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Ajwain
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Ajwain

Ajwain (also known as Carom, Ajowan, Bishop's Weed and Seeds Of Bishop's Weed), is an uncommon spice except in certain areas of Asia. It is the small seed-like fruit of the Bishop's Weed plant, (Trachyspermum ammi syn. Carum copticum), egg-shaped and grayish in colour. The plant has a similarity to parsley.

Ajwain is often confused with lovage seed; even some dictionaries mistakenly state that ajwain comes from the lovage plant.

Flavour

Raw ajwain smells almost exactly like thyme because it also contains thymol, but is more aromatic and less subtle in taste, as well as slightly bitter and pungent. Even a small amount of raw ajwain will completely dominate the flavor of a dish.

In Indian cuisine, ajwain is almost never used raw, but either dry-roasted or fried in ghee. This develops a much more subtle and complex aroma, somewhat similar to caraway but "brighter".

History

Ajwain originated in the Middle East, possibly in Egypt. It is now primarily grown and used in the Indian Subcontinent, but also in Iran, Egypt and Afghanistan. It is sometimes used as an ingredient in berebere, an Ethiopian spice mixture.

Preparation/Form

The dried fruits of the plant are used. Because they look like seeds, some call Ajwain, Ajwain seed. The flavour of this spice can be improved by roasting the small fruits in a dry pan.

Uses

It is used in India and Africa, and one of the most common uses is with lentils. Supposedly it can reduce the gassy effect of beans when the two are cooked together. One suggestion is to use it along with cumin, whenever cumin is called for.

Recipes