Delicious Turmeric and Its Amazing Healing Powers - WhoWhatWhy

Delicious Turmeric and Its Amazing Healing Powers

Top View of Kitchen Spices Mixed
Top view of a variety of six kitchen spices mixed. Photo credit: Marco Verch Professional Photographer / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Reading Time: 5 minutes

No matter what the law says, you probably shouldn’t be eating out yet. But why not invite a few friends or relatives over for a dinner party? (As long as they have been fully vaccinated.)

And serve something more exotic than what you normally have around the house. Like Indian food. It’s easier to cook than you may think, and we will show you how.  

A major component of Indian food — turmeric — is a magical ingredient.  So, when you cook with it, you become a magician!  Aside from being delicious, It has medicinal properties. There is definite proof of its ability to cure or control a wide range of serious illnesses.   

Sounds like snake oil, doesn’t it?  But get a load of this nearly indigestible quote from an article with the intriguing name, “Multitargeting by turmeric, the golden spice: From Kitchen to clinic,” which was published in the peer-reviewed journal, Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, concerning studies at three different levels:

Cell-based studies have demonstrated the potential of turmeric as an antimicrobial, insecticidal, larvicidal, antimutagenic, radioprotector [protects against the side effects of radiation therapy], and anticancer agent. 

Numerous animal studies have shown the potential of this spice against proinflammatory diseases, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, depression, diabetes, obesity, and atherosclerosis. 

At the molecular level, this spice has been shown to modulate numerous cell-signaling pathways. In clinical trials, turmeric has shown efficacy against numerous human ailments including lupus nephritis, cancer, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, acne, and fibrosis. 

Turmeric also has promise as a weapon against the more severe stages of COVID-19. If you want to read more about this, go here and here, but you will have to make your way through a jungle of medical jargon.  

To read about the more well established healing properties of turmeric (or its main active component, curcumin) and in less technical language please go here.

Warning: As with any powerful ingredient, turmeric must be used in moderation. You can safely eat it every day in food, in the amounts indicated below. Millions of people all over the world do. But, doctors warn, it’s best to not take turmeric/curcumin in supplement form: they contain concentrated amounts that could interfere with the body’s own immune system.  

A Flowering Turmeric Plant

A flowering turmeric plant. Photo credit: Dinesh Valke / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Below, we describe some basic recipes that can be adapted to any taste. You can substitute many of the ingredients, or add to them. Improvise!  (And your leftovers will last longer because turmeric inhibits the growth of numerous bacteria, viruses, and fungi. In countries that have poor refrigeration, it is especially useful in preventing food from going bad because bugs do not like it!)

Adding Turmeric to Regular Dishes

If you don’t feel like following new recipes, you can get the flavor and healthful benefits of turmeric by just adding it to what you normally cook. Add a small amount to any egg dish, or to soups and stews. 

Your body can more easily absorb turmeric if it’s first cooked briefly in oil or butter. And black pepper also helps absorption. So, if you want to add turmeric to foods that cook quickly, like eggs, just add the turmeric to the butter or oil first. 

The Oldest Curry Recipe

Spices, including turmeric, ginger, cumin, and hot chilies were first used at least 4,400 years ago, according to an analysis of what was found on teeth, pottery shards, and stone tools at a burial site in North India. We don’t quite know what cooking medium the ancient Indians used but to recreate the oldest curry recipe we are taking some poetic liberties. 

Ingredients:

1 ½ tablespoons clarified butter (“ghee” in Hindi)

1 teaspoon carom seeds

¼ teaspoon cumin seeds/ cumin powder

1 inch ginger grated

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon cane or brown sugar

5-7 small eggplants cut into small pieces

2 potatoes

½  of a serrano pepper  (This is an extremely hot chili pepper, though very small — about 1 to 4 inches long)

    1. Heat ghee in an iron skillet (can use Dutch oven as well). 
    2. Add carom seeds and cumin.
    3. Next add ginger, turmeric and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add cane sugar. In a spicy mood or playing dare, add ½ of a  serrano pepper.  
    4. Add potatoes and eggplant. Cook for about 10 minutes. Serve with naan bread.

Root Vegetable Soup

You don’t need to eat curry (a combination of ingredients) to relish the benefits of turmeric. This root vegetable soup is a great accompaniment to a main dish or a meal in itself during the nippy fall evenings. 

Ingredients:

1 medium onion

2-3 cloves garlic depending on whether you have a date that evening!

2 ½  cups turnips

2 cups carrots

2 cups sweet potatoes

1 ½ cup parsnips

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 bay leaves

1 cup soaked red lentils overnight for extra protein

4-6 cups vegetable broth

¼ teaspoon Chili Flakes

    1. Heat oil in a pan and add onion and garlic. Saute till onions begin to get translucent.
    2. Add in the root vegetables and thyme. Cook for 5 minutes.
    3. Add turmeric and bay leaves, continue stirring for another 5 minutes. Add chilli flakes.
    4. Add red lentils (if you add lentils add a teaspoon of cumin) and vegetable broth.
    5. Simmer for 40 minutes. 
    6. Garnish with parsley and serve.

If you like the texture of blended ingredients, then add the above ingredients into your blender — with ¼ cup of coconut milk.  And top with a teaspoon of harissa (Tunisian hot Chili pepper paste).

Chicken Kebab (or Lamb)

This dish has its roots in Mughlai cuisine, a cooking style that was developed in India in the 15th century under Turkic and Persian influences. Should be served with rice or pita bread.  Great for a July 4th barbeque. 

Ingredients:

1 cup full fat yogurt

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup finely chopped cilantro

Pinch saffron

¼ cup lemon juice

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks

Optional for grilling: 

1 bell pepper cut into 1 inch slices

1 white onion sliced

Olive oil for brushing

    1. Prepare the marinade by combining all the ingredients in a zip lock bag.
    2. Marinate the chicken pieces overnight in the refrigerator. 
    3. Put the chicken pieces on skewers with one bell pepper slice and 2 onion slices between  the chicken pieces. Remove excess liquid. 
    4. Grill slowly for about 15-20 minutes till the chicken is browned. If you don’t have access to a grill, you can roast the chicken in the oven at 400 F for about 30-40 minutes. In the latter case leave the chicken thigh whole. Serve with jasmine rice. 

Ghee – Clarified butter

Many recipes call for clarified butter, or ghee in Hindi.

Ghee has been a key ingredient in the Indian subcontinent for the past 4,000 years. Its use is not limited to cooking alone but also in traditional medicine (ayurveda) and religious rituals.  

Ghee has numerous health benefits. It is high in vitamins A, D, E, and K, and one of its essential fatty acids has been associated with anti-viral, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory properties, and it promotes a strong immune system. It is also easy on stomach bacteria. 

But it should be used in moderation, or it will raise your cholesterol levels. We suggest  2-3 teaspoons a day. 

Neutralizing Your Weaponized Breath

Eating Indian food may greatly facilitate your social distancing! If you follow our recipes, you will stink!  At least we hope so. If you don’t believe it, put on your COVID-19 mask. It will help you assess your breath. But instead of offering mints, we suggest you chew on fennel seeds.  Besides being healthful, their ability to zap the stink is awesome! Try the mask test after chewing on them.

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