In the current situation, when it is of the utmost importance to boost our immune system, what we eat plays a key role.
Some call it “the saffron of the poor” because of its resemblance to the far more expensive spice – the saffron. The Turmeric, as a wild herb, grows in hot and humid climate with round and fleshy, branched out roots which, when grounded, stain heavily in golden-yellow color. The Turmeric’s homeland is Southeast India where it has been used for thousands of years – first as a colorant, and subsequently as one of the main ingredients in Ayurveda and folk medicine. It is rich in vitamins, including Vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, etc. Besides in the grocery stores, you can also find it in pharmacies in the form of a concentrated dietary supplement. I, personally, bought one as a supplement, although it is much tastier to consume it as a spice for the food. But before we get to the food, let me tell you a little more about this amazing spice.
In Latin it is known as “Turmeric”, in the Ayurvedic medicine is known as “Haridra”, which is its name in Sanskrit, but it can also be called “yellow ginger”, “yellow root”, “Curcuma modestica”, “amuma Curcuma”, “Curcuma longa”, “tavakshiri”, etc. Besides growing in the wild, Turmeric is also cultivated in Indonesia, China, Australia, Peru, Haiti, Bangladesh, etc. Nearly 80 % of all Ayurvedic prescriptions include Turmeric as it cleanses the energy channels and enhances the circulation of the vital energy in the body – Prana. In Bulgaria we call it “boosting of the immune system”. The herb helps to decrease the bad cholesterol and enhances the elasticity of the blood vessels, has a positive influence when fighting joint-problems, diabetes, skin problems, dementia and much more. Just as the rest of the medicinal substances, the Turmeric can have some negative effects. Women who are pregnant or nursing, people suffering from Hepatitis or who are taking blood-thinners or pills to fight diabetes must consult with their GP before consuming Turmeric as their blood sugar levels can drop extremely low.
As the Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant, it is widely used in facial creams in order to achieve fresh, smooth and beautiful skin as well as to lighten age spots and freckles. Indians believe that “Haridra” protects us from evil and brings harmony and purity, hence its use in diverse religious ceremonies and rituals. At weddings, the herb is being thrown on the path of the newly-weds as a symbol of happiness. Even before the official ceremony, the first announcement of the nuptials, the ritual when the bride’s family sends the groom’s family the so called “Yellow letter”, marks the beginning of the “negotiations” between the two families. It is “Yellow” because of “Haridra”, which has colored it. Even if it does not color very intensely the fabrics, when used as a colorant (as the Sun makes the colors go paler), the Turmeric is used all the time to color saris and Buddhist monks’ robes.
An interesting application of the Turmeric are also the paper indicators soaked in tincture of the herb in order to determine acidity levels. In an alkaline environment, the color changes to red-brown or brown, while the neutral and acidic environments retain the yellow color unchanged.
I went a little off topic here, but it is so interesting that I, simply, could not resist.
Let me return to the use of Turmeric in the culinary arts.
A quarter of a teaspoon is usually enough to make a dish for four. So, be aware and do not overdo it. Its taste is strong, slightly bitter and slightly peppery, like ginger. Its most famous application is being the main ingredient of the curry, but it is also used for marinades, for seasoning meat, cheeses, ice creams, sauces, gelatin, etc.
Here, I want to give you the recipe for an exotic, but very easy to make, sweet pastry from Lebanon. I came across the recipe of Saad Fayed, which I intend to try at the earliest convenience, but I decided to share it with you first and be able to exchange experiences. It is called “Sfuf” and the best part is that it is very quick to make.
– 2 teacups of fine corn semolina
– 1 teacup of white flour + 1 tbs. of white flour
– ½ teaspoon of Turmeric
– 1 teaspoon of baking powder
– 1 teaspoon of melted butter
– 1 teacup of sugar + 3 tablespoons of sugar
– 1 1/2 teacup milk
– ½ teacup water
– 1/2 teacup almonds
Mix the fine corn semolina, the flour, the Turmeric and the baking powder. Mix in a separate bowl the butter, sugar, milk and water. Add the mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until you get a paste-like mixture. Pour into an oiled baking tray, sprinkle with almonds and bake in a preheated to 180 degrees oven for 30-35 minutes, or until it becomes golden-brown. Wait until it cools down for 15-20 minutes, then have at it!
I am waiting for your feedback. I, myself, am going to look for semolina – as far as I understand, it can be found in the shops offering Middle Eastern food products.