Mustard

Yield: 1 servings

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White or yellow, brown and black seeds come from the mustard plant, according to the species. Most commonly found is the creamy yellow type which is the least pungent. The brown type (or Indian mustard) is stronger in flavor, while the black mustard seed is the most powerful of all. The creamy yellow seeds are more widely available, but look for the black and brown types in Asian and Oriental food shops and delicatessens.

Whole mustard seeds have a pleasant nutty bite to them and can be used to add piquancy to salad dressing and hot sauces. They are especially good when served with fish, chicken and pork and are also delicious added to cole slaw, creamy potato salad, pickles and chutneys. Use mustard seeds (especially the two hotter varieties) with discretion to begin with, increasing the amount as you become more familiar with the flavors. It is the yellow seed which, when processed with black seeds, wheat flour and turmeric, forms the basis of English mustard. Dry mustard can be used as it is in cooking, or it may be mixed to a paste with a little cord or warm water. (For a nice, rich mixture, why not try mixing it with a little cream or milk?) Once mixed it should be left at least 10 minutes to allow time for the flavors to develop. It is only when the powder is mixed with a liquid that the essential oils are released, giving mustard its pungency and sensation of heat.

Remember that made mustard loses its pungency after a few hours. Jars of prepared mustard, once opened, need using within a few weeks as the flavor and color will deteriorate.

The variety of ready-prepared mustards come in a bewildering number of mouthwatering flavors, according to the manufacturer. These can be made from milled mustard flour, or from coarsely crushed seed (the proportions of which vary tremendously, depending on the type). Some are mixed with vinegar, others with grape juice or wine (and sometimes beer), and often contain various spices, herbs and seasonings, such as honey and horseradish. German mustard, which is mild and sweet-flavored, is a mixture of brown and white mustard flour moistened with vinegar and flavored with various spices. The mild-flavored American mustard (popular with children) generally uses only yellow mustard seeds with the addition of sugar, vinegar and salt. Dijon-style mustard, nade from milled, husked black seeds, is flavored with wine and spices. The pungent and spicy grainy types of mustard are a mixture of whole, crushed black and yellow seeds with additional flavorings added for individuality.

Mustards of all types can be used to great effect, not only as a condiment, but also as a culinary ingredient. They add bite and piquancy to all types of savory dishes from scrambled eggs, sauces and dressings to deviled mixtures, barbecued food, soups, casseroles, pastry, scones and cheesy biscuits.

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