Roasted Beet ‘Carpaccio’ in the Persian Manner: Borani-e-Labu

“A monarch, regardless of being a queen or a king, must defend his or her land and treat the people with justice,” declared the Sassanian Empress Porandokht, (AD 630-31). An advocate of sexual egalitarianism, she was the first female monarch to rule over the Sassanian Empire. Under her 16-month rule, before she died, Empress Porandokht signed a peace treaty with the Byzantines and reformed her empire by re-structuring and lowering taxes.

Every era has had their crop of strong women, and Mader, my paternal grandmother, was most certainly one from hers.

Living in Lahore, in the 1930s, during pre-partition India, Syeda Shameem, the beloved granddaughter of a Sufi Pir, cast off her burqa and donned a sari to blend in with the majority Hindu population and take up a job as Assistant Registrar of Cooperative Societies. She did not want to stand out as someone from a minority group. Nothing was going to constrain this lady from being at the workplace.

Every morning she would choose a sari from her armoire and neatly unfold the perfect rectangle. She would twirl the sari around her waist and hips, the folds falling gracefully, then draping the loose end of it; the pallu, over her left shoulder. Looking at herself in the mirror as she stepped outside for work, this girl knew she was now indistinguishable from the rest of the population, thanks to her sari.

Sadly, I cannot tie a sari (on my own) to save my life, but Mader’s work ethic and ideals of equality among religions and gender are the traits which I do remember, even if subconsciously, every morning as I wear my suit while getting ready for the office. Even long after she is gone.

The face of women and egalitarianism in Pakistan has changed since the era Mader grew up in. We do have our handful of troubles, but women are strutting their stuff into the office in trouser suits as newscasters/journalists, as stay at home mothers in their saris or as Head Mistresses in their kurta shalwars.

There may have been a Syeda Shameem in many of these womens’ lives.

The word Borani it is said, has originated from the name Porandokht. According to legend, the Empress loved cold yoghurt-based dishes. When she was proclaimed Queen, the name Porani was given to these dishes. Later on Porani is said to have become the term Borani.

The traditional version of Borani-e-Labu (labu meaning beet in Farsi) calls for a mixing of chopped beet in yoghurt. This is my twist on the recipe- which reminds me of a beet ‘carpaccio’. The beets are sliced into thin leaf-like slices, then cushioned on a plump bed of thick yoghurt. A jade-green drizzle of olive oil and some woodsy fragrant dried mint on top. And then mop it up with chubby Afghan bread.

The tart creaminess of the yoghurt pairs excellently with the candy-like sweetness and earthiness of the beet.

Serves 4 as an appetiser or a side dish.

Ingredients:
* 2 small beets (approximately 250g in total)
* Your everyday cooking olive oil
* 2 small tubs very thick, drained yoghurt- I use Greek Yoghurt, ‘Total Fage’, (it comes in a 150g tub). Or 300g of any thick yoghurt such as labneh (Lebanese/Syrian) or mast-e-kisei (‘drained yoghurt’) from a Persian store.
* Dried mint for garnish (please do use dried vs. fresh mint, therein lies the beauty of this dish- the use of a woodsy, earthy dried herb)
* Salt
* Your best olive oil

Preparation:
* Pre-heat your oven to 400F/200C
* Wash and clean your beets. Dry with paper towel.
* Gloss all over with the olive oil you would use for cooking.
* Take two small pieces of foil and tightly wrap each beet individually.
* Place in oven and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour (timings vary from oven to oven).
* Test with a sharp knife, if is slides through easily, it is done.
* Once done, remove from oven and allow to cool and rest for 20 minutes.
* Remove the skin and carefully slice very thinly, like a leaf.
* Set aside.
* In a large serving plate or individual plates, smear a generous amount of yoghurt.
* Just before serving, gently place slices of beets on the yoghurt.
* Sprinkle with salt and dried mint.
* Drizze your best olive oil on top.
* Serve with bread.

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Comments

  1. That’s a delicious recipe and brilliant for vegetarians which make up the majority of my family. I’m definitely going to try this = thank you for sharing it with us. xx

  2. The recipe looks very very good. And your story is inspiring.

  3. I love the beet recipe and I love your story telling style even more.

  4. What a beatiful post! I love the way you cook together the food and history! Where can I get Total here? I used to buy it in London but nvr see it in TO…

  5. @SoLovely Thanks so much, lovely. I admire that- we tried the vegetarian route, failed miserably after 4 days. x s

    @Tuscan Foodie Grazie mille.

