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New to mustard seeds


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I am doing an eGullet food blog over here and would love some input on using mustard seeds with cauliflower. I want to keep things simple and was thinking of tossing the sliced cauliflower with olive oil, salt, and mustard seeds (black, white?)- would they need to be toasted first? I plan on a hot 425F oven. I know this is not a standard Indian prep but I thought cooks familiar with Indian preps would be the most knowledgeable about mustard.

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If it were me, I'd heat them in some of the olive oil on the stove top to "bloom" them. That's what I see usually in Indian recipes....the seeds are briefly sauteed until they pop (have a lid for the pan handy !). Then I'd toss with the cauliflower and salt and roast. I'd use either the black or the brown, you'll get more flavor. Or, if you don't want to do stove top, put the oil on your sheet pan, toss in the mustard seeds, and put in the 425 oven for a few minutes. You should get the same effect. You'll heighten the flavor of the seeds as well as flavor the oil.


"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

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Trying eating a pinch of raw mustard seed and figure out if you like it. Then go from there. Indian cooking typically uses black or brown mustard seed.

Since this isn't a standard Indian prep, you can play with it. You can toast the mustard seed (or not), grind it into a powder, then add it to your dressing. If you toast the mustard seed, it's faster to use a small skillet on moderate heat, frequently stirring the seed, until it becomes darker and fragrant. Immediately transfer to a dish to stop the cooking action. Spices burn easily.

The Indian hot oil dressing, or tadka, requires heating oil in a small heavy pot with a cover (the smallest pan you can find). The oil should be very hot, just starting to smoke. Toss in the mustard seeds, and clap on the cover. It's done when the seeds stop sputtering. When you look into the pot, you may think there are fewer mustard seeds in there than you would expect. Look at the bottom of the cover. :hmmm:

Olive oil really doesn't get hot enough for a tadka. I suggest that you use peanut, safflower, or canola oil instead.

ETA: As soon as the seeds stop sputtering in a tadka--this only takes seconds--, quickly pour it over the food to cool and prevent burning.

Edited by djyee100 (log)
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There's a recipe by Madhur Jaffrey that I love--in a bit of hot oil, toast mustard seeds (I use brown) and cumin seeds, combine with good, plain yogurt, season with s&p. The recipe uses this with boiled potatoes for a potato salad, but it's so delicious that I always make extra. It's very good with steamed cauliflower. You could probably skip the yogurt, but the toasted mustard seed/cumin seed combo is wonderful.

Lesson learned: they burn very quickly, be careful.

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Perhaps I should rephrase the question - if I am roasting the cauliflower at 400+ degrees for over half an hour do you think I need to toast the seeds first or is it not even a good idea to toss them with the vegetable. Perhaps they need to be separate.

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I'd assume that the oven cooking would "toast" them sufficiently not to require pre-toasting. They might burn, though, especially if you roast your cauliflower with little oil. In a hot skillet, they're ready in seconds.

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Perhaps I should rephrase the question - if I am roasting the cauliflower at 400+ degrees for over half an hour do you think I need to toast the seeds first or is it not even a good idea to toss them with the vegetable. Perhaps they need to be separate.

The mustard seeds may turn bitter in the cooking method you describe. Offhand, I cannot recall a preparation (Indian or otherwise) that calls for the roasting of mustard seed on a food. Popping the mustard seeds in hot oil is supposed to release their bitterness.

I suggest toasting the mustard seed and some cuminseed in hot oil (LindaK's post upthread), and pouring it over separately cooked cauliflower.

I look forward to hearing about your results, whatever you decide to do.

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A cursory search on the web.

Mustard seed must come in contact with a liquid in order to release their characteristic flavor.

Mustard seeds hardly give away any fragrance when whole. This is because the enzyme that creates the hot, pungent taste of mustard is activated when it comes in contact with liquids. And for this very reason we wait for the mustard seeds to pop in our tadka. The popping of mustard seeds imparts the sharpness and nutty flavor to the dish.


Also, the seeds will pop when they get hot enough, in a pan of oil or in your oven or on a grill. In this recipe for pork tenderloin rubbed with mustard seed, the author mentions how the mustard seeds pop all over the place on a BBQ grill. He/She considers this to be fun. (Who does the cleanup? :hmmm: )


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Mustard seeds can be used in a number of different ways. In Indian cuisine they are:

*Popped in hot oil, as a tadka. This gives them a wonderful nutty flavour with no bitterness or pungency. This is probably the most common way of using them.

*Toasted and ground for spice powders. During the toasting the seeds usually pop so they still have that nutty flavour.

*Ground raw to a powder or paste. This is particularly popular in Bengali dishes and pickled. The seeds react with liquid to have a pungent flavour.

For your dish, I would recommend roasting the cauliflower in the oven, and then doing a tadka at the end with mustard seed. A tadka you may enjoy includes 1 tsp each mustard and cumin, 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek, a pinch of asasfetida and a few curry leaves (optional). The mustard goes in first, followed swiftly by cumin and then fenugreek, followed by asafetida. When the mustard seeds pop, add the curry leaves and stir once or twice. Before pouring over the cauliflower.

You will be pleased to know that olive works perfectly well for a tadka and many people do use olive oil in this way, though it does have a taste that is rather foreign to Indian food.

ETA: Oh, and mustard seeds are also skinned and split and this mustard "dal" is used in pickles and a few other dishes.

Edited by Jenni (log)
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