Coriander is probably native to the Middle East and southern Europe, but has also been known in Asia and the Orient for millennia. It is found wild in Egypt and the Sudan, and sometimes in English fields. It is referred to in the Bible in the books of Exodus and Numbers, where the colour of ‘manna’ is compared to coriander. The seed is now produced in Russia, India, South America, North Africa — especially Morocco - and in Holland. It was introduced to Britain by the Romans, who used it in cookery and medicine, and was widely used in English cookery until the Renaissance, when the new exotic spices appeared. Among ancient doctors, coriander was known to Hippocratic, and to Pliny who called it coriandrum for its ‘buggy’ smell, coris being a bug; or perhaps because the young seed resembles Cimex lectularius, the European bed-bug.
Coriander is the seed of a small plant. The seeds are almost spherical, one end being slightly pointed, the other slightly flattened. There are many longitudinal ridges. The length of the seed is 3 - 5 mm (1/8” - 3/16”) and the colour, when dried, is usually brown, but may be green or off white. The seed is generally sold dried and in this state is apt to split into halves to reveal two partially hollow hemispheres and occasionally some internal powdery matter. Coriander is available both whole and ground. The fresh leaves of the plant are called cilantro and are used as an herb.
Bouquet: Seeds are sweet and aromatic when ripe. Unripe seeds are said to have an offensive smell. The leaves have a distinctive fragrance.
Flavour: The seeds are warm, mild and sweetish. There is a citrus undertone similar to orange peel. The leaves combine well with many pungent dishes from India, Mexico and the Middle East.
Preparation and Storage
Coriander seed is generally used coarsely ground or more finely powdered, depending on the texture desired. It is best bought whole as, being brittle, it is easy to mill or pound in a mortar. Ground coriander is apt to lose its flavour and aroma quickly and should be stored in an opaque airtight container. Whole seeds keep indefinitely. Their flavour may be enhanced by a light roasting before use. As coriander is mild, it is a spice to be used by the handful, rather than the pinch. The leaves can be chopped or minced before use. They lose flavour when dried, but may be frozen either blanched or chopped and frozen into ice cubes.
The commonest use of coriander seed is in curry powders, where it is the bulkiest constituent, often rough ground in India to give a crunchy texture. The seeds can be likewise used in stews and soups. They blend well with smoked meats and game and feature in traditional English black pudding recipes and Italian mortadella sausage. Coriander is an ingredient of garam masala, pickling spices and pudding spices and is used in cakes, breads and other baked foods. Sugared comfits made from the seeds are a traditional sweetmeat and breath sweetener. Coriander is a characteristic of Arab cookery, being common with lamb, kid and meat stuffings. Taklia, a popular Arab spice mixture, is coriander and garlic crushed and fried. Coriander with cumin is a common combination and features in falafel and in the Egyptian appetizer dukka, which consists of those spices plus sesame seeds, hazelnuts, salt and pepper, roasted and crushed. Coriander goes well with ham and pork, especially when orange is included. It enhances fish dishes and, with other spices, may form a delicious coating for spiced fish or chicken, rubbed into the scored flesh and grilled. Try frying a few seeds with sausages to add an unusual flavour. Coriander complements chili and is included in many chili recipes, such as harissa, the hot North African red pepper sauce. It may be added to cream or cottage cheese.
The leaves are always used fresh. They feature in Spanish, Middle Eastern, Indian, Oriental and South American cookery. They are sprinkled like parsley on cooked dishes, minced or puréed in sauces, soups and curries, especially bhuna. Both seeds and leaves can be used in salads. In Thailand the root of the coriander plant is used to flavour meats and curries.
Attributed Medicinal Properties
Coriander seed oil is an aromatic stimulant, a carminative (remedial in flatulence), an appetizer and a digestant stimulating the stomach and intestines. It is generally beneficial to the nervous system. Its main use is in masking foul medicines, especially purgatives, where it has anti-griping qualities. Coriander cakes were once taken against ‘St. Anthony’s fire’, or ‘Rose’ a severe streptococcal skin infection called ‘erysipelas”, which caused many deaths before the advent of antibiotics. In Asia the herb is used against piles, headache and swellings; the fruit in colic, piles and conjunctivitis; the essential oil in colic, rheumatism and neuralgia; the seeds as a paste for mouth ulceration and a poultice for other ulcers.
Recent studies have supported its use as a stomach soother for both adults and colicky babies. Coriander contains an antioxidant that helps prevent animal fats from turning rancid. It also contains substances that kill meat-spoiling bacteria and fungi. These same substances in Cilantro also prevent infection in wounds. Coriander has been shown to improve tummy troubles of all kinds, from indigestion to flatulence to diarrhea. Weak coriander tea may be given to children under age 2 for colic. It's safe for infants and may relieve their pain and help you get some much-needed sleep. Cilantro and Coriander contain substances that kill certain bacteria and fungi, thereby preventing infections from developing in wounds. Sprinkle some coriander Seed on minor cuts and scrapes after thoroughly washing the injured area with soap and water. Intriguing new studies suggest that coriander has anti-inflammatory effects. Since the pain of arthritis is cause by inflammation coriander oil may help you.
Recipes using Coriander
Lamb biryani with raita
from the epicentre
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