Monthly Archives: March 2013

Spice processing: Turmeric

Turmeric root

Turmeric is a rhizome belonging to the ginger family. The crop requires a temperature between 20°C and 30°C and considerable rainfall and is therefore mainly grown in tropical South Asia. Turmeric can be used as a rhizome itself but requires further processing to be used as a powder in curries. At Mc Currie, we train our suppliers on how best to do this with our experience and technical expertise.

The harvest of the turmeric should be after 8-9 months after the crop is planted. The pods should be washed to remove traces of soil and dirt. The fingers must then be removed from the parent pods. The mother bulb and fingers have to be separated. The roots are cut out from the fingers and mother bulbs. The bulb and the fingers are then steamed to prevent the enzyme curcumin from causing enzymatic browning. The steaming process is complete when the fingers develop a characteristic smell and breaking them produces strands or fibres. This takes approximately 25 – 30 minutes. The turmeric is cooked by the end of the process and a small pin would pass smoothly through the finger.

The bulbs and fingers are then left to dry in the shade (not under direct sunlight) for one or two days to slowly cool them. At the end of the two days, they are exposed to direct sunlight for three or four days to completely dry them. The fingers should be brittle and easy to break at the end of the drying process. They should not be rubbery. The colour of the fingers should be dark orange on the inside. A blackish orange colour means the turmeric has been dried quickly and not given enough time in the shade.

Once the turmeric finger is well dried, the outer skin is removed to polish the turmeric. A rough surface with projections is used to polish the turmeric. A yellowish orange colour indicates that polishing is complete. 75% of the outer skin has to be removed to be considered as good quality turmeric. The turmeric is then placed in an air chamber or blower fan to remove the dusk and remaining skin.

The turmeric fingers can now be transferred to gunny bags and should be stored in a cool and dry place. The lot is now ready for the market and for further processing.

Visit the Mc Currie website for all your spice needs!


Home remedies for Tonsillitis

Tonsillitis is the swelling of the lymph tissue masses in the throat. It is generally treated by medication in the antibiotic range.  The best course of action for swollen tonsils is traditionally  the salt water gargle which is most widely used. This remedy assists in easing the pain and reduces the swelling. As is widely known, salt water helps in cleaning out the mouth and throat and prevents further build up of infection on the surface of the tonsils. 

Other accepted natural therapy for tonsillitis are:

  • Lime is one of the most popular natural remedies for tonsillitis. Mix fresh lime juice in warm water, adding ¼ teaspoon bee’s honey and salt and sip this combination for relief of pain from swollen tonsils.
  • Boil milk and add a pinch of turmeric powder and black pepper powder. Drink this before sleeping for a minimum of 3 nights in a row for an effective inflamed tonsil remedy.
  • Drink freshly squeezed carrot or cucumber juice daily to boost your body’s immune system and fight the infection more ably. You can have these juices individually or mix them together for the best results.
  • Boil fenugreek seeds in water for half an hour. Cool and strain and use this water to gargle. Fenugreek has antibacterial properties that make it an first-rate cure for tonsillitis.
  • Boil fresh figs and grind them into a paste. Apply this paste on the external area of the throat to cool down a rash and redness of the throat and provide pain relief.

Tonsillitis is normally a self-limiting condition and tends to resolve itself. Hence home remedies for pain relief is the most reasonable option. However, if you attempts in using home remedies for the treatment of tonsils have not reduced the pain or swelling, consult your doctor for a course of medication. Tonsillitis caused by bacterial infections need a course of antibiotics that your doctor can prescribe. Chronic tonsillitis may not respond well to home remedies and may require more drastic measures such as surgery.

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Sri Lankan Cuisine: Hoppers

1230Hoppers are popular in Southern India and Sri Lanka and are also known as Aapams. It is eaten most frequently for breakfast and dinner.

Hoppers can be made in various forms such as Plain Hoppers, Egg Hoppers, Milk Hoppers and Honey Hoppers. The latter is normally eaten with afternoon tea.

Plain Hoppers

 Hoppers are bowl shaped thin pancakes made from fermented rice flour. They get their shape from the Appachatti (the pan) in which they are cooked. Hoppers can be eaten with Lunumiris, Katta Sambol, Seeni-Sambol and meat curry. Hoppers are made from a batter of rice flour, yeast, salt and a little sugar. The mixture needs to be set aside for a few hours prior to turning out the hoppers.

Egg Hoppers

Egg Hoppers are made the same way as the Plain Hoppers, except that the egg is broken into the pancake as it cooks. Salt and Pepper are also added on to the broken egg.

Milk Hoppers

 Milk Hoppers have a spoonful of coconut cream added to the centre of the pancake. When cooked it remains soft inside and firm to the touch and a little sweeter too, due to the coconut cream.

Honey Hoppers

 Honey Hoppers are made the same way as the Plain Hoppers, but with the addition of honey. When the hopper is cooked, it is folded in two while in the pan.  The honey hopper gives a sweeter taste if scrapped jaggery is added onto the hopper prior to folding.

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Spices at home: Usage and storage


Taste is a very important factor for food to be palatable. Spices provide that vital need and are a must when preparing food. Below are a few tips on usage of spices.

  • Use a “light-hand”when seasoning meat, chicken or prawns and evenly distribute the seasoning. Your goal is to complement your dish without crowding out the flavour of the dish. Remember “un-spicing” a dish is impossible. 
  • Dried spices should be crushed finely prior to adding to a curry. 
  • Keep your dishes simple and do not use more than 3 spices, unless the recipe specifically calls for it. 
  • Black Pepper, Garlic Powder and Salt are excellent “after cooking” seasoning. 
  • Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Cloves have a special affinity for sweet dishes.


Storing spices properly is essential to keeping their flavours intact. Spices should be stored in a cool dark place. Spices tend to lose their flavour more quickly if exposed to light, heat and humidity. If possible, avoid storing spices too close to the stove, oven or refrigerator, where rising steam or heat can come into contact with them. Heat reduces flavour and dampness may cause spices to clump or cluster up.

Spices should be stored in airtight containers, such as glass jars or plastic jars and should be tightly capped after use. The general rule is that ground spices will retain their best flavours for a year. Whole spices are likely to last about 3-5 years. Apart from this, proper storage would definitely result in longer freshness.

Spice cabinet

The Spice Cabinet clean-out:

Remove all the bottles of spices and herbs and spread them out on a table. Next, with a damp cloth clean every shelf and leave all cupboard doors open, so that there is ventilation and the dampness inside dries up. You will be surprised to note that a spice cabinet can get pretty musty.

All spices have an unique aroma and if you find that you do not get the unique aroma, its time to do away with them. For example, take a sniff at your pepper powder container. No sneezing? No aroma? The answer is “Toss it out”. Does your cumin seeds have a tangy and earthy smell? Put it aside in your “Keep” pile. Turmeric usually has no vibrant aroma, but it does have a vibrant colour. If the colour is dull, it is time to do away with it.

Take a look at your “Keep” pile of spices and with a damp cloth clean the lids and the outer sides of the containers. Once your spice cabinet is dry, arrange all the bottles of spices in it and close the cabinet doors with a sigh of relief!

Order on the Mc Currie website for all your spice needs!

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