Cumin is a great spice to start off with on our series of ‘spice trail’ blogs! Not only is it delicious and versatile, It’s one of the oldest spices being used in recipes as long as 5000 years ago. It’s great not just for Indian dishes, it’s found in Mexican, Middle Eastern and European recipes and it has a whole bunch of health benefits too!
Why should you use cumin in your dishes? I hear you asking your screens, well, cumin is a warming spice. It draws out the natural sweet flavours in the aromatic spices making it great for things like curries but also versatile enough to be used in baking.
You can mix it in with a guacamole dip to give it a fuller bodied flavour (as sometimes avocado can be a bit bland), or use the whole toasted seeds mixed with fennel seeds and breadcrumbs to make a delicious coating for baked salmon. Of course the best thing to do with cumin is to mix it in to a tasty garam masala!
Cumin has its roots in Iran and the Mediterranean (see what I did there! Roots, fennel, get it?) the Greeks and Romans used it for medicinal purposes and the ancient Egyptians included it in the mummification process as a preservative. In medieval times, they were a superstitious lot, and believed that cumin would stop lovers… and chickens… from wandering. Sweethearts would give their s.o’s loaves of cumin bread to make sure they returned to them after a long journey. So the adage ‘a way to man’s heart is through his belly’ has been around a long while!
Cumin is also a well-travelled spice, it spread along the Persian Gulf to India and South Asia before being picked up on the Silk Road and was traded throughout Europe and Asia before eventually making its way to the America’s.
It’s a spice that requires a long hot summer of three to four months to grow and it needs well drained soil, so it thrives in the hot dry countries. The plant itself is a member of the parsley family and is sometimes called Roman caraway, but mustn’t be confused with caraway as it’s hotter in taste.
It’s also a plant with fantastic health benefits! It aids digestion, relieves stress, helps with respiratory disorders like asthma and due to its high iron content its good for things like anaemia. It’s been shown to help you get over a cold by boosting your immune system and can even help increase your concentration and cognitive performance!
Basically, if this plant were a person, it’d be good guy Greg!
So if you want to taste cumin cooked by the expert’s pop down to Paddy’s for a fantastic masala curry! You can even make a reservation in advance if you like! Be sure to check out our blog next month, when we delve into the spice trail again for another amazing spice!