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COOKING WITH SPICES AND SEEDS
Cooking with Spices and Seeds
Centuries ago, spices were the treasures of kings, as much cherished and sought after as gold. Today, you don’t have to sail the Seven Seas to find them-they’re available at your supermarket. What are spices, exactly? Most consist of the seeds, shells, buds, fruit or flower parts, bark or roots of plants that grow in the tropical regions of the world.
If you want to crush or blend the seeds of spices, use a mortar and pestle, spice grinder or small electric grinder. Some cooks like to toast spices and seeds because toasting intensifies the flavor. Spices that are good for toasting include cumin, coriander, fennel seed, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon sticks and mustard seed. To toast, spread a thin layer of spice or seed in an ungreased skillet, and shake or stir over low heat. Watch so they don’t burn! When the aroma really strengthens, take the skillet off the heat and pour out the spice or seed. Let it cool, then store in a container with a tight-fitting lid.
Tips for Seasoning Mixes
– Seasoning mixes and rubs are highly concentrated blends of dried herbs and spices that flavor the outside of the food as it cooks.
– Store seasoning mixes tightly covered in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months. After 6 months, they begin to lose their flavor or the flavor may actually change.
– Rubs, a dry or wet concentrated blend of spices, are a great way to give food more flavor than just sprinkling it with seasoning. Start by moistening poultry, meat or vegetables with a little vegetable or olive oil or even water. Then rub a seasoning or mix onto the food. Cook immediately, or for a more intense flavor, cover and refrigerate the food from 1 to 24 hours.
A mixture of dry or wet seasonings rubbed completely over meat, using your fingers, before cooking. Rubs traditionally were used for barbecued meats cooked in dug-out earth pits, where the pitmasters had their own “secret rub.” You can add a rub and immediately cook or grill the food or, for more flavor, cover and refrigerate about 1 hour.
Rubs may contain sugar or salt or even ground nuts. The “wet” seasonings get their name from added liquid, such as oil, mustard and reduced liquids such as wine, mixed with the dry seasonings and creating a paste.
You can easily mix together seasonings from your spice cabinet, or purchase ready-to-use rubs at the super-market. Rubs also can be used to flavor a wide range of dishes such as condiments, soups and stews.
From “Betty Crocker’s Complete Cookbook, Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today, 9th Edition.” Text Copyright 2000 General Mills, Inc. Used with permission of the publisher, Wiley Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
This COOKING WITH SPICES AND SEEDS recipe is from the Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, 9th Edition Cookbook. Download this Cookbook today.
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Here’s how you can cook with seeds
Roasted, pureed or plain, seeds add flavour and health to dishes. Here’s more on the culinary trend everyone is dabbling in.
It’s almost like the ingredient we’ve all been ignoring for so long now. Tiny seeds have been used in savoury and festive sweet preparations in India and they’ve been part of your grandmother’s `nuskhas’ or remedies for years now. Yet, it’s only of late that seeds are increasingly finding their way into culinary preparations. Chock full of protein, healthy fats, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and more, seeds can add flavour and crunch to everything from breakfast dishes to salads, deserts and yoghurts. Here’s more on these tiny powerhouses.
How to use them in the kitchen Commonly used as toppings for biscuits or in bread, they’re also an increasingly smarter choice for cooking now, believes city-based chef Joel D’Souza. “Seeds literally have no limits,” he starts. “They give dishes a wonderful texture. Earlier, you used just used them in breads and maybe a pulao, but now they’re in syrups, smoothies, cookies, in fact, everything. Did you know ground seed can also replace fat? And something as simple as pomegranate seeds in a leafy salad can be delicious,” he says. Food blogger Assad Dadan has a quick fix. “I have added sunflower seeds to my regular salad, which has iceberg lettuce, carrots and grilled chicken with some lemon vinaigrette. It tastes great. I also had a sandwich recently — a tuna sandwich in sunflower seed bread. The seeds added a keen taste to it along with a likeable, slightly raw-ish, grainy texture.”
Health booster It’s not just for the taste, seeds are also a serious source of nutrition, says dietician Sheela Tanna. “Seeds like pumpkin, sesame and flax can be used in day-to-day cooking. These seeds have cold pressed oils, so those people worried about their weight and cholesterol can safely eat them. They increase HDL (good cholesterol) which acts as a vacuum cleaner and lowers LDL (bad cholesterol), the biggest villain today. Seeds also have good fat that improve skin tone and hair,” she adds.
