From the array of spices on offer, one of the lesser-known ones is Nigella seeds. They are not very aromatic and have a slight savoury scent. These are popularly known as onion seeds owing to their toasted onion flavour and slight bitterness. Nigella seeds originate from the Mediterranean region but, are cultivated across southern Asia, North Africa, southern Europe, and the Middle East.
The fruit of the Nigella plant looks like a large capsule and contains small pear-shaped white seeds that when exposed to air, turn black. When the fruit matures, these capsules are gathered, dried and gently crushed in order to collect the seeds. Nigella seeds resemble sesame seeds except in terms of flavour as the former is not sweet.
There are different ways in which you can incorporate this savoury spice into your daily cooking. Some options are listed here:
Flavour Curries & Lentils:
These seeds are frequently used in Middle Eastern, Indian, and North African cuisines. The most common way to use them is in preparing curries and lentil dishes. These seeds have a bitter yet tangy flavour and adding them to curries and lentils enhances the overall flavour of the dish.
You can use these seeds in any type of curry. The best part is that despite its strong flavour it never intervenes with the flavour and taste of other spices used in curry preparation. It only enhances the taste.
Popularly used in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines, Nigella seeds pair well with all types of lentils.
Enhance the Taste of Vegetables:
Another way to use nigella seeds in cooking is by pairing them with root vegetable dishes. Everyday root vegetables like butternut squash are completely transformed for the better with a hint of Nigella. They leave behind a good aftertaste once consumed and give the much-required kick to otherwise bland vegetables.
Incorporate Into Spice Mixes:
These seeds combine well with other spices like mustard, cumin, and fenugreek to form an intoxicating spice mixture in powder form. Such spice mixes when added to both, vegetarian and non-vegetarian recipes, add depths of flavour to the entire dish.
One popular way to use nigella seeds in cooking is in a Bengal spice known as paanchporan. The seeds are used along with other spices such as mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek, and fennel seeds. The seeds are mixed with all these spices and then added to various recipes from Bengali cuisine in order to give them a distinguished and enhanced flavour.
Sprinkle as a Garnish:
If you love eating salads and are always looking out for ways to give them a unique flavour then one amazing way is to garnish your salad recipes with Nigella seeds. Many times, seeds of Nigella are used as a garnish by liberally sprinkling them over once the dish is ready to be served.
They add that welcome crunch when added to salads. Even while preparing stir-fries they can be easily incorporated for that extra texture. Such characteristics ensure that when they are paired with your end dish, the outcome is awesome and more delectable.
Nigella Seeds Seasoned Over Naan/Bread:
Nigella seeds have a strong taste and aroma that have notes similar to oregano, onion, and black pepper. For this reason, these seeds are great to season over Indian bread. Indian Naan and other types of bread can be seasoned with nigella seeds to give them an extra crunch. The good thing is that using these seeds alone can give your bread a beautiful look as well.
Preserve and Relish:
Nigella is sometimes added to pickles as they play the role of a preservative. Pickles mature with age and are an accompaniment to the main meal, are eaten in moderation. Therefore, they require a longer shelf life.
This wonder seed also has health benefits. With its antioxidant properties, Nigella seeds soothe sore throats, skin-related inflammations and when mixed with ginger, helps get rid of that nagging purging sensation. In India, they are popularly referred to as ‘Kalounji’ while in the United States; they are known as ‘Charnushka’.
Add this zing to your everyday cooking and take it up many notches.