Mama’s Punjabi Recipes: Chukandar da Salad (Beetroot Salad)


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Beetroots are not commonly used in Indian cuisine as a main dish though it is eaten sometimes as a salad. When I was a young girl in our ancestral home in Lyallpur, we used to boil the chukandar (beetroot) and then peel it before eating it. Our hands and towels would be red with the effort!
In north India, the common belief is that eating chukandar is very beneficial as it helps to increase the blood in the body. Chukandar belongs to the same family as shalgum (turnips), palak (spinach) and chard. They are high in vitamins A, B1, B2, B3 and C, minerals (especially potassium, magnesium and phosphorus) and folic acid. Beetroot is considered good for the heart, lowers blood pressure and betacyanin (which gives the purple color) is a powerful anticancer agent that inhibits tumor formation. The red coloring is also used in tomato paste, sauces, deserts, jams, jellies, ice cream and other foods.
It can be peeled, steamed and eaten warm with butter; cooked, pickled and eaten as a condiment or peeled, shredded raw and eaten as a salad. Beetroots are commonly used in East European countries to make a stew called borscht. Beetroot juice is considered a healthy tonic by many people. A large portion of the crop is turned into pickles and yellow, sugar beetroot is used to produce 20% of the worldwide sugar supply. The vegetable has also been used to make ethanol, a fuel additive, due to its high glucose content.

10-12 medium chukandar (red beetroot) – only two are needed for this recipe
1 large nimbu (lemon) – cut in half
1 large lal piyaaz (red onion) – peeled and finely chopped
1 medium adrak (ginger root) – peeled and finely chopped
2 large hari mirch (green chillies) – finely chopped
1 teaspoon ajwain (bishop’s weed or carom seeds)
2 tbsp dhania (fresh coriander leaves)
1 teaspoon amchoor (dry mango powder)
Spices (to taste): namak (salt), mirch (red pepper)

1. Cut the ends of the chukandar, wash and dry with a towel and keep to the side to the side.

2. Take a baking tray and cover it with foil. Coat the beetroot with a thin layer of vegetable oil then place them on the tray.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 deg on bake, then the tray inside for 30 minutes. Take out the tray, turn beetroot over and place back in the oven for another 30 minutes.

4. Take the tray out of the oven and let the beetroot cool down.

5. Peel the chukandar and cut into small pieces. For the salad, you will need only one or two beetroots. Keep the rest in a bowl in the refrigerator for use later.

6. Throw the chukandar in a large bowl, and then add the onions, ginger, chillies and all the spices. Squeeze the juice out of the lemons over the mixture. You can also use bottled lemon juice instead of fresh lemons.

7. Stir the mixture thoroughly and then chill in the fridge for 30 minutes, Sprinkling the dhania before serving.




When cooking over the stove, people, especially the young and inexperienced, usually just pour or sprinkle the salt and spices straight out of the bottle. The steam from the dish usually makes the grains of the spices sticker to the container and gets into the shaker or bottle. To avoid this, it is best to take a spoonful of the spice and pour it into the dish. This is why we use the namak dani (spice container), a round bowl or rectangular box divided into sections, for cooking Indian dishes. It also allows you to use your judgment on the amount of spice used.
Another method to keep salt and black pepper dry in shakers, especially in humid areas, is to put some grains of white rice in them, as the rice will absorb the humidity.


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Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur, India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable Punjabi recipes.