I know how annoying it is when I say: please go out of your way to find this impossible ingredient, I promise it is worth it. But it is! In this journey we have taken together over seven and a half years of blogging, we are all now toasting and grinding our own spices, right? And doesn’t it make a big difference? Well, trust me when I tell you that getting your paws on some fresh turmeric makes a huge difference here too. It is also fairly straightforward. I always used to peel it, but the chef that I cooked with in Malaysia (at The Meritus Pelangi Hotel) made a paste with it unpeeled and it made no difference. I now consider myself educated. I was fussing unnecessarily, which is really not how I like to roll.
Fresh turmeric is having a bit of a hipster moment, but some of us (cough) have been using it for a long time. The hipsters are on to a good thing with their turmeric tea though. It is ridiculously good for you. It is a really potent anti inflammatory agent, is brilliant for easing burns (the powder mixed with double cream – thank you Maunika for that tip) and there is lots of research that indicates that it is helpful in cancer treatment. It is very tasty too.
I suspect many people store dried turmeric in their cupboard for ages and then think it is tasteless. Dried turmeric, like all spices, needs to be fresh and stored in an air tight container. Fresh turmeric is very different and is an aromatic delight. A rhizome like ginger, it has some similar properties, but is floral by comparison. A lot of supermarkets stock it in the UK these days. Indian food shops do too.
Be warned – it stains everything! So be careful where it splashes. My tea towels are all a little yellow, but I don’t care about that. Life is too short and turmeric is too lovely.
This recipe is adapted from the recipe given to me by the wonderful chef at The Meritus Pelangi Hotel, adapted to my taste and also using ingredients that we can get here. In Malaysia they season with salt and sugar. I just use salt here. This is lovely served with rice.
RECIPE: Kapitan Chicken (Malay Chicken Curry)
1 whole chicken, jointed (your butcher can do this for you) or 1kg chicken thighs and legs (with bone in and skin on is best for flavour but feel free to use whatever piece of chicken you want)
500g coconut milk
6 kaffir lime leaves
flavourless oil for frying
2 limes, quartered
rice, to serve with it
2 red chillies (as hot as you like them – the Malay chillies are very hot and the original recipe has 20!)
3 sticks of lemongreass, with the outer layer removed, topped and tailed and cut into 1 inch chunks
50g ginger, peeled if the skin is thick
50g galangal (if you can’t get it, use a little more ginger)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and couarsely chopped
2 onions, peeled, topped and tailed and coarsely chopped
30g fresh turmeric
Put all the paste ingredients into a powerful blender with a couple of tablespoons of water and pulse until smooth. If you don’t have a blender, chop fine and then make a paste in a pestle and mortar.
Put a tablespoon of oil in a shallow pan and over a medium heat lightly cook the paste for a few minutes. Then add the water and cook for about 20 minutes. At this point add the coconut milk and lime leaves and let the sauce cook gently.
While the sauce is cooking, fry the chicken skin side down first in a little oil in another pan over a medium heat, for about 8 minutes on each side.
Add the chicken to the sauce and cook until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 20 more minutes.
Season to taste and serve with fresh lime squeezed on top and with rice.