Turmeric tales

Remember when your grandmother poured in the hot, haldi milk in a mug to soothe your feverish disposition or to help in healing when you scraped your knee rather badly while playing? Turmeric, the sunny spice, has leapt from de rigueur homemade preparations to ritzy specials, pirouetting across new menus that go well beyond the ubiquitous chicken tikka...

It is fascinating to watch Malay chef Hamedy at Sofitel BKC in Mumbai smatter the haldi-tinged maida mix with salt and chilli onto the sizzling hot tawa through a flexible plastic container with multiple holes. This jala roti, that resembles a spidery web, makes for a finger-licking combination with the fiery chicken curry. A traditional Malaysian speciality that woos the golden spice in yet another unique way.

Desi discovery

Dubbed as the poor man’s saffron, turmeric was discovered over 5,000 years ago in India. It was used initially as a dye and has coloured curries and more across kitchens since. Mildly aromatic, haldi has been added to mustard pastes and relishes for years, clearly expanding its footprint way beyond the traditional ubtan and glorious face packs that zap away zits. Says nutritionist Aditi Shelar from Revofit, “As the current trend has moved towards a more natural lifestyle, turmeric attracts focus owing to its health benefits. The fat-soluble curcumin, the most important constituent of turmeric, is anti-inflammatory and combats degenerative diseases, retarding cancer cell growth at a molecular level. The antioxidant properties of haldi delay the ageing process as well.”

Modern takes

So while the spice spreads its golden goodness, there are mint new ways of stepping up your intake of the root that is used as a spice. Says chef Asif Qureshi, The Sahib Room & Kipling Bar, The St. Regis Mumbai, “Turmeric has a slightly astringent and warming taste. Apart from adding colour and flavour to Indian and South Asian dishes, I have recently perfected turmeric and coconut ice cream, turmeric in coleslaw and in turmeric risotto.”

“The citrusy bitterness and the numbing punch of pepper that haldi rolls in, is very appealing,” says chef Paul Kinny of 212 All Good. “The healthy All Good Benedict at my restaurant serves up vitamin and potassium-rich sweet potato instead of bread with dehydrated tomatoes and desi poached eggs. The dairy-free cashew cream (replaces the buttery hollandaise) comes yellow and strapped with antioxidants with the inclusion of turmeric.”

Pinch of health

In ancient China, the earliest recorded use of turmeric was mixing it with wine, and using the concoction while observing various rituals. Today, while the health benefits abound, the use of haldi spins out the best in other ingredients too in cuisines other than Indian. Reveals chef Arzaan Sabawalla of the award-winning restaurant Izaya, “During our training in Thailand, we learned that adding a pinch of turmeric while pounding the chillies and herbs for a curry paste, brings out the natural green colour of the ingredients. This gives a radiant colour to the final curry.”

The novelty lies in stepping up the spin on beverages as well. The new menu at The Clearing House brings in the refreshing, healthy cooler, kale coco punch with fresh pineapple chunks and coconut water laced with turmeric powder. A composite drink is balanced by the only spice used — turmeric. But why restrict yourself to mains and beverages? Celebrity chef and food show host Rakhee Vaswani of Palate Culinary Studio has come up with desserts as well. “Turmeric is an extremely versatile ingredient that can be infused with a variety of food items. Turmeric pannacotta with a ginger and orange syrup, or a herb and turmeric cheesecake, or a turmeric
tutti-frutti cake taste yummy as well,” she says

Whatever your pick, restrain the quantity. Even when you are using the turmeric root as a spice, or the haldi powder as a flavour and colour additive while cooking.

Cautions, chef Manish Kusumwal, corporate chef of Berggruen Hotels, says, “Haldi is noted for its fine flavour and earthy aroma with delicate notes of lemon and mint. Excess use sometimes makes the food bitter, as it is slightly pungent. So you must use it in moderate quantities (whether in powdered or root form), while you experiment with its inclusion in various preparations like miso paste, salad dressings, curries and in the marinade for grilling meat.

From turmeric latte to the golden glow in chai to the haldi-glazed lamb, detox teas, fresh juices and smoothies infused with a touch of turmeric....Whatever you pick, celebrate the sunshine in your food through the treasured golden spice.

Turmeric tutti frutti cake

INGREDIENTS

Sugar: 150 gm

Butter: 150 gm

Flour: 150gm

Eggs: 3

Baking Powder: ½ tsp

Turmeric: ¼ tsp

Tutti frutti: 15gm

METHOD

Sieve the flour with turmeric, baking powder, and tutti frutti. Keep this aside.

In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together.

Add egg one at a time. Fold the flour mixture into it. 

Bake at 170°C for 20 minutes.

Check the cake’s doneness with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready to eat. 

(Courtesy: Rakhee Vaswani)

CARROT TURMERIC SMOOTHIE

Ingredients

Carrots: 2 cups (275 gm) 

Filtered water: 1½ cups (360 ml) 

Ripe banana: 1 large (peeled, sliced and frozen)

Frozen or fresh pineapple: 140 gm 

Fresh ginger: ½ tbsp (1 small knob, peeled)

Ground turmeric: ¼ tsp

Lemon juice: 1 tbsp

Unsweetened almond milk: 240 ml 

Method

* Juice the carrots in a blender by adding filtered water.

* Drape a large, thin dish towel over a mixing bowl and pour over the juice. Then lift up on the corners of the towel and begin twisting and squeezing the juice out until the liquid is extracted. Set aside pulp for smoothies, or baked goods.

* You can store the carrot juice in a mason jar for future use.

* To the blender, add all the smoothie ingredients and blend on high until creamy and smooth. Add more carrot juice or almond milk if it has trouble blending. Scrape down sides as needed.

* Taste and adjust flavours as needed, adding more banana or pineapple for sweetness, lemon for acidity, ginger for a bite, and turmeric for warmth.

* Pour into glasses and garnish with a mint sprig.

(Courtesy: Chef Manish Kusumwal)

 

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