Turmeric

Turmeric has a characteristic, warm, slightly acrid flavor.

It is used as seasoning and coloring mainly in Middle Easter and Indian cooking. Turmeric is added to rice, meat and fish dishes, sauces and vegetables, many curry mixes, pickles and chutneys. It gives the yellow color in some kinds of mustard.

Turmeric is one of the great Indian spices. It is also one of the cheapest spices, since it thrives in areas of production.

Facts

Turmeric has been in use since very old times -not only as spice, as a perfume, or dye for priestly robes as well- and appreciated for its medicinal properties. Nowadays, as a paste, it is employed to relieve itching, rashes and skin disease, and in cosmetic to stain the skin of a yellow golden color.

How to identify turmeric

Turmeric comes from the knobbly rhizome or root of a ginger like plant. The rhizome has a yellow brown rind and an orange interior. Turmeric is used in curry powder and as a spice on its own. Its flavor is sweeter and more delicate than ginger.

The plant is a tropical perennial bush that can grow up to 3 ft (1 m) high. It has long lily like leaves and it produces spikes of yellow green flowers in the summer.

Native to south east Asia -China and Indonesia- and grown in India, all south east Asia e Indonesia, and Australia. It can be found in Africa and it is grown in places as Jamaica or Peru.

How to use and store

As with ginger, the spice is produced from the roots of the plant. The rhizome has to be boiled, dried, and ground to a fine yellow powder before use.

Dried pieces of root can be obtained sometimes, but it is almost impossible to grind them at home. Turmeric is usually available as powder. Buy little and often for the freshest, purest flavor, as recommended with all ground spices, because, although the powder keeps its coloring properties indefinitely, it loses flavor and it can turn musty if kept for too long.

Turmeric is mainly used in curries and other spiced dishes. It is an essential ingredient in commercial curry powders. It can be found as a natural coloring in prepared chicken or vegetable stock and stock cubes too. Turmeric can be used in pickles and chutneys, in picalilly relish; turmeric gives flavor to pilaus and color to sweet dishes.

In North African and Middle Eastern cuisine, tumeric is added to sauces, couscous and rice dishes.

How to grow

Turmeric needs hot, moist, tropical land. In the areas where it thrives, it needs little attention. It is propagated from rhizomes.

Cooking with turmeric

Olive oil is not the fat of election in Asia, but it is our favorite and we find it blends very well whit the other ingredients.

It is your turn, now. In India, the spice mix for the curry is prepared on the spot, maybe enough for a week; they do not use curry powder. Prepare your own curry mix, why not? Turmeric is used sometimes instead of saffron, the most expensive spice, though we did not get good results with this practice and we do not endorse it, therefore. A better compromise is adding a tiny amount of turmeric to enhance color, reducing the amount of saffron used without changing the flavor too much.

Yellow chicken

2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
juice of 1 lemon
1/2tsp turmeric
1 cardamom pod cracked or 1/2tsp cardamom seeds
1/3 cup (10 tbsp) water or chicken stock
1 lb chicken breast, skinless and cut into pieces
salt and pepper to taste
parsley to garnish

  1. Heat the oil in a pan and brown the chicken pieces for 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, lemon juice, cardamom, stock, and seasoning.
  3. Bring it slowly to a boil, cover and cook gently for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Turn the pieces often and add a little water if necessary.
  5. When cooked, transfer to a warmed serving dish, cover with the sauce and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

The sauce sets to a lovely lemon colored jelly when cold.

Try using other chicken parts, skin and bone in for a richer jelly, coriander instead of parsley, try this recipe with a firm white fish like monkfish. Do not forget to adjust the water added and cooking time accordingly.

curcuma domesticae (zyngiberaceae) turmeric - French: curcumin - German: gelbwurz - Italian: curcuma - Spanish: cúrcuma - India: haldi.