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Saffron-jeera pulao

I tend to be a very pedantic cook, and when I want to cook a recipe I research the authentic version of the dish. This is one of those recipes that I had some trouble with because of the variations in what is known as black cumin or kala jeera. It is a confusing world of spices, even more so with products being mislabeled by the manufacturers. So let's clear this all up.

Cumin (jeera): light brown elongated seeds that have an earthy taste is the most common variety

Anise seed (saunf): light green with an anise flavour

Caraway seeds or thymol seeds (ajwain): Very small light brown seeds with a distinct earthy flavour of anise seeds and dill. Most commonly mistaken for kala jeera

Royal cumin seeds (Shah jeera): Longish seeds similar in colour to jeera seeds but with a much lighter flavour.

Nigella seeds (kalonji): Small black seeds that have a very distinct pungent nutty taste. They are also commonly mistaken for kala jeera because of the black colour

Kala jeera (black cumin): Long dark brown to black seeds that look like shah jeera seeds and with a distinct earthy taste

Now I hope this is cleared up and hope the image below helps you stock your pantry with the appropriate spice correctly labelled.

This is truly a regal dish. The everyday rice has a massive upgrade with the saffron that adds a lovely light yellow colour and aroma. The kala jeera, which is the appropriate spice for this dish, and other spices scent the rice delicately making it shine. There will be no more going back to the boring jeera rice you are used to once you have tried this version.

Rasika is filled with modern interpretations of traditional Indian dishes. The book highlights the creativity of the chef/author, with amazing dishes like this one. This book comes out when I want to truly impress my guests. I highly recommend this cookbook, and also the restaurant in Washington DC.

For more amazing recipes from this cookbook, click here.


2 tablespoons ghee

1 teaspoon black cumin seeds

4 green cardamom pods

3 whole cloves

1 1-inch piece cinnamon stick

1 small bay leaf

1 generous pinch of saffron strands

2 cups basmati rice, rinsed in water

water, as needed

Heat the ghee in a medium pot and add the black cumin seeds, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf and stir till the bay leaf turns a light brown, about 20 seconds. Add the saffron and the rice and fry till the rice turns a bright white. remove and set aside.

Cook the rice on the stove or in an Instapot or rice cooker using as much water as is recommended. Fluff well once cooked. Serve hot.

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Jan 20

Thank you! I was gifted both black cumin and nigella seeds and I couldn't figure out why recipes kept using the two names interchangeably. Now I know what to look for when figuring out recipes and can actually use my new spices :)


Nov 12, 2023

Super Simple, light on the tummy and yummylicious

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