Cardamom Craze

sprig-cardamom

Of all the spices in our pantry, there is one that we think deserves “showstopper” status, it is one that lends itself to use in both sweet and savoury preparations and can be found in every Indian home. Have you guessed it? Green cardamom, of course! Enclosed in little green pods are the seeds that impart so much flavour to almost all Indian mithais, make their way into pulaos that lull you to sleep after an indulgent Sunday meal, and are also the mainstay of buns from far-off Sweden.

Here’s the tricky little thing about these seeds that are packed with flavour – they need to be stored enclosed in the pods or else they lose their intense flavour almost immediately. So if anyone’s trying to sell you cardamom powder, well, let’s just say it is best left on the shelf of the store trying to make tall claims about it. We like buying ours in small quantities and using a pestle and mortar to gently crush the seeds into a coarse powder. It is one of the most therapeutic acts at the end of a long day. The aroma that envelops the kitchen during this process is truly magical. We crush only as much as we need and stash away the remaining pods in a cool dark place. In fact the minimalistic packaging of SPRIG’s Whole Green Cardamom from Idukki, is perfect for storing in our cabinets. A compact, screw-top tube ensures the pods are airtight while taking up minimal space.

Like any other ingredient, you are likely to find cardamom pods at various price points in the market. We are not ones to run anything down, but much like the time we discussed vanilla extract, you can be rest assured that the difference will become apparent when you cook or bake with a high quality ingredient.Cardamom, along with vanilla and saffron, is one of the most expensive spices in the world. The cardamom powder we mentioned earlier? You can buy it at rock bottom prices only because the pods (no flavour) are ground with the seeds too. They might as well add some hay to it! In fact, one of the biggest swindles in the market are the hard–to- spot (to the naked eye) holes made in cardamom pods that are a by-product of oil extraction. These basically have all the aromatic oils and flavour extracted out of them, something you discover only when you start using them. This is not something you need to worry about with SPRIG Whole Green Cardamom, the colour of the pods is a resplendent green, unlike anything you would have ever spotted in regular grocery stores and the flavour… well let’s just say a little will go along way!

Until recently, India produced the largest amount of cardamom in the world, only to be now overtaken by Guatemala. You know that our heart sings for local produce, right? We love that the folks at SPRIG celebrate sourcing cardamom from the Idukki district in Kerala. A lush area, covered with forests and greenery makes for ideal conditions to grow cardamom. From here, it makes its way to your kitchen without any adulteration. And do you know what we love most about SPRIG’s Whole Green Cardamom? That it is unmistakably pure!

It is ideal to add notes of subtle spice to our Indian mithais, which as much as we love them, can be a little heavy on artificial cardamom, especially when combined with rose water! Just a little of SPRIG Cardamom and you will have people asking your signature recipes!
How we have been savouring the flavour of late! Just a dash added to our banana milkshake takes them to a whole new level! It also works in smoothies and we cannot wait to try it out in with mangoes in the season. A recent discovery was when we added some to a frangipane tart that we baked. The Indian nankhatai is redolent of cardamom traditionally. Which led us to think cardamom would be ideal to add variations to holiday baking which often focuses over much on pumpkin spice and cinnamon. We find cardamom can be a pleasant surprise in bakes and treats around Christmas. One of our favourite combinations is to pair chocolate with cardamom. Add just a dash of the crushed seeds to the dough of a chocolate tart as you beam with contentment while your guests declare you the best baker in town! A grown-up version of Hot Chocolate we have concocted is a careful sprinkling of fresh ground cardamom for cozy winter nights! And did you know that cardamom is also the secret ingredient in Turkish Coffee? Take a leaf from that recipe and try adding some to your morning cuppa! The great thing is that Cardamom is a year round spice, in fact it’s a popular addition to our daily chai! And when the summer months roll in, use it to make Shrikhand for frozen yogurt at home! (Thank us later!)

Cardamom is versatile, also fabulous in Indian cuisine against savoury notes! Tehri, a pulao from Uttar Pradesh is a winter staple on our dinner table and just a hint of roughly cracked cardamom pod adds oodles of flavour this one pot dish. Pudina Chicken too becomes that much more delectable when cooked with SPRIG Whole Green Cardamom from Idukki. But our favourite is another cool weather classic – Kashmiri Ristey! A decadent meatball gravy that comes alive with just a few pods of SPRIG’s Whole Green Cardamom. We also make a mean ‘Kela Kofta Curry’ and add a hint of cardamom powder , to the vegan meatballs, if you’d like to call them that, made with plantains. But we really have saved our favourite for the last… Roasted Shakarkand, or sweet potatoes with a gentle sprinkling of crushed cardamom seeds added to the “masala” that accompanies them! It is a simple way to add your signature touch to a street food classic, and since it is winter, there’s absolutely no reason to procrastinate on giving this a try!

The versatility of cardamom as a spice, coupled with the high quality that the folks at SPRIG guarantee, lends itself to an intense flavour. Whether you decide to go the sweet or savoury route, we are sure that our experiments with SPRIG’s Whole Green Cardamom have you feeling inspired already. And when you do flex those culinary muscles to try out some experiments of your own, be sure to give us a shout, after all, we are only a hashtag and comment away!
These are some of our favourite recipes, that use cardamom, and we can’t wait to hear from you about your favourites!
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