“The most precious substance in the universe is the spice Melange…The spice extends life… expands consciousness… gives them the ability to fold space…that is, travel to any part of the universe without moving.”
– Frank Herbert
Reading the above quote reminded me of our time in Burlington, Canada, as I used cardamom to spice my food and immediately, I was transported back to the Finnish coffee bread, the kahvi-pitko. I wasn’t a big fan of cardamom as I remember and didn’t use it that much when I had started my cooking ventures. Mostly I used it simply to flavour the dessert, Shrikhand, the dessert made with ‘hung yoghurt.”
Take a bowl of yoghurt in a muslin /cheese cloth and tie it up and hang it on a hook. This removes the whey, and a thick yoghurt (known as chakka in Marathi) remains. Adding sugar to it as per taste is what the basic “shrikhand” is all about. Now one can flavour it using cardamom pods, or saffron, and add in dry fruits, or even fresh fruits or berries. The whey collected can be used to add in the gravies or in doughs. Here, in Finland, I found a good option of using ‘rahka’ or kvarg as a replacement and I got the same results. So, an Indian easy dessert to try would be shrikhand, flavoured either with cardamom or saffron, and that’s how I enjoy it too. The two most expensive spices, used quite sparingly, and yet the dishes burst with colours and flavours.
Talking of saffron, just take a pinch of strands and mix them with few tablespoons of warm milk in a bowl, and then add it to the rahka or sugar ‘chakka’ mixture.
Coming back to cardamom, adding to our Indian chai along with ginger infuses a great flavour and taste too. Also, I like how we use it to spice up our savoury dishes like biryani, paneer masala, or malai kofta. Adding just a few seeds of green cardamom to it, just enough to enhance the flavours, and a few pods are added to our garam masala- the spice mix blend too.
We also always add cardamom on our ‘sheera’ or halva’. It is my go-to recipe, which works as an offering to our Gods, or even as a morning breakfast.
Semolina/manna suurimo/ Sheera
Heat ghee in a kadhai or a pan. Usually, the measurements can vary as per one’s liking, and you could take milk, ghee, sugar, and semolina in the equal quantity. But I usually take half of ghee and milk may be a little more, and sugar could be a little less than semolina. Roast the rava in the ghee till it turns a shade pink and remember to keep on stirring or else it’ll burn. It’ll also give off a nice aroma. Meanwhile heat the milk in another pan, warm but not boiling. As the rava gets roasted, add the milk carefully. Stir it well, cover, and let it cook for some more time. Then add the sugar, stir well and cover and let it cook some more. Add some ground cardamom for a nice flavour, and one can also add saffron strings soaked in little bit of warm milk. Even chopped cashews or almonds could be added.
The best is to find your own flavour for sheera, for me if I have one cup of rava I use one third cup or half cup of ghee, one and half cup of milk and three fourth cup of sugar. Some may add water with milk too. I prefer to add and flavour with simply cardamom.
Sheera works great as a snack or a dessert too, and as it is said, food always brings back memories, this was my father’s favourite snack for anytime and then my son follows suit.
Time to make some for myself now….
Engineer by education, passionate photographer &
food enthusiast from India, living in Vaasa,
and is happy to contribute to this column
which combines her love for food & photography.