Curried beetroot & butternut squash soup

scones and soup

Beetroot doesn’t appear particularly often on the menus of Indian restaurants. This hadn’t occurred to me until very recently, whilst I was flicking through Diana Henry’s A Change of Appetite a couple of days ago. 

Given how well other root vegetables marry with the fragrant warmth of Indian spicing, it struck me as odd that this particular partnership hadn’t reached the heady heights of popularity as some other, well-worn, combinations. Parsnip, carrot and celeriac are all a perfect match for the heavy hitters of Indian cuisine: cumin, coriander, fennel seed, turmeric, cinnamon, chilli - yet beetroot tends to be forgotten in this respect. 

Rather, its loamy, muddy sweetness tends to enjoy associations with northern and eastern Europe, where it nestles comfortably alongside horseradish, black pepper, vinegar or citrus. Occasionally it might cohabit with a few pickling spices (coriander, allspice and bay) but rarely does it venture as far into the Indian subcontinent as other earth dwellers. 

So a recipe pairing it with mustard seed, chilli, curry leaf and coconut was a real source of intrigue. The original version of this dish is as a vegetable curry, but given how chill the weather was outside, it quite simply felt like a ‘soup day’. 

Curried beetroot & butternut squash soup

Makes enough for six hungry people

50ml neutral cooking oil

Four teaspoons black mustard seeds

Two dried chillies

Two teaspoons ground cinnamon

Two teaspoons ground cumin

Four teaspoons ground turmeric

Salt, to taste


Four garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

6-8cm ginger, grated

Two red onions, peeled and sliced


Two beetroots (about 400g), peeled and roughly diced

One small butternut squash (about 800g), peeled and roughly diced (seeds removed)

Two waxy potatoes (about 400g), peeled and roughly diced


One tin coconut milk

300ml vegetable stock (powdered or cubed is just fine)

75ml tamarind concentrate

50g soft dark brown sugar, palm sugar or jaggery


Heat the oil over a medium heat in a large saucepan, add the mustard seeds and dried chillies and cook for 10 seconds before adding the rest of the ground spices. Toast them briefly in the hot oil then add the sliced onion, garlic and ginger. Season with salt and cook for five-ten minutes, stirring often, until the onion begins to soften.

Add the diced beetroot, butternut squash and potato and stir to coat well with the contents of the pan. Add the coconut milk, vegetable stock, tamarind and sugar - the liquid should just cover the vegetables, if not, top up with a little more water. Season again with salt, cover and cook over a gentle heat for 30-45 minutes until the beetroot, squash and potato are cooked through (cooking time will vary depending on how large the vegetables are diced). 

Transfer to a blender, blend until smooth and serve with a spoonful of yoghurt and a fresh cheese scone. 

beetroot soup