    @Mady Thanks so much. x s

    @Julia B Thank you very much. I find it at Pusateri’s sometimes if I am lucky, but when I cannot find it there I buy it from the Persian markets in North York- it is called mast-e-kisei (drained yoghurt). Also, in mainstream supermarkets you can find a yoghurt labeled ‘Balkan-style’; it is thicker than normal yoghurt, though not as thick as Greek yoghurt or labneh. Thanks for asking this question- I have edited the recipe now. x s

  6. this is a great recipe Shayma joon! love borani-e labu and your version is just perfect! beautiful photos! love the story about your remarkable and strong grandmother…such an inspiring story!xo

  7. Love beets and yogurt and the photo, but most of all I loved the recollections of your mader and impressed at her discipline and strength of character.

  8. @Azita @TasteofBeirut Thank you very much, girls.

  9. Delicious recipe (wonderful combination) and story, your grandmother sounds extraordinary and that photo is great. I miss all the Greek and Lebanese shops in London to get wonderful thick yogurt, it is tricky here in Rome.

  10. easy peasy!!!…a great appetiser…shall compliment every main dish on MY table for sure!!

  11. Lovely, as always. Love calling the bread “chubby,” so apt. But, dearest Shayma, you simply must learn to tie a sari! It’s as important as all the culinary traditions, no?

  12. dearest Spicey…great recipe on a sizzling summer day in Delhi, Lahore, Rome, Washington or anywhere for that matter! Your grandmothers liberating ” attire change” in the 1930′s… permitting her to step into the world of work is moving!! Only you can narrate so beautifully!

  13. I was so excited to see this post because we’d just purchased a small tub of the most amazing goat’s milk yoghurt from the Cheese Boutique here in Toronto. (Shayma, if you haven’t got your hands on some of this yoghurt yet, you MUST! It is heavenly with honey. Timeless. Like something people were eating three thousand years ago.) Combined with the roasted beets…and the dried mint…it was divine. Thanks for the inspiration!!

  14. mmm fantastic photos!
    and very good i think…..!

  15. Intresting recipe and definitely worth a taste and I enjoyed reading about your mader, thank you for sharing her story with us.

  16. Your grandmother was so beautiful! What a fascinating post

  17. This is great Shayma… like always, I love the story. TO the food: I have labaneh and Greek yogurt at home and never thought of such combination. I love beets and mint too! This is a great idea to make them. I’ve always boiled fresh beets but your way seems to make less mess.

    Thanks for sharing!

  18. Shayma…ur words are always soooo inspiring…che brava che sei!

  19. Lovely post! I love serving beetroot in a similar way but I use goat’s curd in place of yogurt. Delicious!

  20. @Rachel Thank you. Sometimes Volpetti has it and you can buy it by weight-(well, that was a year and a half ago, when I was still in Rome- who knows if they still stock it.

    @Sabrina Thanks, Sabs

    @GluttonforLife I know- I must- my mum in law has given me some gorgeous pieces which she bought in India. My mum has some gorgeous pieces from Bangladesh, I am usually in Pakistan when I wear them- so lots of people to help me. Here in Toronto, they are languishing in my closet wrapped in muslin. Sadness.

    @Gourmand Thank you, as always, for the kind words. My grandmother was indeed a great lady. To this day her name is mentioned in Lahore- all the way from the street vendor to my aunties and uncles.

    @Linda @Cmiranda @Gastrogeek Thank you so much.

    @Nour You can boil them, too. You don’t have to roast them. There are loads of yoghurt and vegetable combinations from Iran. I will post another recipe soon, which is my family’s signature dish- it’s aubergine, tomato sauce and yoghurt. Thanks for your kind words, as always.

    @Fran Grazie mille, bella. x s

    @Niamh @Sarah I must try this your way, girls, with goat’s milk yoghurt. Thanks for the lovely words.

    @

  21. This dish looks so simple, but so utterly delicious with the sweet roasted beets, the silky smooth yoghurt, and the herbal notes from the mint and olive oil. A platter of this will look so beautiful on my table this weekend. Thanks for the inspiration – S

  22. The dish looks great. I will have to try it when I get home.

  23. I’ve been looking all afternoon for ideas for beet carpaccio, having roasted two of the largest beets I’ve ever seen yesterday. Out will come the mandoline. We have yogurt, but I think we’ll be doing a parmesan based dressing. Thanks for the inspiration.

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  2. [...] of yogurt and mint dips, I found this Persian yogurt dip today from Shayma (of the Spice Spoon) with roasted fresh beets. It looks so [...]

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