So, for December I thought I’d concentrate on turmeric, one of the most warming and comforting spices around. Turmeric has become increasing popular in the past few years and justifiably so. Not only does it have a wealth of health benefits but it’s also super versatile in the kitchen (in fact it’s probably much more versatile than you think). It lends a depth and subtlety to any recipe you add it to and can work well in both savoury and sweet dishes (more about this later when we reveal our most favourite hot drink recipe of all time!)
Ok, so let’s start with its health benefits. Probably one of the main reasons turmeric has shot to fame in recent years is its anti-inflammatory action, indeed, it has been shown to help with a variety of inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s Disease and cystic fibrosis. It has also been shown to inhibit cancer cell growth (yep, you read that right) and has been studied widely for its ability to prevent colon, pancreatic and prostate cancer. You might not know it but it is now believed that there is a strong link between the development of cancer and levels of inflammation in the body, so it makes perfect sense that turmeric has gained such a reputation in this field. Its other effects are almost endless: it has been shown to improve liver function, prevent diabetes (amazing!), protect the heart, lower cholesterol, assist with wound healing and is even being investigated as a treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease. I’m sure you’ll agree that’s a pretty impressive list.
So what’s the catch? Well, the main problem seems to be the debate around amounts – most of the studies use super concentrated amounts that you could only really get from taking a supplement and so the question everyone is asking is whether there are any health benefits to be gained from using it in the kitchen. Well, whilst it would probably be advisable to supplement turmeric if you were hoping to address any of the conditions listed above, it seems sensible to assume that adding it to your food two or three times a week will still exert some sort of positive effect on your health, so it is definitely a good idea to try to incorporate it into your cooking.
As an interesting side note, the active compound in turmeric is called curcumin (this is the bit that exerts all those amazing health effects) and recent studies have found that curcumin works better alongside peperine, the active compound in (yep, you guessed it!) black pepper. Not only that, turmeric has also been shown to be absorbed better when it is eaten with fat as it can bypass the liver and go straight into our lymphatic system.
And what better way to combine these ingredients than with a nice heart-warming soup like a spicy lentil soup? Don’t you just love it when you come across a recipe that so neatly represents how intuitive cooking can be!
Oh, before I go here’s the recipe for my most favourite hot drink in the world: Turmeric Milk. This recipe is perfect for this time of the year when the days are getting shorter and we’re feeling that need to feel comforted and cosseted. There are lots of variations to this recipe and I recommend you play around with it until you’ve tweaked it to perfection.
2 cups almond or coconut milk (unsweetened)
1 tablespoon coconut oil, (optional although remember curcumin absorbs much better with fat)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cinnamon stick
Small pinch back pepper (again, remember this helps absorption)
1-2 teaspoons local honey (optional)
1-2 teaspoons desiccated coconut (for decoration)
7-8 cracked cardamon pods (again, for decoration)
Simply pour all the ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a boil, whisk to combine the ingredients and reduce to a low heat. Simmer for up to 20-30 minutes.
Remove the cinnamon stick and serve, top with desiccated coconut and cracked cardamons for a really decadent taste.
Sit back, shut your eyes and enjoy! x
PS Have you noticed how this recipe also contains the magical combination of turmeric, black pepper and fat? Maybe that’s why we feel so good after drinking it!