Far Away Memories

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!

4 thoughts on “Far Away Memories

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  1. Thank you so much for the kind mention! And what a great story and memory to have – scents can be so evocative. I must say that whenever I do a recipe I always feel a bit responsible, I realise not everything is to other people’s tastes.
    And I’ve learnt something new – I’d not heard of a “molcajetes” before, they look so beautiful and tactile, I can see why you would want to use one

    1. I think that’s the beauty of recipes, thought. They catch you eye, catch you imagination and you give it a try. No harm, no foul if it doesn’t end up being something you like. But how cool when it is – like your Vindaloo!

      The molcajetes was a gift from my sister when she was living in Texas. It’s pretty cool!

  2. Oh, my, what a delicious post! I too could smell the spices — there’s nothing like pounding them in a pestle (by any other name) to have that fragrance assault the nose —
    And I bet it tasted wonderful.
    (I know very well why Indian cooking has never had a solid place in my repertoire: it’s too much work!)

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