I love talking about clove in my spice classes, because how you know this spice tells me so much about the spectrum of your memories.
For people who grow up in places of the world with dominant Christian traditions, clove smells like Christmas. Christmas ham. Christmas cake. Christmas cookies. For others, like me, who are raised in cultures or homes where Eastern medicine traditions dominant, clove often speaks in a more therapeutic capacity: for me, the spice is ‘dental chair’, courtesy of its use throughout India to help with gum pain as children, or toothache.
Clove is very common in Kashmiri cooking, a cuisine that bases itself on warm, soft and elegant spice usage. So is cauliflower - phool gobi - for that matter. Bringing these two Kashmiri favourites in a winter soup staple makes for a comforting bowl.
Cauliflower and clove work well because they’re such aromatic counterpoints to each other. Cauliflower is cool, milky and creamy in natural profile. Clove is heating, pungent and astringent in its flavour makeup. Adding blue cheese is a way to introduce acidity and punch which - as we all know - is the holy grail of deliciousness.
Clove top tips
• Using a fine white salt alongside clove in any dish will help to disperse some of the spice’s heat and pungency, resulting in a less strident clove flavour through the dish.
• When clove is matched with sweeter, orange root vegetables (think carrot, pumpkin and sweet potato), its pungent hot quality will be drawn forward and become more pronounced.
• Just like garlic and onion, clove has an astringent quality. This means its sharp aromatic edge is capable of “slicing” into a dish to carve out more flavour. For this reason, clove is a great pairing with chicken, beef and dense cakes.