Monday 27 April 2009

Think Spice... Think Nigella Seeds (Kalonji)

As I mentioned earlier in my blog, while browsing some other food blogs, I came across Sunita's World, and her monthly spice challenge, Think Spice, which I thought sounded like a wonderful idea - a great way to delve into recipes you may not otherwise have thought to. This month's spice of choice was Nigella Seeds, aka Kalonji.

I have many Greek friends, and this spice brings back memories of my childhood, eating bread containing it which I thought was delicious. I have often thought back to that bread, wondering what on earth this fabulous spice was, and it wasn't until seeing it featured on the last series of The Apprentice that I realised that this was what it was called. As well as being called Nigella Seeds (no connection to Lawson), in Hindi it is known as Kalonji, and is also sometimes known as onion seeds or cumin seeds. I have looked for it in the past with no great results - and had decided I would need to visit a specialist shop, but just never got round to it. When I saw this challenge I decided that I was going to find it, had a Google, and there, on trusty eBay, I found my goods. It cost me £1.25 for 50g which I don't think is too bad considering it's supposedly one of the more expensive spices, my Mum was telling me, as she heard it was good for attracting a certain bird (Chaffinch maybe) to the garden if you left it out for them. Good taste!

When I began researching recipes to use for this challenge, I thought I had made my mind up with Spiced Potato Cake with Mint Raita - looks scrummy huh? But, on thinking about it more - I decided against it. The recipe serves 6, which would mean far too much food for Jack, Louis and I. I obviously know how to halve the quantities in the ingredients, but when it comes to adjusting cooking times accordingly I am useless... so I carried on searching. Thinking back to this childhood bread I'd enjoyed, I decided to go down that route and ended up with a recipe from Recipe Zaar to make bread rolls which were topped with Nigella Seeds, and were filled with feta, potato or beef. I went with the feta...

Feta Rolls topped with Nigella Seeds
(Makes 8 rolls)



  • 1 cup feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup dill, chopped [I'm not a big dill lover and so used about 1/4 cup instead. It was still aparent in the roll, but not overpowering]



1. Combine 1 cup of the flour with the sugar, yeast and salt.

2. Heat water and butter in a small pan until butter melts. [The recipe actually says "heat water and milk until butter melts", but seeing as there's no milk in the ingredients list, I am taking this to be a mistake].

3. Stir into the flour mixture.

4. Stir in egg and remaining flour to make a soft dough.

5. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

6. Cover, leave to rest for 10 minutes.

7. Roll dough to a 14 x 10 inch rectangle and cut into 8 pieces.

8. Spoon enough filling into each piece.

9. Bring up sides to enclose filling, pinching seam and ends to seal.

10. Cover, let rise for 30-45 minutes. [I left mine for45]

11. In a small bowl, beat together egg and water; brush onto top of dough. Sprinkle with nigella.

12. Bake at 375F / 190C for 20 to 25 minutes or until done. [I have a fan oven and 20 minutes was perfect].

My verdict.... delicious! The smell of my house as these baked were just divine. I am definitely inspired to try out some more of my own bread rolls, knowing how easy these were. I am seeing Sunday mornings with freshly baked poppyseed rolls. Anyway, I digress... As I tore the roll open, I was expecting the feta to have melted, but the cubes were still in their whole form at the base of the roll. The first mouthful was heavenly - the cheese tasted buttery, the bread was warm, the nigella seeds complimented it beautifuly. As I got further in, I think that the nigella seeds became too overpowering where I had sprinkled them on more thickly. The recipe called for 2 tablespoons, and I had only used approximately 1 tablespoon when I thought I was done, but being a fan of the seed, I thought I would go with the recipe. Next time, I will stick with the one.

Thank you very much to Sunita's World for awakening my senses to the world of nigella seeds. I look forward to seeing what everyone else has made, so I can try some of those recipes out. Now I know where I can get these badboys, I don't want to stop!


Unknown said...

Looks lovely. I might give this a try. You might consider posting a review and even uploading a photo to Recipezaar for the benefit of the recipe poster and those browsing the site.

MaggieNo said...

No problem getting these seeds if you can grow Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella damascena). I've grown these flowers and harvested the seeds for years for my spice collection. They cheerfully self-seed; they're attractive in all aspects: bloom, greens, seed heads; and my dogs like to snack on them when let some seed within reach.

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