Kate Heyhoe

Kate's Global Kitchen

by Kate Heyhoe


Nigella Sativa


Dear Kate,

I found you in "What's New". Very interesting recipes, comments on national food types... I was looking for more information about "nigella sativa" (charnushka, kalonji, black cumin) and found nothing.


Nigella Sativa

Dear Cecil,

Nigella Sativa is confusingly called "black cumin" or "wild onion" but comes from an entirely different plant. Indian and Middle Eastern cooks typically sprinkle these black, peppery seeds on flatbreads. A bit larger than sesame seeds, nigella seeds look like charcoal chips with their five pointed edges and black matte finish.

Smelling the raw seeds won't tell you much: their flavors are released when heated. Their taste is said to somewhat resemble that of oregano, although much more distinctive, with a slight but pleasant bitterness that complements salads, breads and fish well. According to The Indian Spice Kitchen by Monisha Bharadwaj (Dutton, $29.95), the Bengali spice mixture panch phoron includes nigella as one of its five ingredients and is used to season lentils and vegetables. Look for nigella sativa in Indian markets.

The recipe below calls for "mooli," an Indian white radish. If you cannot find it, substitute the white Asian radish known as daikon instead.

Kate Heyhoe


White Radish Salad
(Mooli ka Salaad)

serves 4
preparation time: 15 minutes

1 large Indian white radish (mooli), grated (10 ounces)
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons distilled vinegar
large pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons corn oil
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1. Mix the radish with the salt, pepper, vinegar and sugar.

2. Heat the oil in a small pan. When it is hot, drop in all the seeds. As soon as they finish crackling, pour the oil and the seeds onto the radish mixture. Mix lightly.

3. Serve at room temperature.

Recipe from:
The Indian Spice Kitchen
by Monisha Bharadwaj
Dutton, $29.95
Reprinted by permission.

Visit India section.

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This page originally published as a Global Gourmet Today column in 1998.

Copyright © 2007, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.

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This page modified January 2007

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