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Sunday, May 1, 2011

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

Would you like to comment?

  1. aromatic wonderfully done Heather

  2. Wow!!! You nailed it again...thats an awesome idea. You are full of surprises and innovations. I never thought of fried rice with Ajwain....this one is a great post..I am glad you loved the soan papdi. looking forward to seeing more dishes with Ajwain and all the best to recreate soan papdi. You rock!

  3. The rice look flavorful with carom seeds in it.

  4. Another winner! I want to smell/taste the gorgeous dinner.

  5. I love EVERYTHING about this - period. it looks good it sounds good and believe it or not I can smell it and it smells good too.

  6. Rice and cashews? Yum! I love cashews on just about everything. I use them to make mole and well, pepperoni and cashew pizza is my favorite. :)

    Thanks for teaching me something new today. :)

  7. That's sure one healthy and awesome dish you have created...I love the aroma of ajwain and use it quite regularly in my cooking because of its digestive properties. Looks wonderful.

  8. Que platito tan delicioso.


  9. Wat a wonderful flavourful rice..

  10. Another wonderful recipe from you! Carom seeds look abit like fennel seeds? The rice must have tasted heavenly.

  11. Heather, just perfect :)

    Glad that you enjoyed it and thank you so much for being part of it. Love you for that. Soan papdi is my family favorite :)

  12. Thats a flavourful rice.. Looks great..

  13. wow, this looks amazing, i love learning about new herbs and spices. and i'm head over heels for that bread, delicious!

  14. I LOVE Saon Papdi! I was just thinking about it last night!

  15. i make alot of indian dishes since my husband likes indian food but i barely use ajwain... i have a bottle of it in my cabinet and it's still fairly full. now, i can make your recipe and use up some of my ajwain :D

    btw, your pictures are great!

  16. What fun! I have some ajwain seeds and am still not that familiar with how to use them. Very inspiring!

  17. Whoa! So cool! I wonder if I can find those at my local Middle Eastern spice shop. You definitely used them to their full potential!

  18. Always a good thing to learn about new spices.

  19. And here I thought that ajwain was the same as nigella seed! Next time we go to Indiatown, we'll have to get some ajwain so we can taste the difference. We'll get some curry leaves at the same time. I think we neeeeeeeeed to try this.

    (I just looked at the photo of the spices again. Do you get dried curry leaves where you are?)

  20., actually I haven't been able to find curry leaves in any form around me anywhere. A blogging friend (Christo of Chez What?) sent me a package of fresh curry leaves that he found in New York and I put them in the freezer. I can pull them out and use them as needed...I suppose that would be freeze-dried, then huh?

  21. One more thing... I just asked the resident expert if he had ever tried Soan Papdi and his eyes glazed over and he said "I'm guessing that's the south Indian version of sohan papri. I love sohan papri!"

    I've looked at a few of the recipes online and see at least two that call for char-magaz (a mixture of four kinds of dried melon seeds; I just read that Char means four, and Magaz means intelligence) rather than nuts.

    Apparently, char-magaz is available already mixed and packaged, but I found a char-magaz recipe that said to mix dried muskmelon, watermelon, pumpkin, cucumber seeds in equal quantites.

    (Eeek, one more thing just turned into a very long comment! Sorry about that.)

  22. Oh, too bad about the curry leaves, Heather!! We're fortunate and can buy them fresh in the refrigerator sections of most of our Indian grocery stores. There are usually one or two branches in a closed plastic bag. Each branch has 25 to 50 leaves (actually, I'll tell the truth, I've never counted the leaves and am only guessing).

  23. Oh, no problem...that's really cool, I didn't know any of that! I honestly can't believe we don't have any Indian markets here in town...we have Thai, Chinese, Mexican (lots of Mexican), but no Indian... Thanks for the info!

  24. I think that curry leaves may be used in Thai cooking too. If I were you I'd ask at the stores that sell Thai foods. I'm not positive that curry leaves are used in some Thai curries (I might be mistaking lime leaves for curry leaves) but it's definitely worth a try asking.

  25. I really love the way you discribe the smell and taste. I think if you wrote a book it would be delicious no matter what subject ...Your cooking is magic but the words coming with it just pure delight...

  26. Can someone please tell me what Ajwain is called in Thai?? It's been used in our family for eons as a spice and as a cure for a poorly tummy (sometimes with ginger or galangal, lemon and sometimes rock salt)! I know they use it in Thai friend is over there and has come down with a bit of travellers tummy! :-(
    Any help would be appreciated!!

    1. @Anonymous... I still don't know much more about Ajwain, but when I tried looking up other names, these were the ones I found: Ajave Seeds, Ajwain, Ajvain, Ajwan, Bishop’s Weed, Carom, Ethiopian Cumin, Omam, Omum, ajowan, ajvini, javane. I hope your friend finds relief!