Beetroots are always a pain to peel, cook and chop – their stain is a hard one to shake and you’re left looking like you’ve committed a crime. But time taken to endure their bloody mess is always worth it. Pre-cooked, preboiled and vinegared ones are never an option. As a child I learnt fast that one could conjure up an amazing dish from any obscure vegetable. So, I decided to try the same magic to beetroots. Back home, we had turnip kebabs, okra pullao, lentils mixed with nearly every vegetable and meats mixed in too. Really I think the cross of Lucknowi genes and Punjabi ones has lead me to be quite the eclectic Pakistani when it comes to creating uses for all vegetables whether it be in sweet or savory dishes. My mother loved making a classic Pakistani dessert recipe, the Gajar (carrot) halva. Of course, as my mum is never satisfied with regular recipes, shes sought to make hers with full cream and very little milk. Mostly it is made with milk and then khoya (milk solids) is added in the end. The fact that khoya is not something you’d want to prepare at home the use of cream helps create the richness a halva is known for. I have used the recipe of my mum’s carrot halva and substituted it with my favourite earthy vegetable – the beetroot. A vegetable dismissed for being too healthy, too boring. Really it is much more that that. A vibrant bold root with the earthiness of the soil – like as if it was created from earth itself. Richness of colour, a vegetable that can be eaten completely. No waste at all. I love this root and here is a recipe I created from using my mother’s carrot halva and my adoration for the strong rich bulb.

Serves about 8-10 people, take about 45 minutes to and hour to prepare and cook.

500 g beetroot, peeled and grated

400 ml double cream

100 ml fresh milk

100 g caster sugar

1 tsp cardamom seeds

1 tsp cloves

Decorate: with some chopped pistachios, freshly ground cardamom and silver leaf


1. Boil the milk and cream together, add the grated beetroot, cloves and cardamom seeds. Cook on low heat and keep stirring occasionally and keep an eye on the pan. Cook this until the milk/cream gets absorbed into the beetroot mixture (takes about 25-30 minutes on medium low heat). Now add the sugar and keep stirring until it is all mixed in well

2. Once the halva is thick, deep red and all the cream/milk and sugar is absorbed, pour into a serving dish, decorate and either serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream or serve cold with some delicious hot masala chai.