I love cookies. Biscuits. Any type will do: butter, sugar, nuts, chocolate and more. The other day I was leafing through one of my Rachel Allen cookbooks when my eye fell on this recipe for Swedish Cardamom cookies. And I was definitely not disappointed. The double chocolate chip cookies (described in an earlier blog) is also from this cookbook.
My sister once gifted me a small recipe book called From Tagine to Masala, which has different recipes gathered from the Arabian trade routes. Very interesting and tasty, with many made in a tangine, and some also using cardamom. After visits to several spice markets in Middle Eastern countries, I came to appreciate a bigger variety of spices in food. And that is how I started using cardamom (amongst others) in savoury dishes.
Cardamom as spice
Cardamom is a potent spice inherently linked to southeast Asia, with origins in Egypt and India. But these days the world’s leading producer of this spice is surprisingly Guatemala and not a country in Asia or the Middle East. After saffron and ginger, cardamom is the third most expensive spice in the world.
It’s a spice mainly used in Indian and Middle Eastern dishes, both sweet and savoury. It is also found in some of the garam masala spice mixes you can buy or make, but also in Turkish coffee as well as in certain Chai teas. The spice comes in pods and there is a green and black kind. I have only ever used the green one which can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. For example, if you’re making a curry and want to serve flavoured rice with it, just add a few pods cracked open a little bit while cooking the rice. That way the flavour from the cardamom oozes out without the little seeds escaping.
Cardamom also has many health benefits, like certain anti-inflammatory benefits and can be used for colds, certain digestive problems and more. Also the whole pod can be chewed as a breath freshener…..
Interestingly when cardamom is used for sweet cooking, the seeds are removed from the pods and ground to a powder, while the whole pod will be used in most savoury dishes. I used a mortar and pestle to grind the little black seeds inside the green pods to make the ground cardamom.
I made this recipe from Rachel Allen’s cookbook, Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen.
225g (8oz) butter, softened
125g (4½ oz) icing sugar
275g (10oz) plain flour, sifted and extra for dusting
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
pinch of salt
200g (7oz) chopped pecans or sugar crystals
- Place the butter in a bowl and beat until soft.
- Add half the icing sugar and continue to beat, then add the other half and keep beating until the sugar is fully incorporated.
- Next add the flour, egg, cardamom, orange zest and salt, and continue to beat until well combined. Alternatively, place all the ingredients in a food processor and whiz briefly to combine.
- On a worktop lightly dusted in flour, roll the dough into a log shape approximately 4cm (11/2in) in diameter and 35cm (14in) long.
- Sprinkle the chopped pecans or sugar crystals (if using) onto a large piece of baking parchment or cling film, then roll the dough log in the sugar nibs to coat before rolling up the dough in the paper/cling film. If not adding the nuts/sugar, then simply roll up the dough log in the paper/cling film. (I didn’t have sugar crystals so I used demera sugar which works just as well. Well I thought it did.)
- Place the wrapped dough in the fridge to chill for a few hours or overnight.
- When you are ready to cook the cookies, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas mark 4, and line baking sheets with baking parchment.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and cut into slices 5–7mm (1/4–3/8in) thick.
- Transfer the slices to the prepared baking sheets and bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes (the time varying according to the thickness of the cookies) or until light golden.
- Carefully lift onto a wire rack to cool.
A note in the cookbook states that Rachel first tasted these cookies in Sweden served with a strong cup of coffee. Enjoy making them. They are really delicious and maybe just a bit more healthy with the spice and orange zest added. Then maybe not.