Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Tasting Jerusalem #8 – Nigella Seeds


Dee – April 2015’s featured ingredient is Nigella seeds, or Kalonji seeds.  Although most commonly encountered in Indian Naan Bread, they also occasionally appear in Jerusalemite recipes. 
Up until this point I had only ever used in bread doughs, so was looking to use them in a different way.  The recipe I settled on was for the Burekas, on page 254.  These cheese filled pastries were Turkish in origin but are now a familiar sight in Jerusalem too.
The published recipe listed ingredients for two different fillings: one with a fairly strong mixture of mature and hard cheese, leeks and parsley, and a second with lighter and softer cheeses.  I decided to give both a try as the directions weren’t difficult and quick to make. 
I must admit to using shop-bought puff pastry.  I fully intend to have a go at making my own one day (perhaps I should add it to my bucket list?) but the shop-bought stuff was ready rolled and saved a lot of time.
The Nigella seeds were used in this recipe as a type of mixed seed garnish decorating the edges of the pastry.  They were accompanied by sesame seeds, and caraway seeds.  The original recipe also added yellow mustard seeds and chilli flakes but I didn’t use these as I couldn’t find any yellow mustard seeds and was worried about the chilli flakes burning.  I did however add the chilli flakes to the lighter cheese mixture, in which they worked very well.
I baked them for 15 minutes, the minimum specified time, which was enough to allow the pastry to puff up and colour a little.  There was some escaping cheese but not the molten lake I had prepared myself for, and in any case it didn’t take long to cool down, allowing me to gently push it back into the pastry without damaging it.
The Burekas are pictured below as we served them, with a simple salad of tomato, cucumber, radish, red chilli and black olives.
I was very happy with how they turned out.  The edging of the black and white seeds were particularly pleasing to the eye, and they tasted amazing too.  The pastries with the lighter filling and chilli flakes slightly edged it on taste, but I would happily eat either again.  The Nigella seeds, along with the caraway and sesame seeds, provided a lovely spicy crunchy texture to the soft cheese and flaky pastry, allowing three delicious taste sensations in each bite.
They can be eaten warmed or at room temperature but I enjoyed them much more when they were warmed.
There’s no getting away from the fact that they are not in any way healthy or low-calorie, but as an occasional treat they are quite hard to beat.

“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ebury Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to  following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook Page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest
(Please note: I have listed the UK publisher and have linked to the UK Amazon site.  The US details are provided on the web site)


  1. Love the edging of seeds, makes them really pop!

    1. That's a really good description, thanks. The Nigella and Caraway seeds are both quite intensely flavoured, so it's a very effective use for them.

  2. I finally bought my bag of seeds yesterday - Sarene was way ahead of me and has already cooked up several dishes. I've been expanding my use of various seeds including chia which I recently added to my homemade granola and discovered that they really do "pop" after it came out of the oven -- for 15 minutes or so - it was wild. I'm so glad you made this recipe - don't blame you for using store-bought pastry - turns a time-consuming effort into a completely do-able one! Great job!

    1. Would be great to see some more finished dishes for April's featured ingredient.
      I've never tried chia seeds but lots of people have been mentioning them recently.
      Thanks again for the feedback. Much appreciated.