What is Cumin?
Cumin is a very popular spice made from the dried seeds of a plant that belongs to the parsley family. This spice comes in 2 forms. Either as a whole seed or in a ground, powder form.
There are also 3 varieties of cumin being black, green and white, with the green cumin seeds being the most common type consumed.
What Does Cumin Taste Like?
Flavour: Cumin is incredibly pungent and aromatic with spicy and bitter notes. It has a robust flavour that exudes earthiness and warmth.
Texture: Cumin seeds are light brown. It is a boat-shaped seed and possesses nine raised ridges, and tapers off at the ends. This seed is not eaten on its own but used to flavour oils or ground into a powdered form and used as a spice in a myriad of cuisines.
History of Cumin
Cumin is an ancient spice. Originating from Egypt, they have been found in archaeological sites dating back over 4000 years ago. They have been found in pyramids and understood that the spice was used to help preserve the longevity of mummies.
The Greeks and Romans used cumin in a myriad of ways, too, both cosmetically and medicinally. They were popular for home remedies and even for religious ceremonies.
Over time, cumin made its way to many other parts of the world, the prevalence in North Africa, especially Morocco, the Middle East, China, South America, and the largest consumer of cumin today, India.
Whole or Ground Cumin?
Cumin seeds are more complex and intense in flavour than when they are ground. Grinding the seeds relinquishes its pungency, and if you’re after its flavours in all their glory, seeds are always better.
In Indian cuisine, cumin seeds are always tempered which means it is always fried in hot oil. This is the first step of the cooking process because it means the oil is now infused in those glorious flavours, which subsequently enhances a dish.
Should you wish to use cumin in the grounded form, it is recommended that you lightly toast the cumin seeds to release all their flavours and then grind them in a mortar and pestle.
You can imagine what a difference that would make when compared to buying it in a powdered form when all of its compounds have evaporated.
The shape and size of cumin seeds resemble caraway seeds closely, and as such, they are often confused for one another. Of course, it doesn’t help that the Indian word jeera can sometimes be used interchangeably between cumin and caraway.
Black cumin (kala jeera in Hindi), which is less commonly used, is sometimes referred to as nigella seeds when they are both very different seeds. So do always check to make sure you’re getting the right one.
What Goes with Cumin?
Fruit and Vegetables
Bergamot, capsicum, carrot, cauliflower, celeriac, corn, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, grapefruit, guava, jackfruit, Jerusalem artichoke, kale, kumquat, lemon, lemongrass, mandarin, mango, nectarine, parsnip, peach, pomegranate, pumpkin, swiss chard, turnip.
Herbs, Nuts and Spices
Basil, bay leaf, caraway seeds, cardamom, chervil, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, mint, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, pine nut, rosemary, sage, star anise, sumac, tarragon, thyme, turmeric.
Protein and Other
Beans, beef, chicken, chickpea, chocolate, curry, duck, eggs, halibut, honey, lamb, lentils, mustard, pork, salami, sausages, venison, yoghurt.
How to Use Cumin in Salads and Side Dishes?
Cumin plays an important role in many cuisines, and it always helps to enhance a dish. It is often used in conjunction with other spices to make many different types of spice blends, and one can always tell if cumin seems to be missing.
As mentioned above, one of the best ways to use cumin seeds is to use them as a flavouring agent. Fry them in hot oil to make them aromatic, and then make a dish with that oil. Cumin is also a key ingredient in garam masala spice blend, is often used for BBQ rubs when smoking meats and forming part of a marinade for the ever so popular cumin lamb in Sichuan cuisine.
For sides and salads, they are fantastic to add to salad dressings and as a marinade for vegetables when baking or roasting. The flavours seep into the vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, celeriac, pumpkin and cauliflower incredibly well as you let it cook away in the oven.
Salads and Side Dishes with Cumin
Curried Vegan Cauliflower Steak Salad
Imagine infusing a Vegan Cauliflower Steak with some of the most aromatic spices found in curry powder. Then imagine the smells in the kitchen as they roast themselves into delectable pieces of joy. What a salad!
Red Brussels Sprouts with Zhoug Sauce
Let the zhoug sauce do the talking as it forms the luxurious base for these gorgeous roasted red Brussels sprouts. This is the perfect side dish for the cooler months, and let the warm spices and the spiciness give the winter chills the flick!
Roasted Heirloom Carrots with Pearl Couscous
A deliciously colourful salad with roasted heirloom carrots and red onions layered on top of a bed of chewy pearl couscous, fresh mint and chopped almonds. A salad that satisfies.
More Ingredient Pairing Ideas
If you’d like to create your own side dish or salad and have an ingredient you’d like to hero, we have some great pairing suggestions to help you work out what flavours go well together!
- What Goes Well with Pumpkin
- What Goes Well with Chervil
- What Goes Well with Broccoli
- What Goes Well with Green Beans
- What Goes Well with Avocado
Easy Side Dish Recipes
Cooking up a storm and need a good side dish or two? We have a comprehensive collection of side dish recipes for you to choose from. Here are some recipe you may like:
More Salad Dressing Recipes
Be inspired by our huge collection of homemade salad dressing recipes. Perfect way to reduce wastage, control the flavours to suit your palate and be able to experiment with new flavours!
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