Sprinkle Pastry Cigars In Nigella Seeds For An Earthy Complement To The Sugar

The key to any good dish is balancing flavors — and yes, this applies to sweetened pastries, as well. There are many ways you can balance the addition of sugar in a dish. Whether you sprinkle your baked goods with a bit of sea salt or add the bitter zest of a lemon to cut through excessive sweetness, finding a way to balance the flavors is essential. 

Tasting Table recipe developer Tanika Douglas uses nigella seeds in her cranberry feta filo cigars as an earthy tasting note to complement the sugar. Nigella seed — also referred to as black cumin or just black seed — is a spice typically seen in dishes in India, northern Africa, and across the Middle East. This aromatic seed carries tasting notes of black pepper and oregano, as well as a distinctive nutty flavor.

Nigella seeds are somewhat similar to black sesame seeds, but have a more spice-forward taste and are less sweet. While this may seem a strange complement to sugar, the woody, nutty notes actually work very well to warm up the flavors of any sweet dish, adding a comforting taste and an aesthetically-pleasing pop of color. This spice works especially well as a complement to hazelnuts in recipes. One of the easiest ways to use nigella seeds is to sprinkle them on top of dishes like Douglas does.

The best dishes to use nigella seeds in

You can take inspiration from Tanika Douglas and use nigella seeds as a creative topping for savory and sweet creations like spinach and butternut puff pastries or as a unique flavor component for focaccia with braised leeks and goat cheese. Other easy ways to use the spice for baked goods include adding it to pancakes or spicing up plain scones with a dash of nigella seeds on top. In India, nigella seeds are used as a topping for naan. The seeds can also be added to curry and lentil dishes. 

This versatile spice is an excellent component in both sweet and savory dishes and is especially good at bridging the gap between those that combine both contrasting flavor profiles, so you can experiment and find your favorite use for it. You can purchase nigella seeds in online stores, or if you visit your local Indian or international market, there's a chance you could find them there as well. If you're struggling to locate nigella seed for a recipe, you can imitate its flavor using caraway seeds or black sesame seeds, though these will have a slightly different taste than real nigella seeds.