Most of you who enjoy cooking probably have turmeric in your spice cabinet right now. And even though you may use it often, what you may not know is that this common item is one of the worlds best all around herbs.
Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant and is a perennial relative of the ginger family. Its tough brown skin and deep, orange-red fleshed rhizome is dried and ground into a powder. Although most usage of turmeric is in the form of root powder, the leaves of turmeric can be used to wrap and cook food which imparts a distinct flavor. This usually takes place in areas such as southern Asia where turmeric is grown locally, since the leaves used are freshly picked.
Turmeric is also one of the most often used herbs when making a curry spice mixture. If you've ever been to the bazaars in the Middle East, India or other south Asian countries, you will see heaps of turmeric powder looking like a mountain of gold amidst the vast array of clove buds, coriander seeds, cinnamon bark and cardamom pods all of the spices that the world has come to love. Yet, turmeric stands above all others as the golden wonder of herbs & spice.
For thousands of years, the turmeric rhizome has been used as a first-aid in treating cuts to concussions, headaches to muscle-aches and much more. Medical researchers have been studying the molecular properties of the curcuma rhizome (curcumin) as a way to effectively prevent cancer. Curcumin is also being studied as an effective means to fight against diseases such as arthritis, Alzheimer's and stomach ulcers, to name a few.
It would take several articles to devote enough space to pay homage to this magical herb, and we will do so at another time. But right now, I want to address the many questions we get asked at Whole Spice about how to cook with turmeric?
With its slightly bitter taste, you must be careful not use too much of it as it can overpower a dish with its bitterness. The best way to achieve great results in bringing out the delicate flavor of turmeric is to use small amounts per recipe, by sauteing it in hot oil for just a few seconds.
For the best results in using turmeric, follow the instructions below:
Use about 1/4 - 3/4 tsp per recipe (depending on the servings). MUST saute the turmeric in hot olive oil before adding any ingredients. Since turmeric can burn very quickly please prepare all the ingredients in advance. Then heat up the olive oil if onion or garlic needs to be part of the recipe, it should be sauteed first Once the onion is browned, then mix in the turmeric and saute for about 20 seconds, allowing the oil to soak up the flavors.The turmeric will start to change color rapidly from bright orange into darker orange. Voila! The oil is now infused with the fragrance and pungent taste of the turmeric. You can quickly add the rest of the ingredients to prevent the turmeric from burning.
I use turmeric in rice, potatoes, soups, chutney, chicken and red meat but I always fry the turmeric first.
Once you start using turmeric on a regular basis, it's fun to find new ways to use it in recipes. Below are some of my favorite family recipes using turmeric.