Switch up Your Golden Milk Habit With These Three Turmeric Tonic Recipes

Photo: Patricia Niven

Tonic book
Photo: Hardie Grant Books

It’s a story you've probably heard before: Girl falls in love. Girl gets heart broken. Girl goes to Bali and discover's her life's calling. In the case of Tanita de Ruijt, that calling was bringing Jamu, a traditional medicinal system, to the UK in the form of health-boosting tonics. De Ruijt’s company, Jamu Kitchen, sells handcrafted tonics that are meant to help boost immunity and fight inflammation. (Deliciously Ella's Ella Mills is a fan.)

De Ruijt’s new book, Tonic, includes dozens of recipes for herb-infused drinks to help you fight colds, deal with hangovers, boost energy, and induce good sleep. “I base my recipes on traditional medicine to preserve the medicinal potential, but I use ingredients that are more accessible to where people are,” explains De Ruijt.

She also tweaks the recipes so they go down a little easier. “I make them a bit more flavorful so people want to drink them,” says De Ruijt, who admits she has had her fair share of failures creating her recipes, many of which rely on turmeric’s powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

Tanita de Rujit
Photo: Patricia Niven

Her biggest lesson? Using fresh turmeric versus powdered, which can give drinks a “curry-like” flavor and make them, ahem, not so delicious. “Fresh turmeric gives you more of that zingy, orangey flavor,” explains De Ruijt. She advises buying fresh turmeric in bulk, freezing whatever you aren’t going to use and then taking the turmeric out of the freezer and defrosting for one hour before using. “Flavor-wise it will really go the extra mile for you,” she says.

Plus, using the raw root may help you get more of the health benefits of the spice because the essential oils are still intact, says De Ruijt, who also points out that several recipes involve heating or fermenting the spice to make the curcurmin—the anti-inflammatory compound in turmeric—more bio-available. Consuming turmeric with black pepper, ginger, or a fat (like coconut oil) is also key to boosting the body’s ability to digest and absorb the spice, she adds.

Keep reading for De Ruijt's recipes for a chai turmeric tonic, turmeric cream soda, and turmeric pepper milk.

Chai Turmeric Tonic
Photo: Patricia Niven

Chai turmeric tonic

"Everyone loves chai and turmeric works really well with all these spices, so you get a two in one, all the immunity boosting properties and the synergy of the flavors," says De Rujit about this recipe, which she likes to make in the evenings as a "cozy pick me up at end of a long day."

Makes 1 serving

2 black peppercorns
2 green cardamom pods
1 clove
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 black tea bag or 1 Tbsp black loose leaf tea
A few slices of fresh ginger root
A few slices of fresh turmeric root
4 fl oz water
4 fl oz milk of choice
Sweetener of choice

1. In a frying pan set over a medium heat, dry roast your peppercorns, cardamom pods, clove, and cinnamon stick until they become aromatic, then lightly crush them with a pestle and mortar.

2. Blend your slices of ginger and turmeric with a little bit of water in a blender to make a paste. You could also grate them or mash them in a pestle and mortar.

3. In a saucepan set over a medium heat, add the water, ginger and turmeric paste, tea, and crushed spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for five minutes.

4. Add the milk and sweetener to taste. Turn the heat up to medium, and bring the mixture back to a boil. Remove from the heat and strain into a mug, to serve.

Turmeric Cream Soda
Photos: Patricia Niven

Turmeric cream soda

De Rujit's cream soda uses a fermented turmeric starter to "blow out all the cobwebs." The recipe takes several days but the result is an immunity-boosting, probiotic-rich, refreshing drink. "Its like an alternative to kombucha," says Rujit.

Makes 70 fl oz

To make the "bug"
7 oz piece of fresh turmeric root, unpeeled
3-5 Tbsp raw cane sugar
Filtered water

To make the soda
26 fl oz filtered water, plus about 28–32 fl oz to top up
1/2 vanilla pod
1-inch piece of fresh turmeric root, sliced
1 tsp crushed black peppercorns 
5 1/2 fl oz turmeric "bug"
5 1/2 fl oz fresh lime juice
1/4 cup raw cane sugar

1. Make the "bug" by chopping the unpeeled turmeric root up finely or mashing it in a pestle and mortar. Transfer to a container with the lid left slightly ajar and keep on your kitchen counter.

2. Take one tablespoon of the turmeric paste and add to a glass jar with one tablespoon of the sugar and three tablespoons of filtered water. Mix well, cover, and place in a warm spot, around 72°F is ideal.

3. Every day, add one tablespoon of turmeric paste, one tablespoon of sugar, and three tablespoons of filtered water to the mixture, mix well, and leave to stand again.

4. Repeat until the turmeric bug is nice and bubbly. It can take between three to five days. Once you have at least five-and-a-half fluid ounces or more of bubbling turmeric bug starter, then you can start to make your soda tonic.

5. Make turmeric tea. Fill a small saucepan with 26 fluid ounces of filtered water. Add the vanilla, turmeric, and pepper. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to simmer for ten minutes. This process extracts as much flavor from the ingredients as possible.

6. Allow the tea to cool completely, and pour it (without straining) into a sterilized mason jar. The boiled ingredients will continue to infuse. Stir in the turmeric bug, lime juice, and sugar. Then top up the rest of the mason jar with filtered water, leaving about two inches of head room at the top.

7. Cover with a cloth and rubber band and leave in a shady spot away from direct sunlight. Allow it to ferment for around three days. It should taste sweet and sour when ready.

8. Strain and pour into sterilized swing-top bottles. Leave the filled bottles in a shady spot, and let the natural yeasts get to work. Yeast releases CO2 gasses that will make your soda fizzy. An overly hot room will accelerate the fermentation process, so it’s worth putting your bottles into a cardboard box to contain potential explosions.

9. Check bottles daily for build up of fizz. Once they are fizzy (this should take two days), place them in the fridge, as they’re ready to drink.

Turmeric Pepper Milk
Photo: Patricia Niven

Turmeric pepper milk

In the winter when she wants to drink something warm and comforting, De Rujit makes this "upgraded version of a turmeric latte" that's meant to be nourishing and delicious. Based on an old Ayurvedic recipe for pepper milk, De Rujit's version is made with coconut milk to make it "a touch decadent."

Makes 1 Serving

1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
9 fl oz pure coconut milk
3 fl oz filtered water
1 Tbsp grated fresh turmeric root or 1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp grated fresh ginger root
2 tsp coconut blossom nectar
Pinch of sea salt

1. In a frying pan over a medium heat, dry-toast the black peppercorns until they become aromatic. Crush them in a black pepper grinder or a pestle and mortar.

2. In a small saucepan, bring the coconut milk and water to a light simmer, then add the turmeric, ginger, coconut blossom nectar, and salt. Continue to simmer, stirring, for about five minutes, until well infused.

3. Filter the tonic through a fine mesh sieve. Add the crushed black pepper to the mixture and it’s ready to serve.

Recipes excerpted with permission from Tonic by Tanita de Ruijt, published by Hardie Grant Books January 2018.

Pair your delish turmeric tonics with these anti-inflammatory lemon bars or these oatmeal banana cookies.

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