Showing posts with label ingredients. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ingredients. Show all posts

Jun 25, 2018

Ingredients: Chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,

Chickpeas are the little legume with a lot of names! Variously called garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, or Bengal gram - these versatile beans are a great source of protein and are a staple of diets worldwide.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,

Chickpeas have an important place in world history as one of the very first legumes domesticated as a Neolithic founder crop. They are thought to have originated in ancient Anatolia, Syria, and Iran. The earliest archaeological chickpea remains date back to around 7000 BC. Chickpeas were introduced to the Mediterranean Basin, Africa, and the Indian subcontinent sometime before 2000 BC. The edible legumes were first popular amongst the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, and were eventually were brought to the New World by Spanish explorers. Any staple food that has been around for 9,000 years and traveled worldwide is bound to have a lot of names. Indeed, the humble chickpea is known asl chana dal, chole, cholay, or chhola boot in India alone. In Italy chickpeas are called cece, in English they can also be called Bengal gram, in German Kichererbse, in French pois chiche, in Dutch kikkererwt, in Turkish nohut, and in Arabic hummus. The Spanish word for chickpeas is garbanzo and is commonly used in regions of the United States with a Mexican or Spanish influence.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,
L to R: Larger Kabuli-type chickpeas and darker, smaller Desi-type chickpeas
Chickpeas belong to the family Fabaceae and Cicer arietinum is the only cultivar among the 43 species of the Cicer genus. The two main varieties of chickpeas are the larger round light-colored Kabuli-type commonly found in western countries, and the smaller dark irregularly shaped Desi-type more often used in India and the Middle East. ("Desi" means local in Hindi.) The Kabuli-type chickpeas contain less fiber and cook faster than the Desi-type. Desi-types can be smooth or wrinkled, and retain a firmer texture after cooking. Desi-type chickpeas differ quite widely in coloration and occur in black, green, brown, or even speckled varieties. I'd never seen nor tasted the smaller, darker Desi-type chickpeas before I lived in Nepal. I can definitely understand the South Asian preference for the chewier Desi-type chickpeas as vegetarian diets can be a bit boring as far as texture goes.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,
Desi-type chickpea flower (Cicer arietinum)
Desi-type chickpeas are bushy plants with relatively small leaflets and flowers. They have  purplish anthocyanin pigments in their stems and blue-violet flowers, and are primarily grown in South Asia, Iran, and Ethiopia.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,
Kabuli-type chickpea flower (Cicer arietinum)
Kabuli-type chickpeas have erect growth and white flowers. They are primarily grown in the Mediterranean region, Southern Europe, and Northern Africa. Kabuli means "from Kabul" in Hindi and Urdu, this variety is thought to have come from Kabul, Afghanistan when introduced to India in the 18th century.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,

The plant quickly grows to 8–20 inches (20–50 cm) high and has small, feathery leaves on either side of the stem. It has a deep taproot, going down to 6 feet or 2 meters, and many lateral secondary roots extending into the upper layers of the soil. Chickpeas are a cool-season legume that can withstand hot temperatures during fruiting and ripening. The plant prefers well-aerated sandy to sandy loam soils and black cotton soils with a pH ranging from 5 to 7, or even higher. Soils containing high salt or clay are detrimental to the plant. Chickpeas are well adapted to tropical climates with moderate temperatures. They can be successfully cultivated under irrigation in the cool, dry seasons of many tropical countries. The legume is tolerant of drought but does not withstand high heat and humidity. Rainstorms during flowering, such as in the Monsoon season, may harm the resulting crop.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,

Chickpeas are a type of pulse, with one seedpod containing two or three peas. Pods are harvested 90-120 days or 130-180 days from sowing, generally when they turn yellow. The harvested plants are dried on the ground and the seeds are separated from the chaff by threshing and winnowing. Chickpeas are green in color when freshly picked and then dry to cream, brown, speckled, or black.


chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,
A chickpea field in Israel
As with most ancient cultivars, chickpeas are a multi-use plant. The by-products of chickpea cultivation and processing are used for animal feed such as the bran (known as chuni in India), and other crop residuals such as straw and hay. The straw and dried roots of chickpea can be also used as fuel for cooking. Chickpea starch is suitable for textile sizing and in the manufacture of plywood. The leaves are also edible, yield an indigo-like dye, and have uses in traditional medicine. The chickpea is a nitrogen-fixing legume often used to restore soil fertility before cereal or oilseed crops. It can be used as disease cycle breaker and helps to reduce pesticide and herbicide usage.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,
Fresh green chickpeas for sale
The main chickpea producers of the world are India, Australia, Pakistan, Turkey, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Iran, the United States, and Canada. In 2016, world production of chickpeas was 12.1 million tonnes, led by India with 64% of the global total. Chickpeas are a major crop in the Terai lowlands of Nepal, either by themselves or as an intercrop with maize or rice. Chickpeas are the primary protein source for nearly 2 million Nepalis residing in this southernmost region.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,

A one cup serving of boiled chickpeas has 270 calories, 45 grams of carbohydrate, 4 grams of fat, 15 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber. That same one cup serving also meets 70 percent of the daily recommended intake for folate for an adult and 26 percent of the daily intake of iron. Chickpeas are also a good source of a number of other minerals including manganese, magnesium, zinc, and copper, as well other B-vitamins, including thiamine and vitamin B-6. Nutrition-wise, cooked and canned chickpeas are about the same. Unfortunately, the sodium content of canned chickpeas can be 100 times that of cooked. Draining and rinsing tinned chickpeas can get rid of about half the sodium, but you’re also draining and rinsing away some of the nutrition. When buying canned chickpeas get the no-salt-added or low sodium varieties. Keep and use the tinned chickpea juice as a vegan egg substitute called aquafaba in your baking and confection making!

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,
Clockwise from the bottom left: Egyptian hummus with olive oil, Gujarati Dhokla, Guatemalan Garbanzos en Dulce (chickpeas in sweet syrup),  & Farinata di Ceci, a traditional Italian crepe-like chickpea snack food.
There are so many goodies you can make with chickpeas! Amazing dishes both sweet and savory are made from chickpeas worldwide. The Middle-Eastern dip called hummus is probably the most familiar chickpea dish for most Westerners. The Gujuratis make a delicious savory snack out of steamed chickpea flour called dhokla. In Latin American countries a dessert is made of chickpeas simmered in a heavy sweet syrup spiced with cinnamon called Garbanzoes de Dulce.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,

My favorite way to eat chickpeas is the famed Punjabi dish called Chole Bhatura. It's a combination of chickpeas simmered in a spicy sauce served with bhatura, a fluffy fried bread made of wheat flour. This is a typical breakfast or street food served in Punjab and around Delhi accompanied by a lassi. Some of my favorite cholr recipes are Sindhi-Style Chole, Chikar Chole, and Chole Masala.


chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,

Flour made from ground chickpeas is called besan or gram flour in South Asia. Besan can be made from either raw or roasted chickpeas. The roasted variety is more flavorful, while the raw variety has a slightly bitter taste. Besan is gluten-free and has more protein than wheat flour. It can be used like wheat flour to thicken gravies or stews but beware that it expands when cooked and has a bit of a nutty flavor. I'd advise storing it in an airtight container in the refrigerator as it has a tendency to go off in warm weather.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,
From the bottom left going clockwise: Rajasthani Mathri, Besan Laddoos, Sev, Besan Barfi.
Besan is used in a wide variety of Indian sweets and dishes of various textures and tastes. Some examples are: Sev (tiny crispy noodles), boondi (tiny sweet fritters), pakora (vegatable fritters), barfi (a fudge-like sweet), mathri (a fried pastry), laddoos (ball shaped sweets), papadums (thin crispy crackers), and the classic Indian sweet soan papdi (a flaky crispy sweet).

