I guess men have little to do with haldi. Till they decide to get married and get a good scrub with its paste at the haldi ceremony for it cleanses and gives a glow! Well, let me tell you that chefs are totally at ease with turmeric for it is an essential spice in Indian cooking. And in the back kitchen we pass around the big joke roz haath peele hotein hain as haldi does colour the hands! Haldi’s origin is not known, it goes back to ancient times and it has always been considered as a sacred spice. Popularly known as Indian Saffron, it lends its natural colour to your daily dal or sabzi, khichdi or a tandoori chicken. They say it is the colour ingredient called curcumin in haldi that does all the work. This same curcumin lends its warm colours with Annatto in cheeses, dry mixes, salad dressings, butter and margarine.
Haldi is one of the least expensive spices and all that is needed is a pinch or two. I think it is a blessing for even the poorest can afford to use haldi in their food. As Indians we have also found applications of turmeric in medicine. It is a natural antibiotic and promotes proper metabolism in the body. It is also anti-arthritic and acts as a natural anti-bacterial. Remember dadi with her handy lot of home remedies? I distinctly remember my mother making me warm haldiwala doodh whenever I had a sore throat. At home we have thinly slivered fresh ginger and fresh turmeric (amba halad) sprinkled with a little salt and lemon juice with our meals. Good digestive aid!
India is proud of its haldi for about eighty percent of world production happens in our country. The fresh turmeric fingers are boiled in water and then dried in the sun which determines the final colour of the product.. This is the final form of haldi which is available for our use in powdered form. Though I can emphatically say do not attempt to powder the rhizomes at home. You will have to sacrifice the blades of your grinder!
So how do you use your haldi? Do you put it in the oil when it is hot for tempering or do you add it when the pot’s contents are bubbling on their way to being cooked? Both methods of usage give different tastes. And the best principle when using haldi is: less is more! It is easy to over haldi and ruin the khana…the taste of the double dose is acrid. How do I know? Been there done that! Another awful way of using it is as a substitute for saffron. Halwais do it. They will use haldi for the predominant yellow colour and use a little genuine kesar and call the mithai Kesari whatever. No that is not why haldi is called Indian Saffron!
Haldi is an important part of my life now as I have named my company “Turmeric Vision”. As a chef I feel haldi still needs a lot of working on. So as I put this pen to paper I think I will dare to use it in desserts…? Probably not! Mocktails? Yes.
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.