Many, many years ago I was introduced to South Asian culture. I immediately fell in love with the fashions. The brightly coloured, beaded fabrics and detailed jewellery mesmerized me. I love red and was thrilled to learn that traditionally colour for brides in this culture was my favourite. But clothing aside what is culture without food?
While my mother was a good and adventurous cook, growing up in my house we did not eat any spicy foods. I don’t remember having rice very often. My Mom never even taught me how to cook rice as it was not something she herself ever mastered. We are Irish. What can I say – we ate a lot of potatoes. That being said, you can imagine what an experience it was for me the first time my father-in-law cooked a traditional Indian meal for me. It was like my mouth was travelling to a foreign land. I liked it but secretly wanted the wardrobe to go with the experience.
Now I am not a spicy-hot food kind of girl – I don’t have the stomach for it, but the
style of cooking in the region my father-in-law is from is not terribly hot. It is spicy, but more flavourful than hot and my father-in-law is a great cook. Many times I have heard his friends proclaim that he cooks the best food they have ever tasted. Luckily for me he is also generous with his knowledge and recipes. He taught me how to cook basmati rice perfectly. It was amazing to me what adding a few cardamom pods, a cinnamon stick, some peppercorns, and some cloves could do for rice. I have learned a few Indian dishes from him and in the process gained an appreciation for South Asian spices.
So what happens when you introduce an Irish girl to Indian spices? You know where I am heading with this…yes it involves alcohol…
Several years ago I decided to make homemade gifts for my family and friends for
Christmas. While I was making my secret spice blends and bottling infused vinegars to give away I had an idea. Why not use some of my spices to infuse vodka? I took the basics for basmati rice, substituted a red chili pepper for the peppercorns, left out the cloves (as cloves can be overwhelming and I did not want my vodka to taste like Xmas potpourri) and added two other staples in my Indian spices, coriander and cumin.
The result was Indian inspired, spiced vodka. This infused vodka is delicious and easy to
make. Want to try it? Ok here we go…
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
- Glass bottle with a stopper or cork (large enough to hold 500ml of liquid).
- A funnel
- Spices (see ingredients below)
- A cool, dark place to store bottle for 30 days
- Patience…seriously…waiting a month to try this exotic vodka will be a challenge.
- 3 Cardamom pods – There are 2 types of pods, green and black/brown. I use the black ones as they have a smokier scent. The green have a smoother, more floral aroma. It’s your choice which you use.
- 1 tsp. coriander seeds – whole seeds not ground coriander.
- ½ tsp. cumin seeds – again whole seeds not ground cumin.
- 1 dried red chili pepper – whole with a stem. If the peppers are quite small you could use 2, but beware this will also increase the heat factor and possibly overpower the other spices.
- 500ml of Vodka
NOTE – You will find purchasing the spices at either a bulk store or Asian grocer will cost significantly less than at a big name grocery store.
THE HOW TO:
- Sterilize your bottles (this can be done as simply as running them through a cycle on your dishwasher with no soap).
- Using a flat edge knife, place each cardamom pod under the side of the knife blade and apply pressure with your hand. This bruises or crushes the pod and exposes the seeds.
- Put the spices in the bottle.
- Using a funnel, unless you are confident in your free-flow pouring skills, pour 500ml (2 cups for all you Americans out there) into the bottle and seal it up.
- Say a few kind loving words to the vodka and place it in a cool, dark place to rest for 30 days.
- That. Is. All.
Should your curiosity get the better of you and you decide to take a peek at the vodka, you will notice that the vodka changes from clear to a light amber colour. This is
due to the cinnamon and the chili pepper.
So 30 days have passed and your vodka is ready. Now what?! Well there are multiple ways you can enjoy your spiced vodka. It can be consumed straight up, preferably at
room temperature so as to fully experience the warmth and aroma of the spices. Are Martinis more your style? Try pairing it with Mango juice for a Mango Martini. Guava, or pear juice would also make a tasty martini. As for garnish, why not use fruit slices –mango for a Mango Martini and Pear for a Pear Martini etc…you get the idea.
One of the best ways to enjoy your vodka is to give it to a lucky friend as a Christmas or
Hostess gift. Homemade gifts are a lovely way to show you care, not to mention that it is alcohol and who doesn’t like a wee bit of that over the holidays? You can start you vodka now and it will be steeped and ready in good time to give as gifts over this holiday season. Personally my favourite way to enjoy this spiced elixor is by the fire with family and friends…quite possibly after a Christmas dinner of Biriyani, Sour Brinjals, Yogurt Chicken, Lentils, Papadoms and Parathas…mmm.