beetroot and aubergine pilau recipe


We eat rice in some form or other pretty much every day, whether it’s rice porridge for breakfast, rice milk smoothie, rice flour in baking, rice as a side or rice as the shining star.
This dish is definitely the later. Rice forms the basis of this deceptively tasty dish, along with meltingly tender spiced aubergine (eggplant), fragrant curry leaves and beetroot.

This is one dish that keeps you coming back for more, in one mouthful you may chance upon a spoonful of tender spiced aubergine, cumin seeds and mustard. The next you taste earthy beetroot and cashew. And if you’re like me you’ll search out the curry leaves and eat them up first, their ‘curry’ flavour is undeniably good. 

If you have more patience than I, leave the pilau for an hour or so after cooking and you will be rewarded with bright pink rice as the colour from the neighbouring beetroot stains the grains.
This is perfect eaten straight from the pan, left to cool slightly and even straight from the fridge the following day. The recipe feeds a crowd, or you for many days… simply half the recipe if you like.

Looking for more aubergine/eggplant recipes?
~eggplant curry
~carrot and red lentil soup with minted eggplant
~roast eggplant, tomato and feta salad w/ pomegranate molasses dressing

Inspired by a recipe in The Settler’s Cookbook, by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

beetroot and aubergine pilau
I used rice bran oil this particular time, but I imagine ghee would be ridiculously good to use in it’s place. I buy a large bunch of curry leaves at a time and freeze what ever I don’t use straight away in a zip-lock bag. Use straight from frozen.
feeds a crowd! 8-10 or more if served as part of a feast.

  • 1 medium aubergine (eggplant)
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 2 cups basmati rice, washed well
  • 4 tablespoons rice bran oil, or other neutral vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 onions, finely diced
  • 2 hot green chillies (i.e birds eye), finely chopped
  • small handful of fresh curry leaves (approx 10 leaves)
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 large (approx 650g total) beetroot, cooked*, peeled and diced into 1cm cubes
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, roughly chopped
  • sea salt, extra, to taste
  • torn coriander (cilantro) leaves, to serve, optional

Cut aubergine into 1cm dice, place into a non-reactive bowl (ideally glass), sprinkle over the 1 tablespoon sea salt, mix though and set aside while you prep the remaining ingredients.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add washed rice and cook for 7 minutes over high heat. Drain off the water, cover tightly with the lid (weigh down with tins if the lid is not tight-fitting) and set aside for 15-20 minutes while you prep the rest of the dish.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over med-high heat, add cumin and mustard seeds and cook for a few minutes until popping. Add onion, chilli and curry leaves. Cook for around 5 minutes, stirring often until translucent and lightly golden. While they are cooking, drain the aubergine, rinse under cold water in a sieve and pat dry with the clean tea-towel or paper towels. Add turmeric and drained aubergine to the onion mixture and cook for 2 minutes before turning down to low, covering with a lid and cooking for a further 5-7 minutes until golden and tender. Stir a couple of times during cooking to prevent the mixture catching on the bottom. 

Add diced beetroot and cashews, stirring through to warm. Gently stir in cooked rice so the beetroot stains the rice. Taste and add more sea salt if needed. Serve scattered with torn coriander (cilantro) leaves if desired. Can be eaten warm or cold. 
Note: The longer this pilau is left to sit, the pinker your rice will become as the beetroot colours it’s neighbouring rice.

* To cook beetroot, place whole, unpeeled beets into a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil then simmer until tender. Depending on their size this can take anywhere between 30-60 minutes. Cool slightly before peeling.

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  • Reply
    Sugar and Spice
    February 21, 2012 at 8:32 am

    You had me at 'meltingly tender spiced augbergine'. Sigh…
    This sounds like one of those perfect dishes to make, eat for dinner and have leftovers for lunch the next day. 🙂

  • Reply
    Priya Sreeram
    February 21, 2012 at 9:26 am

    love this one- my hearth sees a lot of rice action too- nice combo

  • Reply
    February 22, 2012 at 12:35 am

    Yum!! This looks like one tasty recipe!

  • Reply
    February 22, 2012 at 4:40 am

    I am completely obsessed with this recipe! You have combined so many of my favorite ingredients that I'm finding it to be irresistible. 🙂 Lovely photos too.

    • Reply
      February 22, 2012 at 9:05 am

      Thanks 🙂

  • Reply
    Cass @foodmyfriend
    February 22, 2012 at 5:03 am

    What beautiful colours. Your brunoise is perfect!

    • Reply
      February 22, 2012 at 9:04 am

      Thanks 🙂 Many years of practice!

  • Reply
    February 22, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    I'm glad I've stopped by… everything looks so healthy over here and your pics are lovely!

