Tadka: Indian cuisine

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Tadka: Indian cuisine

Here’s what spices up your tadka

The Times of India


If there's a spice we use almost as much as haldi (turmeric) in Indian cooking, chefs say its cumin. Its distinctive flavour and strong, warm aroma makes it especially popular for a tadka in dals, aloo sabzi... and in ground form it enriches our heavy moghlai gravies. In fact, folklore has it that it plays cupid too! Superstition during the Middle Ages cited that cumin kept lovers from wandering (even chickens). It was also believed that a happy life awaited the bride and groom who carried cumin seed throughout the wedding ceremony.

Traditionally used in Middle-Eastern, Spanish, Italian, Cuban cuisines, and of course the Indian cuisine, it gels well with meat, feels Chef Aditya Bal. "As it's a strong spice, meat can stand up to its flavour rather well," he says.

For a subtle flavour, he suggests one can use cumin seeds as whole. "And if the dish needs higher permeance of its flavour, ground it, as in case of mutton marination or for gravies." Available in two varieties - the shah jeera and regular jeera, the first one is often opted for a stronger flavour and preferred over, when cumin is to be used as whole, explains Food consultant and gastronomy writer Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal.

Buying cumin: Chef Bal suggests you always pick it up as whole, and grind it as and when required. "And avoid ones that are too dark in colour. Also they shouldn't be moist." Also always store it in a tight container, he says.

Roasting technique: Food expert Rushina warns, "Don't over-roast cumin, as it gets bitter. To avoid over-roasting, watch out for the colour changes. It has to turn only slightly darker than its original shade."

Health benefits: Cumin is extremely good for digestion. Research suggests it activates our salivary glands, facilitating digestion. Another of its organic compound helps initiate acid secretion acids, bile and enzymes responsible for complete digestion of the food. Cumin is also Carminative - its known to give relief from gas troubles.

Ground cumin taken in warm water is a grand ma's remedy for relief from stomach-aches. Recipe: Chef Aditya Bal suggests you try his Spiced Salad Dressing recipe for a salad that serves four, for an enhanced flavour of cumin on your palette.


Garlic: 3-4 cloves, grated fine Extra Virgin olive oil: 3-4 tbsp Sea salt to taste Pepper to taste Coconut vinegar/ Malt vinegar/ red wine vinegar: 1 tbsp Lemon juice: ½ lime's Sugar to taste Cumin Coriander seeds Chilly powder to taste


Dry roast one tsp cumin seeds and one tsp coriander seeds and then ground them. Mix the powder, along with the remaining ingredients in the olive oil. Your dressing is ready. It'll go well with salads where a few chicken pieces are thrown in along with your choice of vegetables.

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