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Monday, May 27, 2013


Cumin des présIn 
in 2 months the fruit can be used as seeds
Photo from: Clarabena
Gr. kyminon, L. Cuminum cymminum, Ar. kuzbara, kummūn, kammoon, Persian, zīreh, ME comyn, Eng. cumin. A native of Turkistan, cumin quickly adapted to the Mediterranean Region, especially Levant, where it was exported to China and India. Jews used it in cakes and cheeses. It is mentioned in the Bible (Isa 2:25, 27;
Dem. 2:1 and Matthew xxiii, xxiii, 23). 

The Romans prior to or after meals drank a cumin a tonic or infusion to stimulate the stomach. Emperor Claudio issued an edit permitting it to be consumed at his dinner table. Romans introduced cumin to Spain but over the centuries it was forgotten.

Cumin Seeds macro
Photo from: Swami Stream
In 1031, the Arabs reintroduced it to Spain, bringing it from Arabia Petraea (Rocky Arabia, the area between Egypt and Mesopotamia). They obviously promoted its use as crops became abundant in Andalusia within the same century, especially in the southern part. It adapted best in the Las Alpujarras (the region from Granada to Almería).

The seeds, actually the dried fruits of the plant, and leaves were systematically used in Al-Andalus culinary art for their flavor and color. They were used to favor chicken, lamb, yugart and eggplant. They were used especially in dishes containing vinegar and sauces for fried foods as they facilitated digestion after eating food that was not easily broken down. Reportedly, Jews mixed the seeds with honey and pepper and ate this twice day to become sexually excited. Not only did cumin come to mean exorcism but also fidelity and protection. The seeds were added to fresh cheese with a little goat’s milk and to cakes. The seeds taste like caraway but are more sour and bitter. Cumin has been used often as a substitute for caraway. The seeds were included in various homemade medicinal concoctions. Dioscorides classified them as hot to the third degree and thus claimed them useful for iliac pains and to prevent urine retention.

Ground Cumin Seeds
Photo by: Lord-Williams
Following the Muslim exodus from the peninsula (from end of the 15 C to the beginning of the 16 C), cumin seeds began to fall into disuse again. Now cumin is grown on the Mediterranean but rarely in Spain. Today the seeds are used as flavoring for Lieden cheese and are an ingredient for curry.

Medicinally, they are used as a home remedy for stomach problems and as an antispasmodic. The oil is used medicinally. Cumin is added to alcoholic beverages for flavoring and to perfumes for the aroma. See alcaravea. [Benavides-Barajas. Nueva-Clásica. 1995:66; Herbs. Oct 8, 02; ES: Mabberley. Oct 11, 01; and Villena/Calero. 2002:23a]


Cumin added to Ground Beef to be Fried
Photo by: Lord-Williams

1 lb ground beef
juice from 1 onion (about ¼ c)
1 tsp virgin olive oil
1 tsp murri[1]
½ tsp white pepper
½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp saffron mashed and dissolved in a little oil
1 egg

For frying:
¼ c virgin olive oil
1 tbsp vinegar
1 garlic clove crushed
½ tsp saffron mashed
½ tsp cumin

Frying Meatballs Flavored with Cumin
Photo by: Lord-Williams
 The finishing touch:
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp saffron
½ tsp white pepper 

This dish is delicious and nutritious, and similar to the previous recipe for another variety of meatballs. 


After grinding the meat, pound it in a mortar. Roll it out on a platter. Add the following 8 ingredients, and knead it well until all is evenly mixed. Make large meatballs.

The Perfect Twist from Mundane to Unique
Photo by: Lord-Williams
 Heat a large pan and add oil, vinegar, murri, cumin. When this boils, add the meatballs. When cooked, turn off  the heat.

Beat eggs with saffron and pepper. Pour this over the meatballs and roll them around to cover them with this mixture. Cover the pan and let stand until the eggs coagulate.

As with any variety of tafaya this dish may be colored at will.  See blog titled color published  May 10, 2013 for color ideas.

[1] See blog titled almorí published on August 26, 2011 for recipe.

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