Curry: Food of the Gods

Curries

A variety of curries available at penzeys.com

Turmeric is a 3 foot tall perennial herb. It is related to the ginger plant and grows in similar regions: India, China, Indonesia, Jamaica, Haiti and other tropical countries. In order to be used, the rhizome is boiled, cleaned and sundried. Tumeric is the component that gives mustard its sunny yellow color and is used in a wide variety of foods including delicious curries.

Now, this amazing spice gives everybody something else to feel sunny about. It turns out a compound in turmeric is helpful in preventing the plaques implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Montefin.com Curcumin and Alzheimer’s

Mid-Day.com Professors Doraiswamy Alzheimer’s Cure

In the history of turmeric’s use, each country that cultivates turmeric uses it for similar complaints. Skin problems including: skin ulcers, pimples, eczema, psoriasis, herpes sores, pox are treated with added ingredients such as coconut oil or lime juice to make a smooth paste. The same pastes are used for snakebites, insect stings and ringworm.

For diaper rashes, the powder is sprinkled directly on to the skin

The Philippine Journal of Nursing (50:95) recommends a turmeric decoction followed by 48 oz. of water to alleviate any bleeding during pregnancy. Bleeding early in a pregnancy can indicate the potential for miscarriage. The turmeric decoction is used as a preventative. Combining this with eggplant makes for an even more effective remedy.

Curcumins I, II and III demonstrate in studies (Int J Immunopharmacol 21 [11]: 745-757, 1999) to have anti-cancer and antioxidant actions, central nervous system disorders, renal cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer and melanoma.

The Journal of Ethnopharmacology (7:95-109 1983) noted curcumol and curdione active compounds from turmeric proved very effective against cervical cancer, but only in the early stages. Likewise the same compounds showed strong cytotoxic effects against Dalton’s Lymphoma cells in the beginning stages of development. Cancer Letters (29:197-202, 1985)

Another compound, diferuloylmethane, shows significant effect in inhibiting tissue necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha (link)  (Phytomedicine 7 [4]: 303-308, 2000)

Cell mutations, such as cancer, are not the only ones affected by turmeric. Nutrition and Cancer Institute in Bombay, India discovered that turmeric helps to offset the mutagenicity of hot chili peppers and other food that can cause cell mutations.

And turmeric may also exert a number of other effects in the body: anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, hepatoprotective (protects the liver) and hypolipidemic  (lowers blood lipids)

Turmeric inhibited edema (induced) and subacute arthritis in studies with rats and mice, comparable to treatments like hydrocortisone acetate and phenylbutazone. ½ teaspoon taken morning and evening in juice is suggested from those conducting the studies.

For contusions, sprains and fractures a mixture of 2 tbsps of turmeric mixed with 1 tbsp lime and just enough boiling water to make a smooth paste with a nut butter consistency. This paste can be applied to painful, swollen areas, covered with something that will help maintain the heat and moisture.

Rats fed on a diet containing 10% fat colored with turmeric, showed virtually no fat buildup around the liver, unlike control rats fed with the same diet sans turmeric. The addition of eggplant increased the turmeric’s effectiveness.

As with most spices, turmeric has long been used as a preservative. In olive, soybean and sesame oil, it increases shelf life as well as in fats by its significant anti-oxidant activity. There are studies that show a doubling of shelf life in seafood with the use of a turmeric dip.

As a note of caution for people with gall bladder problems, as curcumin stimulates bile secretions.

Now for the delicious part: Make Your Own Curry Powder

1 tbsp. ground coriander seeds

½ tsp. ground cumin seeds

½ tsp. ground turmeric

¼ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Combine and mix thoroughly. Seal in an airtight jar, store in a cool place.

Use with lamb, fish, poultry, lentil soups, stews and other Far Eastern dishes.

Curries in Asia often contain onion, garlic and salt. The will often contain sour flavors as well; including tamarind, lime, unripe mango. And mustard, coconut and lemongrass are used as well. Enjoy and be healthy.

