Over the last year or so, the humble haldi doodh drink has seduced the hearts of many. Why wouldn’t it, with sexy names like turmeric latte, turmeric tonic and golden milk? And straplines like: anti-inflammatory caffeine alternative and immune-boosting remedy. Of course – it’s true. Turmeric is the king spice. It’s packed with preventative and curative healing properties – but I’ll spare you the extensive list as there’s plenty of information online.
The name’s haldi doodh and it’s nothing new (haldi = turmeric and doodh = milk, in Hindi). To many South-Asians, haldi doodh was, and still is, the go-to drink for coughs, colds and a general pick-me-up. It’s role in Ayurvedic medicine remains unchallenged (Ayurveda, another trending topic, is said to be one of the world’s oldest healing systems. It originates in India with the Hindu scriptures. Ayurvedic medicine is based on maintaining a balance in the body, mind and spirit).
One of the reasons I created the dadima’s brand, was because I strongly believe in celebrating wisdom, and appreciating the roots of ideas. I’m pleased that knowledge about turmeric and haldi doodh is being put to good use outside of the Indian subcontinent. It’s a little disappointing, though, that many of the YouTube videos and blogs that I have read (some by influential figures who have an established platform and following to educate), fail to mention its origins. That’s great food without the story, which is not what dadima’s is about! In this blog, I try to celebrate the roots of ‘turmeric latte’. Let this be a a nod to those South-Asian elders, who passed down knowledge of the benefits of turmeric, around four thousand years ago. Their Ayurvedic wisdom deserves celebration and glory, behind the ‘turmeric latte’s’ enjoyed in health food cafes today. Alongside migration from the Indian subcontinent to the UK, also came the wisdom of their ancestors, and the essence of their culture (obviously, this applies to all cultures). In my case, knowledge of turmeric was passed down to me through my grandparents. And I’m not the only British Indian girl to have experienced culinary traditions, natural remedies and beauty secrets, originating from India. The ones worth preserving, prevail – haldi doodh is definitely one of the top on my list!
My memories of haldi doodh are a stark contrast to today’s cool connotations of a turmeric latte: a soothing city life staple for a moment of peace, the wellness cafe culture, rocking the shades, feeling and looking uber healthy. Not quite the image I’ve grown up with. Haldi doodh for me, conjures up an image of being at home in the evening, snuggled in a warm blanket or shawl, with the snivells or feeling run down! It’s when that special elder peers around the door and authoritatively says – ‘drink this and you’ll feel better soon!’ I had the ‘no frills’ version of haldi doodh growing up – a generous spoonful of haldi, melted in a knob of ghee, heated with milk, and a dollop of honey if I was lucky! Most importantly, like all dadima’s recipes, it was made for me with love.
It’s a love/ hate relationship like Marmite, and I personally love it. My dadima’s version contains full-fat milk – none of this coconut oil, almond milk, or a dash of cocoa (dadima was surprised at some of the online recipes that I read to her). For around four thousand years, South-Asians have reaped the amazing benefits of turmeric – it runs our culinary veins, and is part of our cultural, medical, and beauty history.
My dad is a firm believer in natural remedies, and he used to make this for me when I was ill as a girl (my dadima taught him!). My dadima told me that when she lived in India, her mum would apparently give her haldi doodh in a bottle when she was poorly. Her mum would always use a little ghee as the base, and then add turmeric, milk and some saffron.
It’s not surprising then, that Google’s 2016 report on food trends in the US, showed that searches for turmeric increased by 56% from November 2015 to January 2016. It was classed as a ‘rising star’ in the ‘functional food’ category. ‘Golden milk’ was one of the top searches associated with turmeric, and the most viewed YouTube videos for turmeric were those with educational content. My dadaji (grandfather) enjoyed listening to these statistics.
For a dadima’s style haldi doodh drink, I think that there are three key ingredients, plus the optional extras. With the extras, I would only add a few of them so that you can really appreciate their individual tastes.
Essential core ingredients:
- Ghee (I always make my own – see ghee blog)
- Milk (I use semi-skimmed, but my dadima uses full-fat)
- Turmeric root (or powder if you can’t get hold of the root form)
Optional ingredients, to taste:
- 3 green cardamoms, crushed open with a pestle and mortar
- A small stick of cinnamon
- Black pepper, a pinch
- Ginger root, a 3cm by 2cm piece
- Honey, to sweeten (add to taste – I like a teaspoon in 1 mug)
Below then, is my favourite version of haldi doodh – the recipe is a fusion from my dadima, my mum and dad, and bits and pieces that I’ve read about. My dadima always adds black pepper, as her father told her years ago that black pepper helps to soothe a cough and complements the turmeric root. I always prefer to use fresh turmeric root, and for convenience, I purchase a few pieces when it looks nice and fresh, and seal them in an airtight freezer bag so that I can use straight from frozen. It keeps well for a good few months based on the food forums that I have read around. Bear in mind – I use a bit more turmeric than the recipes I’ve read online – if you’re going to the effort, you might as well make it worthwhile.
You will need: a medium-sized saucepan, tea strainer, grater, gloves (if you don’t want stained yellow fingers – it does wash off fine though)
- 1 heaped teaspoon of ghee (my homemade recipe – click here)
- a 4cm x 2cm piece of fresh turmeric root (if you can’t get hold of fresh, use 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric powder)
- a 3cm x 2cm piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated (I use mine straight from frozen as you’ll see in the photo)
- 2 mugs of milk (I use semi-skimmed, but you can tweak to personal dietary requirements)
- a pinch of coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons of honey, or adjust to taste
- Peel the turmeric root (I do this straight from frozen) – Here, I use a teaspoon to do peel the skin.
2. Grate the turmeric root.
3. Heat the teaspoon of ghee in a saucepan, then stir in the grated turmeric.
4. Cook over a moderate heat for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the ginger (I always freeze my ginger in advance where possible, and just snap some off when I need it). Cook for a further minute, or until softened.
5. Add the milk, stir, and bring to the boil.
6. Switch to a low simmer for 2-3 minutes, and during this time, stir through the honey and black pepper.
7. Remove from the heat. Pour the haldi doodh through a tea strainer, to catch any ginger and turmeric pieces. Use the back of a spoon to press against the residue and get all the goodness out of it – no wastage in my kitchen.
8. Curl up on the sofa, wrap yourself in a blanket/shawl, and sip away. As I mention in my short instagram video, I usually only drink haldi doodh when I’m ill! But here, I drank it as a little pick-me-up as I was feeling run-down, and it instantly warmed me up from the inside and bought a little hygge to my day. You’ll see what I mean when you have some. Hope you love it, and be sure to experiment with the ‘optional’ ingredients to develop your favourite taste and version.
Passing down culinary knowledge and natural remedies is universal. What came to mind when you were reading this blog? Are there any recipes that have been passed down to you through wise elders? Do you still cook them and have you tweaked them? Do please share with me, as I love learning from you too.