Indian food all over the country is so varied that in spite of spending much of my childhood in India, I’m not really familiar with Bengali cooking. (Bengal is a state in East India bordering Bangladesh) I’ve eaten at a few Bengali friends homes but never given much thought to their unique spices.
Since starting Indiaphile, I’ve been researching the foods of India that I didn’t grow up with and I kept coming across a spice called Kalonji. When I finally looked it up I realized it is the same spice as nigella in English. This made me really curious since I had never even tasted nigella.
I went to the Indian store and bought a package of nigella. They look so much like black sesame seeds. I grabbed a pinch and tasted it. They had a nice pop and a smooth onion-y flavor.
I wanted to try them in a dish where I could really taste the spice. Potatoes seemed like the perfect fit since they are rather neutral in flavor and taste great with herbs and spices. I simply roasted some potatoes in garlic oil with some nigella. The result was amazing. I took them to my book club and they disappeared fast.
- 1 ½ pounds baby potatoes about 1 inch in diameter, cut into half or quarters if your potatoes are bigger (I used a mix of red, yellow and purple potatoes)
- 1 ½ tsp nigella aka kalonji or onion seed
- 4 garlic cloves peeled and smashed with the side of knife
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit/ 230 degrees Celsius.
- In a small bowl, mix the smashed garlic cloves and oil. Let the garlic flavor the oil for about 10 minutes. This is a good time to scrub and rinse the potatoes.
- Once the 10 minutes up, remove the garlic cloves from the oil and discard.
- Toss the potatoes, oil, nigella, black pepper and salt into a large sheet pan. Mix well using your hands, making sure that the oil and spices are coating each potato. Massage the salt and spices into the potatoes for a few seconds.
- Roast in the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes. Stir about halfway through the cooking.