This recipe was originally featured in The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2004.

Beets Indian-style

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

1 pound (450g) fresh beets
1 1/2 tablespoons (20ml) vegetable oil
1 teaspoon (5 ml) cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup (120g) chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
3/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt


1. Peel the raw beets and cut them into 3/4 inch (2cm) cubes. Peel and seed the tomatoes (if using fresh) and chop them coarsely. Measure out the spices.

2. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a saucepan or skillet until it sizzles. Put in the cumin seeds and bay leaf and stir for a few seconds until the seeds start to darken.

3. Add the tomatoes and the water, the cubed beets and all the spices and bring back to the boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the beets are tender. (Jaffrey suggests 30 to 40 minutes, but the time will vary depending on your beets, the size you cut them, and the exact heat setting you choose. Mine were still on the crisp side after 40 minutes, so I let them go about 10 minutes longer.)

Serve with white rice and a salad or green vegetable for a good meatless meal, or use as a hearty side dish.

ABOUT THE COOKBOOK: As its name implies, Madhur Jaffrey's "Quick & Easy Indian Cooking" makes it easy to enjoy Indian fare at home by streamlining some of the traditional procedures and simplifying (without "dumbing down") the enjoyable but finicky process of selecting, acquiring, toasting and grinding traditional spices.

I was a little disappointed by the book's "coffee-table" format and binding, which makes it difficult to hold it down flat for easy reference while you cook. It also contains only about 70 recipes in a slim 144-page package. Most of them look interesting, but this short ration left me hungry for more. Paperback production keeps the price in line, though ... it's available from for $16.95 plus shipping, and should you use the following link to buy, we'll get a few cents of that back as a commission to

MATCHING WINE: I like Pinot Noir with beets, and found that this dish improved a so-so generic Burgundy, the Joseph Drouhin 2001 "Laforet" Bourgogne Pinot Noir. It could be very interesting with a South African Pinotage, a variety that often shows an earthy "beetroot" character; or if you prefer a white, go with a versatile Riesling.