aloo gobi (WHB#148: turmeric)

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summary: aloo gobi (cauliflower and potato) recipe; information about turmeric for Weekend Herb Blogging; (click on images for larger views and more photos)

Weekend Herb Blogging (WHB) #148
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

aloo gobi One of my favourite vegetable dishes is aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower). Not long ago, we saw the most spectacular looking cauliflower at the farmer’s market downtown. We had to buy it…

And T made the best aloo gobi with it to go with naan (made on the barbecue), rogan josh and beet salad. We had a few green beans left from the night before, so he threw those into the cauliflower as well. What a brilliant dinner!

Cauliflower is one of my favourite vegetables. I adore it steamed and sprinkled with grated cheddar just before serving. And I adore it au gratin as well, with a beautiful golden crispy topping. But I think I adore it most Indian-style. In spite of the chilis, it is not a hot dish. And even though I’m not the biggest fan of turmeric, in aloo gobi, the turmeric is absolutely essential. The dish just wouldn’t work without it. It would not only taste wrong, it would look wrong.

aloo gobi For this aloo gobi, we used powdered turmeric. We have used fresh turmeric in the past and I was SURE that I had photos of the root. But I’ve searched as best I can through my mixed-up files and have been unable to locate any. It was fun using the fresh turmeric but frankly, powdered turmeric is considerably easier to use.

Turmeric makes the cauliflower look lovely too! (Just make sure you serve the plates on a patterned cloth. Then when you spill, the yellow stain won’t be quite so noticeable. :-))

Here’s what T did to make the cauliflower:

Aloo Gobi

  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 dried cayenne chillies, whole
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp powdered turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp toor dahl (optional)
  • ½ inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 med Yukon Gold potatoes (unpeeled), sliced thinly
  • ½ head cauliflower, cut in largish bite size pieces
  • green beans, topped and tailed (optional)
  • green chilis, cut in coins (optional)
  • ¼ c water
  • pepper and salt to taste


  1. Put oil into a wok and add the chillies. Leave them to fry until they are dark brown (usually the time that it takes to cut up the ginger, onion and garlic). Add the ginger and saute til light gold. Add the turmeric, cumin seeds and toor dahl (if using) and stir. Quickly add onions (otherwise the turmeric will burn) and saute til the onions are transluscent.
  2. Add garlic, sliced potatoes and cauliflower pieces and stir to cover every piece with oil. Continue to cook until everything, takes on a nice golden color.
  3. Add green beans (if using). Add water, cover the wok and cook for 5 to 10 minutes – til the vegetables are done. Uncover, stir in salt and pepper and green chilis (if using). Let sit over a low heat so any liquid will evaporate.

Weekend Herb Blogging (WHB) #148
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

weekend herb blogging - © kalyns kitchen


Turmeric roots can be found in Asian supermarkets and powdered turmeric can be found just about anywhere. But the powdered version does get more bitter as it gets older so if you can, get your turmeric in an Indian shop, where the turmeric turn over is high.

Apparently, powdered turmeric is made by boiling turmeric roots, then drying them before grinding them to a powder. Fresh turmeric looks a bit like gnarled brown fingers. But if the root is broken, the bright orange flesh inside is revealed.

I used to think that turmeric was only used for colouring rather than any actual flavouring (as far as I can tell, it only has a somewhat earthy flavour with a hint of carrot). And judging from the following advice from The Cook’s Thesaurus, others have the same idea.

Equivalents: 1 piece fresh turmeric = 1 teaspoon powdered turmeric. Substitutes: ground turmeric OR saffron (much more expensive, and more flavorful) OR Steep annatto seeds in boiling water for 20 minutes, then discard the seeds.

– excerpt from Cook’s Thesaurus: Turmeric

I would NEVER use saffron as a substitute for turmeric. The two are worlds apart in flavour. And if it’s only the colouring that is being sought out, saffron is far too expensive to use for colouring purposes. Annato seeds are a reasonable substitute though. I do find that the flavours of turmeric and annato are not unsimilar.

And a little turmeric goes a long way! It is quite pungent in flavour and even the tiniest hint of it will turn a dish gold (as well as any table linens that get splashed :lalala:).

Turmeric appears to be the main ingredient in commercial curry spice mixtures – in fact, the overpresence of turmeric in those commercial mixtures is exactly why I started mixing my own spices for curry powder (I’ve always put curry powder into chili con carne and broccoli soup, even before learning that this is the normal thing to do when preparing a curry. Yes, too much turmeric can make things taste bitter.

Because of this bitter quality, I have even gone so far as to omit turmeric entirely from the curry powder mixtures I was putting together.

Turmeric’s staining capability may seem a nuisance to everybody who must clean cooking utensils — cutting boards are particularly hard to clean with brush and soap alone. The dye is, however, not light-proof and fades away after but one hour in direct sunlight.

– excerpt from Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages: Turmeric


Maybe the direct sunlight in Mr. Katzer’s garden is stronger than the direct sunlight in our garden. We have a number of serviettes, tea towels, shirt fronts, etc. that have been in direct sunlight for several hours and their turmeric stains are completely unfaded. Remind me to take a photo of one of our WHITE serviettes that I foolishly used when we had Indian food.

Lately, here in the west, turmeric is being touted as being one of THE foods to eat. One of the curalls…. Canadian Living says that turmeric is in the “Top 10 superfoods” as an anti-oxidant and it is #9 of the New York Times article “The 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating”, labelled turmeric as the "superstar of spices," it may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Science Daily writes that according to a study made at the “Peter Munk Cardiac Centre” of the Toronto General Hospital, eating turmeric may “dramatically reduce the chance of developing heart failure”.

Other research is showing that turmeric may help in the fight against arthritis, Alzheimer’s Disease, stomach ulcers, cancer growth, lowering cholesterol levels. It may even be a dramatic source of help. Turmeric has been used in India for centuries as an anti-inflamatory and antiseptic. It appears to be one of the miracle foods.

Turmeric […snip…] is believed to have antiflatulent properties, so it is an indispensible early addition in the cooking of dal or beans.

– excerpt from Mangoes & Curry Leaves by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.

reasons to add turmeric to your diet:

  • It is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, useful in disinfecting cuts and burns.
  • When combined with cauliflower, it has shown to prevent prostate cancer and stop the growth of existing prostate cancer.
  • […snip…]
  • May prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by removing amyloyd plaque buildup in the brain.
  • May prevent metastases from occurring in many different forms of cancer.
  • It is a potent natural anti-inflammatory that works as well as many anti-inflammatory drugs but without the side effects.
  • […snip…]

Contraindications: Turmeric should not be used by people with gallstones or bile obstruction.

– excerpt from “20 Health Benefits of Turmeric”

Who knew?! Our cauliflower dish may not just be good; it might be very very good for us!

Now, I know you can’t believe everything you read, but it seems to me that we won’t be leaving turmeric out of our curry spice mixes any more. In all of the reading I have done, I’ve found nothing to say that turmeric is toxic or harmful, with the exception of the note about the gallstones.

Read more about turmeric:


It hadn’t occurred to me until typing this that it might be possible to grow turmeric. I have grown ginger in a pot. Turmeric is related to ginger so if you stick a healthy looking piece of turmeric root that has an eye on it into some soil (eye pointing toward the sky), I’m guessing that it will grow… how cool would that be to have your own turmeric plant?

WHB is on the road again and this week’s host is Ulrike (Küchenlatein). The deadline for entering WHB#148 is Sunday 7 September 2008 at 15:00, Utah time (GMT-7). For complete details on how to participate in Weekend Herb Blogging, please see the following:


T is completely convinced about the benefits of turmeric and takes a spoonful a day in water. He has been badgering me to do the same. But the taste… :stomp: As a concession, I’ve given him permission to put turmeric into many dishes. But not in any dessert dishes please.


This entry was posted in crossblogging, food & drink, posts with recipes, side, spicy, vegetables, WHB on by .

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8 responses to “aloo gobi (WHB#148: turmeric)

  1. katie

    Okay, you’ve convinced me… I’m going to search out turmeric and use it for something other than pickles…
    As to the cauliflower – last fall ONE day I saw a display of white, purple, orange and green cauliflowers… And foolishly thought I would see them again, and, as it wasn’t in my list, didn’t buy any…. Kicked myself for a month!

  2. Kalyn

    My brother is a huge fan of turmeric. He would love any dish that had it. It’s something I always mean to cook with and then forget about. Love the sound of this, so I’m going to renew my efforts to use it more!

  3. Jeanne

    Wow – who knew that turmeric was the new superfood? I agree that I used to think it was mostly used for colour, but it does have a distinctive dusty taste of its own – and it tastes NOTHING LIKE saffron!! I usually use it in curries but may start working it into other dishes too… I adore aloo gobi and yours looks just heavenly.

  4. Ulrike

    It is true, the sun helps against tumeric spots, but it takes a lot of time… I had tumeric spots in the plastic behind the stove for about one year. BTW I had the honour to talk to Mr. Katzer by phone.

    Great dish, thanks for sharing the recipe with us.

  5. ejm Post author

    I know what you mean, Katie. Last year I was north of the city on a job and saw white, purple and orange cauliflowers but DIDN’T get them because I thought I’d see them at the market when I was on my bike instead of trapped in the car. I’m not sure I’d use the purple ones for aloo gobi though. The resulting colour might be a little icky.

    Really, MKIHC? You have grits every morning. I’ve tried grits but can’t quite wrap my mind around the idea of having them every day.

    It sounds like your brother might be related to my husband, Kalyn! When I say there’s too much turmeric in something, he keeps claiming that there can’t be too much. Even if you don’t use turmeric in anything else, do try this cauliflower dish! I know that on your diet, you don’t eat as many potatoes, so you can just reduce the number of potatoes or leave them out entirely (although potatoes do add a certain je ne sais quoi to the dish.

    Exactly, Jeanne. I reel for days after seeing these kind of suggestions to substitute turmeric for saffron. What a foolish idea! (It reminds me of the frightening Canadian TV cook “The Urban Peasant” – mercifully no longer on the air – who once suggested that “if you don’t have chillies, use turmeric!” Quel horreur! :stomp:)

    Thank you for hosting, Ulrike. And that’s comforting to know that the turmeric stains on our serviettes might disappear eventually. I had them hanging to dry outside in the sun all day. I guess I’ll just keep doing that. (I’m most envious that you got to talk with Mr. Katzer on the phone. I love these brushes with greatness.)


  6. Nate

    I love turmeric! Such a great flavor to have in the pantry. And you’re right – a little goes a long way.

    I also love cauliflowers. Have you tried grilling them? They are great.

    Someone even suggests mashing them like potatoes and using them in a low-carb diet. I’m sure turmeric in mashed cauliflowers would be awesome.

    Grilling cauliflower definitely appeals to me but I’m not so sure about mashing cauliflower like potatoes. Wouldn’t they be a bit grainy? Or if they were cooked enough to not be grainy, then they’d taste overstewed. I’m not sure even the strong flavour of turmeric would mask the overstewed taste. -Elizabeth


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