Spice Mama · Beetroot and Ginger Curry

For Shaheen Hughes of Spice Mama, food is as much about emotion and tradition, as it is about taste. She urges meal-makers to cook with heart, remember family traditions, and even start new ones.  ‘We can learn so much about ourselves, and each other, at the dinner table’ she muses, ‘and we can keep the stories of our past alive for future generations’.  

Earlier in the month Shaheen gave us a zesty Coconut Fish Curry, and this week she offers up a vibrant vegetarian curry – her favourite of them all! Derived from a recipes passed down from her mother, Sultana, and grandmother, Aziza, today a vibrant Beetroot and Ginger Curry is on the menu.

Shaheen Hughes and Sultana Shamshi

Aromatic ingredients and savoured memories. Photo – Dion Robeson. Assistant – Anna Flanders.

And with a flourish of garnish, it’s ready! Photo – Dion Robeson. Assistant – Anna Flanders.

Shaheen’s grandmother Aziza. Photo – courtesy of Shaheen Hughes.

Spice Mama’s Beetroot and Ginger Curry. Photo – Dion Robeson. Assistant – Anna Flanders.

‘A group of my great aunties… all my granny’s sisters and sisters in law with their kids,’ describes Shaheen. Photo – courtesy of Shaheen Hughes.

A vibrant curry for one. Photo – Dion Robeson. Assistant – Anna Flanders.

Shaheen Hughes
Sultana Shamshi
21st of November 2017

Any migrant will tell you it can be lonely in the kitchen; but when I cook the food of my culture, my ancestors are with mekeeping me company.  I started making traditional East Indian bottle masala after my nana died because the incredible fragrance of the roasting spices reminded me of her. 

I say this a lot, but this Beetroot and Ginger Curry is most definitely one of my favourite curries. It’s fresh, light and tasty, and it is a visual feast for the senses, from start to finish, changing colour from white through every shade of pink to the most beautiful deep, hot pink as you eat it.

Serve it with a spring green rice pilau full of green peas, and garnish it with snow peas, broad beans or slices of lime for the ultimate pink and green delight, or make a turmeric pilau and layer slices of hard boiled eggs for a pink and yellow colour scheme. Indian food really is about eating the rainbow. 


1 bunch of beetroot  

1 Tbsp of olive oil 

1 Tbsp of coconut oil  

1 tin of good quality coconut milk (I like Ayam brand)  

2 green chillies, slit vertically in half 

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated 

1 large stick of cinnamon 

3 to 4 cardamom pods 

4 to 7 cloves 

1 tsp of black peppercorns 

2 bay leaves 

1 star anise  

1 tsp salt, or to taste 

Juice of a lemon, to taste 


Scrub clean and halve each beetroot, rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in a hot oven (around 200 degrees) for about 30 minutes until cooked; then set aside. 

In a heavy based saucepan, heat the coconut oil and add the chillies and all the whole spices: cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves and star anise.  These are the traditional ingredients in garam masala, but have a much more fragrant taste when used whole (you just have to remember to pick them out before you eat them).

Stir the ingredients over a medium-high heat until you start to get the aroma of the spices, then add the grated ginger and fry for another minute or so.  Slowly add the coconut milk, turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes or so.  Fill the coconut milk can with water and dilute the curry by adding this slowly to increase the amount of gravy (you don’t need to add the whole can). After this, add the salt and lemon and taste for seasoning, you can always add more as needed so don’t add either all at once. 

At this stage you can add the beetroot directly to the curry, stir until warm and serve. It’s much more fun to ladle your gravy into a bowl and then arrange the beetroot gently, swirling the pieces around until the colour starts to spread.  You can decide to let the curry gradually change colour, or you can serve it when it’s the perfect shade of pink for you! 

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