Turmeric: The Big Treasure

Preparation tip for turmeric spice

Fresh turmeric is available from some Oriental stores. Peel it in the same way as ginger, with a sharp knife. The vibrant colour will slain heavily, so it is a good idea to wear rubber gloves.

Once peeled, the fresh turmeric can be sliced, grated,chopped or ground to a paste with other ingredients and cooked in the same way as fresh root ginger. Fresh turmeric is superb in fish curries.

Aroma, flavour and storage of turmeric spice

Aroma and flavour of turmeric

Turmeric has a peppery aroma and flavour with a hint of wood. It has a warm, musky flavour with a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Storage of turmeric

The powder should be bought in small quantities and stored in an airtight container away from strong light to preserve its colour and flavour. Whole pieces of dried turmeric arc sometimes used in pickling.

It is difficult to grind the dried spice and therefore best to buy ready ground turmeric.

Cultivation of turmeric spice

Where a recipe calls for saffron some might suggest substituting turmeric, but it is a misconception that turmeric is regarded only as a second-rate alternative to the most expensive of spices. In Indian cooking, turmeric is often used as an everyday alternative to saffron. It may be added to dishes usually spiced with saffron for its colour, but not for the flavour, and it is sometimes referred to as saffron in this context.

Using turmeric in place of saffron is in the interest of economy; saffron would be reserved for celebration dishes: pilaus for weddings, for example. Turmeric is, perhaps, best appreciated as an ingredient in curries (especially fish curries) and curry powders, contributing flavour as well as the characteristic yellow colour.

It is also used in chutneys and pickles, particularly piccalilli, kedgeree and many Indian rice, vegetable and dhal dishes. Turmeric is popular in many North African dishes to spice lamb and vegetables.

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