Showing posts with label turmeric. Show all posts
Showing posts with label turmeric. Show all posts

Mar 20, 2016

Ingredient of the Week: Turmeric

Turmeric, haldi, huldee, curcuma, yellow ginger, kharkoum, saffron des Indes, munjal, kaha, Gelbwurz, whatever you wish to call it here 'tis:

Turmeric's name possibly derives from the Latin "terra merita" meaning "meritorious earth." Although turmeric roots are most commonly used in dried and powdered form they can also be used fresh like ginger. Turmeric leaves are edible and are often used to wrap and steam foods in areas where it is grown. Turmeric is highly prized for the brilliant yellow hue it imparts to foodstuffs in South Asia. Nearly every curry or savory dish in South Asia has a pinch of turmeric in it.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a perennial rhizomatous herbaceous plant belonging to the ginger family. It grows to about 3&1/2 feet tall, prefers well drained soil, a tropical to sub tropical climate, and requires large amounts of rainfall to thrive. Turmeric usually flowers during August in the heat of the monsoon in South Asia. The florescence occurs terminally on a false stem about ten inches in length, the small yellow hermaphroditic flowers are tri-lobed and surrounded by white or light green ovoid bracts. It is propagated through division of the rhizome.

By J.M.Garg - Own work, CC BY 3.0,
To make turmeric powder the rhizomes are boiled for about an hour then dried in hot ovens. The turmeric is then ground into the deep ochre colored powder you are probably familiar with. The chemical compound responsible for turmeric's bitter, acrid, slightly hot, earthy flavor is curcumin. Turmeric is one of the cheapest spices in the world.

A turmeric field near an Indian village.
In cooking with turmeric, a little goes a long way.  If you see a recipe with more than a teaspoon of turmeric, beware. More than a teaspoon of turmeric and your dish can easily go from having a mildly warm and pleasant aromatic flavor to brash, bitter, and acrid in taste. Unless there's a lot of yogurt or coconut to dilute that much turmeric in your recipe, expect an almost astringently earthy dish.

Helpful Hints:
The color turmeric imbues food with is a gorgeous sunshine yellow. There is really no substitute for it.  If in doubt, leave it out.

Ground turmeric is sensitive to light and will degrade if exposed to sunlight for long periods. Always store turmeric in a lightproof container.

Be forewarned that turmeric will also stain everything it touches, not only cooking and eating utensils but also your hands, teeth, and clothing. The chemical compound responsible for turmeric's staining abilities is quite oily, so if you want to get a turmeric stain out of clothing your best bet is to put some oil dissolving dish detergent on it immediately, work it in, and let it set for at least four hours before attempting to wash it out. Whatever you store turmeric in will permanently be stained yellow also.

Calmly currying on,

Jan 3, 2016

Ingredient of the Week: Kitchen King

Darned good stuff!
Oh, stop.
Don't judge until you've tried these readymade spice mixes.
Don't start with the *"Chi, chi, Bibi's not being authentic, or Desi, or home style," or whatever disdainful & derogatory notions you may have about using prepared spice mixes. Readymade masalas are one of the newer convenience products available for the burgeoning Desi middle class. As more & more women enter the work force in Desi-dom or simply wish to spend less time in the kitchen for whatever reason, products like this are becoming increasingly popular. I've even seen kilo sized boxes of these mixes in the kitchens of 5 star hotels and popular restaurants in India so I know that even the "pros" use these. They are great time and money savers when you think of all the different spices you'd have to purchase, store, measure, & grind for use in each dish. Kitchen King is a blend of cumin, turmeric, Kashmiri mirch,  garlic, red chili, coriander, green cardamom, brown cardamom, dry ginger, black pepper, cloves, fenugreek, poppy seeds, mace, nutmeg, star anise, fennel, long pepper, and cassia.

Foil wrapped for freshness!
Guaranteed to delight your palate with taste & aroma.
(It says so on the box!)
I have to say, they are generally excellent quality too. The box boasts that the fresh spices are hand picked and ground using "Low Temperature Grinding technology." The mixes are foil wrapped inside for freshness, although I'd recommend decanting them into an airtight glass container once opened for storage. You could use a plastic container, but be forewarned that plastic container will reek of Kitchen King forever after.

I'd recommend storing in an airtight glass container.
This old pickle jar works well.
 I'd also recommend buying them in boxes no larger than 100g to 200g depending on usage as they'll usually remain fresh for only about a month after opening.

Kitchen King is one of my favorites. I always have a box around. My favorite brand is "Catch," although "MDH" and "Everest" are quite good also. I'm guessing it's called Kitchen King due to its versatility in dishes. It's a quick and easy way to make tasty vegetarian dishes such as mattar paneer (peas & cheese) or curried peas and mushrooms. 

Helpful Hints:

A good substitute for Kitchen King spice mix is-  1/2tsp cayenne + 1/2tsp paprika + 1tsp cumin + 1tsp coriander + + 1/2 tsp fennel + 1/4tsp ground fenugreek +1/4tsp mace + 1/8tsp nutmeg 

*"Chi, chi," is roughly translated as "For shame," in Desi-Land. It is often accompanied by an imperiously & emphatically extended index finger being jabbed perilously in proximity of whomever is being blamed or shamed's face. 
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