Eating & Drinking

QUEST: No One Thinks Twice About Coriander Seed

BY CINDY DEACHMAN

This article was originally published in the May 2015 edition of
Ottawa Magazine

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Abate Pear Poached in Coriander and Earl Grey Syrup, Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce with Chilies and Cinnamon, Saffron Honey and Tangerine Ice Cream, Sesame/Coriander Tuile. Photo: PhotoluxStudio.com — Christian Lalonde

No one thinks twice about coriander.

Except for one Siberian nomad of the Pazyryk Valley whose grave, dating from the fourth or third century BCE, held a leather-and-leopard-fur pouch with copper birds sewn on, covered with gold leaf. In the bag were cultivated coriander seeds.

Why bury them?

Perhaps coriander fetched as high a price then as peppercorns did later for 15th-century Londoners. Since the Renaissance, coriander seed has transformed into the Cinderella of spices — at least in Europe and North America. But top billing still goes to chilies, cinnamon, or ginger.

Let’s change all that.


Abate Pear Poached in Coriander and Earl Grey Syrup, Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce with Chilies and Cinnamon, Saffron Honey and Tangerine Ice Cream, Sesame/Coriander Tuile

It starts with a pear. “I’m a fruit dessert kind of guy,” says Absinthe chef/owner Patrick Garland. Add chocolate sauce and ice cream, and it’s “The Threepenny Opera.” The dessert itself is Poire belle Hélène (originally inspired by Offenbach’s 1864 operatic heroine) “with an Indian romp on it,” says Garland. Coriander seeds are used in every part of the dish. The luxurious sweetness of the saffron-tangerine ice cream offsets bittersweet yet creamy chocolate, which is decorated with garam masala. Running down the sides of the poached pear: liquid gold. Really and truly. $9.
Absinthe, 1208 Wellington St. W., 613-761-1138

Ancho Espresso Short Ribs
A roaring fire, ribs on the spit. Campfire coffee all around, then some fool in a Stetson bursts into song with “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.” Epicuria’s short ribs are tender, meaty, deboned. The sauce is rich and exotic. Anchos are fruity, fairly mild, with only a little nip detected. Coriander, a vagabond in South America since 15th-century conquis-tadors set up shop, has been making its way north ever since. Here, the seed is toasted, ground, and added in a rub. Eat this succulent dish with johnnycake. $14.
Epicuria, 357 St. Laurent Blvd., 613-745-7356

Urad Dahl
Typically, tourists to India stop in Delhi only to transfer elsewhere. Not Ron Farmer. As co-owner of The Green Door Restaurant, he will go there to research dahl. Naturally, he’s dining at Shakahari — a 53-year-old restaurant within the 366-year-old walls of Old Delhi — which is famous for urad dahl, a tiny black lentil that, hulled and split, is creamy white. One of Farmer’s versions features garam masala, chilies, and the Indian spice asafoetida. Rounding out the whole dish? Coriander. $2.20/100 g.
The Green Door Restaurant, 198 Main St., 613-234-9697