Food for thought

A touch of cardamom added to the richness of chocolate

The warmth of desert spices from the Bedouin in elegant, individual desserts

Shira Buzelan, an olah from Montreal, lives in Maale Adumim with her husband and five children. Combining her love of Israel and passion for food, Shira strives to incorporate locally grown and produced foods in her cooking style, highlighting the bounty of the land.

Pots de creme with the spice of cardamom can be served with spiced apricots (photo credit: Andrea Brownstein/Photoli Photography)
Pots de creme with the spice of cardamom can be served with spiced apricots (photo credit: Andrea Brownstein/Photoli Photography)

My father recently called to ask me what kind of perfume to buy my mother for their anniversary. I laughed and told him he was asking the wrong daughter; I’ve become the hick who parks her car next to donkeys at the grocery store. It’s funny, but true.

I’ve also become immune to the shepherd’s goats grazing around our fence, the camel crossings that slow the highway traffic and the occasional sheep, camel, or donkey that wanders into town, searching for greener pastures. They all belong to our Bedouin neighbors and living in the Judean desert has exposed me to their culture and ways of life.

As a teenager, my first exposure to the Bedouin culture was the mandatory stay in a Bedouin tent, a visit that most overseas programs incorporate into their itinerary. I still remember being served copious cups of sweet sage tea and cardamom-laced black coffee, along with pita baked fresh on the taboon, stewed okra and handmade lamb kebab. I think about the flavors of those heavily-spiced dishes, about their unique flavors and that particular, ever-present hint of cardamom, a spice that warms up any dish, whether savory or sweet.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve got a special yen for Bedouin chai tea, a local version of the more traditional Indian Chai Masala. The Bedouin version isn’t spiced with ginger and cinnamon, but rather with cardamom and sage, making it uniquely local. The cardamom adds a simple but warm touch, particularly in this sweet recipe, where the beauty of the flavor is all in the balance.

Cardamom-Spiced Chocolate Pots de Creme, with Spiced Apricots

Pots De Creme

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 250 grams bittersweet chocolate (I prefer Vered Hagalil) chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom
  • flaky sea salt (I use Melach Haaretz)
  • Extra chopped chocolate for serving

*For those who prefer their dessert less spiced, reduce the cinnamon to ¼ tsp and the cardamom to ⅛ tsp.

  1. In a small saucepan heat the milk just to the edge of boiling.
  2. Combine chocolate, eggs, vanilla and spices in a food processor bowl. Using the steel knife, process until smooth, for about 30 seconds. Slowly add scalded milk and blend again until thoroughly combined.
  3. Pour the mixture into demitasse cups, ramekins, or any other individual size serving vessel. Cover and chill 4-6 hours, until set.
  4. Sprinkle with sea salt and chocolate.

Spiced Apricots

*A note about fresh apricots: During the summer months in Israel, the market is flooded with stone fruits, including apricots in the earlier part of the season. Some appear small and monochromatic in color, while others are larger and look like a cross between an apricot and nectarine. These are often referred to as mishmish dvash, or meyuchad and their flavor is actually far superior to the more straightforward apricot.

  • 8-12 apricots halved pitted and sliced into eighths
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large frying pan and toss to coat. Cover and cook over medium high heat until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally, about five minutes.
  2. Uncover and cook until apricots are tender but still hold their shape. Cool to room temperature.
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