If there was a spice that I can’t live without, then cardamom would be it. Hang on, not exactly true. Well, alongside cinnamon, cumin and turmeric. I absolutely love them.
The sweet and fragrant notes from cardamom are similar to vanilla, both of which leave a slight bitter eucalyptus citrus and pleasant after-taste at the back of the tongue. Cardamom is the vanilla of Middle-Eastern and Asian cuisine and if you use it as much as I do, then you’ll understand why I’ve dedicated a whole post just for it!
If used correctly, i.e. in small amounts, cardamom can transform an often bland dish into a magical fragrant one. The advantage of having it ground would save you biting on a whole pod, not so desirable!
When it comes to choosing cardamom, the quality is essential. They might be slightly pricey; however, a little cardamom goes a long way. The cardamom pod should be plump and not wrinkly. When the outer skin is removed the seed should be almost black in colour. I’m lucky to have a constant supply of free excellent quality Iraqi cardamom sent every now and then; however, you can still opt for the ‘not-so-black’ brown seeds. They would still give you enough fragrance to finish off a dish; you just need to use a bit more.
Some Health Benefits
Cardamom is a digestive spice, useful for relieving abdominal cramps and it’s natural oil has antibacterial and antioxidant properties. Only a small pinch when brewed with tea can have a calming effect, not to mention the advantage of refreshing your breath too. Cardamom also improves circulation, and is a good source of potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and manganese.
Some examples of where to use ground cardamom:
- Tea, e.g chai tea
- Coffee, and you will be transformed to 1001 Arabian nights
- Desserts and cakes
- Many rice dishes, e.g. biryani
- Curries (usually left whole), however I use a small pinch, ground
- Meats and fish, very tiny amounts
Shop bought ground cardamom not only lacks flavour due to its long shelf life, it’s also usually ground with the skin, resulting in many unpleasant pits to be removed with each mouth-full. Go on, if you have a friend with a good grinding mill, give them a visit soon, or try this new product from Healthy Supplies to save you the trouble! However, I’m going to be biased and say, “nothing beats the taste of freshly ground spices!”
How to make Ground green Cardamom – makes enough to fill a small jar
You need a large handful of cardamom pods, about 2 full cups
Start off by removing the green skins. You can either a) peel of the skin individually (great when you have chatty friends around), or b) take a handful of pods and gently crush with a pestle and mortar.
If using the time-consuming method a), you should be left with the whole intact black seeds. If using method b), discard the skin putting the black seeds to one side. Repeat the process until you have a nice pile of dry green cardamom skin with a smaller pile of ‘blackish’ seeds.
Grind as finely as you can get it. I use a Kenwood spice mill, however, a coffee grinder or a good quality pestle and mortar should do the trick.
Immediately store in well-concealed jar/container and use for up to 3-4 months.
The possibilities of using cardamom in sweet and savoury dishes are endless. I hope this would inspire you to have a go at using it.