05 October 2011


Working with turmeric can be a bit of a challenge, because it really is a strong dye. You spill that stuff onto your counter, and you've got a pretty long-lasting horrible looking stain. If you do manage to spill some onto your white dress, apron, or otherwise, just rinse it lightly in soapy water, and dry it out in the sun. It may take one or two dryings to get it to completely bleach out to white again, but it'll get there eventually. Or, as my mother says, "You could use Oxyclean. That stuff cleans everything."

For the record, it was also my mother who mentioned that drying in the sun will clean turmeric stains.

But this isn't about how to stain with turmeric. It's about how to cook with it.

Turmeric likes fat. Its colour gets much stronger, and more intense when there is fat present. It goes from bright yellow, to a more burnished, brownish-reddish-orange that looks very tempting. When combined with some kind of alkaline food, it'll turn a more reddy-orange. However, for whatever reason, there are multiple recipes that call for turmeric to be added raw. Ew. It's got a very odd taste when it's raw. In fact, there's recipes that I've seen that call for large quantities of the stuff raw. Eeeeeeewww.

Please, if you're using it, just toast it in a tiny bit of fat. You need not drown your recipe in fat, but a little goes a long way to making the colour and flavour be so much more enjoyable. In fact, the next time you see tumeric in a recipe where there's also some fat, just say in your head "and toast it in fat".

Here's how it works.

Start with your hot pan or pot with fat in it. Add your whole spices (cumin, coriander, sesame, etc). When the seeds pop, turn off the heat, and add your turmeric. Remove the pot from the heat, and stir it all around. Then, add it to whatever it is you're cooking.

Mind you, I'm aware that there are South Indian recipes that call for boiling the turmeric with the veggies, or daal. This isn't necessarily wrong. I'm just right.