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,
Fried and fresh to hpu 
The Burmese make a sort of polenta out of chickpea flour which is called to hpu. Although to hpu translates to tofu it is made much like Italian polenta. Chickpea flour is mixed with water, turmeric, and a little salt and then heated, while stirring constantly, until it reaches a creamy consistency. The mixture is then transferred into a tray and allowed to set. The to hpu is not fermented like soy tofu. It is then cut into cubes or thin slices and may be eaten fresh in a salad or deep fried. It may also be sliced thinly and dried to make crackers that are crispy when deep fried. I've tasted to hpu and it is delicious! I wish we could get it here in Nepal.


Be forwarned: often you will see yellow split peas mislabeled as "chana dal." Desi-type chickpeas or kala chana are also sold hulled and split and are correctly labelled "chana dal." It is really hard to tell the difference between split yellow peas and split, hulled black or brown chickpeas without a magnifying glass. They are about the same size, yellow, and dimpled on one side. Desi-type chickpeas are slightly oblong and flattened compared to globular yellow peas though. Yellow split peas should be correctly labelled "mattar dal" as mattar means peas. Luckily, the cooking times for split yellow peas and split, hulled Desi-type chickpeas is about the same so they can be used interchangeably. The flavor is slightly different with chickpeas having more of a nutty flavor than yellow peas.

chickpeas, garbanzo beans, chana dal, cece, chole, cholay, Kabuli chana, Desi chana, Bengal gram, ingredients, all about, information,
Chole Masala (curried chickpeas recipe)
So what's not to love about chickpeas? Second to the soybean, the chickpea is the next most widely grown and eaten bean in the world. It’s no wonder considering their versatility, palatable flavor, eco-friendly cultivation, and numerous nutritional benefits!

What's your favorite way to enjoy chickpeas?
(Tell me in the comments)
Calmly currying on,
Bibi

Sep 25, 2017

Ingredients: Indian Gooseberry, Amla, Amalika, Emblic, Myrobalan

Indian Gooseberry, Amla, Amalika, Emblic, Myrobalan, ingredients, indian, gooseberry, Phyllanthus emblica, fruit,mirobala

The Indian gooseberry, emblic, amalaki, myrobalan, or amla is the fruit of a small to medium-sized tree native to India. The spherical berries are greenish yellow with a fibrous texture. Hand harvested in Autumn, the fruit has a tart, bitter, and astringent taste. The amla tree is considered sacred in Hinduism and is a a staple of traditional Ayurvedic medicine.


Indian Gooseberry, Amla, Amalika, Emblic, Myrobalan, ingredients, indian, gooseberry, Phyllanthus emblica, fruit,mirobala

The amla tree or Phyllanthus emblica grows from 1 to 8 meters (pictured below) in height. It can be found on the plains and sub-mountainous regions of the Indian subcontinent up to nearly 2000 meters above sea level. Its varied natural habitat spans from Burma to Afghanistan and from the Deccan plateau in south India to the foothills of the Himalayas.

Indian Gooseberry, Amla, Amalika, Emblic, Myrobalan, ingredients, indian, gooseberry, Phyllanthus emblica, fruit,mirobala

The Indian gooseberry tree has smooth, gray-brown bark. The leaves are fern-like, oblong, narrow, and up to 2 cm in length much like a tamarind tree. The flowers are inconspicuous and light green in color. An amla tree takes around 5 years to start producing fruit when propagated from seed. It also requires a well-drained loamy soil and full sun exposure. The Indian gooseberry is a deciduous tree that often drops branchlets as well as individual leaves, but generally retains some of its greenery at all times. Amla cultivars are available such as "Chakaiya" or "Banarsi" which reportedly produce better and more prolific fruits than their wild cousins.

