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Spice of the month: Turmeric

I love turmeric. It is an integral part of my cooking repertoire. People who love salt “salt” their salt; I would “turmeric” my turmeric. (Read: Add more, usually.) Here’s why you should care about this lovely golden powder:  the American Journal of Epidemiology reported that a diet high in curry (which typically includes turmeric) may help the aging brain. As reported by Reuters, “Curry is used widely by people in India and ‘interestingly,’ the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease among India’s elderly ranks is fourfold less than that seen in the United States.” Think about it — fourfold! This year, Professor Murali Doraiswamy, director of the Mental Fitness Laboratory at Duke University told the annual meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Liverpool, “Turmeric has been studied not just in Alzheimer’s research but for a variety of conditions, such as cancer and arthritis. Turmeric is often referred to as the spice of life in ancient Indian medical lore.”

Photo dried turmeric root at a spice market in Delhi, India -

Rebecca Katz, a senior chef-in-residence at one of the country’s leading cancer wellness centers and author of  “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen” (Celestial Arts/Ten Speed Press, 2009) shares my love of ground turmeric, “I love the earthiness of turmeric, and the golden yellow color.  However, I’m fascinated by the ancient spice’s healing properties. No other food has such a powerful anti-inflammatory effect on the human body.  That’s why I make a conscious effort to cook with this spice regularly.”

What exactly is turmeric?  Listen in to find out… I was on The Kojo Show a few weeks ago discussing the usage of this spice along with Dr. Aarthi Narayanan who discussed the science behind the amazing properties of this spice.

GIVEAWAY: Enter a comment here to tell us how you would use this spice! MySpicesage.com and I are teaming up again and have created a giveaway consisting of turmeric and pepper (why pepper? To gain the benefits of turmeric, it is said that it should be used along with a pinch of pepper).

So – do leave a comment, tell friends and family about this contest on FB, Twitter, word of mouth or email and come back and check on Oct 15th to see if you have won!! Thanks so much for entering. Open to US residents only. Winner chosen at random.

Monica’s Fish Curry: Everyone has a signature dish, something that they are really proud of and this one is mine. I have been cooking it for as long as I can remember. It is a favorite with adults and kids alike. My dad once told me it was his favorite. I cannot tell you how happy I was since he has such discerning tastes. He made it for me once, and it was quite interesting. “I won’t add the mustard seeds, since I don’t like mustard. I don’t have any curry leaves so they won’t go in either. I will sauté some onions first, and then add tomatoes and I prefer ground coriander, so I will add that. But you know, I do add the coconut milk, so it is just like yours!”

This recipe is from my book Modern Spice (Simon & Schuster, 2009)

The photo credit is the amazing and talented Stephanie Stiavetti.

Serves 4
Cook Time: 40 minutes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
10 fresh curry leaves
1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Serrano green chile, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 pound catfish pieces
Salt to taste
1/2 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk (such as Taste of Thai brand)

1. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat.
2. Add the mustard seeds; as soon as they crackle add the curry leaves, ginger, garlic, and green chiles. Sauté for a few seconds and then add the tomato.
3. Sauté gently for 10-12 minutes or until the tomato is soft and the oil begins to leave the side of the mixture. You can add some water if the tomato begins to stick. (I sometimes add a quarter cup of water and cover the pan for 5-6 minutes. This helps cook the tomatoes faster. Then I uncover it and continue to cook until all the water evaporates.)
4. Add the chili powder, turmeric, and salt; cook for 1 minute.
5. Stir in the fish and cook for 5 minutes.
6. Add the coconut milk. Let the mixture come to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fish is tender. Serve immediately.

Turmeric photo: istock

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Comments

  1. Monica, I use turmeric in my Vegan Potato Peanut Curry recipe [here: http://casualkitchen.blogspot.com/2010/01/vegan-potato-peanut-curry.html ]. Nice to know that it might help slow my cognitive decline too… I could use the help!!

    Dan @ Casual Kitchen

  2. we use it almost everyday in all our curries.. special use wud be..turmegric and pepper in hot milk to soothe sore throat and cold..

  3. Wow! I dint know turmeric has to be used with pepper to gain its benefits. I always sprinkle some turmeric over my sunny side up every morning and top it with freshly ground black pepper. I can’t even begin to list the ways in which we use Turmeric. Other than adding it in almost every Indian preparation we cook I tend to reach for it when I need some healing – a cut on my finger gets a dab and gets healed in no time or my sore throat gets a warm mug of turmeric milk and feels relieved. I can’t do without Turmeric…I call it my pinch of sunshine. :)

  4. Almost everything I cook is with turmeric; so it’s to pick out the best use. But the most amazing to me is its antiseptic properties. Recently, I used it on my 5yr old to stem her blood after she scraped her foot in the yard; and for a few days afterwards, we kept the wound bathed in turmeric. She healed without a single scar on her :-))

  5. I would use it for curry!

  6. I love spice! My husband has FAP (a condition that causes colon polyp growth) – they recommended him for a study at Johns Hopkins that included turmeric. Spice is great!

