Mustard seeds, often known for their pungent heat can also be mild. Mustard seeds must be ground to a powder and mixed with water to bring out the heat, . It then takes a bit of time for heat to come through before reducing again. Unless you add an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice, which stabilises the heat. Heating the mustard also removes its pungency, leaving a milder flavour.
Mustard is a Brassica, alongside broccoli and cabbage and is one of the spices which can grow in a temperate climate. The seeds have virtually no aroma but when ground it smells pungent and slightly sweet. Cooking releases an acrid, earthy aroma.
There are 3 main varieties:
White (or yellow) mustard seed (Brassica hirta or Sinapis alba). This is the mildest. Used mainly for table mustards and whole in pickling.
Brown mustard seed (Brassica juncea). More pungent than white. Brown mustard seeds are used in Asian cooking and are a good substitute for black mustard seeds.
Black mustard seed (Brassica nigra). By far the hottest of the three. The seeds too easily split and shatter, so it’s a nightmare to harvest. Consequently, it’s harder to find and brown mustard is often used instead.
Mustard seeds are used in cooking all over the world. In pickles and brines, whole seeds add texture and a mild nutty flavour. Ground seeds can be added to create more heat.
Mustard-based condiments are very popular in European countries and in North America. And white mustard seeds are used to flavour barbecue sauces and rubs, sandwich spreads and salad dressings. Turmeric is often added as white mustard seeds lack colour when ground.
In Indian cooking, mustard seeds are either dry roasted or quickly fried in oil, until they start popping. This releases their volatile oil and turns them sweet and mellow and distinctly perfumed.
Mustard oil is also used, in Nepal and in India, especially in Bengal. Firstly, it’s heated to smoking point to reduce the smell, then cooled before use. It is viscous, a deep golden colour and quite pungent. And it has a piquant flavour, which is very distinctive.
Mustard is an important flavouring in many cuisines around the world. It is used a lot in Nepal and this Mustard Trout recipe is one of our favourites. It uses the oil and the ground seeds to flavour fresh trout fillets along with a choice of Go Spice blends.