Cardamom is a spice I love, even though I don't use it often. I add a small amount of the ground spice when I make Danish pastry and delicate chickpea-flour cookies, and use a pod or two when I'm cooking an Indian- or Middle Eastern-inspired dish, but that's about the extent of it. It's a spice that should be used sparingly: with most preparations, a subtle hint of its distinctive flavour is much better than a strong jolt of it. I once accidentally bit into a whole cardamom pod I'd used in a biriyani, and it was some time before I could get the bitter flavour out of my mouth.

Cardamom comes in two main varieties: black and green, with the former being much stronger and the latter used in a wider variety of cuisines. Both can be purchased as whole pods or ground. You get a better flavour if you buy the whole pods and grind them as you need them. If you must buy the ground spice, store it in the freezer. Cardamom can be used on its own or mixed with other spices; it's particularly delicious with saffron and is often part of spice mixtures such as ras el hanout and garam masala.

Green cardamom is good when used in milk or cream-based desserts, such as panna cotta or baked flan. I love it in rice pudding, which I make by baking rice with milk, a small amount of sugar, a few green cardamom pods and a pinch of saffron threads. When the rice has absorbed all the milk and is tender, remove the cardamom pods and let the mixture cool. Stir in a little orange flower water, then fold in some whipped cream. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and pomegranate seeds before serving.