Roasted cumin seeds have a uniquely nutty flavor that is the key to a perfectly spiced raita or yogurt. It’s also essential to many Indian street foods. I often roast a batch, store it whole, and then grind it up as needed so that it’s as fresh as possible.
1. Combine the cumin seeds in a shallow, heavy pan over medium heat and dry roast for 3 minutes, until the cumin seeds are reddish-brown. During the entire cooking time, shake the pan constantly to prevent burning (just like roasting pine nuts). The key here is to never step away, so the seeds don’t burn. The mixture should be just toasted and aromatic. If they burn (and it’s OK—I’ve been there many times) discard them and start again. Remove from the heat, transfer to a plate, and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
2. Place the cooled, roasted seeds in a spice grinder, mortar and pestle, or a powerful blender, such as a Vitamix, and process into a fine powder. Take your time, as this may take a few minutes. If your spice grinder is small, you may need to grind it in several small batches. Sift after grinding to refine the powder or use as is. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
3. Store in an airtight (preferably glass) jar in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.
Indian For Everyone by Anupy Singla. Copyright © 2014 Anupy Singla. Published by Agate Publishing. All rights reserved.