What is Yogic Cooking?
Turmeric has been recognized by yogis and ayurvedic healers since ancient times for its many healing properties. Grown mainly in India, the turmeric root is a close cousin to ginger root. It is dried and ground into a fine powder, brilliant gold in color, and used in many Indian recipes (this is what makes curry yellow). Commercially, turmeric is used for its color and as a thickener (yellow prepared mustard, canned soups, many processed foods contain turmeric!). Little do those food manufacturers know of this amazing root’s qualities!
Sometimes referred to as the “poor man’s saffron” because of the golden color it imparts, the similarity ends there. Taken internally, turmeric is a friendly healer to the liver and stomach, promoting healthy mucus membranes and skin. Yogis know that it also helps with stiff or creaky joints and arthritis. It is also used as a digestive aid. There is also some evidence that it is even helpful in lowering cholesterol. Turmeric also has a drawing quality, to draw out toxins, dry up secretions, and to heal.
Now, how to get that rather bitter tasting powder into your body?
First of all, cook it. You can either boil it in water for 8-10 minutes to make Turmeric Paste or Golden Milk or sizzle in a little ghee or olive oil for 20-30 seconds. This takes out the bitter taste and also releases the essences of the turmeric into the oil or water. It must be cooked!
You can also get turmeric in capsules at the natural foods store. Usually the capsules contain a greater concentration of curcumin, its active ingredient.
Here are a few yogic remedies:
Sore Throat (especially with mucus/phlegm stuck in throat): Take about ½ teaspoon of thick turmeric paste and form into a ball. Pop it into the back of your throat and swallow with a glass of water. You can do this a few times a day or as often as every hour if desired.
Creaky or Stiff Joints: Take at least 1 cup of Golden Milk every day for 40 days.
Stomach & Digestive Problems: Golden Yogurt, a total of at least 1 cup a day. This is also good for intestinal candidiasis; the yogurt brings in the good bacteria for healthy intestinal flora and, since turmeric is a natural anti-fungal, it helps to counter the yeast overgrowth.
About 15 years ago, during a very stressful time, I developed gastritis. Yogi Bhajan suggested I take a daily concoction of yogurt, banana and 1 Tbsp. of turmeric paste. I found this really quite helpful.
And, you can add turmeric to so many foods. Keep a jar of turmeric paste in the fridge (it keeps for a couple of weeks), and add a spoonful to your breakfast cereal, smoothies, and even spread on toast with a little honey. Also, it’s easy to add a spoonful to cooking foods, such as rice, tofu, and vegetable dishes.
Its benefits do not stop yet! Turmeric is used externally as well.
Skin Conditions: The juice of fresh turmeric is prized as a cure/soother for many skin conditions, including eczema, chicken pox, shingles, poison oak/ivy, and scabies. Turmeric paste makes quite a satisfactory substitute! Apply the paste directly to the affected area, cover lightly with gauze or loose cotton clothing (that will likely be ruined with stain). This is known to help dry the blisters up and accelerate the healing process. For shingles, one ayurvedic remedy calls for first spreading a light coating of mustard oil on the shingles rash, and then spreading the turmeric paste over that. (Skin condition such as those described above are seen in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine as originating from liver congestion/toxicity. You can help your rash from the inside out, by also ingesting turmeric. Also, see my September 2000 column, Eating for a Healthy Liver.)
Sores/Wounds: Keep turmeric in your first aid kit! It acts quickly to help stop bleeding, plus because of its anti-bacterial quality, will help prevent infection. For cuts, pile on the turmeric, cover with gauze, and apply pressure to the area to stop the bleeding. Of course, serious wounds require immediate medical attention.
Douche: Made with fresh plain yogurt, turmeric and water, this is especially helpful in countering odor and yeast problems, and is the best douche to use following the menstrual period. Use 8-10 parts water, 1 part yogurt (be sure it has active acidophilus cultures), and 2-3 tsp. turmeric. Blend it up in the blender until smooth.
