Turmeric is structural. Bitterness is primary, and turmeric is the most recognisable from this spice category. The job of turmeric is to ensure other accompanying aromatics shine.
You can see why it is popular within traditional Indian food: with all of the spice weight, turmeric performs some serious heavy lifting to provide a flavour framework.
Turmeric will push the acidity in the tomato forward. Turn on the coarse heat of black pepper. Highlight the sharp quality of white salt. Dial-up the astringent contribution of garlic and onion. Increase the fresh and green tonality of your leafy herbs.
Take it out of the curry context and it does just as well.
Imagine spaghetti bolognese. Tomatoes, garlic and onion. Basil fresh, and maybe dried. Perhaps oregano or parsley. Salt and pepper. A dish that, when slow-cooked, results in a rich collapse of flavours. But add ⅓ of a teaspoon of ground turmeric to your garlic and onion base and the structure turmeric brings to the other aromatics in the pan draws an even rich flavour.
Turmeric top tips
• Turmeric in a recipe requires a sweet addition - a little jaggery, a sweet fat like ghee, or a sweet spice like cassia - to offset her bitter profile.
• Turmeric and ginger aren’t only cousins, they’re a classic pairing. The salt and pepper of Indian spice. Ginger warms turmeric, and turmeric strengthens ginger’s sharp heat.
• Ground and fresh turmeric aren’t interchangeable. Ground turmeric offers more base structural integrity. Fresh turmeric is a mid-palate player.