Seasonal local food recipe No. 147: Nigel’s brown lentil curry Ⓥ + beetroot raita

Beetroot is everywhere at the moment – even in cakes and sumptuous desserts. Gone are the days when it only appeared soused in malt vinegar.

Nigel Slater says: “Ten years ago, beetroot was almost a goner. Available then only in pickles or occasionally in vacuum packs of four cooked and preserved globes, it is firmly in the spotlight now. It is almost impossible to find a menu that doesn’t acknowledge its newfound popularity.”

Serves 4

Preparation/ cooking time: 1 hour

250g large green or brown lentils
60g piece fresh ginger or galangal
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
3 heaped tsp garam masala
2 small red chillies
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 medium onion
400g can chopped tomatoes

For the raita:
yogurt 200ml, natural and unstrained
beetroot coarsely grated, 4 heaped tbsp
coriander to taste

Bring the lentils to the boil in a pan of deep, unsalted water, then let them simmer for 20-25 minutes, until they are quite soft.

Peel the ginger or galangal, roughly chop it then put it into the bowl of a food processor with the peeled garlic, cumin seeds, ground coriander, garam masala, red chillies, ground turmeric and enough vegetable oil to make a soft, but not runny, paste.

Peel and finely slice the onion. Warm a tbsp or two of oil in a medium, heavy-based casserole over a moderate heat. Add the onion and let it colour, stirring from time to time. When it is fragrant, golden and almost soft add the spicy paste and stir for a couple of minutes longer. Then pour in the chopped tomatoes and a can of water, add salt, and the drained, cooked lentils and leave to simmer for half an hour or so. The lentils should be soft but still retaining a little of their texture; the sauce thick.

To make the raita, put the yogurt into a small bowl, add the grated beetroot and a few leaves of coriander if you wish, then very gently fold the beetroot through the yogurt with a fork. Try not to over mix, unless you actually like vivid pink.

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