandmother used to make a gorgeous beetroot chutney when I was a little girl and I used to be a slow eater, so much so that I’d be even more pink-lipped than normal after I’d eaten, and I’d vainly admire my mouth in a mirror for ages afterwards. My grandmother told me then (perhaps in an attempt to get me to eat more vegetables) that eating beetroots would keep my lips pink and I decided I adored beetroots. I’d have chowed down on borscht like a champion as a child – and I wouldn’t have fussed. True story.
While that may speak volumes to you of my vanity, I prefer to think that I clearly had good taste in food – even as a child. So, as a tribute to one of my childhood’s favourite vegetables, I present one of my favourite desserts as a child. A beautifully rich, complex, wonderfully-textured beetroot pudding that is served piping hot, trailing glorious clouds of cardamom-infused sugar and studded with plump raisins that have swum in gorgeous ghee.
Recipe: My grandmother’s family recipe.
Photographs: Awanthi Vardaraj
350 grams beetroot, grated
425 grams white granulated sugar
150 ml milk (just enough to cover the beets; add more if necessary)
200 grams ghee
A handful of cashew nuts
A handful of raisins
5-6 cardamoms, powdered
A very tiny pinch of edible camphor
1) Heat the beets and milk together on medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pan.
2) Stir occasionally until the milk evaporates and the beets are cooked through. This will take a little while. Just make sure to stir it from time to time so that the beets don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
3) Add the sugar and stir continually until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan.
4) Meanwhile, heat the ghee through in another pan and sauté the cashew nuts and raisins until the raisins are plump and swollen and the cashew nuts are golden in colour. Remove from the heat.
5) When the beetroot mixture leaves the sides of the pan, add the ghee mixture with the raisins and the nuts to the beetroots. Mix well and remove from the heat.
6) Powder the cardamoms (I just blitzed them through in the dry blender with a spoonful of white sugar) and then sift the mixture into the beetroot mixture with the powdered pinch of camphor. Discard the cardamom pod skins.
7) Stir thoroughly and gently for a few minutes before transferring to another dish.
8) Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
1) Edible camphor should be available in an Asian or Indian supermarket. A pinch of it goes a long way as it is _incredibly_ strong. So be very careful; a pinch really does mean a pinch.
2) Make sure the milk is completely evaporated and the beets are thoroughly cooked through before adding the sugar. When the sugar starts to melt, keep stirring the mixture so that it doesn’t stick to the base of the pan.
3) You can either make your own ghee (clarified butter) or buy it from an Indian supermarket.
Enjoy this! Let me know if you make it and how much you loved it!