Indian Gooseberry, Amla, Amalika, Emblic, Myrobalan, ingredients, indian, gooseberry, Phyllanthus emblica, fruit,mirobala

Amla berries are preferably picked by hand after they turn from green to greenish yellow or greenish white in the Fall. It is recommended to check the seeds inside one berry before picking all of the berries. Seeds that have turned from white to black indicate the fruit is ripe.

Indian Gooseberry, Amla, Amalika, Emblic, Myrobalan, ingredients, indian, gooseberry, Phyllanthus emblica, fruit,mirobala

Amla is described in the ancient texts of Ayurveda as a peerless panacea. The fruit, seed, leaves, roots, bark, and flowers of the plant are used in various preparations in Ayurvedic and Unani healing. Amla not only balances all three doshas but purportedly cures everything from dandruff to diabetes! Most advertisements for therapeutic amla products attribute the fruit's benefits to it's rich content of vitamin C. The advertisements sometimes bizarrely claim vitamin C from amla is far more potent than ordinary vitamin C. Recently, it has been shown that amla does not contain any significant amount of vitamin C at all!

Indian Gooseberry, Amla, Amalika, Emblic, Myrobalan, ingredients, indian, gooseberry, Phyllanthus emblica, fruit,mirobala
β-glucogallin 
What does amla contain? A  mix of organic acids, common tannoids, and some unique tannins. One or more of these unique tannins was mistaken for vitamin C in the initial qualitative analysis conducted on amla more than 50 years ago. In 2014 a new HPLC method for the characterization and analysis of the various constituents of amla fruit was developed by the Sabinsa Corporation. This new spectral technique allowed a research team at Sabinsa Corporation to determine that β-glucogallin and mucic acid gallates are the predominant active molecules in amla rather than ascorbic acid (vitamin C).  This novel combination of  β-glucogallin and mucic acid gallates appears have high antioxidant activity and is much more stable than vitamin C (ascorbic acid). I was unaware that tannins had antioxidant properties. I hope these tannins do not cause bezoars, liver or kidney damage as some can.

Indian Gooseberry, Amla, Amalika, Emblic, Myrobalan, ingredients, indian, gooseberry, Phyllanthus emblica, fruit,mirobala
A happy and prosperous amla grower.
The popularity of amla for use in Ayurvedic remedies has led to problems for wild amla trees. Foragers often take a deleterious short-cut in collecting the fruits from wild trees. Instead of climbing the wild trees and carefully picking each fruit by hand they resort to lopping off large fruit-laden branches which can eventually kill the trees. As a result some areas have been virtually denuded of these valuable wild trees. Government and non-government agencies in India are undertaking efforts to educate foragers to avoid such destructive practices and encourage the development of commercial plantations of amla trees.

Indian Gooseberry, Amla, Amalika, Emblic, Myrobalan, ingredients, indian, gooseberry, Phyllanthus emblica, fruit,mirobala


The Indian gooseberry or amla is often confused with the common gooseberry for some reason. The common gooseberry is grown in cooler regions of Asia but is not related to the Indian gooseberry. The Indian gooseberry is similar in color to the amla fruit but contains a smooth pit, grows on a tree, is quite fibrous, and is about the same size as a golf ball.
Indian Gooseberry, Amla, Amalika, Emblic, Myrobalan, ingredients, indian, gooseberry, Phyllanthus emblica, fruit,mirobala
Common gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa
In contrast the common gooseberry is slightly larger than a grape, grows on a bush, has a multi-seeded core, and is much sweeter than an Indian gooseberry when ripe. Common gooseberries are belong to the genus Ribes and are closely related to currants.

Indian Gooseberry, Amla, Amalika, Emblic, Myrobalan, ingredients, indian, gooseberry, Phyllanthus emblica, fruit,mirobala

Amla fruits keep well on the tree, but they do not keep as well after they are picked. They must be used or preserved as soon as possible after harvesting. Amla berries are so tough they must be smashed on a mortar before being cut into pieces to dry!





