Experiments with turmeric

Turmeric rootTurmeric, Curcuma longa, a spice related to ginger, is becoming increasingly popular – with coffee shops offering turmeric latte and turmeric tea, while health foods stores are expanding their ranges of supplements and other turmeric-containing products, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger, freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

In the world of medical research, a recent study showed that taking a highly bioavailable turmeric supplement improved memory and attention in a group of older adults. Brain scans done as part of the study suggested that the supplement helped prevent the accumulation of amyloid and tau protein deposits in the parts of the brain linked to mood and memory. The findings led the researchers to speculate that turmeric might prevent Alzheimer’s disease, as well as improving memory in older age.

Turmeric has been used for 4,000 years as a traditional remedy. Research has suggested anti-inflammatory properties can help fight osteoarthritis and prevent cancer – although many of these studies are confined to cells and animal models. It’s long been believed that the active ingredient is curcumin although there are many other compounds in turmeric which may be of equal, if not greater, therapeutic value. The problem is that curcumin is not very easily absorbed by the body so, if you are taking it as a supplement, look for one of the (usually more expensive) ‘bioactive’ brands.

This month, my experiments substitute fresh turmeric root for the usual turmeric powder. Be warned – it really does stain when you grate it. I turned up for a manicure last week, desperate to have the polish cover up my bright yellow nails!

Turmeric Rainbow Juice

I always use ginger in my juices. In this one I add turmeric, rather than substituting it for ginger. I’ve been reading some good things about the therapeutic effects of beetroot recently so I added this as well, along with the usual ‘something green’, carrot and orange.

Serves one
Three oranges, peeled and halved
One lemon
Three carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
One small beetroot, roughly chopped
Handful of kale (or spinach)
Two inches turmeric root, peeled
Two inches root ginger, peeled

Juice everything and drink immediately.

Turmeric lentil soup

I am Up North as I write this and there has been a heavy snowfall. I made this soup last week, but it would be the ideal warm comforter for today.

Makes around three servings
Two onions, chopped
Two inches turmeric root, peeled and grated
Two inches root ginger, peeled and treated
One tsp cinnamon
One tsp cumin
100g red lentils
100g yellow split peas
One 400g tin tomatoes
500ml stock

Fry the turmeric, ginger, onions and spices in coconut oil till soft. Add the lentils and split peas, stir till coated, then add tomatoes and cook gently till the pulses soften. Add the stock and spice up with black pepper and chilli flakes if it needs it. Cook until lentils are done and blend.

Weekend Curry

Experimenting with turmeric root was a good excuse to invent a new curry recipe. This is probably not very original, but it is quick, easy and delicious.

Two to three servings
One red chilli, chopped
Two crushed cloves of garlic
One inch section turmeric root, grated
One inch section of ginger root, grated
One 400g jar curry sauce or, if you’re trying to cut down on processed food, substitute a 400g tin chopped tomatoes
One 400g tin coconut milk
Packet of Quorn mince
200g fresh or frozen peas
200g sliced mushrooms
Two onions, chopped
One tbsp. tomato puree
Squeeze of lemon

Fry the onions, chilli, garlic, turmeric and ginger in coconut oil and add the mince. Cook for about 10 minutes, till mince is brown and then add the coconut milk and curry sauce/tomatoes. Simmer for 30 minutes, then throw in the peas and mushrooms. Finish with the tomato puree and lemon.
Next month – experiments with avocado

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