FRAGRANT Cardamom pods add a distinctive flavour to rice and other dishes.
Cardamom seeds, or pods, come originally from India, and a member of the same plant family as ginger – culinary cousins! They are easily recognised by their triangular appearance – green, when fresh and brown when dried later – with spindle shapes containing small, black seeds inside them.
Traditionally used in curries and Indian cooking, they elicited mixed feelings in me when I was growing up. I had a sort of love/hate relationship with them. As a gosser, biting into a cardamom pod by mistake while eating an Indian meal sent shivers of fear down me, rather like scooping your hand through a cloudy pool and coming across a slithery eel. A sudden unfamiliar aniseed flavour and unusual texture as I bit down. Yuck!
Now, having (supposedly) grown up, and having an appreciation for a wider palette, these exotic contributions to dishes are viewed as an important recipe ingredient, and I simply remove them from my teeth when they appear. I absolutely love them now, and look forward to their unique flavour and contribution.
Flavour-wise cardamom is very fragrant – important in cooking, but not designed to be actually chewed! Minty, spicy and herbal, with a citrus twist, all at the same time. It can accompany both sweet and savory creations. Because of all this, it’s a really interesting thing to cook with.
Cardamom really complements white fish. Meat-wise, lamb stews are often cooked with some cardamom, while beef goes well with caramelised onions and cardamom.
It can also partner well with cumin and/or smoked paprika, and perhaps turmeric, in a rice or risotto dish. For a full meal, you could add some fresh, crunchy green vegetables and either white fish or sesame beef strips to complete the dish.
Cardamom is good for you too – it helps to fight bacteria in the mouth and also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Cardamom rice hotpot
It was only a matter of time until the small tub of cardamom seeds in the cupboard was thrown in with whatever was left over. After cardamom was used in one meal, we then had it in three meals during the next week, that’s the way it goes with me – thank you mother!
This is a simple template one can play around with: Depending on taste, you could add raisins, asparagus, a touch of cream, chopped red chilies or bacon pieces. You could fry the cardamon and spices with vegetables and meat first and then serve over the cooked rice, or you could cook the lot in one wide pan using Risotto rice.
What you need
- 300g arborio risotto rice
- 1 medium white onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 15 cardamom pods
- ¼ tsp smoked paprika
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- ¼ tsp cumin powder
- Half a head of broccoli, cut into individual florets
- 6 spring onions, cut into ½-inch lengths
- 1 ltr water or half-dilution veg stock
- Olive oil
What you do
Sauté the onion and garlic in oil over a medium-low heat ’til soft, glassy and translucent. Add the arborio risotto rice with a touch more oil, stir and warm well, then stir in the spices and of course the cardamom. Cook for two minutes, then start to add the water or half-dilution veg stock.
Keep cooking and adding the water/stock in stages until you think the rice will be cooked in a further ten minutes, then add your chopped spring onion and broccoli florets. Be mindful of the moisture content, adding some some water if needed, while covering pan with a lid, so as to steam cook the green veg. Season and serve with fresh chives on top.
Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.