Turmeric, sometimes called Indian saffron, is most widely known as the spice that gives curry powder its distinctive color. The gingery/peppery, deep yellow spice is a cooking staple throughout Asia. It perfectly complements an assortment of vegetable, lentil and rice dishes. The pungent, earthy flavor of turmeric also enhances seafood or poultry with its warm color and hint of ginger flavor.
Often used as food coloring, the hues of turmeric range from bright yellow to deep orange, depending on the variety. Think of yellow mustard, golden butter and orange cheese, all of which can get their vibrant color from turmeric. Because of its rich color, turmeric is sometimes used in place of the more costly saffron, though the flavors are completely different.
Turmeric is a tropical plant native to China, a perennial member of the ginger family botanically known as Curcuma longa. It is also grown in tropical areas of India and South America.
Its cone-shaped spikes contain small yellow flowers and long leaves that are dark green above and light green below. The bright yellow powder comes from the dried and ground root of the plant.
Try it in a breakfast dish. Turmeric is pleasantly spicy, but very pungent, and gets stronger when cooked. A little goes a long way, so it should be used sparingly. When melted with butter and drizzled over egg dishes, it adds a bright splash of color to your breakfast or brunch offerings.
The uses of turmeric in main dishes are endless. Used in India mostly for its color enhancement in food, its taste is warmly aromatic—so the ginger and pepper flavor is used in Morocco to spice meat, (especially lamb) and vegetables. It’s also widely used with fish. It can be combined with coriander and cinnamon to create pungent meat or poultry rubs. Here’s a variety of ways to serve a main dish livened up with turmeric.
Turmeric’s golden hue brightens curries and condiments. It’s an important ingredient in side dishes like curry mixes, chutney, pickles, rice, and salad dressing. Try it out in some of these all-occasion side dish offerings.
Here’s a fun recipe for a dish that can serve as a breakfast, main or side dish. It’s also a fun snack to make for a party, and your guests can join in.
1 cup chickpea flour
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 dash of cayenne
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup water
1 dozen eggs, hard-cooked, peeled and halved
2 cups oil for frying
Using a wooden spoon, mix the first six ingredients to make batter. Add water slowly, until batter reaches the consistency of a pancake batter.
Dip egg halves in batter, and deep-fry, one at a time.
Instead of eggs, use 1/4 pound cheese cut in 1-inch cubes, or pieces of raw vegetables. Or incorporate 1/4 cup roasted peanuts and 3/4 cup cooked, drained, chopped spinach in the batter.
Some things to keep in mind when using turmeric:
• Turmeric was used as a skin and textile dye in ancient times. Be sure to avoid touching your clothing when working with turmeric; you’ll find it’s quite a powerful yellow dye.
• The most widely used form of the spice is ground. This form is especially susceptible to moisture and light, so store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
• Turmeric will begin to lose its potency after about six months — even sooner if exposed to light and/or heat. Replenish your supply regularly.
More turmeric recipes are here.
Please share your favorite uses for turmeric. We’d love to hear them.