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There are not many Indian Dishes made without Cumin Seeds. Cumin seeds are the unsung heroes when it comes to Indian cooking and Indian food.
They are the dried seeds of the plant, Cuminum cyminum belonging to the parsley family. It is considered the second most popular spice after black peppercorn and is used extensively in Mediterranean, Latin American, Middle Eastern, North African and Indian cuisine.
These little perky pearls of the culinary world help to instantaneously lift the flavours of any dish including drinks.
Flavour Profile of Spice
Cumin seeds is a warming spice with a nutty, pungent flavour. It has a very earthy aroma and rich in volatile oils that get released when roasted lightly on direct heat or in oil.
Cumin seeds can be used to make many dishes such as stew, soup, Indian curry, stir-fries, rice and almost any dish you can think of.
The Uses of Cumin Seeds
Cumin seeds is used whole in many Indian and other cuisines as the first step to add flavour to oil. Cumin seeds is tempered in warm oil at the very beginning of the cooking process. Other whole spices may be added to it or it can be used as a single spice too.
You can also dry roast cumin seeds and use it as a seasoning for drinks, salads, stews, and soups or grind them into powder.
Cumin Seeds VS Cumin Powder
While cumin seed is a whole spice, cumin powder is cumin seeds grounded into a powder form. Although similar in flavour, cumin powder is sweeter and more intense than its seedy cousin. Therefore one should not assume that both serve the same purpose.
While cumin seeds are used mostly at the beginning cooking step or at the very end, cumin powder can be added directly into the dish midway through the cooking process.
Benefits of Cumin Seeds
Rich in Iron – Cumin seeds are rich in Iron and Manganese which helps to maintain good bone and muscle structure by improving calcium absorption.
Aids digestion – Chewing on cumin seeds or drinking warm water boiled with cumin seeds helps relieve indigestion, flatulence, and nausea.
Spice Buying Guide
Buy cumin seeds that are dark brown in colour and in small packs if you do not intend to use them often.
Ensure that the packs or jars are tightly sealed.
Opt for buying whole cumin seeds instead of cumin powder and make your own cumin powder at home.
How to Store Cumin Seeds
Cumin seeds should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a dark, dry place away from direct sunlight.
Well stored cumin seeds will keep its character and flavour for almost a year.
Best Food and Spice matching
Cumin seeds are a very flexible spice and go well with any food item and mostly all spices.
Best food pairing: beans, cauliflower, chicken, curry, couscous, eggplant, fish, lamb, lentils, meat, peas, potatoes, rice, soups, stews
Best spice pairing: asafoetida, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seeds, dry chilies, Fennel seeds, mustard seeds
Spice Substitute for Cumin Seeds
The flavour of cumin seeds is very distinctive and one that is difficult to replicate. Therefore there isn’t any suitable best substitute for them. However, if you must then the following spices can be used as an alternative to cumin seeds.
Caraway seeds, fennel seeds, nigella seeds, cumin powder, coriander seeds (lightly crushed)
Easy Recipes with Cumin Seeds to Try
Your Views and Recipes
Please do leave your comment if you think I may have missed out on something.
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