    • Reply
      February 23, 2012 at 1:01 pm

      Thanks Katia 🙂

  • Reply
    Domestic Executive
    February 22, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    This looks and sounds delicious – on my cook list for next week. Love beetroot and aubergine and I just happen to have the first aubergines coming through in the greenhouse. .

    • Reply
      February 23, 2012 at 1:02 pm

      Yay! Ours are all finished, but they are trying to flower again, will see if anything eventuates! Still stinking hot here in Perth, so you never know?

  • Reply
    February 23, 2012 at 3:19 am

    We seldom have rice for dinner in our household such that when we do I make sure the dish is extra special and oh so flavorful. This is the next rice dish I will be serving. Looks complete and hearty.

  • Reply
    February 23, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Looks delicious, I Love pilau but we rally don't make it very often, saying that I did do a cauliflower and bean one last week. Beetroot risotto is also a big favourite of mine. Alli@peasepudding

  • Reply
    February 23, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Hi Emma, This just looks lovely. We can't buy curry leaves where I live but I did find a planter with a curry plant in it for sale. The leaves don't look the same, but do you suppose they would carry the same flavor? I'd love to try this beautiful salad out.

    • Reply
      February 24, 2012 at 12:42 am

      Hi, the 'curry' plant you would have seen sadly is a totally different thing to the curry leaves used here. My Nana has that other plant and while it is nice to flavour things like egg sandwiches it wouldn't be the same in a pilau like this. I'd just leave them out if unavailable, they do add the most amazing flavour but I'm sure it would be still great without them too.

  • Reply
    England Furniture
    February 23, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    Thank you for sharing this recipe and pictures for beetroot and aubergine pilau. The dish looks delicious.

    • Reply
      February 24, 2012 at 12:51 am

      You're welcome! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Reply
    yummy supper
    February 24, 2012 at 2:48 am

    Emma, Yum! I love a nice hearty rice bowl. And I'm not sure that I've ever eaten beets, aubergine and cashews together. It all sounds really good.
    I'm wondering about rice bran oil. I've never used it. Do you prefer it to other veggie oils?

    • Reply
      February 24, 2012 at 5:37 am

      It totally sounds like a crazy combo I know, but it works!

      I use Rice Bran oil as my main cooking oil, I love it. It has a really high smoke point and is completely flavourless, so perfect for most dishes. I use extra virgin olive oil and virgin coconut oil for certain dishes where I want their lovely flavour to shine. Xx

  • Reply
    February 24, 2012 at 3:30 am

    Rice porridge is one of the most comforting dishes in the world to me. I would love to see your take on it.

  • Reply
    Sherilyn @ Wholepromise
    February 24, 2012 at 5:35 am

    Wow – there are some amazing flavours in here and your beetroot is so perfectly prepared. It sounds delicious.

  • Reply
    Jennifer (Delicieux)
    February 24, 2012 at 7:53 am

    This looks fabulous Emma, and healthy too! I love flavours you have going on there, and the cashews too (my favourite nut). I've been really loving beetroots lately, so it's great to see another wonderful beetroot recipe.

  • Reply
    February 24, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    this looks amazing !

  • Reply
    February 25, 2012 at 1:18 am

    this looks delicious, I love this combo of flavors… I wish I had this for dinner in front of me right now!

  • Reply
    February 25, 2012 at 3:03 am

    this looks delicious, with all the lovely textures and colors you've got going here. I'm usually not a bit fan of beets, but they're so pretty i think i have to try cooking with them again.

  • Reply
    February 25, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    Fresh and colorful, I just love it!
    Right now we're still freezing (as usual), looking forward to summer because I miss aubergine soooo much!

  • Reply
    Mairi @ Toast
    February 26, 2012 at 7:14 am

    Oh yes please…..this looks and sounds amazing & can well imagine that it is terribly moreish. Beautiful pictures too.

  • Reply
    Being Julia
    March 7, 2012 at 12:09 am

    I am salivating just looking at the pictures and reading the ingredients…where would I get the fresh curry leaves? I have never seen they in the stores (US).
    Thanks Emma…my writing group has LOVED both the soups I have made from your website…just need to get the posts up!

    • Reply
      March 7, 2012 at 7:45 am

      Hmmm, I've never been to the states so can't really say. But if it's anything like here your best bet would be somewhere like an Indian/sri lankan grocer or possibly somewhere that stocks Asian ingredients?
      Glad you have all enjoyed my soup recipes xx

  • Reply
    July 6, 2013 at 8:25 am

    I'm making it for dinner, so Delish !!

  • Reply
    July 19, 2016 at 2:31 pm


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