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Cumin – The Spice of Greed and Love

Cumin is the little spice that brings my memories back to childhood and school snacks. As a child, I was given a weekly budget to buy something for myself and I always ended up buying my favourite bread called “dalamanek” which is a bread made from white wheat finished with cumin and salt in the weight of 100 – 200 gm, #perfectsingleserve

Cumin is native to Egypt and dates back all the way to the era of pharaohs, Romans and Greek thinkers, where it was used not only in the culinary world but also for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Nowadays, cumin is mostly grown across India in North Africa, Mexico, Chile and China.

Across several different cultures, cumin has many other meanings and uses. In the Bible, cumin is mentioned as the currency used to pay tithes to the priests. In Egypt, cumin is one of the ingredients used to mummify pharaohs. In ancient Rome, cumin became a symbol of frugality and greed. In the Middle Ages in Europe, cumin became a symbol of love and loyalty. Across several Arabic cultures cumin paste made with ground cumin, pepper and honey is believed to have aphrodisiac properties. 

Cumin quickly became popular for its nutty peppery flavour and can be used to replace black pepper. Ground cumin pairs well with many other spices and for this reason, cumin earned its place across Mexican, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, in Europe however its popularity declined after the Middle Ages. 

There are several different cultivars of cumin and the most popular are black and green cumin. When purchasing cumin, make sure that you are not purchasing caraway seeds as they look similar. Purchase whole cumin seed as it keeps the flavour better. Here in Singapore I love to shop in local spice shops simply because they offer a superior quality spice with unimaginable freshness compared to regular markets. Like any other spices, keep cumin in tightly sealed containers. 

As a cocktail guy and foodie, I found cumin to be a very interesting and versatile ingredient to work with, well at least when cooking. For cocktails, it is definately a little bit more challenging. We did however find a way to utilise cumin in cocktails, see our recipe below. 

“Jeera Testament”

50 ml Cumin infused White Rum* 10 ml Honey 15 ml Orange Juice 10 ml Lime Juice Top up with Ginger Beer

  1. Combine the first four ingredients in a shaker.

  2. Gently stir to mix together, add as much ice as possible and shake 3 times. 

  3. Strain into a tall glass over ice and top it up with ginger beer.

  4. Gently stir again and garnish with chili and mint spring. 

*Cumin Rum

20 gm Green Cumin 100 ml White rum

  1. Combine both ingredients in a jam jar, seal tightly and let it sit for 24 hours, occasionally shaking. 

  2. Once infused, strain the rum, bottle it, label and get happy mixing it into cocktails.

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