Updated: Mar 20, 2019
This is a little creation with big implications: a recipe that harnesses the power of bioavailable Turmeric (and more) at medicinal dosage levels.
The Story of the Turmeric Flatbread
Turmeric (and its yellow pigment, curcumin) has become a hugely popular supplement in recent years, and for good reason. Rarely does an herb exert its health benefits so broadly and effectively throughout the whole body. I recommend it daily for people who are looking for general preventative and health maintenance strategies, as well as those with specialised health concerns.
The scientific evidence and the clinical trial data for Turmeric is truly outstanding. However, the challenge is that high doses of Turmeric are needed to receive the health benefits as curcumin has very poor bioavailability. Not surprisingly then, in recent years a plethora of bioavailability enhanced Turmeric supplements have poured into the market, all with their patented and proprietary technologies.
As an herbalist/clinician I am well aware that we can’t always trust or rely on the quality of retail supplements and on the other hand, good quality professional Turmeric supplements can be expensive.
The benefits of Turmeric are best experienced when integrated into our lifestyle and taken regularly over the course of many years, a lifetime even. As a supplement this can create an unreasonable economic burden which may be a deterrent to regular consumption.
This is where my Turmeric Flatbread story begins!
I have been recommending people increase herbs and spices in their diets for years, with not much success and particularly not with Turmeric. Simply, most foods that contain Turmeric are not the types of foods we view as staples in our diet. So, I started playing around in the kitchen with various types of crackers and flat breads, that are seen as staples, and could be eaten daily.
Traditionally, Turmeric is always combined with other spices. A very common spice is Fenugreek seed and the current science around improving curcumin bioavailability tells us that Fenugreek seed does the very best job.
It’s significantly better than anything else, including black pepper. Fenugreek seed also has a great reputation for supporting digestive and metabolic health, convalescence and improving difficult lactation.
Fenugreek is well adapted to an arid climate. As part of this adaptation the seeds contain very high amounts of soluble fibre so that when they are waiting in the soil for the right conditions, they can soak up to nearly 10 times their weight in water thus providing the emerging seedling a better chance of survival. It’s this soluble fiber that creates the magic in my flatbread!
Soaking the fenugreek seeds overnight in water and then blending at high speed creates a thick emulsion. When the turmeric gets blended into this emulsion it creates a natural colloid (suspension) of curcumin which, once dried in the flat bread and eaten, becomes mucoadhesive in the small intestine and the curcumin can be absorbed without being enzymatically altered or degraded.
Curcumin is lipophilic and easily crosses cell membranes and it has a natural affinity for albumin which is the major transport protein in our blood which then circulates the curcumin throughout the vascular system. Curcumin has a natural affinity and interaction to around 500 human proteins and it helps cells and tissues to achieve optimal health and performance. Using a clock or wrist watch analogy, curcumin is a small molecule that can insert itself into the cogs and springs within the watch which help the watch to keep perfect time.
The other significant advantage of Fenugreek is that it acts as a binder to hold the flat bread together, so there is no need for traditional binders like egg and it gives a fantastic texture. I wanted a food that would appeal to the broadest possible community, so it needed to free from many things that people are sensitive about or to.
I then chose additional ingredients that had good synergy in both flavor and therapy as well as providing high protein, high fibre and were phytonutrient-rich. I settled on Nigella seed (aka seeds of blessing or black cumin), Flax seed, Mustard seed, Cumin, along with Besan (Garbanazo) bean flour, Pumpkin seed, Sesame seed and Sunflower seed.
It has taken me seven versions and many batches to get it right. Some may find it a bit challenging to make as there are a lot of steps involved, plus it requires an investment in uncommon ingredients. However, once in a routine of baking it, it is easily incorporated into the diet and can achieve real benefits in cellular health/protection, metabolic wellbeing (blood sugar stability and lipid levels), microbiota balance and healthy aging. It’s probably good for everything!
Using the recipe below the suggested use is 1 - 2 squares per day. It’s delicious with lashings of butter, I love it with humus and avocado. It’s adventurous when crumbled over a green salad. It can even be eaten plain as a side to almost any meal.
TURMERIC FLATBREAD RECIPE
· 40g organic whole Fenugreek seed (4 flat tablespoons)
· 600mL water (20 Fl oz)
· 20g organic turmeric powder* (2 heaped tablespoons)
· 40g organic nigella seed (2 x 20g) (4 heaped tablespoons)
· 60mL sesame seed or olive oil (2 Fl oz)
· 2-3 medium brown onions roughly chopped (200g or 7oz approx.)
· 2-3 large carrots (300g or 10.5oz approx.)
