Bowl of turmeric surrounded by fresh ginger, overlayed with the title " Turmeric the wonder spice"

Turmeric: the wonder spice you need to be adding to your menu

You’ve probably heard it hailed for its healing properties. You’ve likely seen it on a supermarket shelf. You’ve maybe even thrown a pinch in your curry.

The food we’re talking about, of course, is turmeric — a root that’s long been used in Asian cooking but now gaining popularity across the world. 

The uses and health benefits of turmeric are so varied that this is one ingredient every chef — no matter how experienced — should add to their order list. From Deliciously Ella to Sir Michael Caine, it seems that everybody is making a noise about this versatile superfood.

In the latest chef’s guide from Blue Arrow, we look at how this hipster fad turned mainstream sensation can add a healthy dash of colour to your dishes — keeping your customers satisfied and your creative juices flowing.

What is turmeric?

Turmeric is a powerful medicinal spice that that’s been used for over 4,000 years in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.

A key ingredient in Indian and Caribbean cuisine, turmeric is especially prominent in different curries and stews. It can also be used as a substitute to saffron to add flavour to dishes. And with its distinct colour, turmeric can be used to give food a bright gold and yellow glow.Turmeric

Perhaps the most popular and familiar use of turmeric is in hot drinks. Turmeric tea, turmeric golden milk and turmeric latte (based on the Indian and Pakistani tonic haldi doodh, which has long been used to treat colds) are increasingly found in major high-street coffee chains. Turmeric latte, in particular, has gained a cult following in cafes from Los Angeles to Lowestoft.

Turmeric’s popularity has soared in recent years. UK Google traffic for the search term “turmeric” grew almost five times between January 2014 and January 2019. With this culinary gold rush, it’s little wonder that the global turmeric market is set to rise to from 1.05 million metrics tons in 2017 to 1.7 million by 2027.

The taste of turmeric

Turmeric has been described as having a warm, bitter flavour that’s similar to black pepper. For some, it tastes similar to ginger but with a slight citrus note — making it the perfect accompaniment to a spicy meal. As for the smell, it’s got an earthy, mustardy aroma.

When applied in large quantities, however, turmeric can make a dish taste overly medicinal. Make sure to be careful with the amount of turmeric you throw into your curry or stir fry. You should be able to see it, but not taste it.

The health benefits of turmeric

In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric was seen to boost the health of the immune system and digestion, as well as the liver and joints. And while it’s been used as a tonic on the Indian subcontinent for thousands of years, we’re starting to see turmeric’s true worth.

The real remedial magic in turmeric comes from its active ingredient, curcumin, an anti-inflammatory and powerful antioxidant. If that’s not enough, it’s also packed with detoxifying, antibacterial, antiseptic and antiviral properties. A true wonder spice.

Disclaimer alert: though you may have seen many blogs around the internet claiming turmeric is most potent in its fresh root (rhizome) form, research shows there’s no health benefit in choosing fresh turmeric over the powdered form.

Cooking up a storm with turmeric

Turmeric can be used fresh, dried or in the powdered form, though most chefs tend to opt for the latter when using it in recipes.

In classic Indian cooking, turmeric is added at the beginning of the cooking process and is sauteed with other aromatics like onions, ginger and garlic. This causes curcumin to be released, injecting the dish with an explosion of colour and healthiness.

Though associated mostly with Indian cuisine, turmeric is also hugely popular in Iranian, Moroccan and Malaysian food. A little closer to home, turmeric will be most familiar to British consumers for giving curry powder its colour. 

While turmeric may not be the star attraction, it can play a role in a host of dishes. It goes with almost anything savoury, brightening up even the most boring of Buddha bowls.

It’s the perfect addition to roasted cauliflower, soup, and scrambled eggs. You can sprinkle it on salads or in burgers, or add it to hummus. You can even use it to add colour and flavour when breading your chicken.

And if you’ve got something of a sweet tooth, turmeric can add a hint of spice to anything from dark chocolate to chia pudding — adding a golden flourish to a three-course meal.

With all the ways that turmeric can add a golden burst of colour and flavour to a chef’s cooking, it’s little wonder that menus up and down the country are clamouring to use turmeric in increasingly inventive ways.

Some healthy turmeric recipes to spice up your life

To help get you started with adding this golden spice to your menu, we’ve collected twelve of the most delicious turmeric recipes from around the internet to experiment with.

Turmeric starter recipes

  • Curried chickpea salad
  • Turmeric Greek yoghurt chicken salad lettuce wraps
  • Turmeric roasted cauliflower bites

Turmeric dinner recipes

  • Turmeric scrambled eggs
  • Turmeric chicken noodle soup
  • Indian spiced sea bream
  • Vegetable curry with turmeric coconut sauce
  • Turmeric and coconut butternut squash bisque

Turmeric dessert recipes

  • Mango turmeric ice cream
  • Turmeric golden milk
  • Middle Eastern turmeric cake

For more on the ever-changing world of food, stay tuned to the weekly Blue Arrow catering blog.

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