Ratan Jot (Alkanet) a traditional Ingredient in Kashmiri Rogan Josh

A quick tutorial on how to extract colour from ratan jot (alkanet root), a natural red dye that is traditionally used as a food colouring in Indian recipes such as Kashmiri Rogan Josh and Tandoori chicken.
Ratan jot bark and red oil
Ratan Jot (Alkanet)

Ratan Jot, the root of Alkanna tinctoria, is a natural red dye that was traditionally used as a food colouring in Indian recipes such as Kashmiri Rogan Josh and Tandoori chicken.

Now if you are a fan of Indian and Pakistani food, you will be familiar with both these dishes and their signature red colour. Sadly, these days, artificial food colours have replaced ratan jot in tandoori chicken and the traditional Kashmiri rogan josh has been butchered with the use of tomatoes. All in the name of the colour red.

A plant with many names

Alkanna tinctoria is a perennial herbaceous plant belonging to the borage family. It has small, blue, trumpet like flowers.

Ratan Jot is also called alkanet, but rather confusingly, is not the same as the British Common Alkanet (Alkanna Officialis) or the Evergreen Alkanet (Alkanna Sempevirens).

Our alkanet is also known as Dyer’s bugloss, Spanish Bugloss and Languedoc Bugloss, the latter two, give you an idea of where it is also grown.

It is the root of the A tinctoria, or Ratan Jot, that gives us the prized deep red colour. Besides Indian cooking, it is also used by the cosmetics industry as well as the art and furniture industries.

As you can see in the images, the root is quite big, and has layers of brittle, almost paper-like coverings. All of it can be used.

How to use Ratan Jot

Interestingly, Ratan Jot is not soluble in water. However, luckily for us, it is soluble in oil, alcohol and ether. So for cooking purposes, all you need to do, is heat it up in a little oil, ghee or butter, then strain it with a metal strainer, before using. Discard the used ratan jot. Now you can add the red oil/fat to whatever dish you want to.

If I’m finishing a curry with it, I use it with other spices like fennel, cumin and aromatics. So in this instance, I tie it up in some muslin, then heat it up in a small frying pan, along with whatever else I’m using. Then all I do, is lose the muslin and pour all the red, aromatic oil over the curry, to finish.

You’ll see me doing this in the Kashmiri Rogan Josh recipe and video, coming soon.

Ratan jot bark and red oil
Amazingly deep red colour

Alkanet’s Medicinal Qualities

Ratan Jot is reportedly full of medicinal qualities. It is antibacterial, antipruritic and an astringent, and has been used to treat a number of ailments going back hundreds of years.

It helps old ulcers, hot inflammations, burnings by common fire and St. Anthony’s fire … for these uses your best way is to make it into an ointment also if you make a vinegar of it … it helps the morphy and leprosy … it helps the yellow jaundice, spleen, and gravel in the kidneys. Dioscorides saith, it helps such as are bitten by venomous beasts, whether it be taken inwardly or applied to the wound, nay, he saith further, if any that hath newly eaten it do but spit into the mouth of a serpent, the serpent instantly dies … It also kills worms. Its decoction made in wine and drank, strengthens the back, and easeth the pains thereof. It helps bruises and falls, and is as gallant a remedy to drive out the smallpox and measles as any is; an ointment made of it is excellent for green wounds, pricks or thrusts.

Culpepper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician, published 1653
  • Nicholas Culpeper was a seventeenth-century English botanist, herbalist, physician, and astrologer.
  • Pedanius Dioscorides was a Greek physician and pharmacologist (AD 40 – AD 90).

In the modern world, ratan jot:

  • has the potential to fight cancer cells
  • contains anti aging properties
  • is able to ease diarrhoea
  • is also used to treat ulcers and varicose veins

Where to buy Ratan Jot?

Online! You should be able to find it at health food stores, but most likely, the online ones.

Besides that, you know that Amazon sells Alkanet Root, don’t you?

Alright then, ready to stretch your culinary muscles with my latest offering? Get it in your pantry and we’ll cook up some authentic Kashmiri Rogan Josh very, very soon!

♥ If you found the article useful, don’t forget to leave me a comment and that all important, 5-star rating! 😉 Thank you! ♥

And if you buy ratan jot or use it, share an image on any platform and tag me @azlinbloor, and hashtag it #linsfood

Lin xx

Ratan jot bark and red oil

How to use Ratan Jot

A quick tutorial on how to extract colour from ratan jot (alkanet root), a natural red dye that is traditionally used as a food colouring in Indian recipes such as Kashmiri Rogan Josh and Tandoori chicken.
5 from 14 votes
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Course: Ingredients
Cuisine: Indian and Pakistani
Keyword: alkanet, kashmiri, ratan jot, spices
Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 4 minutes
Author: Azlin Bloor

Equipment

  • small frying pan
  • sieve

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp ratan jot this is a rough amount, increase or decrease as your recipe requires.
  • 2 Tbsp ghee (or any oil or butter) Add an extra Tbsp if using muslin.

Instructions

Frying in Ghee/Oil

  • Heat the ghee in the frying pan over medium heat.
  • Tip in the ratan jot, stir, then lower the heat right down. Fry the ratan jot for 2 minutes.
  • Strain the red oil through a metal sieve, discarding the ratan jot. Use the red coloured oil as your recipe requires. (Plastic sieves/strainers will melt in the hot oil).

Using a Muslin (when using as a final garnish with other spices)

  • Tie your ratan jot bark pieces in a muslin.
  • Heat the ghee in the frying pan over medium heat.
  • Drop the muslin in the ghee and leave to heat up, along with any other spices and aromatics you may be using. Fry for 2 minutes, then lift the muslin pouch up and set aside. Your muslin will soak up the oil, which is why we are using an extra tablespoon.
  • Drizzle the red, aromatic oil all over your dish.

Notes

You don’t have to throw your muslin away. Just get rid of the ratan jot, wash your muslin in hot water with a little washing up liquid. Then rinse and dry, ready to reuse. 
Discover more Ingredients!Check out The Ingredients Page

8 thoughts on “Ratan Jot (Alkanet) a traditional Ingredient in Kashmiri Rogan Josh”

    1. Hi Geeth, yes, you can. Ratan jot doesn’t really have a flavour or smell, so it’s perfectly fine in sweets. My advice is not to use too much of it though, as I’ve noticed just a little bitterness if used too much.

  1. 5 stars
    Awesome post! I got my hands on some ratan jot, via Amazon as you suggested. Now looking forward to the recipes!

  2. Selina Osman

    5 stars
    Ok, I’m all set! Found this at Serangoon rd, all ready to cook rogan josh with you. Come on, chop, chop, lol!

  3. Maggie Tutton

    5 stars
    Amazing, as usual you’re a goldmine of information. Thanks Azlin. Going to order some in to cook your rogan josh.

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