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Instead of Valentine’s Day, this year I celebrated Galentine’s with my single girlfriends. We considered it a celebration of the love we have in our lives – the love of our friends. This chocolate and cardamom panna cotta with a strawberry layer on top was the end to a decadent and labor-intensive meal consisting of super fancy cheese and homemade raviolis.

Chocolate and cardamom – where do I begin? As my friend Laura said, “The chocolate and cardamom are having babies in my mouth!” The mellow cardamom complimented the rich chocolate – it made the dark chocolate seem almost darker. But in a good way. The addition of the thin strawberry layer on top brightened the intense dark chocolate creaminess.

Here are a few yummy variations for this recipe:

  • If you are not a fan of intense dark chocolate, reduce the baking cocoa to ¼ cup.
  • Add two tablespoons of your favorite liqueur to liven things up. An orange or raspberry liqueur would compliment the cardamom and chocolate.
  • Replace strawberries with raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries. Orange or tangerine juice would work as well.
  • Instead of adding a fruit layer, make a raspberry or strawberry coulis.

Recipe for Cardamom Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2-Tbsp. whole cardamom pods

Combine water with sugar in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. When sugar dissolves, remove from heat and add cardamom pods. Cover pan and let sit overnight. In the morning, strain the syrup and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

We added cardamom simple syrup and strawberries to our glasses of Cava – it was fantastic!

Chocolate and Cardamom Panna Cotta with Strawberry layer

Strawberry top layer (Recipe for 1 ¾ cups)
  • One packet Knox gelatin
  • ¼ cup water (for blooming)
  • ½ cup water (for boiling)
  • ¼ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 cup pureed strawberries, seeds strained (NOTE: it is very important to strain the seeds! Otherwise, they will sink to the bottom of the mold, and show up on the surface. Not pretty!)

Put ¼ cup of cold water in a medium bowl and sprinkle 1 packet of gelatin on top of the water. Set bowl aside.

Put water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in pureed strawberries. Pour mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until almost set. It should stick to your fingers when slightly touched.

Chocolate and Cardamom Panna Cotta (Recipe for 2.5 cups)
  • One packet Knox gelatin
  • ¼ cup whole milk (for blooming gelatin)
  • 1 ¾ cups heavy cream
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup cardamom simple syrup
  • ½ baking cocoa powder

Sprinkle the packet of gelatin on top of ¼ cup cold milk. Set aside for 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan heat up cream, sugar, cardamom simple syrup. Add cocoa a little bit at a time and stir thoroughly. Once sugar dissolves, pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Refrigerate until not set, but cool. Pour into mold(s) and refrigerate for 4 hours.

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Oh the holidays! I realize I’m posting these recipes post-holiday feeding frenzy, but darn I’ve been busy…

Since November I’ve been experimenting with pumpkin panna cottas – while most tasted alright, they never turned out the way I wanted. Even the mold seen here turned out strange – notice how some cream separated from the pumpkin? Oh well – it still tasted good.

I finally decided to let go of my nagging pumpkin panna cotta perfectionism and post my favorite – Cardamom Pumpkin with Cognac. To create this mold, I adapted this Mark Bittman recipe published in the New York Times by adding a cardamom simple syrup and cognac. By the way, have I mentioned how much I adore cardamom? It’s a shame many American’s have yet to discover what South Asians have known for centuries – cardamom is a distinctly lovely spice that takes deserts to an entirely different level of, well, spicy fantasticness. The combination of cardamom, pumpkin, cream, and cognac tasted like a unique boozy pumpkin pie without the crust.

Recipe for Cardamom Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup water 
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2-Tbsp. whole cardamom pods

Combine water with sugar in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. When the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and add cardamom pods. Cover pan and let sit overnight. In the morning strain the syrup and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

Recipe for 4-cups

  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup pureed pumpkin
  • ½ cup cardamom simple syrup (see above)
  • ¼ cup Cognac (a nice brandy will also work here)

In a medium-sized bowl, sprinkle the packet of gelatin on top of ¾ cup milk. Set aside for 5 minutes. Using a blender, blend the cardamom simple syrup, cream, pumpkin, and cognac. After blending, put mixture in a small saucepan over medium heat (Do not boil). Once steam starts to come off of pumpkin mixture, pour the mixture into the bowl with gelatin and milk. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Pour into mold(s), and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

See this mold mentioned here in The Globe and Mail, and here at Apartment Therapy The Kitchn.

I love figs and I love cardamon, but I never thought of combining them until I read this fantastic article about simple syrups by Addie Broyles in the Austin American Statesmen. The article describes perking up summer drinks with simple syrups, but I immediately transferred the concept to gelatin molds. This mold was made with sweetened condensed milk, rum, and fig and cardamom syrup. Fruity, spicy, and boozy – this may be my favorite gelatinous experiment to date. My friends enjoyed pouring additional fig and cardamom syrup on the creamy mold – yum! We also enjoyed eating the cardamom and sugar soaked figs.

To make a fig and cardamom simple syrup, combine 1-cup water with 1-cup sugar in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. When the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and add 1-cup dried figs and 2-Tbsp. whole cardamom pods. Cover pan and let sit overnight. In the morning strain the syrup and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

Recipe for 3.5 cups

  • 2 packets Knox gelatin
  • ½ cup water (for blooming)
  • ¼ cup fig and cardamom syrup (see above)
  • ¼ cup rum (I used white rum, but any would do)
  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

Sprinkle two packets of gelatin on top of ½ cup water. Set aside for 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan heat up rum and the previously prepared fig and cardamom syrup, but do not boil. Once heated, pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in sweetened condensed milk, and then spoon into mold(s). Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

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