3 Tbsp. turmeric
3 cups water
Bring turmeric and water to a boil. Let it boil until it forms a thick paste. It must boil at least 8 minutes. If necessary, add more water. Once it starts to thicken slightly, you must stir it constantly to prevent scorching. Store in a glass jar (it will stain a plastic storage container) in the fridge.
Recipe by Yogi Bhajan
(as it appears in my cookbook, From Vegetables With Love)
1/8 tsp. turmeric
½ cup water
1 cup milk
1-2 Tbsp. almond oil (optional)
honey to taste
Boil water and turmeric in small saucepan over medium-high heat for 8 minutes (the turmeric must be fully cooked). Meanwhile, bring the milk and almond oil to boiling point in a separate pan and remove from heat. Combine the two mixtures and add honey to taste.
Now, what I don’t say in the cookbook is that you can easily make more than one serving at a time and keep it in the fridge. Also, I really prefer it with a lot more turmeric. It certainly can’t hurt to use more. I suggest using ½ tsp. per cup. And, if you have Turmeric Paste made, you can just heat up the milk and almond oil with a teaspoon of turmeric paste. Try adding a little freshly grated nutmeg, too. Mmmm!
You can make Golden Yogurt from scratch (this is the best way), or simply add a spoonful of Turmeric Paste to plain yogurt (be sure the commercially prepared yogurt is made with active acidophilus and/or bifidus cultures, and does not contain gelatin, stabilizers, or added milk solids). A favorite breakfast of mine is ½ cup of Golden Yogurt, 1/2 cup organic apple sauce, and ½ cup (or less) of granola. Mmmm. Here’s how to make your own:
1 Tbsp. turmeric
1 ½ -2 cups pure water
1 quart whole milk or low-fat milk
2 Tbsp. plain yogurt (save some from your last homemade batch, or use commercially prepared yogurt as described above)
Bring water to boil with turmeric over high heat. They must boil together at least 8-10 minutes until forming a thick paste. Once it starts to thicken, stir constantly. When it is quite a thick paste, add the milk. Stir until smooth. Stir frequently until the milk just comes to the boiling point. Immediately remove from heat.
Immerse the pot of turmeric milk in a basin of ice water to quickly cool it and avoid that scald film forming on top. It must cool to about 118 degrees. I never use a thermometer! Put your clean finger into the warm/hot milk. If you can hold your finger in there for 30 seconds (it should feel pretty warm) and be able to hold it in without it feeling ‘hot’, it is ready. Now, to avoid grit, you can strain the warm/hot milk through a fine tea strainer. Or, just keep all that turmeric in there. Stir in the yogurt (I use a wire whisk to gently take out yogurt lumps). Pour this into a clean (sterile) quart size glass jar (or plastic container will do). Cover.
You need to maintain the warm temperature. You can do this several ways:
1. Use a heating pad set at LOW. Place one or two layers of towel over the heating pad. Put the yogurt container on that, and then wrap the towel around the container to maintain the heat.
2. OR, use your gas oven that has a warm pilot light on. (This only works in older ovens.) Turn the oven on for 5 minutes to get it hot in there. Turn the oven off. Wrap the yogurt container in several layers of towels or a blanket to contain the heat, and put on a rack in the oven. Close the oven door.
3. OR, use a yogurt maker! Pour the turmeric milk into the yogurt cups and follow the instructions that came with your appliance.
The yogurt needs to sit undisturbed and be kept warm for 6-8 hours. Once it is done, you can keep in the fridge easily for several weeks. For stronger acidophilus content, let the yogurt sit out at room temperature for 3-6 more hours (the longer it sits out, the sourer it will become). The liquid that forms on top will be rich in acidophilus. It will not go bad sitting out like this. Believe me, you will KNOW when yogurt has gone bad because it molds and smells disgusting. It is supposed to be at least a bit sour!
Please Note: These are traditional yogic remedies that should not be taken as medical advice! If anyone has a health concern, they should consult their health practitioner.