Beet Curry

We lived in Muscat in our early childhood. The summers were bone-dry and scorching. To escape, we would travel to the equally scorching but more smoldering heat of Karachi where my aunt and grandmother lived. Their house was an updated version of a traditional South Asian home. The rooms wrapped around a courtyard that was open to the skies. It was here that we pursued our world of play with an abandon that now seems so elusive. Leading off of this courtyard was a gate that led to the backwaters of the Arabian Sea. This stretch of land wasn’t in any way idyllic or pristine but rather rough and raw with a pungent smell of the sea. The beauty was immediate and dangerous. We were only allowed to enjoy it from the steps leading down from the gate. The briny air, however, drifted up and was everpresent.
If monsoon interrupted our play, we would spend endless afternoons lounging on the verandah. My aunt would put on music and we would eat vegetable pakoras (fritters) or samosas (savory turnovers) with piquant, tangy chutneys and listen to our aunts, mothers and grandmother tell stories, discuss politics and share jokes. Their chatter, the pitter patter of rain and the rumble  in the clouds would be a soothing backdrop to many a washed out days.  We would doze off only to be awakened by the sounds and smells emanating from the kitchen. Ah yes, especially the smells.
As is the way of life there, my aunt had a cook so it was a special day when my grandmother cooked. She would spend the day in the kitchen and the aromas wafting down the corridor would keep our appetite alert in anticipation. One of my absolute favorite dishes of hers was chukandar gosht (beet curry).  I did not have a child’s aversion to vegetables or, specifically, beets. Maybe, it was the color staining my fingers since, as a time-honored tradition, I used my hand to scoop up the curry with bread, and lips in the days when lipstick was taboo or the rich, dense, sweet earthiness that made me love this root so much. Curried, spiced and cooked with hearty red meat made this a uniquely soul-satisfying dish.
Ingredients:
1 pound beetroot, grated
1 pound stew beef cubes
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. ginger paste
1 tbsp. garlic paste
1 tsp. red chilli powder
1 tbsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. turmeric powder
fresh dill leaves
juice of a lemon
1/2 cup oil 
 salt to taste

Preparation:

  1. Heat a heavy bottom dish over medium high heat.
  2. When hot, add oil and the sliced onion.
  3. Saute over medium heat till nicely caramelized, about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Now add the garlic and ginger, red chilli, coriander turmeric and salt to sauté for a minute or two.
  5. Add the meat and brown on all sides.
  6. Reduce heat, add water to cover the meat and cover to cook till the water reduces and the meat starts softening, about 1.5 hours.
  7. Add the beets and some water to cover the mixture and leave little extra for curry.
  8. Bring to a boil again, reduce heat and cook covered over medium-low heat until both the meat and beetroot are tender, about 30-45 minutes.
  9. Add lemon juice and a generous amount of dill leaves, my favorite as dill loves both beets and meat, mix and serve with steamed rice or chapatti and a side of whipped yoghurt with a sprinkle of garam masala.
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