I started to write this thinking that I could remember something that Elizabeth David had written about cumin. I picked up the book I thought it was in and typically could not find it. In my minds eye there was a lengthy passage on cumin being one of the best of spices and why that should be – but having gone through all the entries listed in the index I could not find it.
So you will have to take my word for it as opposed to Ms David’s.
It is a secret ingredient that I always use when making chilli con carne. The idea of using it for this came, I think, from one of the first cook books I was ever give The Rock’n’roll Cook Book which was put together by the wives or girlfriends of a couple of half famous rock stars. It consisted of recipes donated by various dodgy mid-1980’s rock stars of one sort or other often accompanied with pictures of them in the kitchen. It may be worth digging out to see what Sting was doing.
I think the recipe for chilli was given by Don Henley and the one thing I took from it was always add a few shakes of cumin powder. He was right.
The best way to get the full benefit of cumin is to grind it up yourself so that you can take in the full force of its warming and gentle smell.
I cooked the chilli having got back from a family walk up Velvet Hill round the back of Llangollen.