Indian Gooseberry, Amla, Amalika, Emblic, Myrobalan, ingredients, indian, gooseberry, Phyllanthus emblica, fruit,mirobala


One of the most common ways to quickly preserve amla is to cut them into small pieces, mix them with salt and/or lime juice and allow them to sun dry. Dried amla can be used as a souring agent much like amchur in lentil preparations. 


Indian Gooseberry, Amla, Amalika, Emblic, Myrobalan, ingredients, indian, gooseberry, Phyllanthus emblica, fruit,mirobala

Amla can also be candied much like ginger. Even though the box says the candy is sweet be forewarned it is VERY sour. This is a good treat to buy and share with unsuspecting non-Indians - watch their faces when they take a bite of this!
Indian Gooseberry, Amla, Amalika, Emblic, Myrobalan, ingredients, indian, gooseberry, Phyllanthus emblica, fruit,mirobala
Amla berries can also be preserved in sugar syrup like jam or a traditional murabba. These are still quite tart!
Indian Gooseberry, Amla, Amalika, Emblic, Myrobalan, ingredients, indian, gooseberry, Phyllanthus emblica, fruit,mirobala
In some regions amla is commonly pickled with salt, oil, and spices to make achaar. The fiery spices and astrigent amla make for quite the hot and sour accompaniment to a meal. I was served these for breakfast one morning in Delhi alongside a paratha and a little yogurt. Oh my. Having never tasted amla before that was a puckery surprise!

So, I'm all ready to retire and plant an amla orchard! The Sheikh says no and shook his head. Well, darn. What a party pooper. 
Ever tried any amla or Indian gooseberry in any form or fashion?
Is it not the most sour thin you've ever tasted (verging on caustic)?

Calmly currying on,
Bibi

Apr 17, 2017

Ingredients: Radhuni, Ajmod, Wild Celery Seed


Radhuni, ajmod, or wild celery is a spice unique to the cuisine of Bengal. The dried fruits or seeds closely resemble ajwain, caraway, and celery seeds in both appearance and flavor. In Bengali cuisine the seeds are used whole and quickly fried in very hot oil to mellow their sharp taste. Radhuni is also used in the traditional Bengali five spice mixture called panch phoron.


The botanical names for the radhuni plant are Carum roxburghianum and Trachyspermum roxburghianum.  In Hindi the plant is called ajmod and in English it is also known as wild celery. The plant is a multi-branched flowering annual in the family Apiaceae and is related to ajwain and parsley.  It is grown extensively as a fresh herb in the South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia and reaches up to three feet in height. 


The fresh leaves of radhuni are used as an aromatic herb in Thailand and it is used medicinally in Myanmar. It is also known as kant-balu in Burmese, and phak chi lom in Thai. Young plants are harvested and consumed as s side salad or added to soup in Thailand, Viet Nam, and Myanmar. I've seen similar plants sold as a fresh herb here at markets in Nepal in the early Fall. I just thought they were lovage.


Radhuni is grown from seeds in small scale and multiple crops during rainy season. The plant or fresh herb looks like a cross between parsley, lovage, and celery. It prefers well drained soil that is calcium rich, a temperate climate, and partial sun.



The small dried fruits of the herb are commonly referred to as seeds. These seeds are utilized as the spice called radhuni in Bengali cuisine. They have a rather sharp, metallic parsley scent when raw. When fried in hot oil they mellow into a celery-like flavor. It is a very strong spice and more than couple of pinches can easily overpower a dish. After tempering the whole radhuni seeds are used to flavor pickles, chutneys, fish dishes, meat dishes, and dal.


The most common usage of radhuni in Bengali cuisine is in the famed five spice mixture called panch phoron. Panch means five and phoron means spice or flavor. The other ingredients in this blend are equal parts of cumin seed, fenugreek seed, fennel seed, and kalonji. Unlike most spice mixes, panch phoron is always used whole and never ground.


