A Cook’s Introduction to Turmeric

One cannot fully appreciate the multitude of spices in the world until you begin to cook with them, learning about their many applications and healthy properties. As I begin to delve into the challenges and excitement of Indian cuisine, I have found another spice of significance that until now remained in a small, sealed spice jar in the pantry.

A staple of Indian cooking, Turmeric is a major factor in Indian curries, and a welcome guest in many other foods. Related to ginger, the roots of the turmeric plant are boiled and dried, and then ground into a fine yellow powder, used to enhance both flavor and color of foods.

Turmeric is said to possess properties aiding in digestion and the reduction of inflammation. Of even greater significance, it is suggested that turmeric has the potential to help the fight against cancer. Other applications have been studied, but much of the health benefits of the spice still require further research, though it has long been used to treat various ailments in India and China.

An herbal or nutrition store will likely have turmeric in various forms relating to specific remedies. However, our purpose here is to use turmeric in its natural spice form, in the kitchen.

Turmeric has a mild, bittersweet flavor, and is traditionally used to flavor and color curries, sauces, and some soups and stews, though chefs are quickly becoming wildly creative with the spice, adding it to everything from seasoning for fried chicken to mayonnaise in potato salad. It has a fresh aroma similar to sweet pepper.

Only a small amount of turmeric is necessary to effectively change the color of a dish, as little as a 1/4 teaspoon for a meal serving four is usually sufficient. Overuse of the spice can overpower other flavors, as well as stain pots. Be careful not to get any on your clothes as well, as they will subsequently be stained by the powerful dye. Soap, water, and if necessary, bleach can usually remove any stains.

Turmeric is an adequate substitute for saffron for its coloring abilities. Sometimes referred to as Indian Saffron, turmeric It is significantly less expensive, and again, only small amounts need be used. However, the flavor of saffron is far superior. Turmeric is susceptible to light, so it should either be stored in opaque containers or in a dark pantry. It will retain its potency and flavor for approximately 6-8 months.

As mentioned, turmeric is a main ingredient of curries, but you can use it as well on rice, poultry, vegetables, and salad dressings. It is also a prime ingredient in some mustards, claiming responsibility for the bright yellow color.

To carry your introduction of turmeric from this article to the kitchen, here is a quick curry recipe for your delicious enjoyment.

To begin, season two pounds skinned chicken breasts with salt. Chop two small onions, one tablespoon garlic, 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, and 1 tablespoon ginger (use ground ginger if fresh is not available).

Heat oil in a skillet over high heat, and brown the chicken on both sides. Work in batches if you need to. Set aside. Next, add the onions, garlic and ginger to the skillet and saute for 6-8 minutes over medium-high heat. Then, stir in a teaspoon each of cumin, coriander, and turmeric, cayenne pepper, and a tablespoon of water. You will see the items begin to turn a fabulous rich yellow.

Stir for one minute, then add one tablespoon cilantro, a 1/2 cup of yogurt, and a dash of salt. Return the chicken to the skillet and add a 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil, turning the chicken until fully coated with the sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining cilantro and a teaspoon of garam masala, cover and simmer for approximately 20 minutes.

When done, this fantastic dish will fill your kitchen with heavenly aromas, and delight your taste buds a plethora of flavor.

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