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Recipe  •  2 October 2019


Sri Lankan beetroot curry with green bean mallum

A vibrant curry from the plant-based cookbook East. 

The greatest souvenir you can take home from Sri Lanka is a love for ‘rice and curry’. Order this for lunch and you’ll get a smorgasbord of curries: leek, cashew, beetroot, jackfruit, pumpkin and even pineapple. Often, they are heavily spiced with cinnamon, fenugreek, chilli and pepper, then smothered in coconut milk to soften the blow. On the side, you can expect the most fantastic little meal-brighteners, from raw relishes (sambols) made with chilli, lime and coconut, to quickly cooked greens (mallums) and crisp poppadoms. It is one of life’s great feasts. This recipe is an introduction to the tradition.


Don’t let beetroot’s oozing pinkness bully you: just rub a piece of cut potato on to pink fingers, and most stains will disappear.

Serves 4 as a main


For the curry 

  • 3 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 6 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1½ green finger chillies, very finely chopped
  • 1½ tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 800g raw beetroot, peeled and cut into 0.5cm half-moons
  • 1¼ tsp salt
  • 1 x 400ml tin of coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp lime juice (from 1 lime)

For the green beans 

  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 300g green beans, topped, tailed and cut into 1.5cm pieces
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • ½ a green finger chilli, very finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp lime juice (from 1 lime)
  •  ¹⁄3 tsp salt
  • 3½ tbsp desiccated coconut

Start with the beetroot curry. On a medium flame, heat the oil in a wide frying pan for which you have a lid, then fry the curry leaves and leave them to crackle and pop for a minute. Stir in the onion, garlic and chillies, cook for around 6 minutes, until the onion turns translucent and soft, then add the tomato puree and cumin, and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the beetroot, salt and 6 tablespoons of water, pop on the lid and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally; if the curry looks a bit dry, add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Take off the lid, stir in the coconut milk and simmer for 10 minutes, until the beetroot is tender and the sauce has reduced. Finally, stir in the lime juice and turn off the heat while you get on with the beans.

In another wide frying pan, heat the oil for the beans on a high flame. Once it’s hot, add the beans, stir to coat in the oil, then leave for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring once, until they blister and char. When the beans have got some blackened bits on them, but are still bright green in colour, stir in the garlic, chilli, lime juice and salt, and cook for a minute. Finally, add the desiccated coconut, stir-fry for a minute, then take off the heat.

East Meera Sodha

A vibrant plant-based cookbook from the Guardian 'New Vegan' columnist and award-winning author of Fresh India

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