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Also Known as
Comino, Jeera , Zeera, Seeragam
Cumin seeds belong to the parsley and dill family and resemble caraway seeds, though they have a unique flavour that does not match any of these.
The oblong, brown-coloured cumin seed is one of the most popular spices in the world, thanks to its distinctive aroma, and warmly bitter flavour. It can be used raw, but is generally roasted to enhance the flavour and aroma, and sometimes also powdered before use.
This ancient spice is popular in the cuisines of India, Mexico, North Africa, Western China and the Middle East.
Cumin seeds powder
Dry roast the cumin seeds till you notice a strong aroma. Cool down completely and grind to a fine powder. Alternatively, use a mortar pestle to do the same. Always store the powder in a dry and air-tight container. Cumin powder is widely used in preparing curry powders. It is also used to make chhaas (buttermilk), kadhi, salads and subzis.
Roasted and crushed cumin seeds
Dry roast the cumin seeds till they release a strong aroma. Cool down slightly, place in a clean dry plastic sheet and crush the seeds using a rolling pin into a coarse powder. Always store the powder in a dry, air-tight container. Roasted and crushed cumin seeds may be used as a seasoning for buttermilk, salads, raitas, soups, etc.
How to select
• Whole cumin seeds are easily available in the market, in packaged form and in bulk bins.
• Always select organically grown dried cumin seeds.
• Ensure that the seeds are not broken, and have a fresh and crisp texture.
• If buying packaged, check the date of packing to choose a fresh lot.
• If buying from bulk bins, make sure it was stored covered to avoid contamination and loss of aroma.
• In whole or ground form, cumin is a preferred seasoning as it brings out the natural flavour of foods.
• Whole cumin can be toasted or fried before use to enhance the flavour.
• Cumin is widely used to flavour stews, soups and vegetables.
• It is an indispensable ingredient in the famous Jeera Rice. To prepare this simple dish, heat some butter, roast the cumin seeds, add washed rice and fry for some time, add water and cook till the rice is done.
• Dal is tempered with cumin seeds to give it a warm and comforting flavour.
• Cumin is commonly used to temper many other legume and tandoori preparations, to enhance the flavour and aroma.
• Cumin seeds are a part of the Bengali spice mixture Panch Phoron, made of nigella seeds, black mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds and cumin. This Bengali five-spice mix is used to prepare dishes like potato curry, pan-roasted potatoes, spinach, and many others.
• A combination of roasted and crushed cumin and coriander seeds has a distinct flavour that is used often in Indian and Sri Lankan preparations.
• Together with black peppercorns and coriander seeds, cumin is used to prepare the popular south Indian Rasam.
• Cumin used in some Dutch cheeses like Leyden cheese, and in traditional breads from France.
• Cumin added with caraway flavours Kummel, the famous German liquor.
• Roasted cumin seeds powder is added to buttermilk to aid digestion and enhance flavour.
How to store:
• Cumin seeds and cumin seeds powder should be kept in tightly-sealed glass containers in a cool, dark and dry place.
• Ground cumin will keep fresh for about six months, while the whole seeds will stay fresh for about one year.
• It aids in increasing lactation.
• As it reduces nausea in pregnancy, it can be a good solution for morning sickness.
• Cumin stimulates the appetite.
• It can help boost the liver's ability to detoxify the body.
• It may help relieve symptoms of cold due to its antiseptic properties.
• Cumin can help increase body heat, thus improving metabolism.
• It is used as a stimulant and an antispasmodic, and is also said to relieve nausea and diarrhoea.
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