Turmeric: The wonder spice
I remember in 1997 we were in Germany for a while and that was not the time of the internet for the common man. We were in a little town near Heidelberg. We had moved here from Singapore, I had carried a couple of spices with me to last me for a month or so. Then slowly I ran out of spices. I could find the usual salt, chillis, peppers but other then that there were no spices available in the German supermarkets. I cooked without turmeric/HALDI for a week or so. Then I started asking around and finally found a small Indian store in Heidelberg. That week was the most difficult or rather unusual for me. I had never ever cooked or even had a daal/lentils, vegetable or poha without turmeric. I remember my food looked so sad, and I was even sadder. I never thought the value of this spice or for that matter other spices before that. Its like taken for granted that you will always have turmeric.
Turmeric or Haldi has made a lot of noise for a couple of years here in Europe. Indian food is incomplete without turmeric.I have been teaching cooking at the Klubschule Migros for the past 15 years and in these years my students have bought me so many articles on turmeric. How it increases ones immunity, how it has antibacterial properties or even how it has been effective for cancer patients. Turmeric contains curicumin which is known for its healing and antiseptic properties.
The birth of the Golden Latte
About 3-4 years ago I first read that the Golden Latte or the Turmeric Latte was a nice power drink which started making a lot of noise in Australia, it then went to California and finally came here to us in Europe/Switzerland. People started going crazy over it. In my cooking workshops that was always one topic to discuss. I laughed and told people, that back home when we used to have a cough or a cold we were always given „Doodh Haldi“ ie. Warm milk with turmeric and honey. I never looked forward to that drink but I had to take it for couple of days before going to bed. In a day or two, the cold and cough were gone. You can very well use the dried turmeric chips from the Naturkraftwerke or their powder is also amazing.
Over the years now we are seeing a lot of use of turmeric and lot of people are drinking turmeric tea as well. I always keep the dried turmeric chips from the naturkraftwerke, they are very handy to make tea and you can also add a couple in your flask while you go to work or travel.
Kitchri is also called as „Tridoshnashak“ that means it takes away the dosh from you system. The word „dosh“ is a hindi/sanskrti word and it means „fault“ and if you know our body is a constitution of different doshas according to Ayurveda and this dish helps our dosas keep in balance. This was also a dish which we were given at meals in case of fever or stomach upset etc. It has a very high respect in the Ayurvedic kitchen and its made of just 4 ingredients and just one spice and yes that is Turmeric. Kitchri is like a risotto or a porridge like dish which is made with Rice and yellow moong daal/lentils. So if you are feeling a bit under the weather make yourself a Kitchri for a couple of meals and see the change. Here is what you will need for that:
How to make Kitchri
- one cup rice (preferably basmati or any small indian rice)
- 3/4 cup of yellow moong daal/ yellow moong lentils
- Salt to taste
- 1 tsp of turmeric powder (Naturkraftwerke)
- Wash the rice and the lentils together until the water runs clear. Soak it for an hour or so.
- Discard the old water and add more than double the amount of water.
- Add Salt & turmeric to it and cook it until it becomes a consistency of a risotto. It should take about 12-15 minutes.
- If you think it has become dry, then do add some more warm water.
- You could also cook it on a pressure cooker for about 5-7 minutes.
- Eat it just like that or you can top it with some ghee if you have or some butter.
Turmeric as a medicine
I remember when my girls were small my mom used to give them medicines from the kitchen cabinet and she always used the turmeric root when the babies used to have cough. She would rub the dry root on a small round stone, make a paste of it like a tsp and then give it to the baby. I learnt all these little things from her and for both my girls I used the house medicines which is from the kitchen cabinet. Now my little one which is not that little anymore, makes me a Haldi Doodh and more so in these Corona times.
Turmeric as a sacred or a holy spice
Turmeric is probably the only spice which is considered very auspicious and hence its also used for devotional purposes. I don’t know any other spice to have that kind of recognition.
My last trip to India was in February, and that is the winter season in Rajasthan. That is also the season where fresh turmeric is available. I was having lunch at my best friends house and she brought her turmeric pickle. I was hooked on to that and to my surprise I saw a lot of fresh turmeric when I got back here in Zürich. It might have been available before too but I never really noticed. I researched, talked to my mom and I had already discussed the recipe with my friend. By then the Covid had started so I bought fresh turmeric and made a pickle and relish with it. We were all hooked on to that for both the reasons, immunity and the taste too. Turmeric has a very different taste. Its a tiny bit sharp a bit pungent and a little bit of astringent too.
The pickle is very simple to make, only work is the peeling of the root. I didnt wear hand gloves hence you can see the colour on my hands, which I loved! But of course its better to work with gloves on. My pickle stayed good for more than a month and then it was over.
- 200 gm Fresh turmeric, first washed and then dried on the kitchen towel for a few hours
- 1 tsp Salt, heaped
- One big pinch of Asafoetida or heeng
- 3-4 few cloves
- 3-4 back peppercorns
- a small piece of cinnamon stick
- 1 Tbsp of Panch poran spice mix (5 spice mix of mustard seeds, cumin seeds, nigella seeds, fennel seeds & fenugreek seeds) Avoid it if you don’t have it.
- juice of one lemon
- 2 tbsp of Mustard oil or any oil of your choice. I have taken from Natur Kraft werke
- After the turmeric has dried, peel it and cut it either into cubes or coins as per your choice. Don’t miss the drying process of turmeric as if its not dried well, the pickle might get fungus.
- Take half of the spices and ground them into coarse powder and leave half like that
- Squeeze the juice of Lemon.
- Now heat the oil in a small pan, when the oil starts to smoke, reduce the heat and add all the whole spices to it and close off the heat.
- Now add all the powdered spices to the oil, add the turmeric and the lemon juice. Mix it all well and let it cool.
- Your kitchen will smell heavenly now.
- Fill it into a clean glass bottle and if there is sun, keep it in the sun for a day or two, or else keep it in the refrigerator.
Enjoy the pickle and the benefits of this golden spice.
Ity Tiwari / Creativ-ity.com