Eat shoots and leaves: Curry Flavour
Turmeric is terrific, says Susan Jane Murray, both for its wonderful colour and for its health-giving properties
Turmeric is known as poor man's saffron among clever chefs. This luminous ginger-like root mimics saffron's prized ability to give everything a gorgeous golden glow, one that's so characteristic of dishes such as paella, falafel, Indian dhal and curries.
But saffron pales beside turmeric's princely health benefits and thrifty price tag. For instance, turmeric has been shown to help reduce inflammation in the body by interrupting the production of odious leukotrienes. Good news, apparently, for foodies suffering from asthma, eczema, bronchitis, colitis, arthritis, Alzheimer's, dementia and chronic joint injuries.
Its rich curcumin content is applauded for decreasing irritability in the bowels, lowering LDL cholesterol and fighting cancer by counteracting oxidative damage. Not bad for 5 cents per gram! So, perhaps our Friday night curry isn't so naughty after all. Here's one to get you started.
This famous dish gets its healthy, psychedelic glow from dried turmeric. Of course, its high veggie content also helps it feel like a big bowl of sunshine. Aloo gobi is served as a main-course curry in India, but you can use it as a veggie side to your Sunday roast and bump up your culinary credentials with the in-laws. Try preparing it the day before, saving your precious brain cells on Sunday morning.
You will need:
1 medium white onion
Thumb-sized piece fresh ginger
Generous amount unrefined groundnut, coconut or peanut oil
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Good handful fresh coriander
1 green chilli, deseeded
4 medium potatoes
½ cauliflower head
0.6L (1 pint) chicken, fish or vegetable stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 220°C, 430°F, Gas 7. Peel, halve and finely chop the white onion and the fresh ginger. Then heat a casserole on your lowest setting with a few tablespoons of unrefined groundnut, coconut, or peanut oil, whichever you're using. Add the chopped onion and ginger, and the ground turmeric and cumin. Allow them to soften and sweat while you get going on the other ingredients. Sweating them brings out their natural sweetness, so long as the heat is kept tame.
Pull the leaves from the fresh coriander and set them aside to use later. Finely chop the coriander stalks, and the deseeded green chilli, and add them to the onion and ginger mixture. Sweat everything for 10 minutes. Your nostrils will love this.
Peel the potatoes -- if necessary -- and cut them into large chunks. Discarding the outer leaves, break the cauliflower into bite-sized florets, and cut the centre stalk into rough cubes. Be sure not to throw this part out -- it will add a wonderful texture to your aloo. Toss the potato chunks and the cauliflower pieces in with the onion and ginger mixture, and coat everything with the turmeric's golden glow. Pour over chicken, fish or vegetable stock, whichever you're using. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid, and transfer the casserole to the preheated hot oven. Cook it for about 20 minutes, until the veggies are soft but not soggy. Taste, and season with sea salt and a few turns of the black pepper mill. Serve with the torn coriander leaves on top.
This dish is easily made into a main course alongside a steaming bowl of wild rice or brown basmati.
Other aloo gobi variations include a tablespoon of black mustard seeds; garam masala powder; poppy seeds; desiccated coconut; or raw minced garlic stirred through at the end, or a squeeze of lemon just before serving. Let your tastebuds vote.