Mistress of Spices, finally

I am so late to this event I think Mythili might have forgotten she hosted this one! Well things have been really busy so expect to see that excuse for a few weeks more until I can get back on track.
As promised to my blog buddy though here is my write up on nigella seeds (kalonji). Not my first choice or my tenth for that matter, but by the time I got around to writing this, most spices I knew and used in my kitchen had already been well researched by my fellow bloggers. Which is why I chose kalonji - I am not too familiar with it and I thought it would be fun to learn more in the process.


Identity Crisis -
I always thought kalonji were onion seeds and have come across recipes that use the two interchangeably. This is only because the seeds have a faint oniony smell; the two plants however have no botanical relation whatsoever! In fact nigella seeds rarely seem to be recognized for their own selves, instead mistaken for black sesame or cumin due to their appearance.

Whats in a name? -
The name of the seeds in most languages has a reference to the word 'black'. For instance,
Latin: nigella (niger)
Hindi: kalonji (kala)
Italian: grano nero (nero)
Arabic: kamun aswad (aswad)

In the kitchen or in the cupboard! -
Nigella appears to have originated in Asia and come to India through Iran. It is most popular in North Indian cuisine, particularly Punjabi. The seeds are not very aromatic and develop a slight smoky flavor only when toasted or fried in oil. In Bengali cuisine nigella seeds are sometimes used in the paanch phoron (five spice mix) along with fenugreek, cumin, mustard seeds and fennel.
The sole dish that I make using these seeds is Achaari Baingan, where eggplants are cooked in a pickle masala. Other than this I have seen them sprinkled on naan.
The seeds are used to cure a variety of ailments; from indigestion to asthma. Nigella oil, known as blackseed oil contains antioxidants and is used in natural remedies. And if this is not enough, you can use the seeds as insect repellants or moth balls! Now isn't that really versatile for a spice which is not even recognized accurately?!

PS - It'd be good to know more recipes that use kalonji. So if you have any do share them with me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ashwini,

Thank you for this great post about nigella/kalonji. I have seen this in the stores, but have seen few recipes calling for it so have read nothing about it. It's so much fun to learn about new foods!

Thanks for adding my to your links, as well :)

Best wishes,

12:23 AM  
Blogger Vaishali said...

I, too, used to think for a long time that Kalonji seeds were onion seeds. It is only a couple of years back, that I came to know the fact. I don't use them that often, but I might be having some recipes with it sitting on my hard disk. Let me have a look.

6:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome!!! This is a great addition to the update. Thanks for participating in MoS. I will update the table right away.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Krithika said...

Great post ! Kalonji is also used in Punjabi achars. I used it in some of my curries as I seem to like its flavor.

Thanks for adding me to your blogroll.

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have lots of nigella (love-in-a-mist) growing in my garden, and keep thinking I should harvest it, but the seed pods look so pretty as is, and besides it's so easy to just buy it from the indian store.

However, I can add that in addition to being tasty, nigella is a beautiful plant.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Linda - It is fun to learn more about spices isn't it? I wanted to update my blogroll for so long, finally got around to doing it yesterday.
Vaishali - I was shocked when I read that in an article online! Do share those recipes
Mythili - loved doing this. thanks for hosting MoS
Kritika - hey thats a nice idea. I am going to try using it in curries too
Diane - its such a beautiful plant (with a lovely name too). You are so lucky to have it in your garden. I read somewhere that the flowers are used in Italian dishes for ornamentation.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Nabeela said...

I add kalongi to pakoras/bhajjis...they taste very good that way...and i add them to dry fried chicken

1:53 PM  
Blogger Nabeela said...

Hi Ashwini,
I already posted the Marag recipe on my blog :) it is

As to the pakoras....I'm not sure I'll be home on Sunday...but I'll try to make it....I'm sorry :(

6:05 PM  
Blogger Raji said...

I have to admit that I was also under the impression that kalonji were onion seeds. Atleast that is what I had been told about them.

I do have them in my pantry, but use them usually when making some of the punjabi dishes. I will be trying them out more frequently now.

