The golden root of the Turmeric plant has long been used in Asian and Middle Eastern cultures as a spice, a medicine and a textile dye. It’s the spice that gifts the yellow hue to a classic Indian dal, Vietnamese banh xeo pancakes, and more recently the Golden Latte/Milk/Mylk. Any hipster café worth their Himalayan salt has one of these on the drinks menu.
Yet if you want to get to the real source of the rhizome’s flavour and health benefits – you need to go to the root of it. Here’s 8 things you should know about fresh turmeric root (and three recipes that put it to work).
1 ... Turmeric comes from the same family as ginger and both knobbly rhizomes look quite alike. Yet unlike ginger the inside of turmeric is a distinct bright orange. Its flavour is slightly peppery, mildly bitter, aromatic and musty. Like ginger, it goes very well with chilli, coriander, coconut, fish, lamb, chicken, pulses and rice.
2 ... Interest in turmeric has blossomed, with global google searches about it increasing by 300 per cent over the last five years. The interest is largely thanks to a variety of claims about its health benefits. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin which is what gives the yellow pigment. Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant with strong anti-inflammatory properties. And it’s said to have therapeutic benefits for a wide range of diseases including (but by no means limited to) Rheumatoid Arthritis, Depression, Diabetes, Cancer, and Alzheimer's disease.
3 ... The cult drink “Golden Milk” was made famous by ex Lucques chef Amanda Chantal at her Los Angeles’ shop Moon Juice – she blends almond milk with turmeric, spices and honey and describes it as “a luminous recipe that is equally healing and pleasurable”. Try making your own by whisking together 1 cup of almond or coconut milk, 1 tsp grated turmeric, 1 tsp grated ginger, 1 pinch of black pepper, ½ tsp cinnamon and 1- 2 tsp of honey, then warm in a saucepan.
4 ... You can easily substitute fresh turmeric in any recipe that calls for powdered by doubling the amount called for. Like ginger, fresh turmeric will have a brighter flavour than the dried. When using fresh turmeric two inches of the fresh root will yield one tablespoon of grated spice.
5 ... Fresh turmeric can be stored in the fridge wrapped in paper towel then in an airtight container for a week or two. It will also freeze for a few months. You can also try pre grating it and mixing it with coconut oil to freeze in ice cube trays for several months for a flavour boost to any dal, soup, or even scrambled eggs.
6 ... Whenever you use turmeric, you might want to try and add some freshly ground black pepper into the mix. It’s been suggested that the presence of black pepper can increase the body’s absorption of curcumin by as much 2000%.
7 ... One of the most classic uses of turmeric is in kitchari; an Ayurvedic cleansing stew of warmly spiced mung dal and basmati rice that can be eaten at any time of the day. It’s revered as a complete protein meal and can host a wide variety of vegetables; from carrots, to Swiss chard, kale and sweet potato. Absolutely delicious and worth a try.
Lastly, remember that turmeric is also a fabric dye. Which means it can stain your clothes if it splashes or spills and can also leave a legacy of yellow marks on your kitchen and tools. It’s best to use stainless steel whisks, spoons and saucepans when working with it. If you do get some on benchtops try using a little white toothpaste and gently rub with a soft cloth to help lift the spots.Try adding turmeric to your menu by giving one of these a whirl…
Turmeric, Potato and Leek Soup (recipe here)
Yellow Chicken Vermicelli Salad with Herbs and Turmeric Dressing (recipe here)
Falafel Salad with Cashew Turmeric Dressing (recipe here)
About Tori Haschka: Tori is a food writer and published cook book author. She’s the author of two books – 'Cut the Carbs!' & 'A Suitcase and a Spatula', the app ‘Poppyseed to Pumpkin’ and the blog http://eatori.com.
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