Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Cardamom - Apple and Cardamom Muffins GF SCD

Apparently, the Chinese used to sprinkle ground Cardamom on their cereal to help combat the effects of Celiac Disease! Cardamom is one of the oldest known spices. It can be traced back to the Ancient Egyptians who chewed the pods to whiten their teeth and the Ancient Greeks and Romans who used the oil in perfumes and the seeds to help digestive disorders. The Vikings acquired cardamom during their raids in Constantinople and brought it back to Scandinavia which now consumes 50 per cent of the world's supply!

Cardamom is the green, dried, unripened fruit of Elettaria cardamomum and is considered to be "The Queen of Spices". It is the third most expensive spice in the world today, saffron and vanilla being first and second and most of the world's supply is grown in India. Enclosed in the fruit pods are tiny, brown, aromatic seeds which are slightly pungent to taste.

There are two other types of cardamom :

  • White cardamom created by bleaching the green pods by exposing them to sulphur dioxide. Even though some of the flavour is lost in the process, these white pods are used for aesthetic purposes for light coloured breads and batters.
  • Black cardamom pods have a camphor-like, smoky flavour and are used in spicy and rustic dishes whereas green cardamom pods are also used in sweet, baked goods.

Medicinal Uses

"But ferst he cheweþ grayn and likorise
To smeelen swoote or he hadded kembt his here"
(But first he cheweth cardamom and licorice to smell sweet, ere he had combed his hair) from The Millers Tale by Chaucer c1390.

Cardamom is deemed to be helpful for a number of ailments including :

  • acidity & heartburn
  • kidney stones & gall stones
  • UTIs
  • impotency
  • depression
  • viral infections
  • hiccups
  • bad breath
  • osteoporosis
  • poor circulation
  • joint & muscle pains
  • respiratory infections
  • sore throats
  • tooth & gum infections
Nutritional Benefits

The nutrients inside these tiny seeds include :
  • Manganese
  • Iron
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin B2
  • Vitamin B3
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C

Cooking with Cardamom

My first taste of cardamom was at University. A lovely Danish student in our Halls of Residence regularly baked Smørkage for us, a sweet Danish bread filled with fresh vanilla custard and flavoured with cardamom. I still have the recipe in my ancient cook book but I doubt I'd be able to make a gluten-free version of it! 

Because cardamom has a unique sweet and savoury flavour it can be used in all kinds of dishes. It is particularly popular in India, North Africa and The Middle East in curries and spice blends whereas in Scandinavia it is used in sweet breads and pastries. In Arabian countries, the pods are ground together with coffee beans to make a very fragrant coffee.

I decided to make muffins this week. The first batch, using one teaspoon of freshly ground seeds, was too heavily flavoured so I reduced the recipe to half a teaspoon in the next batch. This time we all decided the flavour was too weak, so I've opted for three quarters of a teaspoon in the final recipe but you can increase or decrease the amount to your taste.

Apple Cardamom Muffins GF SCD

200g ground almonds
3 eggs
120ml apple sauce
80ml honey
zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
¾ tsp ground cardamom (green cardamom pods)
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (alcohol, water and vanilla only)
pinch of salt

Topping :
1 dessert apple
flaked almonds
2 tblsps melted butter
1 tblsp honey

Set the oven to 160°C. Select your cardamom pods. We used 26 pods and this seemed to make about 2 teaspoons of ground cardamom. Place them into a dry pan and heat them until they start turning. This takes under a minute.

Split the pods and empty the seeds into a pestle and mortar. Grind the seeds up until they release the oil.

Put to one side. Prepare the toppings, I used sliced and chopped apple. Melt the butter and mix in the honey.

Slice or/and chop the apple and tip into a small dish. Pour over the butter/honey mix and stir.

Break the eggs into a bowl or processor, add the honey, vanilla extract and apple sauce and beat together.

Tip in the ground almonds, salt, bicarbonate of soda, lemon zest and ground cardamom.

Pulse until smooth.

Fill muffin cases about three quarters full and add the toppings gently. This mix made 9 muffins.

Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes.

They slice beautifully.