Cardamom - The Queen of spices
Green cardamom pods
Cardamom, Elaichi, Elakkai...
Ah, cardamom! This is probably my favorite spice. With its unique fragrance and flavor, it lends itself to both savory and sweet dishes. I have cardamom/elaichi every day in the morning in my morning cuppa tea/chai. My senses truly wake up in the morning, when I get a whiff of the cardamom powder that I add to the boiling chai. I grind the pods to a fine powder(pods with the skins) about once a month. A pinch goes into my tea every morning. Cardamom has excellent digestive properties and is also believed to help fight infection, congestion, colic, asthma and prevent kidney stones.
One sweet dish which showcases cardamom very effectively is Besan Burfi (at least that is my name for it! It may have a different name.) This recipe is from my mom and is one of the easiest sweets to make. The flavor is not unlike that of mysore pak, (another traditional sweet) but far simpler to make.
Besan Burfi: melt-in-the-mouth goodness
1 cup besan (Chickpea flour)
1 cup sugar (more if you have a real sweet tooth)
1/4 cup ghee
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
4-5 almonds, cut into slivers
4-5 pistachios, cut into slivers
Sugar, ghee, besan, pistachios, saffron, almonds, cardamom
Melt the ghee in a heavy bottom wide vessel. Add the besan and roast it quite well. Roast over a very low flame and stir constantly. The color of the besan should darken to a deep golden brown. The mixture should be a little fluid as well i.e not too dry. If it is very dry, add a little more ghee. The besan (and in fact your whole kitchen) should really smell very fragrant at this point. Add the sugar and stir. Take the pan off the heat. Add 1/2 of the cardamom powder. Spread the mixture on a tray to 1/2 inch thickness. Sprinkle with the remaining cardamom powder, the chopped nuts and saffron strands. Let cool completely and cut into squares, diamonds or rectangles.
Here's another picture of the burfi: