Friday, October 05, 2007

MySpice -- Kalonji


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Kalonji in my glass spice bottles, jet black, like the hair I always wanted before the era of streaks and highlights.

Kalonji in my hand, tiny, coarse to the touch, crowding and jostling, waiting to flavor my food.

Kalonji in hot oil, tempering, dancing around merrily, haunting me with the aromatic flavor, I cannot put a word to. I see it described as acrid, smoky....but I am not sure.

Kalonji... Kalo Jeera... Nigella Seeds...a part of my cuisine


Nigella seeds are small, matte-black grains with a rough surface and an oily white interior. They are seeds of a plant Nigella Sativa, of the buttercup family and are often confused with Onion seeds. Nigella probably originated in western Asia but today is cultivated from Egypt to India.


Cultivation of these black seeds has been traced back more than 3,000 years to the kingdom of the Assyrians and ancient Egyptians. A bottle of black cumin oil was found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun, perhaps to protect the ruler in the afterlife.


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Known as Kalonji in Hindi and Kalo jeera in Bengali, Nigella is used in India and the Middle East as a spice and condiment and occasionally in Europe as both a pepper substitute and a spice. It is widely used in Indian cuisines for its smoky, pungent aroma.

In Bengali cuisine it is almost as popular as Paanch Phoron and used for tempering, vegetable dishes, Dals, fish curries and some chutneys. It is one of the five ingredients of Paanch Phoron. It is also added to the dough while making Nimki a savoury fried dough. The flavor within the seed is enhances after it is baked, toasted or fried in a small amount of oil or juices of foods.

The seeds are always used whole, never as a powder and very rarely as a part of a paste

Nigella is used in Indian medicine as a carminative and stimulant and is used against indigestion and bowel complaints. In India it is used to induce post-natal uterine contraction and promote lactation. The seed yields a volatile oil containing melanthin, nigilline, damascene and tannin. Melanthin is toxic in large dosages and Niugelline is paralytic, so this spice must be used in moderation.( Source: here)
In Islam, it is regarded as one of the greatest forms of healing medicine available. Muhammad once stated that the black seed can heal every disease – except death.
Black cumin and its oil have also been used to purge parasites and worms, detoxify.

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A very simple recipe with Nigella seeds is the Alu-Charchari, a quick stir fry of potatoes.

Some of the recipes I have blogged where Kalonji is used for tempering are:

Piyajkolir Tarkari

Fish Curry on a Winter Noon

Musuri'r Dal with Kalonji

Shorshe Dharosh or Okra in Mustard Sauce

Doi-Ilish


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Check out other spices in this series in the left hand column

Trivia: The many uses of nigella has earned for this ancient herb the Arabic approbation 'Habbatul barakah' meaning the seed of blessing.

30 comments:

  1. Looks absolutely delicious. I grew up on aloo chechki, with kalo jeera, onion and green chillies, served with luchi.

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  2. Kaloni, in my pantry, waiting for more ideas.

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  3. i did not know about it till my MIL introduced me to it for making chingri chorchori ( i think i got it right!) :)

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  4. wonderful detailed info on this grand spice, sandeepa. simply lovely!

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  5. I add this to Bengali Panch Phoran and Naan. Do not use it in any other dish. Great info!:)
    Okay, let me go back to round up work now!:D

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  6. Good posts on Spices. Keep it going!!!!

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  7. I use nigella a lot too....and panch phoran? mmmmmm.......the best smelling spice when added to oil!

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  8. I love kalonji it brings a subtle but distinct flavor! Lovely post, Sandeepa.

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  9. good to know @ it's medicinal values :) a small bit is enough to get the flavors!

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  10. A much need info for me...thanks!
    :)
    Shn

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  11. I am feeling bad to say that I never used this spice in my cooking so far. My mom used it in seasoning when cooking north indian dishes. SO many good things to know about Kalonji, makes me grab a packet on my next visit to Subzi Mandi :)
    I loved those red potatoes, they look so blushy blushy!

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  12. Nice informative write-up dear.....The stir fried alu with that spice looks superb :-)

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  13. Kalonji in the store, waiting for me to buy :)
    Thanks Sandeepa, I need to explore this spice... not a part of my cooking yet...

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  14. lovely writeup Sandeepa. loved the mirror worked thali and elephant more heheh... I have not used Kalonji much but now on will surely experiment.

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  15. I use nigella seed, but have entirely ignorant about where it comes from. Thank you for that info--and the recipes!

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  16. Beautifully lyrical post, Sandeepa. I first had nigella in Syrian string cheese, then recently in a chutney I made. A most unusual flavor that can really hold its own against other flavors in a dish. I love it.

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  17. Lovely! Sandeepa my dear, I am just thinking of using these beautiful seeds for my bread baking! Now that I have learned so much info from you, I just need to try them!

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  18. have started using this spice only recently...tho have had it as a kid numerous times..i have started appreciating it more now!!

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  19. my FIL was asking me abt this spice the other day..I will direct him here

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  20. Sandeepa very good information, I am not a regular user of Kalonji but have some in my panty waiting to be used .

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  21. lovely post. here's a magnified kalonji.

    http://jugalbandi.info/2007/05/spring-onion-dal/

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  22. Onion seeds are not kalonji? They look almost the same, dont they?

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  23. Nice informative post Sandeepa. Very useful. Viji

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  24. I have them but i hardly use it.
    Excelent information

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  25. Kalonji, lovingly packed by MIL, in a lil dabba, lying in the recesses of my spice shelf, waiting to be used.....:)

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  26. Thank you for the wonderful write up about one of my favorite spices, Sandeepa. Your photos, too, are lovely as always. I never thought to use this to season potatoes. Definitely will try that :)

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  27. I love the taste of these in achar,lovely post,I think these alu with kalonji must be delicious!

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  28. I've always used this spice in combination with others and never by itself. I'm definitely going to try it with the potatoes as you have.

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  29. As I know kalonji(onion seeds) are different and in this story mixed up with kalinji(black kumin,kala jeera)=related to Muhamed sayings

    kalonji is good,I`m using it in the sweet chutneys as well

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  30. Interesting recipe, cant wait to do it.

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