By Naini Setalvad July 2011 Jeera adds flavour to Indian food even as it delivers a powerful healing touch, and permeates memories with its fragrance What would life be without jeera? Just the word, jeera (cumin), brings to mind a host of Indian delicacies – aaloo-jeera, jeera with lemon water, mung with jeera, steaming curries with a tadka of jeera. My God, the list is endless! Indian cuisine is unimaginable without this humble condiment. A delicious satvik meal, made with wholesome vegetarian ingredients, will more often than not include jeera as one of the main condiments. Among the earliest of my childhood memories is of my grandmother dosing me with jeera when I had a tummy upset. If we kids suffered from flatulence or loose motions, we were fed powdered jeera in curds. Cumin is the seed of a flowering plant that is effective for curing nausea, purifying blood and clearing skin of various conditions. Also referred to as the friendly herb, jeera is used in Indian, African, Chinese and Mexican cuisine, and also added to baby food because of its mildness and soothing properties. Jeera is a natural digestive found in most Indian houses and is widely known to halt allergic reactions, prevent flatulence and stomach cramps. When mixed with water, lemon and salt, it gives relief during attacks of diarrhea, and is a wonderful digestive when roasted with salt and consumed after meals. When added to summer drinks it enhances their cooling properties. Jeera prevents morning sickness in pregnant mothers and helps the development of the foetus and eases childbirth. It is known to improve lactation in women and increases urination and thus prevents water retention. Cumin provides a good mix of nutrients: protein, fat, carbohydrate, iron, calcium and phosphorus. For those who find their sleep disturbed often or suffer from insomnia, cumin is an effective remedy. Nothing makes summer as special as a delicious sip of mango panna flavoured with jeera, or curd rice with jeera and kadi patta tadka. And how can I forget the delicious chaat with jeera and kala namak? Jeera is equally indispensable in winter too, with specialities like steaming jeera parathas and mung dal with sinful dollops of ghee and rice. My mouth waters as memories of all these delicacies waft through my mind, and I give a silent prayer of gratitude for these tiny capsules of taste and healing. Aloo chaat Potato – 2 boiled 1 tsp roasted and crushed jeeraBlack salt to taste½ chili (chopped fine)½ cup coriander½ tsp aamchur (dry mango [powder powder3 tbsp khajur (dates) chutney½ cup curdMethod Chop the potatoes Mix it in curdAdd all the condimentsGarnish with khajur (dates) chutney and corianderServe chilled.
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