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Ajwain (Carom Seeds) Fried Rice ...for MAITRI

A few days ago, I posted a little teaser about an event that I am participating in that is called Maitri. It is basically a friendship chain for foodies (Maitri is the Sanskrit/Hindi word for "friendship") in which mystery ingredients are sent out by one person and identified by another.  This person then makes a dish using the mystery ingredient and shares it on their blog.  This is a fun way to meet other foodies and discover new ingredients.  Maitri was started by Priya of Mharo Rajasthan's Recipes and Reshmi of Rasoi...and  you can find a full list of "how to participate" at either of their sites (click on their blog names).  It's all very simple.  The main requirements are that your dish be vegetarian (no eggs, unless unless used in baking) and that you are able to make a dish within a certain amount of time of receiving your mystery ingredient...and that you're able to send out a mystery ingredient.  If you'd like to peek at what has been made so far, check out this running roundup.

The incredibly sweet Rashmy of Amma & Baby was in charge of sending me my mystery box, and I was on pins and needles waiting to see what surprise would end up on my door step.  And I was not disappointed.  I tore open my package to find something that I had never worked with...or was even familiar with...before.  Rashmy gave me a little note with a clue on aid me in my search for the name.  So, it was a seed (herb/spice) used commonly in Indian and Pakistani cooking.  When I smelled it, I thought it smelled like thyme.  It looked like mini cumin or caraway.  Well, my search led me to the answer...
...Ajwain...otherwise known as Carom Seeds.  Carom seeds contain thymol (that's why I smelled thyme...the same essential oil) and is related to caraway.  Treat them like other seeds (fennel, cumin, caraway, dill, anise)...dry roasting/toasting (or toasting in a bit of hot oil) releases the fragrant oils inside.  Ajwain aids in digestion and is also used in Ayurvedic medicine.  Many Indian cooks add it to fried foods and breads and it is commonly used with lentils.

While I have many things I want to try Ajwain in in the future, I decided to start with something simple that I knew the hubs and I would love and that I already had everything on hand to make.  I see Ajwain Parantha, Potato Samosas with Ajwain, and of course Lentils with Ajwain in my very near future.  But until then, I adore this new (to me) way of making fried rice.  The flavor is very reminiscent of a combination of thyme and cumin.  It was such a perfect match to the nutty, rich crunch of the cashews and the subtle heat of the chiles alongside the delicate scent of the curry leaves. The lemon sprinkled over just before service totally brings the whole dish together.

Ajwain (Carom Seeds) Fried Rice
inspired by & adapted from Gruhinii
serves 2-4

1 Tbs. olive oil
 ½ c. cashews
2 tsp. Ajwain (Carom Seeds)
1 large (or a few small) dried, red chiles, sliced or broken
4 curry leaves
1 small (~½ c.) onion, chopped
2 c. cooked rice (any kind)
~½ tsp. fine sea salt
lemon wedges, for serving
In a large non-stick skillet, heat olive oil. Add cashews and stir-fry until deep golden.  Remove and set aside.  Add ajwain, chiles, curry leaves, and onion to pan.  Sauté for a few minutes, stirring until it smells amazing...and onions are translucent.
 Add rice and stir-fry for a few more minutes, until everything is hot and a bit of the rice is starting to color.  Season with salt.  Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over individual servings.
Rashmy, thank you so much for sending me this secret ingredient...I had a blast with it and I now have a new spice for my arsenal!  And I just wanted to share another fun thing that Rashmy packed for me, along with my secret ingredient...a box of Indian sweets called Soan Papdi.  Another thing that was completely and totally new to me.  It felt like Christmas morning (as a carefree child, not a stressed-out adult) and I carefully peeled the tape back from the box and found a cute little plastic container inside.  Then I opened that and found a block that was cut into slices inside of some soft, wax-like paper.  Light and delicate and pale with paper-thin slices of nuts laced throughout...I was so intrigued.  I lifted one to my mouth, closed my eyes and tasted cardamom bursting at me from every layer of this flaky, layered sweet.  It is made simply from chickpea flour, sugar, fine wheat flour, pistachio, cardamom, & ghee.  I am enamored...and I know I'll be attempting to recreate this on my own one day, too.  Thank you, Rashmy!
So.  What are you waiting for?  Food, mystery, suspense, friendship, new experiences...come join the Maitri fun!

I am also sharing this post with:
midnight maniac meatless monday just another meatless monday veganmondays

For fun, links to my mystery ingredient recipients and what they made with it:
Rathi of Kitchen Fever made Hibiscus Banana Sorbet