Beet-stained Egg Salad

Beet-stained egg salad with cucumber, home-grown greens and edible blooms

Magh Bihu, which is also known as Makar Sankranti, Lohri, and Pongal, in other parts of the country, came and went. This is a harvest festival and has agrarian roots. It’s impossible not to think of the memories we grew up with associated with the festival. The preparation would start with the soaking and pounding of sticky rice for pithas. The smell of toasted sesame seeds and coconut with a hint of cardamom would fill the air. Luckily for me three of my siblings live in the same city and we often get to spend such occasions together. Over the years the number of dishes cooked have come down but fish like chital (clown knife fish) and duck is a must when we meet up. This year we feasted on two kinds of fish curries and duck with fragrant ash gourd. And there were pithas and other sweets. Pitha is the word for a sweet pancake made of rice flour and has a filling of either toasted sesame seeds sweetened with jaggery or with sweet coconut. They can also be made with all-purpose flour with a little variation in the making process.
And coming to today’s recipe, I have been dying to try out these pickled eggs in beet juice. Not only do they look spectacular but the novelty of using eggs in another form was tempting enough for me to make this salad. A few days ago our temperature dipped a bit. All along we had been complaining how this winter didn’t really feel like winter and it wasn’t cold enough for bonfire nights. And this is also the season when edible seasonal flowers bloom and I couldn’t pass up this chance of using the pansies blooming in my pots. Or the spinach plants that the sparrows have somehow spared.

I started with the beets first. They were washed and peeled and went into a pan with enough water to cover them. I put a bit of salt, a few cloves, one cinnamon stick and some peppercorns. I also added a bit of apple cider vinegar to the liquid. This was cooked until the beets were done and there was still enough liquid to ‘stain’ the eggs. This was cooled and went into a glass bowl. At the moment my jars are filled with Indian olive pickle which is why I used the bowl.
Four eggs were hard-boiled, cooled and shelled. Then they went into the beet mixture and into the fridge. It takes about 4-6 hours for the eggs to take on the beet hue but I thought it best to leave them overnight. The next day the other ingredients I used were:
4 beet-stained eggs, halved
1/3 cup pickled beets
1/3 cup pomegranate arils
A bunch of baby spinach
A bunch of micro-greens (I used a variety of brassica I’m growing)
1-2 sprigs of fresh basil
A few edible flowers (I used pansies)
1 small cucumber, sliced thin with the skin left on
With edible flowers, it’s best to use home-grown organic ones as you don’t know what pesticides might have been used in the ones available in the markets.

For the dressing:
2 tbs lemon juice
Sugar as per taste
Salt as per taste
1 tsp freshly-grated black pepper
A generous drizzle of olive oil
Mix the sugar and salt with the lemon juice in a small bowl or jar. As soon as the mixture dissolves, add the other ingredients and give it a good stir. Set aside as you prepare the salad.

Arrange the cucumber slices around the serving platter. Then do the same with the eggs. Scatter the rest of the ingredients but make sure the star ingredients are not hidden from view. Garnish with the flowers. Give the dressing another good stir and drizzle it on top of the salad. Enjoy!
I let the yolks remain as they were. If you want more elements of taste, you could take out the yolks, mix them with more salt/pepper/herbs. I liked the taste of the eggs. There was a bit of sweetness from the beets and the aromatics did their job very well!

Last year I used home-grown pansies to decorate this cake.

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