Panch phoron releases its aroma when the seeds are fried in hot oil or ghee. This tempering technique is called baghaar or chaunk and mellows the harsh flavors of the raw spices.  After tempering, other ingredients are added to the fried spices to be coated or infused with the mixture. Traditionally, panch phoron is used with vegetables, chicken or beef curry, fish, lentils, pickles, and a unique vegetable dish called shukto.


If you are unable to find radhuni where you're at a good substitute would be celery seed. Celery seed's grassy, savory, earthy, slightly bitter flavor is quite similar to radhuni. This only difference I can discern between celery seed and radhuni is a bit of a lemony note.

Calmly currying on,
Bibi

Feb 27, 2017

Ingredients: Cumin, Jeera, Zeera, Zira, Jira ko Geda, Zyur, Safed Jeera, Jeeragam, Jikaka

cumin, india, Indian, ingredients, jeera, jirako geda, safed jeera, spice, zeera, zira,

Cumin is one of those spices that is absolutely essential in stocking any spice cupboard. It's warm, earthy, and smoky flavor works especially well in combination with chilis, cinnamon, and coriander. Cumin is native to southwest Asia and has made its way into cuisines around the world through the spice trade. It's a hallmark flavor in North African, Indian, Latin American, Spanish, Portuguese, and Middle Eastern cuisines.

cumin, india, Indian, ingredients, jeera, jirako geda, safed jeera, spice, zeera, zira,

Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) was originally cultivated in the Mediterranean region and is a member of the parsley family. It is an annual herbaceous plant with slender, branched stems that grows to 8–12 inches tall. It's tiny white or pink flowers are borne in small compound umbels. The seeds come in paired or separate carpels and are 1/8-1/4 inches long bearing a striped pattern of nine ridges. The seeds do greatly resemble caraway seeds, but are lighter in color and have minute bristles barely visible to the naked eye.

cumin, india, Indian, ingredients, jeera, jirako geda, safed jeera, spice, zeera, zira,

Cumin is a drought-tolerant, tropical, or subtropical crop with a growth season of 100 to 120 days. The main producer and consumer of cumin is India. Cumin is sown in India from October until the beginning of December, and harvesting by hand starts in February. Sandy, loamy soils with good aeration, proper drainage, slightly alkaline pH, and high oxygen availability are necessary for the optimal growth of cumin. The plant tends to droop under its own weight and so is planted closely together for support.

cumin, india, Indian, ingredients, jeera, jirako geda, safed jeera, spice, zeera, zira,
Field of cumin in the Indian state of Gujarat
The main producer and consumer of cumin is India. Cumin is sown in India from October until the beginning of December and harvesting by hand starts in February. India produces 70% of the world supply of cumin and consumes 90% of that. That means that India consumes 63% of the world's cumin! In total, around 300,000 tons of cumin per year are produced worldwide.

cumin, india, Indian, ingredients, jeera, jirako geda, safed jeera, spice, zeera, zira,
Workers bagging cumin at the wholesale spice market in Delhi
Cumin is used predominantly in cuisines where highly spiced foods are preferred. In the Middle East it is a familiar spice used in fish dishes, grilled meats, stews, falafel, couscous, and the spice mix baharat. In Europe, cumin flavors Portuguese and Spanish sausages as well as Dutch Leyden cheese. Cumin is an essential spice in just about every savory Mexican dish from chile con carne to enchiladas

Leyden cheese from the Netherlands flavored with cumin seeds
Indian cooking utilizes many spice mixtures which contain cumin. North Indian cooking features a spice mixture called garam masala meaning "hot spices." Garam masalas vary in composition by regional preferences but most often combine earthy spices like cumin and fenugreek with aromatic spices like green cardamom and cloves. In southern India there is sambar podi, a mix of mostly cumin, coriander, roasted lentils, and aromatics used to flavor vegetarian dishes. In Southern Nepal, Bengal, Bangladesh and parts of North East India, there is a spice mix called panch phoron meaning "five spices" which consists of cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, and nigella seeds. Panch phoron is never ground and is used to flavor vegetable, fish, and meat dishes of those regions. 

