Cardamom Culture

One of my favourite past times is cooking Indian.  I’m not saying I’m good at cooking Indian, but it brings me comforting memories and I am hooked on the incredible number and variety of spices that go into making good Indian food.  The smell of one in particular always makes me smile with pleasure and that is cardamom.

According to Agriinfo, Cardamom, known as ‘Queen of Spices’, is a dried fruit of a tall perennial herbaceous plant.  It’s delicate aroma make it one of the most expensive spices in the world.  Till the seventies India enjoyed a near monopoly position, but currently Guatemala, Columbia and even Sri Lanka are vying to compete in the production and export of this fragrant pod.

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Cardamom Pods – Photo Source: CardamomNation Blogspot

The comfort comes from my friend Nutan Brown, who when I was rotating in/out of our family home during my divorce, allowed me to stay just down the road in her beautiful home.  Not only are her husband Jack and her kids superheroes for sharing their t.v. room, as my bedroom, Bombay-born Nutan fed me Butter Chicken, Cholay and other Indian delicacies made from the recipes of her mother.  It helped me heal and the memory followed and inspired me.

It’s been a long road to find and learn how to grind my own spices, helped by Monisha Bharadwaj’s most awesome book, The Indian Kitchen.  Not a cook book, but a cook’s book, on the key ingredients and recipes from Indian medicinal and culinary practices that result in healthy, yummy, beautiful food.

Indian food, unless you are using Patak’s or Kitchen’s of India, is very time consuming, but I love the way it makes me feel and you will too.

Cardamom really gets around and can be used as aroma therapy and in cooking pumpkin breads, Crème brûlée, fruit smoothies and even breakfast, like in this recipe for Icelandic pancakes.  The blog Cardamom Nation shares recipes and their eight reasons for using cardamom [as if we needed more].   What’s your favourite use for cardamom?

In Praise of Cast Iron Pans

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I’d been on the prowl for a 10″ mineral pan in which my husband swore he could cook killer breakfasts, specifically eggs over easy. With Christmas coming, I ventured into Williams-Sonoma and left with a 10″ Komin cast iron skillet.  Dear husband Rick has mentioned several times that he’s going to season the pan, but as he muds the new shower I am left eyeing a small lamb roast and the unseasoned Komin skillet.

While the pan, rubbed lovingly with sunflower oil, bakes alone in our Lacanche oven at 450 degrees I distract myself with wine and google about Komin and cast iron.  I learn that cast iron is 50% better conductor of heat up or down than other materials, adds iron to your food, takes on a seasoned patina that if cared for works better than non-stick.

Best of all the Komin 10″ skillet pan is incredibly light weight, so that if a intruder arrives I can bean him with the skillet or cook him dinner.

I read, however, from a member on Chowhood that this product actually has a silicone coating and I am confused about how to cook and care for it.  Is it cast iron or non-stick? Rather than endlessly search the internet, I am opening a bottle of wine and using the pan tonight to cook a lamb roast.  It’s recipe and results may follow.

French Onion Soup

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Cold days put me in the mood to make savory soups. I’m not sure that onion soups are healthy, but they are simple and delicious and the idea of it somehow just makes me feel better. Onion soups are flexible too because if you are Vegan, Vegetarian or observing au Maigre, meat stock is easily substituted with veggie stock.

This weekend, I took from freezer to thaw several bags of homemade meat stock totaling about six cups. I thinly sliced one large Sweet onion and browned, almost burnt, it in three tablespoons of butter. I’ve always loved the flavour of mushrooms and added a small handful. I added the stock and lots of pepper to simmer on low for about one half hour.

My cupboard was bare of sherry and cognac, so finished the soup by adding a dash of Graham’s Tawny Port. I ladled a portion in small oven proof bowls and with a crisp slice of French bread topped it with a generous portion of mixed grated Parmesan and Gruyére cheeses.

A broiler tends to overcook, so 275 degrees for about five minutes in our Lacanche oven did the trick nicely.

I find this soup satisfying to eat on its own, but many would add a side salad or use the soup as a first course.