Perhaps your new favorite bean dish:
In India, where black cumin is commonly used as a spice, the myriad of its names is confusing. In the north of the country, where it grows wild, it is called “kala jeera.” However, cumin can also be called “kala jeera” or “shahi jeera”, king cumin. In most of India, nigella seeds are known as “kalonji” (black onion seed).
Appearance: The plant – grown mainly in India, but also native to western Asia, southern Europe and the Middle East – is grown from seed, is an annual and hardy, and grows to about 60 cm tall. It has serrated gray-green leaves and small, five-petaled white flowers.
The seed pods are collected when they are ripe, but before they burst. They are then dried and crushed so that the seed can be easily extracted. The seeds are jet black, 2 to 3 mm long and angular. They have five strong spines.
Aroma: faint, nutty and tart, like a cross between poppy and pepper, reminiscent of oregano.
Uses: In India, black cumin is added unground to legumes and vegetables, usually dry roasted beforehand to enhance aroma and flavor. It is also added to several spice mixtures (e.g. panch masala, curry powder, phoron) and sprinkled on bread. Nan bread, baked in clay tandu ovens in northern India, is seasoned with black cumin. In the Middle East and Turkey, black cumin is also used as a spice.