Just a little lifts sweet and savoury dishes into the realm of the exotic.
The Roo Sisters

1 Aug 2013 - 11:27 PM  UPDATED 27 May 2015 - 4:03 PM


With its wonderful warm aroma, spicy-sweet taste and mellow eucalyptus, camphor and citrus notes, just a little cardamom lifts sweet and savoury dishes into the realm of the exotic and complements a wide array of flavours. As an example of its versatility, it’s found in foods as disparate as Indian curries, Middle Eastern hot drinks and Scandinavian baking. Elettaria cardamomum (“Indian”, “green” or “authentic” cardamom) is the pods and black seeds of a ginger relative, native to south India and Sri Lanka and now also cultivated in other tropical countries, including Guatemala, Tanzania and Vietnam. The small green pods are harvested just before they ripen and are then dried. Authentic cardamom is expensive, so it’s often adulterated or substituted with seeds from cheaper relatives, called “Siam”, “Nepal”, “winged Java” and even “bastard” cardamom. Most recipes that call for cardamom refer to green Elettaria; the larger “black” cardamom, which has a blunter taste and strong smoky aroma, should only be used in robust dishes, such as spicy slow-cooked meat curries. The pods can be used whole at the start of cooking, or the seeds removed first and bruised, crushed or ground before being added to dishes. The spice is essential in pilau and many curries, and a common ingredient in spice mixes, such as garam masala and Ethiopian berbere. It’s also found in Indian desserts, sweets and beverages, and Arab and Turkish coffee.


Use cardamom in ...

Lamb madras, chicken korma, biryani, massaman beef, lentil dishes, Vietnamese pho, rice dishes such as pilau, rice pudding, panna cotta, ice-cream, baklava, bread-and-butter pudding, fruit desserts, compotes, jams and chutneys, and in tea, coffee, sweet cakes and biscuits. As with most culinary seeds, toasting or frying in a little oil brings out the most flavour. Buy pods whole, as ground cardamom seed doesn’t keep as well.


Cardamom goes with ...

Beef, lamb, chicken, duck, fish, potato, chickpeas, rice, bread, couscous, orange, apricots, plums, peaches, dried fruits, almonds, pistachios, cream, milk, chocolate, caramel, honey, tea, coffee, saffron, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, rosewater, orange blossom water.