Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Think Spice...Think Cumin

Guess what the second most popular spice is after black pepper. The answer is, CUMIN, the ancient spice that dates back to the Old Testament.

Cumin is a small dried fruit of an annual plant in the parsley family. Yes, it is a fruit and not a seed as how we have been calling it; cumin seeds. It is also often confused with caraway seeds that are milder to the taste, darker in colour, and smaller in size. Cumin is yellowish-brown in colour, uniformly elliptical and deeply furrowed. It is crescent-shaped, tapering at each extremity and at times, with tiny stalks attached.


Cumin is an aromatic spice with a distinctive, pungent, powerful, sharp and a slightly bitter flavour. The flavour is accentuated by toasting. It has a strong, warm and a spicy-sweet aroma. This is due to its 2.5 to 4% essential oil content. By storing it in an airtight container and placing in a cool, dry area, away from light, the flavour and aroma can be retained for up to six months.

Cumin can be used whole or ground into powder. Though native to the Mediterranean, it is a must in Indian, Mexican, Asian, Northern African, Middle Eastern and Latin American cooking. Cumin is also a key component in chilli powder, curry powder and garam masala. It is even burned with woods to smoke cheeses and meats. Cumin should be used with restraint as it can exclude all the other flavours in a dish.

With its digestive properties, cumin is the best appetizer of all the condiments. It is valuable in dyspepsia diarrhoea and hoarseness, and may relieve flatulence and colic. Being a high source of iron, it increases lactation and reduce nausea in pregnancy. As a natural way, cumin is also believed to increase breast size. The Romans and the Greeks used it medicinally and cosmetically to induce a pallid complexion.

As my entry to the Think Spice Event, I am introducing cumin to the classic and easy Italian pesto sauce.

Cumin Spinach Pesto Pasta

What do we need:

1 cup pasta

1 bunch spinach
1/3 cup toasted almonds
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp cumin


How do we do it:

Wash the spinach leaves thoroughly and drain the water. Set aside.

Boil a pot full of water with a generous amount of salt. Cook the pasta in the boiling water to al dente or until the time specified on the pasta package. When cooked, drain and set aside.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and fry the cumin seeds for 10 seconds until aromatic. Add the spinach and sauté just until tender. Transfer the cooked spinach into a food processor. Add onion, garlic, toasted almonds and grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Pulse a few times. Slowly pour the remaining olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor. Blend until thick paste forms.

Pour the pesto onto the pasta, toss and serve hot.


Sandeepa said...

Cumin definitely lends a great taste to Pasta. I had once tried a roasted cumin-tomato paste for a pasta and the taste was great

Pesto is one more neat idea


thanks for all rhe info on the spice ......i normally just cannot do without it :-) ....thanks for the pasta recipe ..was getting tired of the usual tomato based pastas and the cheesy one is too sinful ....thanks again for providing a great alternative ...

Lakshmi said...

A good alternative to normal tomato pasta.

indosungod said...

The cumin should make the Pasta smell delicious. I should add some too, I don't like Pasta to smell too Pastaish Cumin might change some of that.

Asha said...

YUMMY!! I have used Cumin in Pasta, looks great though. Good to see you blogging Pushpa.
I am hosting RCI Karnataka this month, hope you cook for me!:))

Richa said...

wow! toasted almonds & cumin, sounds YUM!

Kay said...

yayyy Pushpa! so glad to see you are back! :)

That seems like one heck of a dish! :) I want to try!!!!

sunita said...

Hi Pushpa, that is one great dish...thanks for entering it for the event:)

Isha said...

hi Pushpa thanks for visiting my blog. ur pasta looks so delish.
u have a wonderful blog over here.

Lata said...

Hi pushpa can I pls get ur email ID, I am singaporean indian gal my email is or

Jeena said...

Hi there nice blog I like this pasta recipe great pictures :) Feel free to visit my blog too :) Click Here For Food Recipes

Spicelover said...

nice recipe.
i just love pesto sauce but cant seem to get hold of basil here in hyderabad. i will def try this.

Puspha said...

Sandeepa- thanx

spice of life- Sharing is a great pleasure.

Lakshmi- Yes indeed.

Indhu- Cumin really does wonders to any dish.

Asha- thanx. Ill try my best though I have no idea of Karnataka food is all about.

richa- Trust me, it is yummy!!

Kay- Yippe!! Im back. Do let me how u liked it.

Sunita- thanx to u for putting up the event.

Isha- Terima kasih.

Lata- Ill write to u.

Jeena- Welcome to the blog. Thanx for the compliment.

Spicelover- Spinach is definately a great green alternative to basil. Do let me know how u liked it.

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