Personally, I think turmeric is one of the most versatile spices in the cupboard. Ground turmeric powder, which most of us have in our homes, is made from taking the rhizomes (the stem/ root) of the turmeric plant, boiling them for 45 minutes then drying in a very hot oven until they are able to be ground up into that familiar sunshine orange powder. The turmeric plant is part of the ginger family.
Before it was used for culinary purposes it was used as a dye and medicinally in Ayurvedic treatments. Research found that it has ‘been used medicinally for over 4,500 years.
Analyses of pots discovered near New Delhi uncovered residue from turmeric, ginger and garlic that dates back as early as 2500 BCE. It was around 500 BCE that turmeric emerged as an important part of Ayurvedic medicine.’
I came across this when I was first working in India. I came into the kitchen with a terrible cold one morning and one of the Indian chefs insisted that I drunk his concoction that he made in a saucepan three times a day. He boiled water together with a few tablespoons of turmeric and a handful of basil leaves. It was really quite a disgusting drink but under strict instruction I continued his prescription. Anyway, I think it worked – try it for yourself this winter. Turmeric is said to be anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, anti-bacterial and anti-viral!
It was first used as a dye to colour the beautiful orange robes of the Buddhist monks and saris in India. It has since been used as a cheaper alternative to saffron. Furthermore, ‘turmeric has an important place in Indian weddings. Turmeric paste is applied to the bride and the groom as part of the haldi ceremony just before the wedding to give them fresh glowing skins and to ward off the evil eye.’
In cooking, turmeric is used for flavour and also preserving. When preparing fish for Indian dishes you often start with marinating the fish in salt and turmeric before keeping it in the fridge overnight. It makes fish last so much longer and gives it a beautiful colour. It also protects fish from sunlight.
Indians tend to add turmeric to almost anything that they think needs to be bright orange. If in doubt chuck some more in! – I’ve found turmeric on the labels of sports drinks, biscuits and ice cream. Pakoras are a delicious Indian deep fried hot appetiser. Vegetables are dipped in a batter of corn flour, flour, water and turmeric. When deep-fried these little bundles of pieces of vegetables are bright orange. They are served with either a peanut dipping sauce or coriander chutney. I think they are great with tzatziki. I’ll put up a recipe for some mixed vegetable ones shorty.
For a beautiful addition to your meat and two veg dinner (if that’s on the menu) –toss together small florets of cauliflower with some vegetable oil, salt, cumin seeds and turmeric. They will brighten up any dish scattered around the plate.
Fun Fact – 1 tablespoon of turmeric is 24 calories! – Who’s counting!
It’s rich in fibre, iron, potassium and magnesium and perfect to boost immunity in the winter months. This is because of the main ingredient, curcumin.
Although not the easiest to find in the UK, raw turmeric root can be eaten raw, chopped up finely in salads. It adds a peppery flavour.
Anyway, as the coldness creeps in why not try and add some turmeric into your diet.
It’s been keeping India full of sunshine since 2500 BCE!