This spice – which comes in pods, or as seeds or powder – has a very intense, strong and recognisable aroma; you’ll only need a little to bring a new dimension to sweet or savoury dishes. And that may come as a relief to many, as it is the third most expensive spice in the world, after vanilla and saffron.

The plants from which cardamom pods are harvested are native to India, so that is why you often find it featured in chai, biryani dishes and mango lassi.

For an easy chai tea, simmer for about half an hour 2 litres of water with some roughly chopped ginger, whole cloves, black peppercorns, 4 or 5 whole cardamom pods (crushed), cinnamon quills, fresh grated nutmeg, a scraped vanilla pod, a dried chilli, 2-4 black tea bags and sugar to taste. Strain and serve with a 1:1 ratio of heated dairy-free milk, or as is.

Cardamom is also used as a flavouring for coffee. Try a cardamom coffee affogato for your caffeine fix as the weather warms: brew a strong serving of coffee, or extract a double espresso and stir through the crushed seeds from one cardamom pod. Place one scoop of your favourite vanilla ice cream into a small serving bowl and pour over the cardamom espresso. Dessert doesn’t get much easier than that.

Once you develop a taste for these humble looking pods with their luxurious flavour, you’ll start seeing the potential to add it into all of your cooking; from leftover rice being transformed into a quick biryani, to the secret ingredient in your next chocolate slice that gets everyone asking for the recipe. Enjoy!

This originally appeared in Vegetarian Living NZ, which is NZ Vegetarian Society’s seasonal magazine.