Turmeric is a deep orange-yellow powder that is an essential spice in North African, Middle Eastern, and Indian cooking. Ground turmeric has a distinctly earthy, slightly acrid smell, and a slightly bitter, warm peppery flavor and a mustardy smell.
Turmeric comes from the rhizome of a ginger-like plant. Native to Southeast Asia, turmeric is an ancient spice, whose use dates back 4000 years, to the Vedic culture in India where it was used as a culinary spice and had some religious significance. Throughout its history, turmeric has been used in religious rituals, as a folk medicine cure for inflammation, as a cosmetic and fabric dye -- and, of course, as a spice and condiment.
Turmeric is an essential spice in the Arab ras el hanout spice blend, and, along with coriander, cumin, and pepper, in Indian masala spice mixtures. It also appears in many curry powders, giving curry its bright warm color.
Turmeric is used to flavor egg dishes, sauces, poultry, fish, beans and lentils. Turmeric is used extensively in the East and Middle East as a condiment and food dye. In India ground turmeric is used to tint many sweet dishes. Apart from its wide use in Moroccan cuisine to spice meat, particularly lamb, and vegetables, turmeric appears most often in curries and curry powders.
It is also the spice that gives American mustard its bright yellow color. Try turmeric with ginger and cinnamon to give a Moroccan flavor to your next vegetable soup - it's delicious!