I love sharing what I have discovered about certain spices and blends, and the myriad ways in which to use them. One such spice I find quite unique is ajwain (pronounced AHJ-a-wahn).
Ajwain or ajwan (also referred to as Bishop's weed and or carom seeds) looks like small caraway or cumin seeds, but tastes like a pungent version of thyme. While thyme is floral and sweet,ajwan is much stronger with a bit of a kick.
The seeds grow extensively in India, Egypt, Iran and Pakistan and are featured mainly in savory recipes like breads, biscuits, naan and paratha. For centuries,ajwain was highly commonplace in Egypt, where it was first used medicinally, and later on, as a culinary spice.
When cooking with whole ajwain seeds, the seeds are first crushed and then added at the final stage of preparation. This is because prolonged cooking results in evaporation of essential oils. Due to the strong flavor of ajwain,it is used sparingly on its own or with other spices in a method called tadka(tempering) where the oil is heated until very hot and the spices are added to release the aromatic flavors. The infused oil is then used as the final touch to the recipe.
You will find ajwain in many Indian vegetable dishes for its distinctive taste, such as legumes, particularly lentils, and in chicken and fish curries. In the Middle East, ajwain is used to elevate the flavor of rice and meat dishes as well as a flavoring and preserving agent for pickles, chutneys, and jams.
In addition to its many culinary applications,ajwain is also known for its many medicinal properties as it is rich in fiber and antioxidants. It is widely used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine as a carminative for indigestion, as well as useful for toothaches.
Ajwain seeds are sold whole and dried ready to be ground and mixed with other spices, or otherwise employed on its own; or used whole when making breads or desserts.
Here's an idea, why not have some summer fun with ajwain by trying out this great little spicy biscuit recipe that is perfect for a light picnic snack:
Spicy Ajwain Biscuits - click link