We’re kind of crazy about cardamom these days. Our friend Zarin went to India last summer and came back with a big bag of spices for us. They were all prepackaged in bright plastic bags and were labelled with some sort of identifying marks, but there was nothing written in English to give us any indication as to what was what. I spent some quality time sleuthing on Google, trying to look up photos of various common spices in the hopes of identifying them. The results of my detective work were mixed- there were a number that were readily identified and labelled, but also a whole slew that remain entirely unknown to this day. (Although now that I think about it, posting photos of them and asking the blogging world at large for their input might just do the trick!) Among those that were easily named were the little green cardamom pods.
I had certainly had cardamom before, but until actually breaking open the pods with mortar and pestle, I had no idea how fragrant and delicious it could be. Now, pretty much anything that prominently features cardamom rises quickly to the top of our list of things to make. This particular recipe comes from Sunset magazine and can be found here. Normally, I’m not really a pudding girl. It’s fine, but I’ll take a piece of cake or pie above it any day. However, with cardamom in the very name of the pudding, I couldn’t resist. Indeed, the flavor of my beloved spice was prominent, even when the pudding was topped with the mango sauce.
I will say, I made a couple of wee alterations to the recipe, but were I to do it again, I would try to follow it more precisely. For instance, finding that we had nothing but skim milk, I decided to go with it, making this an exceptionally healthy dessert. The flavor was terrific, but of course it just didn’t gel in quite the right way so that the texture was definitely off and it tasted sort of thin, rather than creamy. Which is not to say we didn’t scarf it down happily, but just that I’d use the suggested whole milk next time, if not a bit of cream, too. As a second recommendation, don’t put the mango in the blender, as the recipe suggests- ours instantly turned into something close to a puree, whereas what you really want is more of a chunky sauce to balance the smooth texture of the pudding. Again, it was a delicious mistake- what’s not to like about a mango sauce?- but I think the dish as a whole would have been better had I just chopped the mango by hand. Even so, the pudding made for a guilt free and refreshing summer dessert, mistakes and all.
Cardamom pudding with mango (serves six to eight)
6 cardamom pods
4 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
About 2 pounds ripe mango
2 tablespoons ginger-flavored liqueur (optional)
Fresh mint leaves (for garnish)
1. Crack cardamom pods by gently pressing with a rolling pin. Combine with 4 cups milk in a 3- to 4-quart pan; stir occasionally over medium-high heat until milk is boiling, 9 to 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup sugar, the cornstarch, and the ground cardamom. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup milk. When milk in pan is boiling, remove from heat and gradually whisk in cornstarch mixture. Return to medium-low heat and stir just until mixture comes to a boil, 3 to 7 minutes. Pour through a fine strainer set over a bowl; discard residue. Ladle pudding into 6 to 8 small bowls or ramekins (3/4- to 1-cup capacity). Let cool about 10 minutes, then cover and chill until cold and set, at least 1 1/2 hours.
3. Pit and peel mango. Cut flesh into about 1-inch chunks (you need 2 cups). In a food processor or blender, combine 2 cups mango, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and ginger liqueur if using; whirl just until mango is coarsely puréed (mixture should be slightly chunky). Cover and chill.
4. Just before serving, spoon all of the mango mixture evenly over puddings. Garnish with mint leaves.