Saturday, January 30, 2016

Tropical glow without the juicer

The turmeric is halfway through its growth cycle at the moment. There is no sign yet of the creamy white fragrant flowers. It will be the end of summer, if not autumn, before the tops start to die back and a few weeks more till harvest. This is my third year growing turmeric. I am still amazed it is still alive after our cool wet winters.

It was originally planted in a pot of good quality potting mix enhanced with various manures and mulched with lupin hay. Being in a pot makes it easier to shift its position if the weather gets too cold. Last year I placed them in the shade of the north facing fence which here, means it is warmed all day by the sun. This year they are again north facing but under shade cloth against the rendered brick walls of the raised beds where I can keep an eye on them from the kitchen window.
The first year I left it be in its pot. That meant that much of the root in the centre of the pot had become sodden and too rotten to harvest. Still, there was over a kilo of fresh root in that pot, plenty to play with.

If you wish to dry your turmeric, it is best done soon after harvest. After washing, finely slice the roots into equal thicknesses, not bothering to peel them. Lay them on racks, evenly spaced. You can dehydrate in your food dryer, I simply left them in the house on the dryer racks and they were dry within a week. You can store in an airtight jar and grind as needed or grind the whole lot into a powder ready for cooking.

Homemade turmeric powder may not seem as brightly coloured as commercial powder. This depends on many factors, including the fact that imported turmeric is irradiated when passing through customs which strangely enhances the colour. The taste and the aroma of home grown are infinitely superior in my experience. This crop from one pot will last me for cooking until the next is ready.
Turmeric is much in favour at the moment as a gentle anti-inflammatory due to its active compound, curcumin, which gives it the lovely yellow colour. The United States National Library of Medicine’s database, Medline, a bibliographic data base, shows over 600 potential health benefits. However, curcumin does not become active until it is a) heated, b) eaten with black pepper to increase its bioavailability and c) adding ghee, coconut or olive oil when cooking. So, stop juicing it right now and start frying it gently and adding it to your meals. Otherwise you will have a very low absorption rate and waste all those precious attributes.

 It is all very easy… Look to traditional Indian recipes, they all follow these principles: curry powder always contains pepper and all curry pastes are gently fried before adding other ingredients.

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Nasty Christmas?

Today is January the 4th, time to get back to work for many of us. Living in a tourist town, the time to walk, swim, shop and drink coffee is before ten in the morning. The summer crowds begin to gather then, driving me to head for home and settle down to work.

Last year was a particularly good year for nasturtiums in the garden. Now you have all opened your Christmas presents and I won't be spoiling the surprise, I can share how I made them.
Theses recipes are from 'Cooking with Flowers'...coming soon!

Nasturtium Vinegar

Fill a jar with the reddest nasturtium flowers you can find.
Top up with good white wine vinegar and put lid on.
Allow to steep for a week.
Strain and bottle.

Pickled Nasturtium Pods

Fill a jar with young nasturtium seeds, they need to be small and green. If they are pale and hard, they are too old to pickle and will turn out like ball bearings, leave them for next years crop of plants.
Cover with water.
Rinse each day for 3 days.
The water will smell dreadful, it is the bitter principles leaching out.
Day 4, place in a sieve to drain and dry slightly before returning to the jar.
Top up the jar with cider vinegar to cover the seeds and replace lid.
Leave a week or more before using as a great substitute for capers. 

So, that as the present...
Here's the recipe that went with it:

Nasturtium Dressing

1 egg yolk
1 tsp  French mustard
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp nasturtium vinegar
2 drops of Tabasco
Salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or with a stick blender.
Sunflower or grape seed oil
Gradually drizzle in until the mixture thickens.
2Tbsp pickled nasturtium seeds, chopped fine
1 small gherkin, chopped fine
1-2 tsp finely chopped fresh lemon thyme

Serve with seafood, potatoes or as a salad dressing.
If you would like to see it a stronger shade of pink, chop 4 red nasturtium flowers and stir through. Stir again before serving OR mix in 2 tsp of tomato sauce if flowers aren’t available.