This is my take on the classic Indian dessert of gajar ka halwa – a painstakingly slow-cooked dessert made with grated carrots, spices, ghee and milk. I once tried something similar but with beetroot, which is how I came up with this version. It isn’t as sweet, as I prefer to let the natural flavours of the beetroot do the talking.
For the filling
100g unsalted butter
2tsp ground cinnamon
Seeds from 8 cardamom pods, finely ground using a pestle and mortar
1kg raw beetroot, peeled and grated
250g caster sugar
50g pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
For the pastry
250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
125g unsalted butter, softened
Pinch of Maldon sea salt flakes
30g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 egg yolk
First make the filling. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat, then add the spices. Stir for 30 seconds, then add the beetroot and sugar and mix well. Cook for about five minutes, or until the beetroot is soft.
Pour in the milk and stir well, then lower the heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until all the liquid has been absorbed by the beetroot. This process does take time, so be patient.
Once all the liquid has been absorbed, allow the mixture to cool, then refrigerate it for at least an hour.
Next make the pastry. Put the flour, butter, salt and sugar into a bowl and rub everything together with your fingertips, lifting the flour upwards from the base of the bowl, until the mixture resembles sand. Then make a well in the centre, add the egg and egg yolk and incorporate into the flour mixture to form a smooth ball of dough.
Select a 24cm-diameter tart tin. Tear a large square of clingfilm and place it on your work surface. Dust generously with flour, then set the pastry dough on top, dust that with flour and cover it loosely with another layer of clingfilm. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is slightly larger than your tin.
Remove the top layer of clingfilm and carefully transfer the dough into the tin. Push the dough gently into the edges of the tin, leaving a little overhanging. Now sweep the rolling pin across the top of the tin to cut off the overhanging dough. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (or overnight).
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Remove the pastry case and the beetroot mixture from the refrigerator. Pour the beetroot mixture into the pastry case.
If you have one, transfer the tin on to a pizza stone, then bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the pastry edges are crisp.
Scatter the pistachios on top and gently press into the filling, then leave in the tin to cool completely before serving.
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