Jeera Rice is the rice that is most commonly available in Indian restaurants of a certain standard in Australia. Buttery and tasting of cumin, it really is a delight. It is easy to make – this version anyway – and is a perfect accompaniment to any Indian meal. There are versions with onions, and a lot more spices, but this one is a great partner with any other dish. When you over-complicate rice, it restricts the dishes it can pair with.
It took me a long time to find the balance of flavours in Jal Jeera that suited me. Some attempts, carefully following recipes in some books picked up in India, were undrinkable. Knowing those books better now, they do tend to get ratios in their recipes out of balance. This recipe is a cracker and works well.
You do have to love your Indian spices though. Jal Jeera is a cooling Summery drink full of spices, with cumin and mint featuring. Do try it – it is a unusual drink for Western palates, but worth trying in hot weather if you do love spices.
Other cooling drinks you might enjoy are Iced Tulsi Tea, Watermelon, Lime, Ginger Soda, Kewra Sherbet, Mint and Lemon Verbena Iced Tea, Watermelon Juice with Mint and Ginger, Ginger Cooler, and Jeera Lassi.
Cumin is a small shrubbery herb, the fruit of which contains a 2 – 4 % volatile oil with a pungent odour, and which is used as a flavouring and as a condiment.
Cumin is a small shrubbery herb, the seeds of which have a pungent scent, and are used as a flavouring and as a condiment. It is prevalent in Indian cooking, giving character to most vegetable and lentils dishes, and chutneys. The seeds are aromatic and pungent. It is a well known digestive stimulant, and helps to dissipate gas from lentil dishes.
The plant is actually a member of the parsley family, native to the Mediterranean. Cumin is an ancient favourite of Egyptian origin, extensively used throughout the region, and by people living close to the Mediterranean coastline. Now it is also an essential Indian ingredient and many people associate it with India rather than the Mediterranean now. They are also used in India, Sri Lanka, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand as well as Mediterranean countries.
Cumin seeds look a little like caraway seeds, but are slightly larger, plumper and lighter in colour. They are also like fennel seeds but smaller and darker. They have a strong aroma with a bitter-sweet, assertively warm earthy flavour with a slight peppermint tinge. They have a cooling affect on the body despite their pungency. They are said to pacify vata and kapha and are a gentle stimulant of pitta.
They are used both whole and ground. When whole, in India, they are often dry roasted or flash cooked in oil (tadka) to intensify their flavour and to make them slightly nutty. When ground, they are used in rice and vegetable dishes. Roasted and ground, they are sprinkled over many snack foods, relishes and yoghurt dishes.
Black Cumin Seeds | Shar Jeera | Kala Jeera
Black Cumin is a rarer and more expensive form of cumin, with sweeter, smaller, finer and more delicate seeds. The colour ranges from dark brown to black and it is often confused with nigella seed.
The dark brown, 3 mm long seeds are used primarily in India, Kashmir, Iran and Pakistan, and have an earthy, heavy aroma and a nutty taste after cooking. Black cumin originates in Northern India and Central Asia, and is not much known outside Iran, Tajikistan, Pakistan and the western part of Northern India (Kashmir, Punjab).
These are used in Garam Masala where the mild pungency is perfect. The seeds can be dry roasted and sprinkled over rice pilafs.
A delightful salad with an Indian flavour profile
I have been loving raw beetroot salad recently. Take a young beetroot and a carrot. Grate both. Drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. You can add some ginger if you want. It is wonderful, healthy and very “eliminating” too, if you know what I mean.
And then I came across an Indian version of this salad. Mustard seed, curry leaf, urad dal, cumin seed.