  7. Since listening to you on WAMU’s (NPR station) Kojo Namdi show in DC a few weeks ago, I’ve been adding it to all my stews, and to rice. I also like it in chickpeas. And after reading some of the comments here, I’ll be trying it in other ways too. I now keep it on the counter with my everyday spices just so I won’t overlook it.

  8. I too did not know turmeric and pepper go together!

    Of course, I use it all my Indian dishes too, but my favorite use – a simple daal with turmeric, green chilies and salt!

    I also like to add just a bit in tadka for raitas – love the flavor!

  9. Monica,
    I am a silent follower of your site and this is the first time commenting here. Love your style of writing.
    I use turmeric in almost every curry/poriyal i make. i follow my grandma/ma’s advise to have a cup of warm milk with turmeric & pepper for cold /sore throat.

    This fish curry is similar to what i make except that i use tamarind instead of tomato.

  10. I have not used turmeric very much unless I’m cooking Indian. However, I have gout and also arthritis, so I may be missing something. I’m going to start adding a bit to dishes I perhaps would otherwise not have used turmeric with (like veggie dishes, etc) and see if there might be a change in my comfort level.

  11. Juliann Goldman says:

    The conversation with Kojo was very interesting. Then the next day, friends in my yoga studio were talking about the benefits of tumeric. Isn’t is lovely that tastes wonderful is so good for you!

  12. I would use it to make some of your delicious recipes… in your Modern Spice Cookbook! ;)

  13. I use turmeric in my chickpea burgers!!! Adds great color and flavor!!! I also use it in my chicken biryani dish, and in warmed milk when feeling sick!!!!!!

  14. mary klimek says:

    I fill my own tumeric capsules. I recently learned of putting pepper in them would love to have recipes using tumeric. of course I use it in my canning pickles.

  15. I would try it on roasted vegetables.

  16. In addition to cooking with turmeric (which is yummy in quinoa pilaf!), I make a paste with water and spread on cuts to help them heal faster. It stains your skin but the color washes away after a couple days.

  17. I love curries—so, turmeric would be used with this. I like adding it to peanut butter and roasted chickpea snacks.

  18. Awesome post and recipe. I use Turmeric to make a beef curry stew it’s one of my family’s favorite meals. I’m also thinking about taking Turmeric because of this post, I read more and looking forward to taking it on the daily. Thank you

  19. Anthony H says:

    Monica I started cooking with turmeric because of you several years ago. It’s amazing how dynamic it is in and outside of Indian fare – I add it to pasta, toast it before I saute vegetables, you name it. Plus it’s just makes your food pretty. I mean how can you beat that? Thank you!

  20. Ohhh what a gorgeous recipe and I do love turmeric! I did not KNOW you needed pepper to get the benefits off it, I normally add a pinch of turmeric to my smoothies! Would love to win!

  21. I use it to do a pork filled pastry and also in rice and saute zucchinis.

  22. Am actually out of turmeric, and getting low on my fave curry ( from MySpiceSage..) which includes turmeric. I use turmeric and curry daily in both cooking, salads and a little in my green smoothies.. I am battling life threatening disease with much pain. Turmeric is essential in helping with both pain, and I am told, inflammation.. so this amazing spice is a vital necessity for my life! One thing I love to do is add it to my low or no salt veggie broth… something you can sub for tea on a daily basis.. it is so invigorating!
    Cathy B*****y pbprojecthope at yahoodotcom

  23. I use it in every curry :) ..the best i like to use it in poha which gives nice bright yellow color…thanks :)

  24. Dan @Casual Kitchen – we picked a random winner and it is you!! Please send me your address so that we can mail the treats to you! Many thanks to everyone for participating.

  25. Tumeric is one of my all time fave spices too and I’m not even from India! Thanks for the great photos. I just love that deep orange color.

    Here’s a unique use of Tumeric:

    Powdered Tumeric combined with fine himalayan salt and powdered mustard to taste over a head of chopped cauliflower florets. Spread in a dehydrator and viola! Crunchy yummy goodness to put on salads or in soups like croutons or just eat straight like popcorn!

    I stay away from corn and wheat products for health reasons, so if you want an easy to make, healthy gluten free goody you’ve got to try it. =)

    I just ordered more Tumeric from http://maisonterre.net/ as I stick to organic companies and live in a remote area so online shopping is my method of choice to get my spices.

    Thanks for making such a beautiful blog!

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