(Cuminum cyminum) Whether spelled
cumin or cummin, it is always pronounced with the 'u' as in hut. Cumin
is one of the most important spice seeds in Indian cooking, indeed it is
used throughout Asia in the spice blends which are sprinkled over
savories, or cooked in the sauces called curries. Not to be confused
with caraway, which looks similar, but has quite a different flavor.
Cumin is used in almost every spice mixture in ground form except in
panch phora where the whole seeds are used. In addition, there are some
recipes where it is the predominant flavor.
Besides the pale brown seeds which are so
familiar, there are several other kinds of cumin. There is a light green
more acutely curved seed known as Lucknow cumin and the fine, slender
seed of shah zeera or rayal cumin is darker in color and therefore also
referred to as black cumin or kala zeera.
Roasting cumin brings out different nuances
of flavor and it is worth having a separate jar of roasted cumin to be
crushed coarsely and sprinkled over a variety of dishes for extra
flavor. One of the simplest yet most effective ways of using roasted
cumin is to crush it just before sprinkling over banana slices in
yoghurt to serve as an accompaniment.
Medicinal uses : Cumin is a digestive
and carminative, two good reasons to keep this fragrant spice well
represented in everyday food.