Nigella seeds are harvested in India and Egypt from the plant Nigella Sativa. Also known as kalogi, this ingredient closely resembles black sesame seeds for which they are easily mistaken. Their taste, however, is unlike that of sesame seeds. Once cooked in oil, they release a mild oniony flavour even though they are not part of the allium family. They are warming, but mildly bitter if overused or ingested raw (trust me, I’ve done both).
Part of an Indian five-spice blend—paanch phoran—nigella seeds are primarily used in Northern Indian. These are a common ingredient in naan, a bread for which I have an incredibly easy recipe.
Nigella seeds compliment the flavor of many Indian spices, which can be used to liven up a wide variety of dishes across cultures. One such example is to add them in latkes, a traditional Jewish food. These seeds, along with other Indian spices, transform a time tested recipe into something new, fresh, and exciting.
I also use these seeds in my upcoming dahl recipe, although I cannot say whether that’s typical or not, since there are as many ways to make dahl as there people who make it.