Cardamom pods (Recipe: prawn fried rice)
If I had a dollar for every item in The Perfect Pantry that's reputed to be an aphrodisiac, I'd be able to take my husband out for a swanky night on the town.
Add cardamom pods to the list of "love" spices.
Native to south India, cultivated now in Guatemala, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania, cardamom is one of the world's most ancient, and most expensive, spices.
A member of the ginger family, cardamom has been used in India for more than 2,000 years. It reached Constantinople (Istanbul) via the spice trail; to this day, Turkish coffee is often poured over a cardamom pod inserted in the spout of the coffee pot. From there, the Vikings brought cardamom to Scandinavia, where it is still a popular flavoring in baked goods.
Cardamom pods are harvested in the Fall, when they are nearly ripe. They're left to dry in the sun for 3-4 days. Inside each pod are 15-20 tiny, brown or black, sticky seeds; the stickier the seed, the fresher the pod.
With its somewhat lemony and smoky flavor, cardamom is a key ingredient in many curry powders and masala spice blends. The whole pods, lightly crushed, are used to flavor rice, slow-braised meat dishes, and lentils.
The pods will keep for a year or more in an airtight container, though they'll slowly fade in both color (see photo above — these really are green pods, but I've had them for quite a while) and aroma.
I keep whole pods and Penzeys' ground cardamom in my pantry, because you never know when you'll need an aphrodisiac.
Prawn fried rice
Years ago I learned this recipe from Nagina Kalam, who was living in Boston for a year while her husband completed post-doctoral work. She met a group of young moms at the local playground, and they enlisted her to teach a series of Indian cooking classes. This main dish recipe serves 6, as part of a traditional Indian meal featuring turdal (yellow lentils) and saag paneer (spinach with cheese).
2 lbs prawns (large shrimp, 26-30 size), peeled and deveined
1 tsp turmeric
1-1/2 tsp paprika
1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 tsp GGC (ginger-garlic-cilantro) paste*
7 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter
3 cups basmati rice
6 Tbsp corn oil
2 whole cardamom pods, slit lengthwise
1 stick cinnamon
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
6 bay leaves
1 onion, sliced thin
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 jalapeño chile, sliced
*To make GGC paste: Combine 4 whole heads garlic, peeled and minced; 1 “hand” (whole piece) ginger, peeled and grated; and 1 bunch cilantro, minced, in a blender, and process until the mixture forms a paste. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.
Wash the prawns, and mix with your hands in a large bowl with turmeric, 1-1/2 tsp paprika, 1-1/2 tsp salt, and GGC paste. Set aside to marinate. In a large pot, combine 7 cups water with 1 tsp salt and butter. Bring to the boil, and add the rice. When the water returns to the boil, cover the pot and cook for 5 minutes, or until all the water has evaporated. In the meantime, make the masala: in a frying pan, heat 5 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat, and add cardamom, cinnamon and garlic cloves. Stir, and add bay leaves, onions, garam masala, 1/2 tsp paprika and yogurt. Continue to cook 4-5 minutes, and stir in half of the marinated shrimp. Cook for 2 minutes until shrimp are done, and combine mixture with the rice. Garnish with jalapeño. In a separate frying pan, heat remaining 1 Tbsp oil, and saute remaining shrimp until golden. Serve as a garnish over the rice.