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‘Haldi ki barfi’.
‘Haldi ki barfi’.

Turmeric recipes with a twist

Quarantime cooking with turmeric in varied forms—powdered to make ‘mithai’, grated roots for a jam and fresh leaves to steam

I am drying raw turmeric," my mother tells me over the phone from Assam. Every March, she harvests about 7kg of turmeric in her backyard and divides it into two batches—the bigger rhizomes for replanting and small or medium-sized ones for boiling, sun-drying and grinding to powder. My mother and her deep mustard-coloured home-grown turmeric wait for my visit from Mumbai. It is a comforting annual ritual.

This year, the schedule went awry and I sought reassurance in cooking with turmeric as the star ingredient. It began with acquiring a turmeric pickle recipe for novices from a friend. Wash and peel turmeric and slice into half-inch juliennes. Place in a glass jar and immerse in freshly squeezed lime juice. Season with salt and a bit of cinnamon powder. Refrigerate for six days, giving it a good shake daily. After a week, it’s ready to be consumed: eat as is or add a smidgen to salads or sandwich stuffing.

Considered an immunity-booster and ubiquitous in Indian kitchens, turmeric has become such a hip trend that my friend was sipping on warm turmeric-infused water rather than a more fun option like a G&T during a video chat. I am convinced, though, that adding just an ounce of grounded raw turmeric to a G&T with a dash of fresh lime juice, a pinch of cracked peppercorn, garnished with a sliced green chilli, could be just right for “quarantime" video-chat catch-ups.

Chef Sujan Sarkar, founder of Delhi’s ROOH restaurant, outlines the many uses of turmeric, with only one caveat: use in small quantities. Freshly grated turmeric can be added to salads and juices, while chopped turmeric can be cooked with soups, curries and stews. Fresh turmeric can be blended in smoothies and added to tea or milk. Pickled turmeric can be used as topping for sushi or sashimi. Turmeric paste and freshly ground black pepper can be blended in butter to make compound butter. ​

Black peppercorn is often used with turmeric as the former has a compound called piperine which, according to a research paper published by the Central Food Technological Research Institute in Mysuru, helps in the absorption of curcumin in turmeric. In Indian dishes, turmeric powder is usually cooked with oil, which also aids absorption.

Contemporary renditions of turmeric are not limited to lattes. Gouri Gupta, founder of the clean-eating food brand Gouri’s Goodies, is experimenting with yellow and white turmeric powder to launch a granola. She says, “Turmeric with granola is a fun way to make the spice relevant to an urban lifestyle." It has nuts and seeds sweetened with dates and can be eaten as a snack, for breakfast, or used as a topping. White turmeric,which isn’t easily available, is often eaten fresh, says Gupta.

Mumbai-based food consultant and author Saee Koranne-Khandekar grows her own turmeric. “Buy some fresh root turmeric from the vegetable market and simply stick it in the soil. Water it moderately every day and it will sprout leaves before you know it," she says. Koranne-Khandekar uses fresh turmeric leaves to make patolé, the traditional Maharashtrian steamed sweet delicacy.

So, haldi doodh or turmeric latte? “Frankly, neither! I would rather have a little turmeric in hot water with a spot of honey or in a tisane," she says.

Turmeric, just like most spices, is regarded as a heat-generating food. Its pickle is prepared in winter and its leaves are steamed when mercury levels drop during the monsoon.

Here are three recipes to expand on cooking with turmeric.

Haldi ki Barfi

By Megh Singh, Head chef at Suryagarh Jaisalmer

Serves 4

Ingredients

200g almonds

40g turmeric powder

50g edible gum

100g ghee

5g black pepper powder

100g jaggery syrup

Method

Soak the almonds overnight in water. Peel and grind them. Grease a pan with some ghee and put some turmeric powder and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the almond paste, jaggery syrup, edible gum and crushed black pepper and mix well. Spread the paste evenly on a flat tray, refrigerate until set. Cut and serve. ​

Fresh turmeric and Gooseberry Jam

By Sujan Sarkar, Founder of ROOH, Delhi

Ingredients

2 cups turmeric, freshly grated

2 cups gooseberry juice

Half cup honey

Half cup sugar

1 tsp ginger, ground

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cardamom

Method

Cook turmeric, gooseberry juice, ginger and the other spices in a saucepan on low heat for 10-12 minutes. Add sugar and simmer for another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat. Let cool for a few minutes, then add honey. Pour into jars while the mixture is still warm. Refrigerate after cooling the mixture for a day before use.

Patolé

By Saee Koranne-Khandekar

Serves 6

Ingredients

10 turmeric leaves, washed and destalked

Half cup fresh coconut, scraped (or desiccated)

Three-fourth cup jaggery, grated

1 tbsp poppy seeds, toasted

One-fourth tsp cardamom seed powder

2 cups rice flour

A pinch of salt

Three-fourth cup water

Method

To make the stuffing, put the coconut and jaggery in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over medium flame until well combined. Allow the jaggery to melt and add poppy seeds. Cook for another 4-5 minutes until the mixture is almost completely dry. Add the cardamom powder and mix well. Take off the flame and allow the mixture to cool. ​

Get a steamer ready by adding water to it and bringing it to boil. Meanwhile, combine salt and rice flour in a bowl. Add water to make a thick batter. Place a turmeric leaf flat on a chopping board. Spread the batter on it. Spoon the coconut mixture on this and fold the leaf in half. Repeat the process with the rest of the leaves. Place the parcels in the steamer and cook for 10-12 minutes. When the leaf dumplings land on your plate piping hot, carefully peel back the leaf and drizzle ghee over it. ​

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