Turmeric – the Yellow Booster

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Freshly harvested turmeric
Freshly harvested turmeric

The myriad benefits of turmeric is taking the world by storm and proving once again that going back to your roots is what matters.

Do you know that your kitchen has an ingredient that packs a punch? Well it is anti-aging, anti-oxidant and an anti-inflammatory super spice and has been around for centuries in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines to treat a wide variety of health problems, from pain control to fighting cancer. Well, this is the humble turmeric or curcumin that has now made inroads into the Western world as well thanks to its huge health benefits. The humble turmeric is also getting a gourmet makeover and is being seen in Lattes, Cocktails, Sorbets and Ice creams too.

Turmeric Latte The Lalit Mumbai
Turmeric Latte The Lalit Mumbai

Spice Factor

Adding more turmeric to your daily diet is one of the best things you could do to improve your overall health. So if you love turmeric and are interested in herbal remedies go for it. “I have been adding turmeric to many of my dishes to give it that nice saffron-like color and wonderful flavor. It works well in curries, stir fried dishes, smoothies, salads or dressings. The optimal dose for daily consumption is between ¼ and ½ teaspoon,” says Chef Prem K Pogakula, Executive Chef, The Imperial, New Delhi. Curcumin, the magical substance, which gives turmeric its golden colour and its many health benefits have been well-studied over the past decades. The root of turmeric is also widely used to make medicine. Chef Yogen Datta, Executive Chef at ITC Gardenia, Bengaluru avers, “apart from providing a colour, turmeric provides an earthy – peppery flavour to food. It also imparts a body to thin curries. Turmeric is also a digestive, especially helping the body breakdown fats in the diet. Primarily used in curries, turmeric is also consumed fresh as side vegetable, often tossed with just green chillies and hing. Turmeric leaves are used to make sweets like Patoleo from Goan / Mangalorean cuisines.”

Turmeric Courtesy ITC Gardenia
Turmeric Courtesy ITC Gardenia

Myriad Uses

While most Indian kitchens use turmeric, in traditional cooking, you can add the same to spice up many other foods too. Turmeric is always added at the beginning of the cooking process and sautéed with other aromatics such as onions, ginger and garlic. This allows the release of curcumin, which is fat soluble. “Another popular use for turmeric in cooking is golden milk. Considered an anti-inflammatory elixir, this drink is used to treat everything from colds to arthritis. Although it is traditionally found in Indian curries, turmeric features in a variety of American dishes and condiments. Turmeric is what colors American processed cheese, mustard, butter, yellow cake mix, popcorn and dozens of other products. Turmeric is beloved in Iranian cuisine, where it is commonly combined with black pepper, cinnamon and cardamom in a spice mix called advieh. Moroccans also use turmeric in cooking. They combine it with saffron in harrira, a soup eaten at the end of Ramadan. Also, turmeric is one of the spices in the famous mixture called Ras-el-hanout,” explains Exec Chef Parimal Sawant, The Lalit Mumbai. “Use a pinch of turmeric in scrambled eggs, a frittata, or tofu scramble. If you or your family is new to turmeric, this is a great way to start because the color is familiar and the flavor subtle,” says Pogakula. Turmeric’s slightly warm and peppery flavor works especially well with cauliflower, potatoes, and root vegetables. Likewise, a dash of turmeric brings colour and a mild flavor to a pot of plain rice or a fancier pilaf and you can also sprinkle turmeric into sautéed or braised greens like kale, spinach, and cabbage. A bowl of vegetable or chicken soup feels even more warming when it’s tinged with golden turmeric. While fresh turmeric root is especially great in juices and smoothies, a pinch of ground spice is good, too. The slightly pungent flavour is usually well masked in smoothies. You can also simmer turmeric with coconut milk, almond milk, cashew nut milk and honey to make an earthy and comforting beverage.

Packing a Punch

Numerous studies have categorized turmeric as a super food and the spice has been lauded for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties found in curcumin. “It is believed to be a cancer fighter, especially in cancers affecting the digestive system. Turmeric is also used to treat a host of diseases, from respiratory illness to liver troubles and easing arthritis. Curcumin has already been shown to suppress traumatic memories in mice, sooth bowels, and help heal wounds, it could also help us stay mentally sharp as we age,” says Sawant. Varun M.B., Executive Chef, Novotel Hyderabad Airport adds, “it is medicine herb and a very strong antioxidant and has many attributes like controlling depression, improving immune system, healing diabetes and blood pressure. With so much going for turmeric it is not hard to say it is the golden spice of your kitchen.

Stir Fry Duck in Turmeric and Lemongrass sauce (Courtesy Novotel Hyderabad Airport)

Stir Fry Duck in Turmeric and Lemongrass sauce
Stir Fry Duck in Turmeric and Lemongrass sauce

Ingredients

  • 750 – 800 gram Duck, thinly sliced
  • 1½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1½ teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 100 gram shallot, thinly sliced
  • 3 lemongrass, white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoon Indonesian sweet soy sauce (Indonesian: kecap manis)
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 green serano chili, thinly sliced

Method

  • In a mixing bowl, mix together Duck, turmeric, coriander, salt, and 1 tablespoon oil. Set aside for 15 minutes.
  • Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a wok/frying pan on medium-high. Sauté pork until no longer pink.
  • Add shallot and lemongrass, mix well, cook for 1 minute.
  • Season with soy sauce, fish sauce, and sweet soy sauce. Mix well. Cook for 1 minute.
  • Add bell pepper and serano chili. Mix well. Turn off heat. Serve with steamed white rice.

 

Almond milk, fresh turmeric and honey spicy shake (courtesy The Imperial)

Almond milk, fresh turmeric and honey spicy shake
Almond milk, fresh turmeric and honey spicy shake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of homemade almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon local honey, optional
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, optional
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • A small pinch of black pepper and grated ginger (fresh is best)

Method

  • Simply pour all ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a light boil. Whisk to combine ingredients. Reduce heat to low and simmer for up to 10 minutes.
  • Strain the milk with large pieces of ginger, cinnamon, peppercorns, etc. To serve, add honey or a dash of cinnamon. Enjoy warm.

Turmeric Facts

  • Turmeric was ‘discovered’ by Marco Polo on his journey to China in 1280, since then it’s been hailed as the poor man’s saffron.
  • Turmeric is the golden child of Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine.
  • Turmeric is known as golden spice of India.
  • Sangli is the largest and most important trading centre for turmeric in Asia also in the world.
  • It is popular served as a tea in Okinawa, Japan.
  • Turmeric is very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Vitamin C and Magnesium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin B6, Iron, Potassium and Manganese.

This story appeared in the March 2018 issue of Spice Route magazine here: Tumeric -Spice Talk

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