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.