How to Roast a Spoonful of Cardamom
1. Buy cardamom seeds.
2. Have a spoon.
3. Put the cardamom seeds in the spoon.*
4. Put the spoon in a dry cast iron skillet on medium heat, and roast for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.*
5. Take spoon out of skillet, and put it in your mouth.**
8. Sprinkle what you didn’t eat on your oatmeal or rice pudding or ice cream or whatever you want to eat it with, and enjoy!
I have been roasting a spoonful of cardamom to give away with every order, but I have been doing it in an awkward way that wastes energy and makes a lot of smoke. So I asked around and found out how to roast cardamom seeds with a minimalist setup. This is not rocket science, but it’s more efficient than what I was doing before.
I have always wanted to offer free cardamom seeds with every order, because I think it adds a nice extra touch, and also because people often ask me where they can get some. But I’m not ready to carry the extra cost of buying and storing a large amount on hand for just this purpose. The simplest way to do it would be to roast the seeds as needed, but roasting cardamom seeds takes a little equipment and some time. The simplest setup would be a hotplate with an oiled pan on top (an old wok works fine) and a lid or some foil for covering it. You put the seeds in the pan, turn on the hotplate, wait until you start to smell them, cover them up so they don’t burn, and keep going until they stop changing color (or you smell something bad).
When I have cardamom, I roast it. The best way to do that is to put some on a spoon, hold the spoon over a gas flame (like the burner on your stove), and turn the spoon so that the cardamom is heated all around.
This is not the best way to roast a lot of cardamom for a recipe. If you want to do that, check out my recipe for curried roasted cauliflower with green chiles, tomatoes and cardamom. But if you just want to cook with cardamom in small quantities–say, a half-teaspoon or so–roasting works great.
“There’s a spice called cardamom. It’s not too expensive, so it’s not a precious spice. It’s very common, and it’s got a wonderful flavor, and you can use it to flavor lots of different dishes. You can make tea out of it. You can add it to your coffee sometimes. But the problem is that sometimes you just want to eat cardamom as a treat for itself, just kind of like a little snack.”
Trying to buy a spoonful of cardamom at the store was frustrating. “I looked in every local grocery store I could think of here in my home town. And I tried four or five places, and I had no luck.” So I went online and tried Amazon and several other online stores, and still no luck.
“I started to get a little bit frustrated,” she said. “So I started asking around online in culinary forums about where I could buy just a small amount of cardamom.”
After some more searching, she found an online store called The Spice House that would sell her one pound of cardamom for $27 — or 1/2 ounce for $6 — which is less than $1 an ounce on the low end of what some sources say card
I love Indian food, but it was hard to find in the US. So I started cooking it at home. The other day I bought an ounce of cardamom pods at an Indian grocery store. (You can also buy loose seeds and grind them yourself in an electric coffee grinder).
I thought about what to do with this bag of cardamom for a while, then finally decided to use it in a recipe for “Aloo Gobi” that I found on the blog “My Nepali Kitchen.” I loved how the cardamom flavor came through.
But I wanted a little more. So I ground up 15 pods, put them in a small saucepan with a little brown sugar, and put it on a burner on high heat. After three or four minutes, the sugar had melted and was caramelizing nicely, and the seeds were starting to release their aromatic oils (that’s when they start popping). Then there were two loud pops, and suddenly there were two holes in my saucepan—I had burned through twice!
This is when you know you have ground up the cardamom seeds too finely.
So I tried again, this time adding more sugar so that the seeds wouldn’t burn quite so quickly. And this time,
It’s time to turn the cardamom. I scoop up a spoonful of the tiny black seeds and hold them cupped in my palm. They have been in the oven, perfuming the air with their warm, spicy scent, for just over an hour now.
I slide the oven rack out and carefully tip the pan so that the cardamom spills out onto a sheet of aluminum foil on my countertop. Then I start to pick them up one by one and arrange them in a single layer on a plate. There are dozens of pods; they’re still hot to the touch; if they were any larger they’d be peppercorns instead of seeds.
I put down my spoon and blow on my fingertips to cool them off before reaching for another pod. I want to get all of it picked up quickly before it cools down too much, but I also don’t want to burn myself.
The finished pods might go into a curry or a stew or a pilaf—any dish with some complexity to it, where their flavor will be noticeable but not overwhelming. Or I might leave them as is, scattered across this plate as decoration at dinner tonight when we’re having meat or chicken or fish and rice or pasta, something basic that needs just
Cardamom is a spice from the ginger family. Its essential oils contain eugenol, which give it a pleasant scent and flavor. It is native to India, but is also cultivated in Sri Lanka and Guatemala, where it is known as “Java Cardamom”.
Cardamom seed pods are used for culinary purposes. The seed pods are often blanched to remove the outer shell before the seeds are used in cooking. After the removal of the outer shell, the cardamom seeds are dried further to avoid spoilage. This drying process takes one week up to two months depending on weather conditions. Color ranges from brown-black to buff, chestnut-brown to grayish white.