Black mustard seeds are the seeds of Brassica nigra, one of the three main varieties of the mustard plant. Black mustard seeds, as with white mustard seeds, have a characteristic pungent taste created by the presence of the enzyme myrosinase, which becomes activated by contact with water.
While whole black mustard seeds have little smell, when cooked they have a powerful and penetrating aroma. When used in Indian cookery, black mustard seeds are often tempered by being fried in hot oil until they pop, enhancing their nutty flavour.
In Indian cuisine, black mustard seeds are used in pickles and, used whole, to add aroma and texture to cooked vegetable curries and salads. Use black mustard seeds to make the classic Bengali dish Macher Jhol (Fish in Mustard Sauce) or fry black mustard seeds in ghee and use this to add a spicy finishing touch to hearty lentil or bean dishes.
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