Cumin is the seed of a small umbelliferous plant. The seeds come as paired or separate carpels, and are 3-6mm (1/8-1/4 in) long. They have a striped pattern of nine ridges and oil canals, and are hairy, brownish in colour, boat-shaped, tapering at each extremity, with tiny stalks attached. They resemble caraway seeds, but are lighter in colour and unlike caraway, have minute bristles hardly visible to the naked eye Cumin is used mainly where highly spiced foods are preferred. It features in Indian, Eastern, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Portuguese and Spanish cookery. It is an ingredient of most curry powders and many savoury spice mixtures, and is used in stews, grills - especially lamb - and chicken dishes. It gives bite to plain rice, and to beans and cakes. Small amounts can be usefully used in aubergine and kidney bean dishes. Cumin is essential in spicy Mexican foods such as chile con carne, casseroled pork and enchiladas with chili sauce.