Wonder Spice: Cumin
Cumin is a time-tested spice, known to improve digestion and boost immunity. It encourages the absorption of nutrients into the body, and its essential oil plays a key role in fighting respiratory disorders. Cumin also boasts anti-inflammatory properties, so it has traditionally been used to bring relief from stomach problems and skin sores.
In Ayurveda, cumin is prized for its warming properties, which means it is an excellent remedy for aggravated Kapha dosha. Here is a wonderful spiced water recipe that those with Kapha problems (phlegm, weight gain, lethargy etc.) should try:
Kapha Balancing Water
Boil two quarts of water for five minutes. Take it off the heat and add three holy basil leaves, two thin slices of fresh ginger, 1/4 t. of cumin, 1/2 t. of fennel. Place the water and spices in a thermos, and sip the water at a hot or warm temperature throughout the day.
Roasted cumin has an incredible aroma that can set the most jaded tastebuds atingle. Lightly crackled in hot oil or ghee, it gives a fabulous nuttiness to food, be it a stir-fry, soup or curry. Some simple ways to bring this charming seed on your table and in your life:
- Whisk plain yogurt in a bowl. Add a teaspoon of freshly roasted and crushed cumin seeds to it. Sit in some salt, and sprinkle some fresh parsley, mint or cilantro leaves on top. Tastes divine, and cools a raging Pitta.
- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil or ghee in a pan. Toss in a teaspoon of cumin seeds. As soon as they begin to crackle—which will happen within seconds, tip in 1/4 tsp turmeric powder and two potatoes that have been boiled and diced. Stir well, adding salt to taste. When the potatoes are golden all over, take them off the heat and serve as a side with your main course. You can also stir the potatoes into plain yogurt—in which case I would recommend omitting the turmeric powder.
- Heat a teaspoon of olive oil or ghee in a pan, and crackle some cumin seeds in it as above. Simply tip them into a bowl of freshly boiled dal, stew or curry for an extra boost of flavor. A twist of lemon makes it even more delicious.
- Roast a teaspoon of cumin seeds. Pound them together with 1-inch fresh ginger and 2 cloves of garlic. Add some salt and a little mustard oil or olive oil. Stir this instant chutney over your salads or scoop it up with your bread or chapati. Delicious!
- Roast and grind a teaspoon of cumin seeds. Place them in a bowl, and add some lemon juice and salt. Rub this spicy paste on boiled or coal-rosted corncobs—absolutely delicious and very good for digestion, too.