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The Lazy Cook Makes Pasta Sauce for the Coming Year

My mother taught me to can. Not to cook mind you, well, not directly anyway. That was my sister’s thing. I was the official “guy” of the house; fixing the lawnmower, changing the oil in the cars. I didn’t start cooking until I was away from home.

But canning enough food for the coming year requires more than two people, so I helped prep vegetables, wash jars, tend the cooker and in general take orders while staying out of the way.

And over the years I watched my mother drag out her canner, can a batch of something and put it away. A few weeks later when another batch of something was ready, she would drag it out again.

When making pasta sauce this was not nearly lazy enough for me. Tomatoes are fickle. Too little rain means they wait to flower and fruit. A lot of rain often means blossom end rot and few tomatoes. Sporadic rain means batches of randomly ripe tomatoes.

So the Lazy Cook came up with a plan. We are lucky enough to have the space for an upright freezer; as many farms and rural households do. So as the tomatoes ripen, into the freezer they go. And when the season is through, you can bring them all out at once and make a weekend of it.

Freezing the tomatoes has the added benefit of making them easy to peel. Spending a lot of time up to my elbows in raw tomatoes irritates my skin. If I can dip the frozen fruit into boiling water for a few seconds, the skin slips right off and I can cut out bad spots and chunk them with relatively little mess.

Yes, it’s cold; but much less messy. Besides, there will be plenty of time to warm hands once the cooking starts.

This year, I’m trying out Amish Paste Tomatoes. They are an heirloom variety, so if they make a tasty sauce, I’ll just keep planting them as I need them in the future with no fear of Monsanto coming in and busting up the joint.

Many people add sugar to their sauce to offset a bitterness that can arise in the process of cooking away the excess liquid that regular tomatoes often have. Adding sugar is unnecessary and, frankly, an affront to the tomato. Here are some ways to avoid this, which are also conveniently lazy:

– Use sauce tomatoes which are less juicy. Roma, Amish Paste and quite a few other varieties are less watery.

– Use a sweet onion in your sauce. I use Vidalia onions; and a lot of them. It’s almost impossible to get your sauce too “onion-y” with these. Sometimes, if I want a different flavor, I’ll sautee the chopped onions to the point of crisping the edges. Sometimes I just dump them in raw. Add a few grated carrots too.

– Roast your sauce. Yes, Roast Your Sauce. Best lazy move I ever made.

You’ll need enamel pans or Corning ware. I end up stacking pans on dishes on pots in my oven. The very occasional stirring becomes more complicated, but on the whole it’s much easier. I have yet to burn a batch of oven-roasted sauce, unlike some of my early stovetop batches.

Turn your oven onto its lowest setting. I use propane and have a newer stove, so the lowest oven temp I have to work with is 170 degrees. My last stove’s lowest setting was 120 degrees. I miss that oven. Because, in this case, the slower you can cook the sauce, the better it will taste. So it might take all day, but you won’t have to stand over a hot stove. Unless you want to stick around because your hands are still cold from dealing with frozen tomatoes.

The sauce ends up with this amazing sun-dried flavor. Not a hint of bitterness even though I don’t remove the seeds. (Lazy)

Roast a batch, adding your spices in somewhere along the line. I tend to wait until it is almost “done”. My logic is: some spices don’t like extended cooking. Because I’m going to have it boiling in a canner for another 30 minutes with an additional hour to cool off, the flavor will have plenty of time to release. This allows me to make individualized batches. I just have to remember label them properly after the jars are cooled.

Put the roasted sauce in a suitable (non-metal) container and stick it in the fridge. Repeat until all tomatoes are processed. Then you can re-warm the sauce to a suitable temperature for the canning process.

If you decide to freeze it, reconsider when to add the spices. I make no promised here, as I’ve never tried freezing sauce.

Have fun.