Are you looking for the recipe? Click here to go straight to it.
Turmeric – A Superfood?
Turmeric has hit the super foods category even though it has been a staple in Indian cooking for centuries, perhaps longer. It is interesting when something is taken out of a context and put under the spotlight in a Western context – all sorts of inappropriate uses of the food, herb or spice are suddenly flooding the internet. Turmeric is no exception.
In India, turmeric is always combined with other spices because
- turmeric will make a dish bitter if too much is used
- if too much is consumed, there are uncomfortable and potentially dangerous side effects
- the other spices combined with the turmeric, especially pepper, help the absorption of turmeric by the body. A recent study found that oil (ghee) also aids the absorption.
Turmeric is indeed a wonderful spice with external and internal applications. When I have a winter cold or the flu, daily consumption of strongly flavoured turmeric and black pepper milk sweetened with jaggery is a must. Applied to external skin eruptions, irritations and wounds ensures fast healing. It is an essential ingredient in our medicine cupboard and has been for decades. It is not surprising that this spice has garnered attention in the West. (I am not a trained health or ayurvedic practitioner, so do seek advice or do your own research before using turmeric for health reasons.)
You can read more about Turmeric here.
An Experiment with Turmeric Chickpeas
As turmeric became known in the West, weird recipes began to appear. Cauliflower smothered in turmeric and baked. (I tried it – eww!) Turmeric lattes. Turmeric coffee. Recipes included Tablespoons of turmeric rather than the small amount used in India, around 1/4 – 0.5 tspn per recipe. There was some weird, neon yellow stuff out there. Turmeric Icecream. Smoothies. Tonics. Posts like 99 Recipes using Turmeric are all over the internet.There are even suggestions that you dip your bread in it! Double-eww!
It is fascinating how India, where turmeric has been used for 6,000 years, does not expect for food to have a turmeric taste – it is used in small amounts and is quite subtle – but the superfood-turmeric fashion expects dishes and drinks to be defined by the turmeric taste. I am not sure that this is a pleasant thought.
Suggestions and recipes for Turmeric Soaked Chickpeas are the latest fad – chickpeas soaked in large amounts of turmeric and cooked in their soaking water. It sounded interesting and google showed that similar recipes are in books and in blogs across the internet. Wanting to understand the impact on the chickpea of this process (and whether it was worth it), I played around with a couple of different variations. I wondered whether you’d do this for health reasons, flavour reasons, or aesthetic reasons, and whether the flavour of the turmeric in the chickpeas is too strong.
Following a recipe (see below), I soaked some chickpeas with 1 Tblspn for 500g chickpeas (high concentration of turmeric) and, for comparison, soaked others with 1 tspn (low concentration). Then each of these was cooked in their soaking liquid. I also removed some of the high concentration chickpeas and cooked them in fresh water.
The results showed increased colour in the high concentration soaked and cooked chickpeas, and a more noticeable taste of turmeric in the high concentration chickpeas. Turmeric, as you know, can be quite bitter when overused in a dish. Although the amount of turmeric used here seems extraordinary, it gives the chickpeas their intense colour and noticeable flavour. I found that when eating some hummus made from the chickpeas, I could still taste the turmeric for several hours afterwards.
I found that using much less, about half the amount of turmeric gave the best results – 0.5 Tblspn. This adds sufficient colour and a milder flavour.
Cooking with the full amount of turmeric also seems to change the texture of the chickpeas – let me know if you notice this too. I’d have to do an experiment with a control to be certain.
The best uses for turmeric chickpeas are in dishes that allow them to shine in their own right – avoid combining them with other ingredients that mask the taste – you could just add turmeric direct to the recipe in those cases. Some examples might be – snack out of the pot with a little olive oil and salt, use on pasta, in salads and on soups, in a baked Dakos, or used to scatter over hummus. Or they can be tray baked with spices.
Why not just add Turmeric Powder?
Do I think it is worth it? Not really. There is an argument (my argument, actually) that adding turmeric to most dishes would be sufficient for health reasons, especially when the chickpeas lose their individual identity in a dish or are cooked with other strong flavours. For example, take Hummus – the difference between using turmeric chickpeas and adding a small amount of turmeric powder to the hummus when blending would be very subtle. I could liken it to cooking the chickpeas with salt or adding salt to a dish afterwards. Cooking with salt certainly makes a difference in taste to an individual chickpea, but that difference is lost in a dish that mashes or blends the chickpeas, and when they are cooked or combined with other strong flavours.
Turmeric chickpeas do, however, make a great topping for a bowl of hummus.
The reality is that most uses of turmeric add very subtly to the flavour of the dish. It is unlikely that you would detect its presence. There are very few dishes where the flavour is prominent, apart from Golden Milk and some health giving-cold curing teas. My recipe for Dried Fava Bean Soup with Turmeric is one where the flavour makes such a difference to the dish but is not really identifiable.
The Health Perspective
Regarding the health perspective – the claim is that eating items soaked in turmeric increases your intake of turmeric. It might, but most of the turmeric is poured down the sink in the cooking water. The much simpler (and infinitely better) way to increase turmeric in your diet is to include 1/4 tspn turmeric powder, a little ghee or other oil, and a pinch of black pepper in every dish you cook. It is also much gentler on your digestive system. Remember that consuming too much can cause side effects.
Turmeric Chickpeas Recipe
Soak 500g dried chickpeas (desi or karbuli) in water to cover well and 0.5 Tblspn turmeric powder. Turmeric stains everything, so be careful about splashing the powder or turmeric water around the kitchen.
Allow to soak overnight. The next day, cook the chickpeas in their soaking liquid until tender, about 45 mins – 1 hour. Add more water if needed.
Drain and use.
Uses of Turmeric Chickpeas
Suggested uses include Smashed Chickpea Salad, Boondhi Salad with Chickpeas, and Simple Chickpea Salad. In fact any Chickpea Salad would work. Also try Roasted Eggplant with Crushed Chickpeas, Channa Chaat and Chickpea Sundal. Snack out of the pot with a little olive oil and salt, use on pasta, in or on soups, in a baked Dakos, or used to scatter over hummus. The recipe for Tray Baked Spicy Turmeric Chickpeas is coming soon.