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Thyme After Thyme

Discovering the Enigmatic Sibling of Thyme: A Journey into the Aromatic World of Ajwain

As someone with an insatiable appetite for culinary knowledge and application, it’s not uncommon for an unfamiliar ingredient to present itself. Allow me to share with you an ingredient that significantly elevates my gastronomic endeavors: Ajwain. For those familiar with my affinity for thyme, this little seed is a marvel, not just a seasoning but an essential component of my culinary DNA.

Thyme: The Versatile Companion in My Kitchen

Cooks and chefs alike have made fun of the fact that I will use thyme in everything. I would use it in dessert if I could get away with it. To illustrate the level of my commitment to thyme, I must admit that its absence on an invoice from my supplier would raise eyebrows. In my world, thyme graces nearly every dish. Some people might say that time is not appropriate for that dish because that ingredient is not part of that culture, and I would say that is most likely because they haven’t discovered it yet at the time of it being recorded. Thyme adds depth and aroma to every dish it graces. But like every good thing, it comes with caveats. Thyme, being an herb, possesses volatile compounds that dissipate when subjected to heat. Additionally, the tannins present may introduce an unwanted bitter note if not handled judiciously. This sensitivity necessitates adding fresh thyme towards the latter stages of cooking.

Ajwain: The Unsung Culinary Hero

Enter Ajwain, also known as carom seeds, a potent spice bursting with thymol—the very essence of thyme’s aromatic allure. Native to regions like India and Northern Africa, Ajwain has carved a niche for itself in traditional culinary practices, often appearing in dishes made with legumes and pulses. Its therapeutic properties aid digestion, and its robust flavor intensifies dishes like Indian dhal, imparting a satiating mouthfeel yet leaving room for a refreshing kulfi.

The Dance of Spices: Timing is Everything

Mastering the art of spice layering is crucial in achieving a well-balanced dish. Seasoning can be divided into two stages: cooking and finishing. In Indian cuisine, the foundation is often laid with a mix of curry spices early in the cooking process. The pièce de résistance, a sprinkle of garam masala, is saved for the finale. This sequence prevents the dish from acquiring a 'muddy' taste, allowing each spice to shine through distinctly.

Tips for Cooking with Ajwain

Ajwain, while delightful, is not to be taken lightly. Its potent nature means that a little goes a long way. Best practices suggest adding Ajwain at the outset, allowing it to meld into the dish during a low and slow cooking process. For those adventurous in flavor, like yours truly, a sprinkling of crushed Ajwain towards the end can further elevate the dish.

And there you have it—a comprehensive guide to unlocking the untapped potentials of Ajwain. So the next time you reach for thyme, perhaps give a nod to its exotic cousin and venture into the realm of uncharted flavors.

Where to buy Ajwain


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