What’s the buzz about Turmeric?Jun 12, 2023
Last week I talked about the power of adding herbs and spices to your recipes – for both flavour and also the many health benefits. Now and for the next couple of weeks, I’ll be zeroing in on some of my favourites.
I’m sure you’ve heard about the healing powers of turmeric, how it acts as an anti-inflammatory ingredient. But what exactly is it?
Turmeric is a leafy tropical plant in the ginger family, which grows as a perennial in the wild.
It is said to have flavours that are woody, floral and bitter.
Turmeric has been used for centuries. It has been said to help combat illness, boost brain function, and support the aging process. However, it’s actually the Curcumin found in the spice that holds the amazing medicinal properties.
Eight facts about Turmeric:
- Curcuma longa
REGION OF CULTIVATION
- Turmeric is thought to be native to India. It is cultivated mainly in that country (which produces 90% of all turmeric powder), but also in China, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
METHOD OF CULTIVATION
- This annual crop is grown in heavily manured furrows; rhizomes are harvested when the leaves turn yellow.
MAJOR FLAVOUR COMPOUND
- Turmerone & ar-turmrone
- Rhizomes (fresh, dried, or powdered).
- Rhizomes are boiled and dried; they are then sold whole or ground to a powder.
- Fabric dye, colouring agent in cosmetics; in traditional medicine as an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent.
- There are two main types: Madras in brighter yellow and sweeter in taste than the pungent, earthy, ochre coloured Alleppey turmeric, which is more prized.
- Zesty flavours are more prominent in raw rhizomes. Peel and then chop or grate them, like ginger.
In the kitchen
Turmeric works well in complex blends, where its pungent earthiness acts as a base to help to bind other flavours together. Add sparingly if it is to be used on its own, so that the bitter notes do not overwhelm.
Did you know? Frying in fat causes flavour compound molecules to disperse and form new compounds. This only happens above 266°F (130°C), so does not occur in boiling water.
Cooking with turmeric
- Stir together turmeric, yogurt, and crushed garlic, and then spoon over fish fillets before grilling.
Lamb & Pork
- Combine with paprika, lightly crushed cumin, and oil for a meat rub, and massage into the skin before roasting
Squash & Cauliflower
- Mix a teaspoonful with oil and honey, and toss with vegetables before roasting.
- Add a good pinch to cupcake batter along with chunks of white chocolate.
Pickles and Fermented Vegetables
- Include slices of fresh rhizome when making fermented vegetable and pickles.
Create your own spice blends – it’s not as challenging as you might think!
1. A curry-like Yemeni blend, popular in slow-cooked meat dishes and soups and as a spice rub.
- 1 tbsp. black peppercorns
- 7 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp. cardamom seeds
- 1 tbsp. coriander seeds
- 2 tbsp. ground turmeric
Grind the whole spices and combine with the turmeric.
2. This spiced clarified butter is used as the flavoursome base fat for many regional African dishes, including hearty meat stews.
- 1 lb. 2 oz. (500g) unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, ﬁnely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, ﬁnely chopped
- 1 tbsp. grated ginger
- 1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. cardamon seeds
- ½ tsp. turmeric powder
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 6 basil leaves
- 4 sage leaves
Melt the butter in a pan over medium-low heat. Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring, for 20 minutes.
Strain through muslin into a sterilized jar.
3. This classic fusion paste can be used to make a quick fish curry by mixing it with coconut milk and simmering with chunks of any firm white fish.
- 2 tsp. coriander seeds
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- ½ tsp. fennel seeds
- ½ tsp. black peppercorns
- 4 medium dried chillies
- ½ tsp. turmeric powder
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 5 tbsp. shallot, chopped
Lightly roast the whole dry spices in a frying pan, leave to cool, then grind to a powder along with turmeric. In a food processor or using a hand blender, blitz together the garlic and shallots with a splash of water to form a puree. Mix the dry masala with the fresh puree to form curry paste.
Recipe ~ Butter Chicken
Did you know? There's not actually any butter in butter chicken, the colour comes from the spices and the tomato paste!
16 ozs Chicken Breast
2 tbsps Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Yellow Onion (diced)
2 Garlic (cloves, minced)
2 tbsps Ginger (grated)
1/4 cup Tomato Paste
2 tbsp Curry Powder (see recipes above!) (or to taste)
1 tsp Sea Salt
1/4 cup Water
1 cup Canned Coconut Milk (full fat)
- Dice the chicken into cubes and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion, garlic and ginger. Stir in tomato paste, curry, and sea salt. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until fragrant.
- Add diced chicken and stir until cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add in the water and loosen the paste.
- Stir in coconut milk and reduce to simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and ladle butter chicken over cooked rice, cauliflower rice or quinoa. Enjoy!
For more info on this and other natural health topics:
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