KEY SEEDS AND BENEFITS
Pumpkin seeds are said to benefit sleep, help lessen the recurrence of kidney stones and bone loss. A rich source of zinc, some studies say they are also effective at beating depression. The seeds also have tryptophan, an amino acid that converts to serotonin and finally to melatonin, known as `sleep hormone’.
Best had: Boil seeds in salt water and wipe them. Drizzle them with oil and salt and roast them in an oven at 320F for 10 minutes.
Hailed as the `ultimate powerhouse’ of nutrition, flax seeds are rich in Omega-3 fatty and fiber (prevents constipation) as well as lignans (naturally occurring forms of the female hormone estrogen). It also has alpha linolenic acid which can protect blood vessels from damage.
Best had: Ground, roasted flax can be added to smoothies, soup and juices.
Sesame seeds are rich in iron, calcium, manganese and vitamin E and sesame oil has a high amount of antioxidants. While the white seeds have more iron, black sesame seeds have more flavour and aroma. Since, they are rich in fibre, they promote a healthy digestive system.
Best had: In til laddoos, chikki and you can also add them to bread and cookie batter or your Oriental stir-fry.
Called a `superfood’, tiny chia seeds are packed with high amounts of fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, proteins and other minerals and can help the joints function better. Did you know per gram chia seeds have 8x more omega-3 than salmon, 3x more iron than spinach and 5x more calcium than milk!
Best had: Grind them into flour, sprinkle them into your yoghurt, salad or dessert. They can even uses as an egg substitute in baking as they can get gelatinous.
Sweet, nutty sunflower seeds have vitamin C and can aid cardiovascular health. They also have vitamin E and selenium which prevents cell damage as well as dietary fibre. The magnesium in these seeds helps nerves relax. they are said to promote a healthy digestive system.
Best had: Raw or roasted. You can also add them to pesto or make some sunflower seed butter.
Also known as Nigella Sativa, kalonji has a lot of medicinal value too and is hailed as a cure for everything from flu to indigestion, allergies and high blood pressure. It is also said to improve eyesight, alleviate toothache and joint pain.
Best had: Sprinkle it over savoury biscuits, add it to your rice, dal or even pickle. It’s also a part of the Bengali panch-phoran (five-spice mix). Mix it a little in hot water and inhale the fumes to get relief from nasal congestion.
These are probably the most ignored seeds. So, next time don’t throw them away. Watermelon seeds are a rich source of magnesium, iron. The seeds also have protein and amino acids and strengthen hair. In addition, they make for a low-calorie, protein-rich snack.
Best had: Bake them with olive oil and salt or with some cinnamon-sugar.
Sameer Gholam, Chef de partie pastry, shares some recipes…
Chia Seed Pudding in Jar
Cooking cream — 250g
Sugar — 50g
Eggs — 2
Vanilla essence — 5m
Chia seeds (soak once) — 25g
Raisins — 25g
– Mix lukewarm cream with sugar.
– Add vanilla essence to the eggs. Mix the eggs with the cream mixture.
– Add soaked chia seed and raisins to the mixture.
– Pour in a jar and bake it in a pre-heated oven at 150 deg C for 30 minutes.
– Serve cold with fresh fruits or fresh berries.
Pumpkin Seed Cupcakes
Unsalted butter — 100g
Sugar — 100g
Eggs — 2
Vanilla essence — 5ml
Refined flour — 100g
Baking powder — 5g
Grated pumpkin — 25g
Pumpkin seed — 20g
– Cream butter and sugar together till it became light n fluffy.
– Add vanilla essence to the eggs and pour this slowly into the butter mixture.
– Sieve flour, baking powder together and mix with pumpkin seed and grated pumpkin.
– Finally fold all dry ingredients together and mix with butter mixture.
– Pipe the mixture in cupcake moulds and put this in a pre-heated oven at 170 Degrees Celsius.
– Bake it for 20 minutes.
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Roasted, pureed or plain, seeds add flavour and health to dishes. Here’s more on the culinary trend everyone is dabbling in…