Nigella sativa (black-caraway, also known as nigella or kalonji), often called black cumin, is an annual flowering plant in the family Ranunculaceae, native to south and southwest Asia.[no_toc]
Nigella sativa grows to 20–30 cm tall, with finely divided, linear (but not thread-like) leaves. The flowers are delicate, and usually colored pale blue and white, with five – ten petals.
The black caraway fruit is a large and inflated capsule composed of three to seven united follicles, each containing numerous seeds which are used as spice, sometimes as a replacement for black cumin (Bunium bulbocastanum).
The seeds of Nigella sativa are used as a spice in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. The black seeds taste like a combination of onions, black pepper and oregano. They have a pungent bitter taste and smell.
The dry-roasted nigella seeds flavour curries, vegetables and pulses. It can be used as a “pepper” in recipes with pod fruit, vegetables, salads and poultry. In some cultures, the black seeds are used to flavour bread products. It is also used as part of the spice mixture panch phoron (meaning a mixture of five spices) and by itself in many recipes in Bengali cuisine and most recognizably in Naan Bread. Nigella is also used in Armenian string cheese, a braided string cheese called majdouleh or majdouli in the Middle East.
To bring out the flavour, it helps to toast the seeds briefly before using them.
Nigella Seed Substitutes
- cumin seeds
- sesame seeds