One of my earliest memories is the smell of Indian food and the taste of cardamom pods. When I was three or four years old, my parents were invited to dinner at the home of the Indian couple who lived in the apartment below ours. I remember, very clearly, the sounds of grown-up conversation mixed with the delicious smells that danced around the room that night.
When we left, the wife gave my mother a small, black box with a lid that flipped open on a hinge to reveal a collection of cardamom pods. I don’t think my mother ever cooked with them, but every now and then, I would sneak into the kitchen and take one of the mysterious little pods for my own. Inside were small, black seeds that tasted like far away places.
For some reason, Indian food has never been included in my kitchen repertoire — my use of cardamom has been limited to baking, mostly, and it also lends a lovely flavor to oatmeal. So I was really excited when fellow blogger Claire posted a recipe for Vindaloo on her blog Promenade Plantings. The recipe reminded me of an exquisite curry I enjoyed at the Indian restaurant Thali in New Haven some time ago, and both included cardamom.
“Vindaloo made properly,” Claire wrote, “is truly an exceptional curry….Yes it is spicy, but the flavours of cloves, and cinnamon are hinted at in every bite, the background sourness of vinegar is layered with garlic and cardamom pods.”
Although her recipe suggested the use of a spice mill to make the spice paste, I couldn’t resist grinding the cumin, chile pepper, clove, cinnamon, peppercorn, ginger, and cardamom by hand in my molcajetes. The resulting stew, my house…and my hands… smelled deliciously of exotic flavors and a moment in time so very long ago.
Please visit Claire’s blog to check out the recipe — and tell her thank you, from both of us!