Cardamom is precious: one of the three most expensive spices by weight, along with saffron and vanilla. Its aroma is distinct, yet hard to describe. It’s a little bit spicy, a touch citrusy, a slight bit sweet and anise-like—maybe. In concert with fellow warming spices cinnamon or nutmeg, it smells like Christmas to me, especially when brewed in Spiced Milk Tea. You’ll want to wrap your hands around a steaming glass, bend your head and drink in the intoxicating scent before taking a sip. A lactose-free version, just as heady, can be made with soy or almond milk.
Indigenous to India and popular in Scandinavia, cardamom may be yellow-green, white, or brown. The seeds can be separated from the pods; both components are assertive enough to flavor a braise. You can get the seeds pre-ground, which is what you’ll want if Cardamom Sour-Cream Waffles suit your fancy, but act fast. The seed loses its flavor much faster once liberated from the protective pod. Try the waffles for breakfast with tart fruit preserves, like lingonberry, as homage to Sweden.
This week I’m most excited to revisit Paul Grimes’s bold Lamb Spice Rub, featuring white cardamom pods toasted in a dry skillet. Coriander, cumin, yellow mustard, salt, ginger, hot pepper flakes and nutmeg round out a complex crew, creating the perfect complement to lean meat. And, of course, there’ll be cardamom for dessert. The ingredient is front and center in Cardamom Milk Pudding (above), a silken five-ingredient variation on muhallebi, a Middle Eastern delicacy.
What’s your favorite way to use cardamom?