Spices and Seasons – Cumin


You know those games where people ask you, what would be the one thing you would take outside with you in case of a fire, and you wonder what the right answer might be. I, kind of have the same dilema when I am asked to pick my favorite spice. To me, it is almost like being asked if I have a favorite child.

Well, I may not be able to settle on the one special spice, I can tell you that cumin is certainly one of the essentials in my kitchen. Smoky, potent and strong, this tiny seed is an essential for cooking Indian, Mexican and Middle-Eastern cuisines.

Cumin is a native to middle-eastern and Mediterranean regions. It was grown in ancient Egypt where the seeds were used in rituals and for food. There is mention of this spice in the old and new Testaments where it is spelled as, “cummin”. It has been excavated at a site call Tell ed Der in Syria, this site has been dated to the 2nd millennium BC, so this spice is at least 4, 000 years old.
Cumin belongs to the parsley family and is the seed of a flowering plant. It comes in varieties of white, brown and black. There are differences in taste depending on the color and type of cumin used.

In my kitchen, the variety of cumin most frequently used is the brown variety. There are variations to how I use it. I used the whole seeds for tempering or lightly toasted in oil in the recipe I shall share with you. Cumin powder also shown here is used for dishes in combination with other spices.

Well, there are rules to every game. One of my spice rules are to powder spices in small quantities and use as needed. Try to avoid buying pre-ground spices. Once you get hooked to the smell and freshness of home ground spices, there will be no turning back. A small variation to the ground cumin, is to toast the cumin for a minute till the cumin is fragrant and darkens slightly and then grinding it. This minute of process makes a big different, the taste is much strong, deeper and bolder.

I buy my cumin in fairly large quantities and store the whole cumin in airtight containers in a cool and dry space and use it within a year of purchase.

I shall share a simple recipe for cauliflower, which is seasoned with whole cumin seeds, ginger, turmeric, lime and cilantro.

Cumin and Lime Cauliflower

I tend to use olive oil for my recipes, mostly because I feel it is a good compromise between health and taste. It you want you can add a tablespoon of butter to the cauliflower with the oil.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Serves 4


3 tablespoons oil (I use EVOO)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 head of cauliflower (about 2 cups), chopped

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Salt to taste

1 lime or lemon

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro or mint

Method of Preparation

1. Heat the oil on medium heat for about a minute.

2. Add in the cumin seeds and cook for about 30 seconds until the seeds sizzle and darken slightly.

3. Add in the ginger and saute lightly for about 30 seconds.

4. Add in the cauliflower and cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until the cauliflower softens and turns dark golden in spots.

5. Add in the turmeric and the salt and mix well.

6. Lower the hear and cover and cook for 7-8 minutes.

7. Remove the cover, the cauliflower should be fairly soft at this point.

8. Cut the lime and squeeze in the juice and garnish with cilantro and enjoy immediately.

I shall be featuring red chilies or cayenne next, I would love to hear how you use this potent spice and also see your recipes using red chilies. Please share as comment to my facebook page or on small bites.

Rinku Bhattacharya, is a daytime financial professional, who spends the rest of her time immersed in food. Rinku is the author of the blog, Cooking in Westchester, where she shares her life experiences, and original recipes that combine Indian spices with produce from her backyard and local farmers markets. Rinku is blessed with a gardener husband, who always surprises her with a prolific and fresh supply of produce to keep her creative instincts flowing. Rinku has been teaching recreational cooking classes for the past six years, and has found her classes a great way to learn and connect.

Her cookbook the Bengali Five Spice Chronicles, is scheduled to be published in November 2012. Rinku can be found on facebook, twitter and pinterest.


About Author

Rinku Bhattacharya, the Spices & Seasons blogger, loves meshing seasonal produce with fresh spices. Most of her recipes are inspired by her Indian heritage, and her cooking is practical, easy and well suited for a busy lifestyle on the go. As a mother with two young children, her recipes are also usually balanced and kid-friendly. Rinku is the author of the blog, Spice Chronicles (formerly,Cooking in Westchester), where she shares her life experiences and original recipes. Rinku is blessed with a gardener husband, who always surprises her with a prolific and fresh supply of produce to keep her creative instincts flowing. Rinku has been teaching recreational cooking classes for the past nine years. Rinku is the author of two cookbooks: The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles an award winning (Gourmand 2013) cookbook that highlights culture, memories and recipes from her childhood transformed where needed for her Lohud kitchen and Spices and Seasons that marries Indian flavors with local and seasonal produce. Rinku can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest and is also a contributor for Zester Daily.


  1. Adelaide DiGiorgi on

    I copied your Cauliflower recipe, but the last line )designated as 8.) includes a reference to garlic – no garlic appears in the ingredients list. Should it?

  2. Adelaine.

    Thanks for checking out the recipe! Good catch, word should be garnish, I have updated and think the recipe reads fine now.


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