Gourmet Food Source
Cardamom is one of the most evocative smelling spices of them all.
A wonderfully perfumed floral bouquet all wrapped up inside a single pod, they have a smell and taste quite unlike any other.
Also known as elaichi, lachee and ilaaichee it is one of the most expensive spices in the world with much of it going into the production of Arabic coffee.
Grown mainly in India and Sri Lanka, the shrub is a relative of the ginger family and the fruits are picked just before they ripen and are left to dry in the sun. Cardamom pods should have a bright green outer husk, this will denote quality, avoid pale greyish ones and the white bleached ones that can be found in supermarkets. Do not use black cardamom as a replacement for green it does not work. Black and brown cardamoms are not true cardamoms and tend to have a very pungent, almost sterile aroma.
Considering its unique smell and taste cardamom is surprisingly versatile and not restricted to Indian cookery. Its most common use outside of India is in the strong dark coffees of the Middle East whilst the Scandinavian’s and Germans flavour cakes and pastries with them. When using cardamom remember that less is more, it should be used with caution leaving the diner curious about the taste and craving a little more. Ground cardamom is available to buy but I wouldn’t recommend doing so, the pods are easily crushed and the seeds can be scraped out and bruised with ease.
Cardamom plays an important role in the garam masalas of India and the tagines, soups and stews of the Middle East. It is an excellent flavouring for ice creams and custards and works perfectly with pears and apples in sweet preparations.
Content and picture © Miles Collins