cumin, india, Indian, ingredients, jeera, jirako geda, safed jeera, spice, zeera, zira,
Spice shop in Varanasi
Dry roasted cumin seeds are also used in refreshing drinks and cooling condiments in India. Jaljeera is a popular summer drink in India usually made with a blend of cumin, lime juice, mint, ginger, black pepper, and black salt. Jaljeera is purported to stimulate appetite and aid digestion and commercial mixes are widely available. A salted lassi is a traditional savory drink of chilled water blended with yogurt and oftentimes flavored with toasted cumin seeds. A raita is a dip made of yogurt with toasted cumin seeds and raw or cooked vegetables often served with spicy foods for it's cooling effect on the palate.

cumin, india, Indian, ingredients, jeera, jirako geda, safed jeera, spice, zeera, zira,

The earthy, warm, and smoky flavor of cumin is best showcased when used with restraint and cooked or dry roasted. Cumin is one of those spices that can quickly overpower an entire dish. Some hearty meat dishes can accommodate a full tablespoon but usually no more than a teaspoon is required for legumes and vegetables. Frying or dry roasting cumin mellows it's harsh raw flavor to a pleasant nutty earthiness. Ground cumin can­ not be toasted as it would char quickly. However, dry roasted cumin can be ground and used as a sea­soning and added just before serving. Almost every North Indian curry starts with spices being fried in ghee or oil. Ground cumin can be used but it must be added after the onions have been fried to prevent burning. Burnt cumin in ground or seed form has an unpleasant bitter flavor. There really isn't anything you can do to rescue a dish tainted with the bitterness of burnt cumin but to toss it and start over. 

cumin, india, Indian, ingredients, jeera, jirako geda, safed jeera, spice, zeera, zira,
Cumin or Safed Jeera seeds
Caraway seeds
An interesting aside:
I think I've found out why cumin, caraway, and black cumin are so often confused for each other.  The root of the English word cumin is from the Latin cuminum which is ultimately derived from Semitic origins. But many other European languages do not distinguish clearly between the cumin and caraway. In German the word for caraway is Kümmel while the name for cumin is Kreuzkümmel (literally "cross-caraway). This indicates that European cooks saw cumin as an exotic spice comparable to the native caraway. (Caraway's carrot-y dill flavor tastes nothing like cumin's earthy warmth to me but the plant and seeds do look similar.) Similarly in Swedish and Danish, caraway is kummin, while cumin is spiskummin. In Romanian cumin is called chimion turcesc or "Turkish caraway." In Hungarian cumin is egyiptomi kömény or "Egyptian caraway." Like most Mediterranean spices cumin seems to have been introduced to northern and eastern Europe around the 9th century by Charlemagne's Capitulare. The Capitulare de villis vel curtis imperii Caroli Magni was a complete list of administrative, legal, and agricultural rules for the new Frankish empire. Towards the end of the document is a complete list of culinary and medicinal herbs to be grown in imperial gardens. Apparently northern and eastern Europe never developed much of a taste for cumin yet it retained it's identity as an exotic variant of caraway. This probably explains why shahi jeera/black cumin is often confused with caraway also.

Black Cumin or Shahi Jeera seeds
Jeera is the Hindi word for cumin and is derived from the Sanskrit root jri meaning to digest. Related words for cumin are today found from the Caucasus to central and southeast Asia: Urdu = zeera, Farsi = zirah, Georgian = dzira, and Burmese = ziyah. In Hindi cumin is sometimes called safed jeera (literally white cumin)  in order to differentiate it from black cumin or shahi jeera.
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