Every time I think I’ve Done Something by adding a pinch of cardamom to a recipe I hear Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly saying “florals, for spring? Groundbreaking”, but as I favour known deliciousness over needless striving for innovation (or worse: striving for virality) I can calmly tell this fictional character onto whom I’m projecting that yes, cardamom is wonderful, and here’s more of it. Obviously people have been using cardamom for centuries — it’s referred to in ancient Sanskrit texts, was beloved of Hippocrates, part of the Song Dynasty economy — and it’s pleasing to know, as I tuck into this chocolate pudding from the comfort of my bed, that I’m participating in the noble continuation of a grand culinary tradition.
Sometimes the right answer isn’t where you’re looking for it. This recipe started off as an ice cream, and very fine it was, but the wistfully cardamom-tinted richness of the unfrozen mixture stuck with me more, so I made it again and dialled it back a few steps. Both cardamom and thyme have a kind of resiny, oily fragrance that’s wobbling just on the precipice of lemon without actually being lemony; together they lift the chocolate’s heavy curtains while still emphasising its richness, adding an air of mystery without being intrusive. Now, the first time I made this I let the coconut cream sit with its bashed cardamom pods for six hours to infuse, the second time I was in more of a hurry and it only sat for half an hour; it was still good but the cardamom didn’t make itself so known. If you end up in this same position, put ground cardamom on your shopping list and add as much as you need to the chocolate mixture till the flavour pops.
This recipe is, I grant you, kind of annoying: first I ask for cashew butter (what are we, squillionaires) and second it requires two separate saucepans, but at least you don’t have to use a blender? And after a certain point of streamlining and cutting corners we have to accept that cooking food does involve being in your kitchen. For your efforts and sink full of dishes, however, you get a chocolate pudding of astonishing lusciousness, so dense and dark that you half expect a curious hippo’s nostrils to emerge through its surface; wildly sophisticated thanks to the individual portions and fragrant cardamom (and my fairly low bar for what constitutes sophistication), and yet inner-childishly comforting with its yielding softness and vague evocation, as you drag your spoon through the chocolate, of being given a scraped-out bowl of cake batter to lick. (Also: no tiktok video this week, my phone has suddenly decided it has all the capacity and power of a 125mb thumb drive from 2006 and as such I was up till 3am last night trying to clear storage space so I could edit one single video of chocolate melting and was thwarted at every turn. I have about 1000 fewer photos on my phone but it’s still being all “no x” whenever I try to edit that one video. Can’t wait till I try this again next time!)
Cardamom Thyme Chocolate Puddings
Velvet-rich chocolate kissed with cardamom and fresh thyme: it’s a little messy to make and requires some advance planning, but every spoonful is a reward. And if you don’t have time to let the coconut cream infuse, add 1/2 a teaspoon ground cardamom — or more to taste — as you’re mixing it into the chocolate. Recipe by myself.
- 4 cardamom pods
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 x 400ml tin full-fat coconut cream
- 1 cup/250ml water
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup
- 3 heaped tablespoons smooth cashew butter
- 200g dark chocolate
- Extra thyme leaves, for serving
1: Split the cardamom pods with a knife to release the black seeds within, and place the seeds and pods along with the two sprigs of thyme and the tin of coconut cream in a small saucepan and gently heat it, stirring, till the coconut cream is just too hot to touch, with a couple small bubbles escaping to the surface, but nowhere near boiling. Remove it from the heat — if you have the time, let it sit for about six hours in the fridge to soak up all the cardamom and thyme flavour, if not, just set it aside while you get on with the rest of the recipe, and add some ground cardamom to taste when you mix it into the chocolate later.
2: Roughly chop the 200g dark chocolate and set aside. In another saucepan, stir together the cup of water, the 1/2 cup brown sugar, two tablespoons golden syrup and three heaped tablespoons smooth cashew butter. Bring to a boil, stirring regularly with a whisk — it’ll look very unlikely at this stage but with a little heat (and a lot of chocolate later) it will all come together. Once it’s reached the boil, by which point it should resemble caramel sauce, let it bubble away for two minutes, stirring constantly, and then remove from the heat.
3: Let the cashew syrup sit for a minute till it stops bubbling, then tip in the chopped dark chocolate and briskly stir till the chocolate has melted. Now, take your initial pan of coconut cream, and strain it into the chocolate mixture through a sieve, so it catches the leaves and bits of cardamom. Whisk the two mixtures together, adding ground cardamom at this point if you feel like it needs a boost, and divide this mixture between your chosen serving bowls. Refrigerate the puddings for about two hours (though they can happily sit in the fridge overnight if need be) and serve scattered with extra thyme leaves.
The number of servings depends on the size of your ramekins/bowls etc, but this makes roughly 700ml of pudding mixture, and I divided it between six different receptacles, which made for a comfortable serving of pudding: enough to feel like you’ve really eaten something, but not enough that you feel like you’ve overcommitted. It would look lovely in martini or other cocktail glasses, I also liked how they looked in the base of the capacious stemless wine glasses that you can see in some of the photos here. And you could always test how it will look by filling your glasses with the same amount of water first, eg if you have seven glasses then pour in 100ml water.
- I haven’t tested it either way so I couldn’t say for sure but if you can’t get cashew butter, I imagine you could replace it with smooth almond butter; you could possibly leave it out altogether, bearing in mind the effect this will have on the finished texture and richness. I periodically order cashew butter from Revive, it’s the best I’ve ever tasted, it keeps for ages, and they regularly put it on special.
- If your cashew butter is unsalted, add a pinch of salt when you’re whisking the chocolate and coconut cream together; you could also sprinkle over some sea salt flakes to serve.
- If you’re serving this to fusspots who don’t like cardamom and thyme, subtle though they are here, leave them out and add a couple teaspoons of vanilla extract when whisking everything together at the end.
Kid by Steve Lawrence (aka Mr Eydie Gormé) from the 1968 musical Golden Rainbow. Apropos of nothing I’ve decided to work my way through every Broadway flop mentioned in the song Monkeys and Playbills from [title of show]; Golden Rainbow is second on the list and there’s something charming about this song, about that cavernous late-60s sound, and about Lawrence’s throaty, Scott Walker-esque voice.
It’s Like That, by Run-DMC and Jason Nevins. Simply cannot overstate the effect that this music video had on me in 1997! I require an oral history of it right now!
Seagull by Ride, the sort of song that makes you feel like you could run vertically up a gust of wind onto the roof of a tall building, perhaps following it up by leaping from rooftop to rooftop as you run from one end of the city to the other without any danger of falling.
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