Mustard seeds may be small, but they pack a lot of flavour and nutrition. They're loaded with antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. However, not all mustard seeds are equal in terms of taste and aroma. White, brown and black mustard seeds are each used for different culinary purposes. Of these, Brassica nigra, or black mustard seeds, yield the most pungent flavour and aroma. Learning how to cook with black mustard seeds is a great way to spice up your passion for good food.
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Make sure you buy the right seeds. You can easily identify white mustard seeds since they're white to yellow in colour. However, it can also be easy to confuse brown mustard seeds for black ones. The former appear more purple than brown, while the latter are dark brown to black. So, take a close look, especially if buying seeds in bulk without the aid of precise labelling.
Be sure your mustard seeds pass muster. Spices can sometimes hang around market shelves past the point of expiration in terms of freshness and flavour. In addition, seeds packed in sealed bottles are your best bet. Seeds packed loosely in a box are vulnerable to insect invasion, and those stored in plastic can lose their essential oils to the packaging. Your nose can help you sniff out the spicy seeds from the spoiled.
Understand the differences among seeds. For the most part, white mustard seeds are used as pickling spice, and brown mustard seeds are ground to make prepared English, French or Chinese mustard. One of the few times you'll be tossing whole seeds into a hot frying pan or oven is when you cook with black mustard seeds.
Seeds That Cut the Mustard
Think back to the last time you sampled Indian cuisine. Black mustard seeds are a staple in Indian cooking and are referred to as "rai." You can duplicate this ethnic flavour by adding the seeds to your own curries, soups and vegetable stews.
Snap the flavour out of the seeds. Indian chefs commonly toast black mustard seeds in very hot oil to bring out their flavour. You'll know the seeds have "blossomed" when they turn slightly lighter in colour and make a popping sound. These fried seeds can be combined with other spices to make a rub or coating for roast pork, beef or lamb.
Dress up your dressings. Add whole, raw black mustard seeds to salad dressings, as well as to sauces, dips and condiments.
Experiment freely when you cook with black mustard seeds. They pair especially well with chicken, beef, sausage, shrimp, beans, rice and cheese. The seeds also compliment cabbage, apples, green beans, asparagus and potatoes.
Tips and warnings
- Look for black mustard seeds in Indian food speciality stores, since most supermarkets typically only have white mustard seeds available.
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