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Mustard and Cumin seeds.

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Hi all. I am having trouble cooking with mustard seeds and cumin seeds.


Once I have my frying pan heated up with oil, should I add both my mustard seeds and cumin seeds at the same time?


I am concerned that in the time it takes my mustard seeds to pop, my cumin seeds are getting over cooked. I don't know if this is happening because I don't actually know what overcooked cumin seeds look like.


Putting mustard seeds in first causes problems, because I often end up burning them while I am allowing the cumin seeds to heat up (the cumin seeds having been added after the mustard seeds have popped).


Finally, sometimes I "dice" my cumin seeds before adding them to the oil, is this okay to do? I fear that the diced cumin seeds are cooking/burning within seconds of hitting the oil.


Ultimately, whenever I cook, I can never taste the cumin or mustard seeds. This makes it hard for me to know if I am doing things wrong and ruining the seeds (so no flavour), or that the cumin/mustard flavour has mixed with other flavours.


My food never tastes burnt... however, it often has no taste (until I add excessive amounts of fresh coriander).


Any help would be appreciated.

post #2 of 6

Try toasting them instead.  Iput spices in a dry pan, no oil.  Turn on the heat and let the seeds heat up, swirl the pan so they don't burn.  Once it has reached full heat turn the fire off and leave them in the pan to continue toasting but swirl them gently.  Once your seeds are toasted you can then break them, pulverize them, put them in your mortar pestle, whatever.  And then add to your dish at a later stage.  You can do this with mustard, coriander, cumin, even cloves.


Sometimes I throw them in with the onions to fry them but never by themselves in oil.  It just burns them too much.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #3 of 6

I agree with you Koukouvagia if the seeds are to be added to a mix But if this is the start of a recipe, say a curry, or a far eastern dish, Then the mustard and cumin seed will be fried in very hot oil at the beginning until the mustard stops popping.

If this is the case Badcook, add them together. Dont bother "dicing" the cumin. The tip here is when you can smell them they're done and they can both tolerate a fair bit of heat.


it would be helpful to know what you're cooking, as dry frying and oil frying are for entirely different recipes.


Again It depends on the recipe whether you'll actually taste the cumin, or of it is part of a spice blend that will give an deep overall flavour.


So whats cooking?

"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
post #4 of 6

Many Indian recipes call for mustard seeds to be fried in oil until they pop and flavor the oil. If you are using whole cumin seeds, the mustard seeds will pop before the cumin seeds burn unless your oil is way too hot. Unless you are practically powdering your cumin seeds, they should still be fine, even if coarsely chopped, unless your oil is too hot. It should be hot but not smoking and it should be an oil (or ghee) with a fairly high smoke point.(not olive.) Use medium, rather than high heat.  If you are using ground cumin, I would add it after the onions have carmelized and let it fry for a minute until it is highly fragrant.


Dry roasted (as described in a previous post) and ground cumin is much more flavorful than raw ground cumin, or even whole seeds.


Where are you buying your spices? They may not be fresh.


You also may not be using a free enough hand with them.


Also, I don't see coriander seeds or ground coriander in your list of ingredients. If you're trying to cook Indian food, it is pretty crucial and complements the cumin.

post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thank you for all your replies!


In future, I will be sure to add them to the oil at the same time without dicing the cumin!


I cook the following foods: chilli, stir fry rice, and Indian style scrambled eggs.


More often than not I cook fried rice (I have over 20kgs of rice - I bought it when it was on special (it was extremely cheap)). I eat fried rice mostly because of my current financial situation, rather than a fondness for it (I was an employed student who always bought food for tea - I'm now looking for a job in a different city).


When I cook fried rice I add cumin and mustard seeds to olive oil (I will buy one with a higher smoke point - thanks ChicagoTerry). Then I add diced garlic and ginger. Thirty seconds later I add onion and wait for it to caramalise.  This is followed by carrots. I then add steamed rice and fry. Finally, I add coriander.


With scrambled eggs I do something similar (but add egg instead of rice), but use red onion instead of white. I also add fresh chilli, and tumeric powder - I don't know why, but I am told tumeric is very important. 


For chilli, I copy my stir fry recipe again but add capsicum (bell peppers) instead of carrots. Fresh chillies are added after the onion caramalises. The two cans of chopped tomatoes and two cans of chilli beans. I also add celery just before serving (I like the added crunch).


I always add salt and pepper at the end for anything I make.


I use a lot of fresh coriander, is it necessary to have coriander seeds or ground coriander? Isn't fresh coriander always better?


I would like to give dry roast cumin seeds ago, would they go well with rice salad?


Due to some advice from another post of mine, I have managed to dramatically increase the flavour of my food - turns out I was adding nowhere near enough garlic, ginger, or cumin seeds (I was using one teaspoon of cumin seeds - and considered this more than anyone else would use).


Thanks for all the help!

post #6 of 6

I'm so glad you liked your more recent efforts better!


Ground coriander seeds are an entirely different flavor than fresh coriander leaves. Both the dried seeds and the fresh leaves are used liberally in Indian cooking. The seeds are in every Indian garam masala (a combination of roasted and ground herbs and spices that varies from household to household but is used in much Indian cookery) recipe I have ever seen. The plain ground seeds are also often used in combination with cumin in many, many recipes. Coriander seeds lose flavor quickly once ground, unfortunately.  I don't recommend buying it already ground, not even from an Indian grocer. It's always flavorless. And whole seeds are not typically used in recipes, in my experience.


I'd also suggest that if you are interested in cooking a lot of Indian food that it is worth seeking out an Indian grocer. Spices are sold in much larger packages and at much better prices than they are in a regular grocery store, where spices can be exhorbitantly expensive and not as fresh as one would like.  


I know money is tight but, if you can swing it, an inexpensive coffee grinder would improve your experiments in Indian cooking considerably.


You could grind your own coriander and roasted cumin seeds. You could also make your own chili powder, which would be far superior to anything you can buy in a store. You could make your own garam masala.


I think dry roasted cumin seeds would be just fine in a rice salad.


I can't suggest strongly enough that you check out an Indian cookbook or two from the library. If nothing else they will give you some idea of proportions, a good sense of the order of operations, and a feeling for how flavors are layered. And many will have a couple of recipes for garam masala--some of them complicated but some simple ones, too. Madhur Jaffrey is a pretty accessible author of many cookbooks and Sanjeev Kapoor's How to Cook Indian (if it's available in NZ) is also worth a look. He's a wildly popular television chef in India. Julie Sahni and Yamuna Devi are also good authors (Although Devi is a member of a sect that does not use onions or garlic in its cooking. I just add my own to her recipes.) I'm sure there are probably excellent authors out there from the Commonwealth countries that I have never heard of here in the US. A word of warning, though--the sheer lists of ingredients--mostly spices--some of which I guarantee you have never heard of before--in Indian recipes can be overwhelming at first.


Good luck and have fun!

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