Cardamom, also sometimes called elachi  in Indian cooking, can be bought either as small green pods or larger brown ones: the green pods tend to be more aromatic and are preferred. It's an absolutely indispensable ingredient for chai and mandatory for a decent curry, with a few pods usually used whole. If you can it's a good idea to fish them out again before serving: otherwise they invariably all end up on the same plate, and biting down on a whole cardamom pod can be too much of a good thing.

  • Cardamom's cool fragrance is a perfect foil to slightly acidic fruits like strawberries: infuse three or four crushed green cardamom pods and a couple of crushed cloves in half a cup or so of red wine, with a tablespoonful of castor sugar (or more, if you like things really sweet). Let the mixture simmer for a minute or two before removing it from the heat; add another half cup of wine and the juice of a lemon and pour it over a bowl of cleaned, halved strawberries. This is seriously sexy food.
  • To make cardamom biscuits, cream together 100g of unsalted butter with 150g sugar and add the zest of one orange, a half teaspoon of ground ginger and the ground seeds of three or four cardamom pods. Sift together 175g of flour, a half teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt, and mix this into the butter mixture, alternately with a beaten egg. Dot little balls of the dough across a greased baking sheet, flatten with a fork, bake at 200C for 15 minutes and keep them all to yourself.

Cardamom is also commonly used in the Middle East with coffee.

For example in Israel you often see kafee im hel on the menu of a coffee shop, hel being the Hebrew name for cardamom. In Arabic it is called hal or hail.

As a member of the same plant family as ginger (the Zingiberaceae family), cardamom is very aromatic and slightly sweet. In my opinion it smells a bit like orange. As the essential oils that give cardamom its flavour and smell evaporate quickly cardamom is normally sold as pods.

Cardamom is undervalued in the west, even though it's one of the oldest known spices. In the Middle East it is used a huge amount (60% of the world's production of cardamom is shipped to Arab countries) both in cooking and for making coffee.

There are several ways to make coffee with cardamom. Normally freshly ground seeds are added to the ground coffee or whole pods are put in the pot. Bedouins also have special coffee pots which hold the cardamom pods in their spouts so that coffee doesn't come into contact with them until the moment it's poured.

That was the factual part.

I personally find that the addition of cardamom to coffee makes the coffee very smooth and slightly dry, whilst masking any bitterness and also disguising the strength of the coffee.

My personal favourite is to take 1/2lb of Java (a very dark and strong roast) and add to it 1oz of cardamom and then mix the two evenly and store it. I've found from experience that making a large coffee with this in a stove top espresso machine creates a wonderfully strong and smooth coffee. This coffee has no bitterness and a slight flavour of orange. A large mug (my mug holds nearly a pint) of this makes you very alert and quite wired but in a very easy and smooth way. I was slightly concerned that I could still feel the effect about six hours later, and I'm quite a hardcore coffee drinker.

Drink it at your own risk, but it is one of the most wonderful drinks you'll ever have.

Car"da*mom (?), n. [L. cardamonun, Gr. ]


The aromatic fruit, or capsule with its seeds, of several plants of the Ginger family growing in the East Indies and elsewhere, and much used as a condiment, and in medicine.

2. Bot.

A plant which prduces cardamoms, esp. Elettaria Cardamomum and several of Amommum.


© Webster 1913.

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