In House and Leisure's September issue, we explore spice-infused recipes that are vibrant, textural and eye-catching, reminiscent of a painter’s palette and proof that food really can be a work of art. In a four-week series, we look at the history behind some of these spices. In the first week we explored the controversial origins of za'atar, next we turned our attention to punchy paprika and this week, turmeric is it.
Image via Dr Weil
Golden and flavourful, turmeric burst into the mainstream in 2016, turning into a full-on food trend by 2017 – and we won't be surprised if soon, turmeric lattes are as readily available as a classic cappuccino. A member of the ginger family, turmeric's rise to popularity has a lot to do with its medicinal properties. This is thanks its active compound, curcumin, which is also responsible for the brilliant orange-yellow colour of the spice. With anti-inflammatory properties that some say rival even Ibuprofen's abilities, curcumin is a powerful antioxidant, can aid in protecting the body against cancer and helps lower cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
For over 4 500 years, turmeric has been used in cooking. The oldest example of this is believed to have been in the area of New Delhi in 2 500BC, as residue of the spice was found in ceramic pots during archaeological excavations at Farmana, about 150km north of the city's current location.
While turmeric is most famous for its unusual flavour and reputed healing powers, it also plays a prominent role in the Hindu religion. Similar to the Western tradition of exchanging wedding rings, in Hindu communities a string dyed with turmeric paste is tied around a bride's neck, signifying that she is now married and capable of running a household. And in other parts of India, a piece of the turmeric rhizome is worn as an amulet to ward off evil spirits.
Image by Sean Calitz; styling and recipe by Brita du Plessis
In our September 2017 issue, we show you how to make dukkah-crusted lamb shanks rubbed in turmeric for a tasty and tangy bite.