Archive for February, 2010

I’ve had turmeric in my cupboard for some time but I was somewhat shy about using it. Nothing I cooked seemed to call for its deep, complex, spincyness or that whisper of dry bitterness that brushes your taste buds when turmeric floats by.  Turmeric just didn’t fit into any of the culinary boxes I’m comfortable dwelling in and its bright orange for goodness sake! I had a feeling that an herb that looked that extroverted couldn’t help but dominate a dish.

But two things happened recently that have me cozying up to turmeric (Curcuma longa):

1-I learned that turmeric has a history of being used for all sorts of ailments from indigestion, arthritis, and poor circulation to bruise and wound healing. In The Yoga of Herbs, Dr. Vasant Lad, writes eloquently of the herb’s spiritual uses “Turmeric gives the energy of the Divine Mother and grants prosperity. It is effective for cleansing the chakras.” Of course I’d be attracted to an herb that can do all that.

The second thing was that I started cooking dhal which I have come to regard as the ultimate comfort food. Dhal without turmeric just wouldn’t be dhal. So I went into the cupboard and made friends with this fragrant, flavorful, brightly-colored healer.

If you want to get a bit of turmeric into your system, make yourself some dhal. This is my twist on a classic recipe:

1 yellow onion

1 clove garlic

a sliver of fresh ginger (turmeric is part of the same family)

enough coconut oil,ghee, butter or olive oil to do a bit of sauteeing in

1/2 pound dry red lentils (rinsed and sorted)

1 small tomato (optional)

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 1/4 teaspoons ground coriander

salt to tase

So I chop the onion, mince the garlic, pound the bit of ginger. Then I sautee them in the hot oil or butter. I add my lentils, the turmeric and coriander, stir them around for a minute and add about two cups of water. Once this food boils, I turn it down and cover it. Besides giving the dhal a stir and adding the salt, I mostly let it do its own thing for about a half hour. The dhal is ready when it looks like a thick soup.

Now that I have fallen into the zingiberaceae family, I find myself adding a touch more turmeric to the recipe. I also like to add a slice of dried astragalus to the dhal while it simmers. This has nothing to do with flavor of the dish and everything to do with wanting the immune support astragalus offers.

Let me know if you try this recipe. (Enjoy it with brown basmati rice or chappatis!)

Do any of you have any experience with turmeric as a healing plant?

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