All about nigella

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No, today’s post is not about British cookbook cupcake Nigella Lawson. It’s about nigella seed, the spice. This spice is the product of the nigella plant, native to western Asia, Southern Europe and the Middle East. Most of today’s commercial crop is grown in India where it’s often used in spice blends such as panch phoran, a vegetable seasoning that consists of five kinds of seeds: fenugreek, fennel, mustard, nigella and parsley. In turkey and the Middle East, nigella seed is often sprinkled over flat bread (much the same way poppyseeds are used here to accent burger buns and bagels).

Nigella seeds are very black and look a bit like onion seeds. They taste far different, though, and have a crunchy texture and a vaguely peppery flavour that pairs well with cucumber, mint and yogurt. This is what led me to create this fast and easy version of a tzatziki-style dip that I served over roasted gold and red beets blended with their own sautéed greens.

1 baby English cucumber
1 cup (250 mL) Greek or Balkan style yogurt
3/4 tsp (4 mL) nigella seeds
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped mint leaves
½ tsp (2 mL) minced garlic
salt and pepper

Coarsely grate the cucumber. Drain for 10 minutes in a strainer. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the mint, nigella seeds and garlic. Toss well. Stir in the yogurt and season to taste with salt and pepper.

By the way, if you can’t find nigella seeds in your local chain or Indian grocery stores, you can buy it online from the Spice Trader.

7 Responses to All about nigella

  1. Rosa says:

    That salad looks gorgeous! Nigella seeds sprinkled over Turkish bread, mmmmhhh…

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. LoveFeast says:

    glad to listen to the gossip! I’ve never heard of Nigella seeds. Will have to hunt some down!

  3. Aparna says:

    I’ve never used Nigella seeds with yogurt.In India, we make yogurt slads/ dips called raita which would be even better with the Nigella seeds.
    Thanks for the idea.

  4. danamccauley says:

    Aparna – I love raita and agree that the nigella seeds would fit there very well.

  5. I think I’ve had these before but didn’t know what they were called. I assume they are available in Asian and Middle Eastern supermarkets?

    This dish looks so colourful and lovely. I’m so impressed with you doing all these veggie recipes. I simply must up my veggie quota. Thanks for the push.

  6. cheryl says:

    So pretty with the beets and greens. I got an assortment of Indian spices a while back, but the container of nigella seeds was so tiny I was always afraid to open it. You’re inspiring me to dig it out of the cupboard.

  7. danamccauley says:

    I do love my veggies! In fact, tonight I’m making a peach, tomato and mache salad and corn on the cob to go with rotisserie cooked Cornish game hens. No potatoes, rice or pasta. I’d rather fill up on seasonal produce this time of year (That said, I bought some fantastic baby new potatoes the other day, too.)

    Cheryl, I think you should use them up since I doubt, like other spices, that they get any better with age.

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