Cumin (also called jeera) seeds come from the fruit of the herbaceous plant which belongs to the same family as caraway and parsley. Considered to be a digestive, cumin - both in its seed or ground form - is used extensively in Indian cooking, offering a strong and slightly bitter and peppery taste. It is an important spice in many other cuisines too, including Mexican. The seeds are oblong, brown and ridged. Whole seeds retain their flavour much better than ground. The aroma and flavour is enhanced with a little dry-roasting. It is preferable to make your own freshly-ground cumin by dry roasting and grinding the seeds with a mortar and pestle or with a spice grinder. Peter Gordon recommends toasting and grinding them to add to lamb marinades along with smoked paprika and toasted fennel seeds. He adds cumin to coconut, turmeric and chilli-based pastes for marinating fish and likes to fry the seeds in olive oil until golden and adds them to a salad of diced tomatoes, grilled eggplant and lots of picked mint leaves.