There has been a lot in the press just lately about the amazing health benefits of turmeric and it seems that people are eager to include more of it into their diets.
Turmeric is that golden powder that you keep in your spice cupboard to add to the occasional curry, but we’re discovering that it has many more uses.
We are lucky enough to be able to experiment with the freshest ingredients available – our trips to market over the years have taught us a lot about seasonal produce. There’s something wonderful about spotting the first Jersey Royals in their hand woven baskets, commanding a truly ‘Royal’ price, or the first slender stems of asparagus and purple sprouting broccoli. I can’t resist buying a box full and sharing them out at work, so that we can all think of new ways to use them to showcase their unique fresh flavours. Even though I don’t buy a big box of fresh turmeric, from my market trips I know when it’s in season and head to my local Indian store to buy enough to freeze (just put it in a freezer bag and use from frozen).
Turmeric is also known as Indian Saffron because of the gorgeous golden colour it imparts to everything it touches. You’ve been warned!
Turmeric (or Haldi as it’s called in Indian) is a member of the ginger family. There is a ‘red’ version and a white version which is referred to as ‘Mango Ginger’.
The red turmeric is the one that is boiled, dried and ground and gives us the golden powder that we’re used to buying in jars. This is one of the spices that doesn’t deteriorate hugely after grinding as it’s mainly used as as a colouring rather than to flavour. So that pot you’ve had in your cupboard for the past five years? Yep, it’s fine to use! When you taste fresh red turmeric, you’ll understand why less really is more when it comes to using the dried stuff. It has a pleasing crunch which gives way to a fresh taste, similar to ginger but without the heat. It also has a bitter after taste. That’s why when using turmeric, it’s best to add a small amount because it can make a whole dish taste bitter while you’re trying to achieve a deep orange colour. In a shop, if you’re unsure if what you’re seeing is fresh red turmeric, a little scrape with your finger nail will reveal the golden colour beneath the skin, so that you can be sure.
White turmeric is used extensively in Indian pickles, chutneys and relishes. It looks like a thinner version of fresh ginger and that same finger nail scrape will reveal a white interior. It has a warmer taste that red turmeric and is still nice and crunchy. It’s a little sweeter too and does indeed have a taste similar to a tart mango. The bitter aftertaste is there too, which is why it is still only used in small quantities.
Dried Haldi (Turmeric)
Red turmeric is boiled, peeled and dried to preserve it. If you’re looking for it in Indian stores, look for Haldi which is its Indian name. This is what is ground into powder and sold in jars. If you want to use a fresher version of the powder, you can keep a jar of these and then finely grate them into any dish.
Whenever we open a bag of turmeric in the production unit, I always think it smells of earthy boiled new potatoes with butter! So for me, turmeric and butter go hand-in-hand – dhal, beans, kedgeree, eggs all of these are made better with a bit of turmeric and butter.
If you want to include more turmeric into your diet, you can add 1/2 tsp to anything that you’d like to have a more golden hue – scrambled eggs, egg tortilla, quiche, soup or dhal. You can add a pinch to dishes that you won’t be able to see its golden colour in, too – chilli, stews etc. Just remember to not add too much so that you don’t make your dish bitter.
2.5cm (1″) of fresh turmeric = 1tblsp grated dried turmeric = 1tsp ground turmeric
In 2 small mugs, divide: 1″ ginger, red turmeric and white turmeric peeled, thinly sliced and cut into quarters (you can substitute both turmerics for 2tsp ground turmeric), 1 lemon grass (or a lemon grass tea bag) and 6 peppercorns (optional). Add boiling water, a squeeze of lemon juice and honey to taste.
Kedgeree. Serves 2
2 eggs, hardboiled peeled and cut into quarters
1 small onion, finely chopped
3cm ginger, grated
3cm white ginger (optional)
3cm fresh turmeric (or 1tsp ground)
4tsp Madras spice blend
1/2 red pepper
Handful of peas (optional)
Finely chopped red chilli (optional)
Small handful of coriander or parsley roughly chopped
1 cup rice
200g flaked smoked fish
Fry the onion in a glug of oil with a knob of butter until it’s translucent. Add the grated gingers and fresh turmeric (if using). Add the Madras curry powder, red pepper and peas (if using). Add the chilli (if using). Stir in the chopped herbs. Add the rice and stir until it’s coated in spicy butter. Add enough boiling water to just cover the rice with 2cm over. Stir gently and add 1/2tsp (or to taste, don’t forget some smoked fish is salty, so don’t add too much) of salt and some pepper . Bring to the boil (or turn your rice cooker on, put the lid on and leave it to do its stuff). Cover your pan with foil and then put the lid on. Turn the heat right down and simmer for 5 minutes, then turn the heat off. Don’t look under the foil, just leave the pan alone for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes peep underneath and try a bit of rice – if it’s not quite cooked, add another splash of water and then bring back to the boil before turning off and leaving (still covered) for another 5 minutes. If using a rice cooker, leave it alone until it tells you it’s cooked! Stir in the fish (I’m using Arbroath Smokies picked up from Whitby last week!). I also added some smoked salmon too. Peel the eggs and cut them into quarters. Serve on top of the kedgeree. Garnish with more chopped coriander/parsley and a squeeze of lemon. Traditionally served for breakfast, delicious any time!