· 60mL water (2 Fl oz)
· 260g organic besan (chickpea/garbanzo) flour (organic)* (2 cups)
· 20g cumin seed (2 heaped tablespoons)
· 20g black mustard seed (2 flat tablespoons)
· 1 cup pumpkin seed (160g)
· 1 cup whole brown flax/linseed seed (140g), finely grind half of this (70g)**
· 1 cup sesame seed (100g)
· 1 cup sunflower seeds (100g)
· 2 teaspoon salt
*Organic because it is otherwise particularly high in glyphosate
**Avoid buying pre-ground flax if possible as it goes rancid very quickly. If you do not have a spice grinder though, use 70g bought ground flax and 70g whole seeds (and always store flax in the fridge).
2 large baking trays, with baking area roughly 38 x 30cm each (15 x 12 inches)
Large metal spatula
1. Soak the Fenugreek: Add the Fenugreek seeds to 600 mL of water, stir well, cover, and let soak overnight. No need to refrigerate. If you have a spice or old coffee grinder, grinding the seeds first speeds up the soaking step. Allow at least 6 hours.
2. Blitz the Fenugreek: Blend the soaked fenugreek with the soaking water in a blender (I use a Vitamix). Start slow and gradually increase the speed until the texture is thick and gooey (like mayonnaise). It may take a few minutes.
3. Incorporate Turmeric and Nigella: Add the Turmeric powder and half the Nigella seeds (20g) to the Fenugreek and blend on a high speed for a further 3 - 5 minutes. Add a little water if the consistency becomes too thick. The mixture should be warm to hot when finished and all the Nigella seeds should be finely ground. This step is important because the emulsion created with the Turmeric enhances the bioavailability of its active constituents, the curcuminoids. The black seed coat of the Nigella contains melanin which has a powerful effect on the immune system and grinding it makes it more bioavailable.
4. Clear the Blender: Pour contents into a very large mixing bowl and put aside (you will probably need a silicon spatula to scrape as much of the sticky contents out as possible.
5. Puree Carrots and Onions: Puree the onions, carrots, oil and 60mL of water
a. If you are using a high-powered blender like me, there’s no need to clean the remains from the previous steps out first. Blend until it is a smooth and a free-flowing thick liquid. Add some of the fenugreek/Turmeric mixture if you need more liquid to facilitate blending.
b. If you are using an ordinary blender, it will not handle this step and you will need to use a food processor. Grate the carrots and dice the onions first, and process with oil and water to as finer consistency as you can. You may need to incorporate extra water here to do this.
6. Add Carrot and Onion puree: Pour the blended carrot and onion into the mixing bowl with the blended spices and stir to an even consistency. Once again, you may find a silicon spatula helps get all the blender contents into the bowl.
7. Sift Besan flour: Sift the Besan flour directly onto the mixture and stir it in as you go.
8. Add remaining ingredients: Finally mix through all the remaining ingredients: the other half of the nigella (20g), cumin, mustard, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, whole and ground flax seeds, and salt. Stir together until an even consistency is achieved.
9. Rest the mixture and prepare to bake: Leave the mixture to rest for 10-15 minutes to allow the dough to firm up, though it should still be quite wet. If it is too wet, add more Besan flour. Heat the oven to 150°C and line two large baking trays with baking paper.
10. Spread out the dough: Divide the dough equally between the baking trays and spread it out to cover the surface, achieving an even thickness and a rectangular shape. Use a long metal spatula to smooth it out and give it straight sides. I flick water onto the dough to make the spatula slide over the surface without sticking, or you can dip the spatula in some water. For those who have used a food processor, the dough may not be quite so sticky. This may be the most challenging step of the whole recipe.
11. Cut the dough: Divide the now spread dough into 20 equal potions for each tray (4 x 5) by marking/scoring through the dough with a wet knife. Make sure you score the dough, with a light touch, all the way through to the paper. Once it is baked it easily breaks along these lines to give equal sized pieces.
12. Bake: Bake in a fan-forced oven (pre-heated to 150°C) for 50 minutes (possibly longer without fan-force), or until the desired texture is reached. If you needed to add significantly more water to the mixture before, you may need to extend your bake time as well.
13. Finish: Remove from the oven and allow to cool until able to be handled. Then break along the score marks to get 20 separate pieces per tray. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for a soft texture.
Suggested use: 1-2 squares per day.
Making 20 pieces of bread from each tray makes it simple to calculate the dosage of the herbs used. 1 square of bread is 1g fenugreek, 1g nigella and 0.5g turmeric*
· Spread with a generous amount of humus or avocado
· It is lovely simply spread with organic butter
· Use it as a bread/cracker replacement
· Crumble into a salad
* Turmeric Notes:
· I purchase organic turmeric powder that is standardised to 5% curcuminoids
· Using 20 g of Turmeric per batch, each square of bread has 25 mg of bioavailability enhanced curcuminoids. Eating 2 pieces per day is a genuinely good therapeutic dose.
· To achieve a greater therapeutic effect, increase turmeric to 40 g, providing 50 mg of bioavailability enhanced curcuminoids, however this does make for a much stronger taste
© Lee Carroll 2018