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.