4.21.10 Cardamom Central

Cardamom 790 xxx
photo by george billard
My love for cardamom knows no bounds. I covet its pungent, deliciously floral spice—to smell (I adore perfumes that contain it) and to eat. Is that strange? If you are not familiar with this gorgeous flavor, I suggest you give it a try in either a sweet or savory recipe. I have posted several previously (rich shortbread-like cookies, a vegetarian curry, and ice cream). Don’t miss the new ones posted below: the ultimate lassi for warm weather; lamb chops for the grill or stovetop; and an easy and highly armotic basmati rice.
Cardamom refers to herbs within two genera of the ginger family Zingiberaceae: Elettaria and Amomum. Both varieties take the form of a small seedpod, triangular in cross-section and spindle-shaped, with a thin papery outer shell and small black seeds. Elettaria pods are light green in color, while Amomum pods are larger and dark brown. The green ones are sometimes bleached and appear as white.Brown (Black) Cardamom, Amomum sublatumThis coarse dark-reddish-brown pod looks something like a tiny coconut. It contains about 40 seeds and has a decidedly smoky aroma. The seeds are used in curries and rice dishes like biryani, and are an essential ingredient in garam masalas. The husks make a great smoking agent when soaked and thrown on hot coals in your grill.Green Cardamom, Ellettria cardamomumA bush in the ginger family produces these green pods that hold roughly 20 seeds each. Its flavor has a camphor-like quality and citrus intensity. The pods can be shelled to collect and grind the seeds, or can be used whole as in chai. Whole pod better retain the aroma of the seeds. Used in both sweet and savory preparations, especially in Indian cuisine, where even coffee is sometimes spiked with cardamom (divine!).White Cardamom, Ellettria cardamomumThese are simply green pods that have been bleached, which sweetens the taste and smoothes the intensity. Found mostly in Scandinavia, white cardamom is a key ingredient in spiced wines like glog, and in holiday yeast breads.Cardamom is used in many medicinal/therapeutic remedies. It is said to strengthen digestive activities, relieving flatulence, indigestion and heartburn. In India, it is commonly used as a breath freshener. Powdered seeds of cardamom are boiled in water to make tea and used to treat depression and even sexual dysfunction. Gargling with an infusion of cardamom and cinnamon cures sore throat and can also be useful in averting bouts of flu.Cardamom Lassiadapted from Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez serves 2At Lassi, her restaurant in the West Village, Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez offers eight variations on the classic sweet-tart Indian yogurt drink but this one is the most addictive. Some traditional recipes call for adding ice but this tends to make it watery, so just take the time to chill it before drinking.2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt3 tablespoons superfine sugar1 teaspoon ground (green) cardamom1 pinch sea saltPuree yogurt, sugar, cardamom and salt in a blender until well combined. Divide lassi between 2 glasses and chill until quite cold, about 45 minutes.Lamb Chops with Cumin, Cardamom and Limefrom Gourmet magazine serves 43 garlic cloves, finely chopped1/4 teaspoon ground cumin1/4 teaspoon ground (green) cardamom2 tablespoons fresh lime juice3/4 teaspoon salt1/2 teaspoon black pepper2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil8 (1/2- to 3/4-inch-thick) rib lamb chops (2 lbs)Whisk together garlic, cumin, cardamom, lime juice, salt, pepper and 2 teaspoons oil, and transfer to a sealable plastic bag just large enough to hold lamb. Add lamb and seal bag, forcing out excess air, then massage lamb until evenly coated. Marinate at room temperature, turning bag occasionally, 15 minutes.Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook half of lamb about 3 minutes each side for medium-rare. Transfer cooked lamb to a platter. Wipe out skillet, then heat remaining tablespoon oil and cook remaining lamb in same manner. Transfer to platter and let stand 5 minutes.Basmati Rice with Black Cardamomserves 42 black cardamom pods1 tablespoon butter1 bay leaf,  large1/2 cup onion, chopped1 cup basmati rice2 cups water3/4 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon black pepperSplit open the cardamom pods and remove the sticky seeds, discarding the pods. Separate the seeds with a sharp knife and crush them in a mortar and pestle.In a saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add cardamom seeds and bay leaf and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.Add onion and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes.Add rice and cook, stirring, until it looks milky and opaque, about 3 minutes longer.Add water, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer; reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.Remove the pan from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork.


very, very nice recipes. my favourite spice in the whole world. loved the write-up. my mum alw has cardamom in her purse (sub for mints) and an aunt has the black cardamom in her purse. i thought she was nuts, but i tried it, and actually liked it. i love the way it flavours basmati rice- smells and flavours of my childhood. x shayma
shayma on April 21, 2010 at 1:05 pm —
This is maybe a very dumb question. Don't laugh. Well, you can if you want to. But what is superfine sugar? xoxo A fan
Eliza on April 21, 2010 at 6:18 pm —
Hahahahahahaha!! Just kidding. Superfine sugar, sometimes seen as caster/castor or baker's sugar, is just an extremely fine-grained sugar that dissolves quicker. You can make your own by blitzing regular sugar in a food processor. In the case of this lassi recipe, you can substitute regular sugar, just let it all dissolve before you drink it. I had one for dinner tonight, with a little saffron added, and it was deelish! xo
laura on April 21, 2010 at 6:47 pm —
Eliza on April 21, 2010 at 7:11 pm —
A friend sent me the link for your blog and I'm loving it! I also love cardamom and so I'm deeply appreciative of the ice cream recipe. I make a tincture out of cardamom and use it to add an aromatic note to cocktails. I find the elusive quality of cardamom can get lost in a drink, but if I spray the top, it reinforces whatever cardamom is in the cocktail itself (and sometimes I just spray it on my wrists).
Suzonne on April 22, 2010 at 6:42 pm —
Welcome, Suzonne! Always great to meet another cardamom-lover. I have infused vodka by steeping whole cardamom pods for a couple of weeks and it works quite well, although others did not seem to enjoy the "Mumbai Mule" I created with it (lime juice, ginger beer, saffron syrup) as much as I did. Love the idea of a tincture that works in the drink and on the wrist!
laura on April 23, 2010 at 1:49 am —