Recipe of the Month: Beetroot Halwa
Hi there and welcome back to the A-Z of Nosh, by Naz. I hope you enjoyed last month’s article on Almonds and hopefully some of you have even tried the recipe.
I have never been one for Beetroot until about a year ago. Actually, in all honesty beetroot reminds me of my school days when I used to have slices of beetroot ‘plopped’ on a plate with cold meat. In those days school lunches were provided and were pretty healthy. Nowadays it seems that children in schools eat pizza and fries. Is it any wonder that the world is creating overweight children who then turn into overweight adults? Anyway, I won’t get onto my soap box now!
About a year ago I decided to cook dinner for my work team and asked them what they liked to eat. My boss said that he loved Beetroot so I decided to be adventurous and find a recipe that incorporated it. I had no intention of slicing up the beetroot and dropping it into a salad, although that would have been less messy. After much research and asking friends and family I found a recipe for a beetroot cutlet but it sounded really boring. I decided to experiment, spice it up and came up with a new beetroot cutlet recipe.
However, I then started to think about what other uses beetroot might have and given the fact that I have a sweet tooth, I decided to use beetroot with milk to create a beetroot halwa (desert) recipe. It tastes like carrot halwa and has no fat other than that which is in the milk. See recipe at the bottom of the page.
Traditionally, beetroot has been considered a rather boring root vegetable, but that perception changed when it became ‘the’ vegetable associated with love; in fact it was considered to be the symbol of love. This could be because it is almost the same colour and shape of the heart- the organ of love. Many attribute its association to love with that of Aphrodite, namely the Greek Goddess of Love.
Aphrodite was supposed to really beautiful, voluptuous and could melt men’s hearts with the flick of her eyelash. It wasn’t what she wore in terms of perfume, make up or clothes; it was attributed to the fact that she ate lots of beetroot. This spurred on the oracle that beetroot enhanced beauty and had so-called aphrodisiac properties.
Beetroot contains the following properties:
Vitamins A, B and C
No fat, very few calories and a great source of fibre.
As a vegetable, beetroot grows best in cool weather. However, it can be planted throughout the year, although the most suitable time is from early spring to early summer and then again from late summer into autumn. These are the cool periods of the year. Beetroot does not grow well in summer when it is very hot neither does it grow well in the middle of winter when it is very cold.
Beetroot has for many years been used as a treatment for cancer in Europe. Specific anti-carcinogens are bound to the red colouring matter which supposedly helps fight against cancer. Beetroot also increases the uptake of oxygen by as much as 400 percent. Additional studies are taking place to add support to these claims. The green leafy part of the beetroot is also of nutritional value containing beta-carotene and other carotenoids. (Carotenoid refers to plant pigments – of which there is a family of about 600 different types; these all function as antioxidants. The yellow, orange, and many of the red pigments in fruits, vegetables, and plant materials are usually carotenoids.) This part of the beet also contains lots of folate, iron, potassium and some vitamin C. The roots and greens therefore are great for women in general and for those planning pregnancy.
The following herbs complement beetroot very well:
- To remove beet juice from fingers, rub with wet salt and lemon juice and then wash with soap and water. For cutting boards and plastic containers, use a bleach solution.
- 1 Tablespoon of vinegar added to beet cooking water will not only reduce the odour of the cooking beets, but also help them retain their bright colour.
- For older beets, try adding a pinch each of sugar and salt to each cup of cooking water to revive sweetness and colour.
- Beets are naturally high in sodium, so no salt is necessary in the cooking water.
- To microwave whole beets, pierce the skin and place one pound in a micro-proof dish with 2 Tablespoons of water. Cook on high for 9 to 12 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before cooling and peeling.
- To avoid bleeding of colour into other ingredients, add beets just before serving if possible.
Recipe of the Month: Beetroot Halwa
- 500g cooked beetroot
- 0.5 litre full fat milk
- 260g condensed milk
- 150g Sugar (you can substitute with fruit sugar)
- Cardamom Powder – about 10 cardamom pods deseeded and ground
- Large pinch of Saffron
Note. Please be careful when preparing beetroot. The vegetable bleeds and it can go all over the place. My kitchen floors, hands etc. were all deep purple by the time I had finished grating the beetroot!! Having gone through that experience I now use a plastic sandwich bag to hold the beetroot whilst I am grating it. It creates less of a mess and prevents all the worktops from taking on the stains of the beetroot!!
- Grate beetroot and drain the liquid.
- Put milk in a saucepan and bring to boil. (Not condensed milk as it will burn and stick to the bottom of the pan)
- Once it has boiled add the grated/drained beetroot to the milk.
- Boil for a few minutes and simmer gently until thick, stirring occasionally.
- Once it starts thickening, add the cardamom powder and saffron and mix in well.
- Add the condensed milk and stir continuously.
- Finally add the sugar and mix well.
- Serve hot, decorated with a chopped almond or pistachios.
Back next month with more from the A-Z of Nosh, by Naz, as we continue to explore the alphabet of food. If you have any suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org. Feedback is always welcomed.
Nazia Hussain, London 2004