red food dye? I don’t think so

He was scampering that was for sure. Up and down the hall with an obvious focus to those little feet. He caught me watching him and seemed to push away the raised eyebrow look and what are you up to question on my lips. I couldn’t hear anything that I shouldn’t be and he really was quite busy. So I left him to it. Back and forth, back and forth. Scurrying like a little bug, taking huge bundles 4 times his body size and wrangling it to his chosen destination.

Little Monkey was building a castle. He called out, declaring he was ready now, and in I went to inspect the wall building. Foundations looked a little shonky, brick work was a little sloppy, but there he was sitting on top of his castle, pleased as a 3 year old would be…sitting on top of his castle. Every cushion, pillow, blanket, soft anything had been dragged in and utilised. Just perfect for a mama to make a flying leap on to….

Now if you are the kind of person that likes looking into what you are eating or what your kids maybe eating, you may have looked up red food dye before. You may have also heard, that just like my little cushion carrying bug of a son, red food dye can be made from a certain bug… Or it could also be made from a coal tar derivative. Either way, these days I don’t particularly want to ingest anything that is fire engine red unless there is a really good reason to.

So with that in mind I was mighty annoyed to get a jar of tandoori paste home a while back. Only to find out, that one of the main ingredients was red food dye!

Not a tomato ingredient in there. All that lovely red was thanks to some good old red food dye. I was annoyed, as I would never normally buy a jar like this but was feeling generous as I had been at some great farmers markets and was seduced by all the lovely food stuffs around me… the seduction however, had not carried over to the tandoori paste I had just bought home.

Surely I could make something that wouldn’t give me the heebie-jeebies just looking at the colour?

Let’s give it a crack…

Tandoori Paste

In a pan add

a couple of slurps of vegetable oil

diced onion, knob of ginger, and a couple of cloves of garlic

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp yellow mustard seeds

2 tbls tomato paste

salt to taste

chilli to taste

fry it all off for a couple of minutes, until fragrant. Then whizz to a smooth paste with a hand held mixer.


Now authentic? Perhaps not, but I think a whole more so than a jar full of red food dye, and salt.

 I cooked this up with the obligatory chicken and yogurt dish, but I also had some left over and sourdough on the go. So Tandoori Flat Bread it was.

Just the thing to go and snack on while sitting on top of a castle.


40 thoughts on “red food dye? I don’t think so

  1. I like your recipe with the tomato paste !
    AND the Tandoori Flat Bread looks divine.
    I would eat it in a castle –
    I would eat it sitting on top.
    Eating it wouldn’t me a hassle,
    My only problem-
    When to stop?
    Yummy bread and industrious little monkeys make me happy! 🙂


  2. i won’t buy tandoori paste for that very reason too..i have a reputation with a friend for being a purist and one day she looked at me as if i was from an alien planet when i asked her what the ‘simmer sauce’ was that she had been talking about..

    your tandoori paste looks really good though and perfect on the bread..i love indian food but i don’t make it very often because it’s not intuitive for me..and it’s not intuitive because i don’t make it often only one solution there eh?..:)


    • Dive in to Indian cooking I say Jane! I’d be lost without all those spices that are used. I had some south american food recently- oh so bland, where were the spices!?
      And hey, nothing wrong with being a purist 😉


  3. Yes I remember your annoyance at the tandoori paste purchase – and the war rages on. Good work Brydie – that flatbread looks particularly good. I think I get stuck on the sourdough trail of only makng white, wholemeal or fruit loaves and forgetting to diversify and you’re offering up a yummy alternative there!


  4. Fabulous blog, refreshing and fun.
    It is insidious they way these chemicals are in everything we eat, put on our skin, breath in and more.
    And they don’t have to prove they’re safe either.
    One has to be so careful to avoid the poisons, but I think it is possible for the most part.


  5. I get quite frustrated sometimes at the ingredients added to products that don’t actually need them. It’s pesty to have to rememeber to check labels on everything one buys! It is also a little scary to think how easy it would be to consume a lot of not very nice things.

    Your version is clearly much better, and sounds like it would provide perfect fuel for that castle building. And fuel for recovering in or on the castle 🙂


  6. That’s pretty disappointing from a farmers market. I’ve been reading some reviews of a market that has just started in the road where I used to live in London. Someone bought sausages and didn’t realise until they got home that they contained MSG. I don’t think it should really be allowed at a ‘farmers’ market….


  7. Pharmiceutical companies have to do human trials before they can put a medicine, chemical or ingrediant out there for people to use. They have to prove it is safe.
    But when it comes to everything else, we have to prove it is harmful.
    We need some heavy lobbying of governments to turn this around. It is only this way because chemical companies are in the ears of politicians.


  8. Well done you, Brydie! I do try to make my own Tandoori paste usually or I buy it from an Indian restaurant here, but I’ve never thought to check the contents. I’ll have to keep an eye out now.


  9. Where I used to live I backed onto an Indian resto. We were quite good friends. They changed their entire cooking policy about four summers ago and used no food colourings in their foods, gone were the livid reds and oranges and a whole more delicate and perfumed palette of colours appeared. Made me very happy. I have the same thing about that Chinese duck hanging in the windows, so very red…. But what I really wanted to say was, I want to build a castle and invite everyone up top to have tea or cake or fabulous bread, sounds like the bestest place in the world to be 😀


    • Good to hear the restaurant changed their colours. Those subtle colours that are created with regular spices is just as wonderful and pleasing to the eye.

      (I think the world slows down just a little when you are sitting on top of a castle.)


  10. A good post and a timely reminder about checking labels. I really wish though we didn’t have to this …oh to have a time when food is food and not a concoction of colours and fillers that trick us into eating it.
    Love your recipe and the ‘real’ colour!!


    • Unfortunately, I think it’s a reality for eating these days. If you care about whats going in to your body, and trying to make ethical choices- you have to read those labels and decipher what exactly is in there…I just wish I had done it before I had bought the jar.


  11. I love how you describe your son’s castle. Brings back so many great memories! Good for you giving up red food dye, your recipe sounds so much nicer. I’m not sure what to do with Red Velvet Cake though? I think I’ve heard about beet juice being the substitute but wondered if you’ve any suggestions?


    • I’ve not had had Red Velvet Cake before, but I know the colour you mean. I have done a a chocolate beetroot cake before and it does a give a bit of a colour. You could also try (if you have them available) the purple carrots cooking water as a dye…maybe?? It’s not red I know, I’ll have a think though and get back to you if I think of anything else though.
      (My purple carrot bread is a couple of posts back if you want to see what sort of colour it produces.)


  12. I hope it’s ok that I reblogged this. Was very disappointed to find the red food coloring in the tandoori paste right when I was making dinner tonight.


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