1. You need plain turmeric powder. You can find it in the spice aisle of pretty much any grocery store. Or you can buy it in larger quantities from any Indian/Asian market, health food store or online. If you use a lot of turmeric, it's much less expensive to buy it by the pound or kilo than in the small spice packets or jars in the grocery store spice aisle.
The turmeric label should say “Turmeric Powder” or “Ground Turmeric Root” or “Powdered Turmeric” or anything like that. It should not say “Fortified with…” or “XYZ added….” or any similar wording. Just turmeric. If it has an ingredients statement, that should just list the vitamin and mineral constituents of turmeric, not added foods or extracts.
Purists will point out that turmeric comes from rhizomes, not roots. They're correct. But when turmeric first began to be marketed in English-speaking countries, the people who were doing the translations used the word root and that has stuck, even though it is not botanically correct. If the label says ‘rhizome’ instead of ‘root,’ even better, but don’t expect to see that.
2. You need a healthy oil. Any of the three oils in the recipe will work just fine. Other edible oils will work too. We suggest staying with oils that have a good omega 3/omega 6 balance, but you can use your preferred oil. I use this one because it’s well-priced and I’ve had good results with it. For US members, this is from Costco. Use the one you prefer. If you decide to use coconut oil, stay with one that is unrefined and cold-pressed for the most healthy choice.
3. Buy whole black peppercorns, not pre-ground pepper. This is an old coffee grinder now used for general spice grinding. But a manual pepper mill, a mortar and a pestle, or a plastic bag that you bash with a rolling pin also work just fine.
In most locations, you can purchase whole black peppercorns already packaged in a grinder, if you don't have a pepper mill already. Some of these can be refilled, so you don't have to discard the grinder when it's empty.
Place the half cup of turmeric in a small pot with about a cup of water and put it on the stove on medium heat. The picture shows a one-quart pot. A one-liter pot would work just as well.
We've seen recommendations to use a very deep pot. Some people have tried to make golden paste in a frying pan, apparently thinking it should be treated like a sauce or gravy.
Here is why neither of those may be a good idea. It won’t hurt to use a large deep pot, but you’ll end up using more water. Why? Because the surface area of the mixture in a large pot (especially a frying pan!) will be much larger for the volume of the mixture than it will be in a smaller pot. That means you’ll have much more evaporation of the water than if you make it in a smaller pot. You’ll have to keep adding water to get the thickness you want at the end. That won’t hurt anything, but it’s more work and means you’ll have to watch it more closely as it cooks.
Another reason not to use a frying pan is that you have a much larger surface area in contact with the heat, so it’s much less easy to control the amount of heat being transferred to the contents. If you’re worried about spattering, then controlling the heat (and not using something with a very large surface area) is important.
So ideally you’ll use a pot that’s sized to the volume of the contents. A one-quart or one-liter saucepan works very well.
You don’t need to stand over this. Give it a good stir to mix the turmeric and water together and let it heat up. It’s a good idea to be somewhere nearby so if it does get hot enough to start spattering, you’ll be close enough to grab it and turn the heat down. But it doesn’t need constant stirring. It will need to be stirred at least two or three times during the period when it’s heating up to the boiling point and probably another two or three times during the 7-8 minutes that it simmers.
A simmer is a slow (sometimes called a ‘low’) boil. So you’ll turn the heat down to where a small bubble pops every few seconds. If you have an electric stove that doesn’t give you an immediate reduction of heat when you turn it down, then you can move the pot part way off the burner, or even completely off for a minute or so until the heat moderates.
If you have an older electric stove that won’t permit as low a heat as you need, you’ll need to pay more attention to the pot. Lift it up or move it off the burner when it gets hot enough to start bubbling in earnest. You’ll probably need to stir it more often as well, to prevent sticking.
While the turmeric and water is cooking, measure the oil and grind the pepper. If you use an oil that’s liquid at room temperature, you can just pour it into your measuring cup (1/3 cup approximately). That’s 70ml, and if you weigh everything, 70g is close enough to 70ml.
If you use coconut oil, and your kitchen is cold in the winter, your coconut oil may not be just sold but very hard. If so, measure it using the water displacement method. In other words, for 1/3 cup, you'll fill the measuring cup to the 2/3 cup level and add enough oil to push the water up to the one cup mark. More or less. This isn’t rocket science. If you look closely at this picture, you'll see that it isn’t quite touching the one cup level. But there is also a bit of coconut oil sticking out of the top of the water. Close enough.
When the turmeric and water has finished simmering, take it off the heat and let it cool down to where it’s just warm. There is a good reason for doing this. Things that don’t dissolve easily in each other (like fat and water) will mix together much better if they are close to the same thickness (density) when you mix them. If you add a fat or oil to that very hot mixture you just took off the stove, the oil’s density will immediately become very much thinner. Try it, and see how thin it gets. It’s much harder to mix the oil into the turmeric and water mixture when the oil is so thin. Let the turmeric cool down to just warm and it will still be warm enough to melt the oil (if you’re using solid coconut oil), while also making it much easier to mix the two together.
This is how it will look when you first add the coconut oil and pepper. Stir it for two or three minutes, and by the time the coconut oil is completely melted and mixed throughout the turmeric, the pepper will be thoroughly mixed in too. You don't need to beat it, just stir with a standard spoon. People often say that a whisk is required. Actually, a whisk is a poor utensil for mixing things together, because of its very small surface area. A whisk is meant to incorporate air—it’s great for making a meringue, but not ideal for mixing two thicker compounds together. For that, you want something with a larger surface area that moves more of the compounds around. But it’s hardly a big deal. If you prefer a whisk, use a whisk.
Does golden paste stain saucepans or utensils? Yes, if they’re made of a material that can be stained by food. If your spaghetti sauce stains your kitchen ware, then golden paste will too. Use stainless steel and you don’t need to worry about it. Just stick it in the sink after you’re finished and rinse it out. No stains.
Total hands-on time, even counting the picture taking, roughly 15 minutes.
Water standing on the top of the mixture you used a little extra water. Just mix it in. Or pour it off. Or just use it along with the golden paste. Suit yourself. No big deal.
Oil separating: If you used coconut oil, just warm the mixture up in a pot of hot water until the oil melts and mix it back in. If you used olive oil, it won’t need to be warmed up, because the oil is liquid. Just mix it back in.
Mixture dry and powdery: Heat some water in the kettle and mix it into the golden paste bit by bit until you get the consistency you want.
Stains on bench (counter), hands, stove, floor...Blot with rubbing alcohol (surgical spirits, methylated spirits, whatever it’s called where you are). Blot a few more times. On non-porous surfaces like your stove, you shouldn’t need to do more than wipe it up with a paper towel or dish cloth. On the bench top you may need to apply alcohol several times. Same for linoleum floors. For hands, wipe with alcohol or oil, wash with warm water and dish soap. If you live where alcohol-based ‘hand sanitizer’ is sold in every convenience store, that does work well. If you’re brave enough to have carpet in your kitchen, alcohol still works well but don’t rub the stain. Just blot. Hydrogen peroxide also seems to work well here. One of the Turmeric User Group admins found that Rit Stain Remover also does a good job, if you live where that’s available. Many people in the UK recommend Fairy liquid, and in the US, Oxyclean. If nothing else works, just leave it--the dye is not lightfast and it will eventually fade out. Your family’s health is more important than a perfectly stain-free kitchen.
Oh yes--here’s the recipe for golden paste:
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Go make Golden paste