7:12 PM  
Blogger Vineela said...

Hi Ashwini,
Kalonji i have not used ground one but hope to see more recipes from you.

11:03 AM  
Blogger KA said...

Nice write up Ashwini! I haven't tried cooking with these seeds yet(mostly coz I don't know of any recipes that call for these seeds0

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good informative post on Kalonji, Ashwini. Nice pic too!

2:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lovely post Ashwini!!! Nice intro about kalonji I never used neither had a clue about this spice... :)

2:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ashwini,Thanks for sharing the Info about kalonji,I had some miscoceptions about this, I do have learnt more about this.

10:11 PM  
Blogger Annita said...

Hi Ashwini,
This was indeed a useful info.I too have seen Kalonji in many grocery stores..But didn't know what was it..
Thanks again

12:03 AM  
Blogger Vaishali said...

Hi Ashwini,
I have tagged you for a meme. Here's the link.

3:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always thought kalonji were onion seeds

They are not!!!! Oh my! Now, what are onion seeds called in Hindi?

6:29 PM  
Blogger BDSN said...

Hey Ashwini..IF you want recipe for kalonji seeds why dont u check Priya's Sugar and Spice.She has made an awesome snack with kalonji seeds!!!
Very nice post Ashwini!!!

8:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love these seeds on anything. Nice mixed with live yoghurt and crushed garlic as a dressing. Try lightly toasting along with cumin, corriander, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower & whatever else you like and tossing over salads. This mix is also very nice sprinkled over potatoes /pumpkins/squashes/courgettes/beetroots when roasting.
By the way, I once bought some - what i thought was Nigella - to replace my old stuff, and on the packet it said 'onion seed' - is this just a mistranslation or are there also black onion seeds that taste a bit like kalonji? Elly

2:39 AM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Hi Elly the dressing sounds great. Re: onion seeds, I think (though I am not totally sure) that nigella seeds are referred to as onion seeds because of their aroma. Hope this helps.

9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! I am Nidhi & a new blogger and found your post on nigella seeds very informative. I have included a link to your post in mine when I talk about one of the vegetables I am making. The link is here if you want to check out. Hope you find it alright. Thank you for writing a a very detailed and informative post!

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, thanx for the great recipe... It was just what I was looking for, and after searching for hrs, found yours, just finished making my achari baingan, and all I can say is awesome! BTW u can use kalongi in most foods, it adds its own flavour to things :)

12:36 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

i first planted nigella for cut flowers -- both live as love in the mist and dried as devil in the bush. then found that i loved the smell and taste of the seeds.

i like to make ice cream with them!

2:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! I am so glad I came across your blog while searching for black seed to check if I got the right seeds to make into a remedy to heal pimple scars. Now I'll have to return the black SESAME seeds I bought from the store and buy the kalonji instead. LOL...boy am I glad I didnt put sesame seeds on my face!

12:26 AM  
Blogger GARDEN GAL said...

I've just seen them in the foodshop I'm working in and will try and sprout some! Loraine

8:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I learned about them from a friend, married into a Pakastani family. She made a potato dish using kalonji and turmeric - aloo(?). Lovely tasting. So happy to learn about the flower too.

Thanks - Manyfeathers

12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a jar of "Calonji" which gives (Onion Seeds) beneath the name. It was packagd by (Indian) House of Spices in NJ but is of Indian origin.

I use it in potatoes and various mixes with veggies.

8:37 AM  
Blogger Nutmeg said...

Hi Ashwini,

I used nigella/kalonji seeds this evening, I found the recipe in a book called Sameen Rushdie's Indian Cookery. I wonder if anyone else reading this blog has this book? The recipe is called Lamb in a Pickle sauce, the name is a little misleading as the meat is not pickled, however the flavours created by the use of fungreek, white cummin and notably nigella seeds are characteristic of many variety of pickles so the book says. I have been cooking this dish for many years now, I love it so much that it is hard to stop a one serving and I invariably end up over indulging.


7:08 AM  
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1:06 PM  

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