Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Carrot-Cardamom Ice Cream

. . . With pistachios!

I’m still on this frozen-dessert kick. You would think I would have plenty, puh-LEN-ty, of opportunities to get frozen treats, being situated here a block away from Zesto and three blocks from Central Dairy, but . . .

Well, maybe I just love my ice cream maker. But it’s more likely that I’m grooving on new flavor combinations they just don’t offer anywhere in this town. The sky’s the limit on ice cream flavors—it’s a shame to focus on the old tried-and-true all the time.

So here’s my most recent concoction; so far, I think it’s my favorite.

It’s based on traditional dessert flavors of India. It seems that Indian desserts revolve around pistachios, almonds, and cashews; raisins, sultanas, or currants; creamy dairy products, halwa, or rice pudding; coconut, mango, strawberry, or other fruits; and rose water, saffron, and/or cardamom. (I have recipes for carrot halwa and carrot pudding, and that’s where I got the idea to add carrots.)

Here’s the formula—notes follow, including an easy technique for grinding your own fresh cardamom.

Carrot-Cardamom Ice Cream

1/2 cup carrots, peeled and grated
7 green cardamom pods
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
optional: yellow and red food coloring

Place the grated carrots into a steamer and cook until tender. Mash and place them into the refrigerator to chill thoroughly (mash coarsely, if you want to see little flecks of carrot in the ice cream; puree if you want it smooth). While the carrots are cooking, grind the cardamom (see below) and stir together the cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla.

When the carrots are chilled, add them to the mixture. They should turn it a pleasant pale orange color; if you want more color, add a few drops of yellow and maybe one drop of red coloring. Make sure the mixture is completely chilled before proceeding to the next step.

Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker (I use a Cuisinart 1.5 quart model) and freeze per the appliance’s instructions. At about the last five minutes of freezing, pour in the chopped pistachios so they get incorporated into the mixture. When frozen, transfer to an airtight container and place in freezer to harden completely.


Shelled, unsalted pistachios are available in ethnic grocery stores. The same goes for whole green cardamom pods. Sure, you can find whole cardamom at supermarkets, but it’s usually overpriced; at an international grocery, you can get greater quantities for less.

And you could use cardamom that’s been ground previously, but it is much less flavorful than fresh—the difference is like night and day. If you use “pre-ground” cardamom, you’ll have to use a lot more—about a heaping teaspoon, by my reckoning. (Did I mention that cardamom in the pod stays fresh for a long time? Take it from zillions of Indian ladies: It’s a much better value to buy it whole in the pod!)

Grinding Cardamom

It’s easy to grind your own cardamom. First, you need a mortar and pestle—you might think this is something that’s only used in “Ye Olde Apothecary Shoppe,” but once you have this device in your kitchen, you’ll be surprised at how useful it is.

You could alternatively use a spice grinder (a coffee grinder dedicated for spice grinding), but unless you’re grinding a large quantity of spices, I find the spice grinder is annoyingly hard to clean. The mortar and pestle, on the other hand, is simple to use and easy to clean. (And it feels good to use—get out those aggressions!)

This technique was passed on by Aman Aulakh, in one of those wonderful “Punjabi Home Cooking” classes she led with her mother, Gurcharan, at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Aman (who grew up in St. Louis) told us a story about one time she was in India, cooking with her relatives, and they had her grind up some fresh cardamom. She dutifully started slitting the pods open with a knife and picking out the seeds with the knife tip.

This is a tedious process, and I could identify with her totally, having done the same thing myself. (Just thinking about all that work puts cramps in my hands!)

But her aunties looked at her like she was nuts: “What are you doing?” they asked her. Then they showed her the “easy” way: Drop the whole pods into the mortar (bowl), then start banging on them with the pestle, straight down. The pods, being dry, split right open, and after a little more pounding the outer shells can easily be fished out of the bowl before you grind the seeds completely. Duhhhh . . .!

When she demonstrated this technique in our class, I almost slapped my forehead; I know I rolled my eyes. But I was comforted to know she had been doing the same thing, and that I wasn’t alone. . . . Ohhh, this is easy. And fun, too!

(Mmmmm, and delicious!)


Susan said...

Nice pics, and the recipe is wonderful! I'm glad I got to have some. Make it again soon!--Sue

Julianna Schroeder said...

Thank you--I'm a fool with a camera compared to you, but I do try to make the pictures look nice.

And hey, I've got a lot more fun ideas for frozen desserts. You won't be bored!