One of turmeric's most distinctive features is its colour. Also known in India as 'haldi,' it enriches many Indian dishes from lentils, rice and vegetables, to meat and fish. It can also be found in South-east Asian cooking and in Moroccan tagines and stews. This tropical root (and member of the ginger family) has an orange flesh when fresh, but when dried, peeled and ground to a powder, becomes a dramatic yellow.
India is the main producer of turmeric and though the fresh or dried root can be found in some speciality stores, powdered is far more convenient, more readily available and therefore more commonly used.
If used on its own turmeric can taste musky, so to balance its taste it is usually mixed with other spices. It also forms the basis of many commercial Indian curry powders and masalas.
IN THE KITCHEN
Turmeric is often briefly fried in a little oil at the beginning of a dish to bring out the flavour and colour. For a more subtle effect, add it later on in the cooking process.
Used cautiously turmeric adds characteristic colour, fragrance and an earthy taste to a dish, however, if too much is used - it can make the colour and taste too harsh. It also gives the traditional colour to kedgeree and piccalilli and is used to enhance the colour of mustard powder.
Apart from being used as a cooking spice, turmeric is also traditionally valued for its antiseptic, cleansing and preservative properties.
Mix a pinch of turmeric into the oil used when roasting potatoes to give them a golden glow.
DID YOU KNOW
Turmeric can easily stain hands, chopping boards, surfaces and clothes, so store (in an airtight container) and use carefully.