There are some essentials to Indian cooking and Garam masala is just one of them! Indian cuisine is simply incomplete without this aromatic, flavor enhancing ground spice mix. It is frequently used as a condiment in Indian meat or vegetable dishes.
This spice mix is usually ground into a powder for use in Northern Indian cooking, while it is generally made into a paste form for use in Southern Indian cooking along with coconut milk, vinegar, or water. This masala can be combined with other seasonings or used alone as recommended.
WHAT IS GARAM MASALA?
This spice blend that is widely used in Indian cooking. I typically roast the ingredients of the spice mix to bring out additional flavor and aroma before grinding it into powder.
The word Garam Masala literally translate to “Hot Spice Mix“. Hot does not mean the spices will burn your mouth, it simply increases body temperature by accelerating metabolism, as the ingredients used to make garam masala are considered warm in nature.
TYPES OF GARAM MASALA
The basic version of this Indian spice blend contains 7 main ingredients, namely cumin seeds, coriander seeds, green cardamom pods, black peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cloves, bay leaf.
IS 7 SPICE SAME AS GARAM MASALA?
Although garam masala contains 7 basic ingredients just like 7 spice, but it should not confused with 7 spice. This spice blend uses way more spices than 7-spice, it’s recipe varies regionally and per personal preference.
7 spices contains a fiery blend of the following ingredients: white pepper, ground coriander, cloves, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, and allspice.
INGREDIENTS FOR GARAM MASALA
It is easily available in the spice aisle of your grocery store or you can prep your own blend from whole spices. This one-of-a-kind spice blend hits a variety of flavor notes: sweet, toasty, earthy, along with a faint floral note. The most basic recipe contains 7 main ingredients.
- Cumin seeds
- Coriander seeds
- Green cardamom pods
- Black peppercorns
- Cinnamon stick
- Bay leaf
The recipe I am going to share with you contains about 17 whole spices. It contains spices like cinnamon sticks, cumin seeds, and coriander seeds that are readily available. However, it also features a few distinctive ingredients that includes – the peppery mace, Christmas like taste of the nutmeg, the saccharinity of fennel and slight nuttiness from white poppy seeds.
THE EQUIPMENT YOU’LL NEED
You can choose one out of the below two equipment to grind the roasted spices:
- Mortar and pestle – This molcajete (mortar) and tejolete (pestle) from Williams-Sonoma is hand carved from a single piece of basalt rock, which makes it truly unique. This was an equipment that was traditionally used, takes a lot of physical strength and time to complete the task.
2. Spice Mill – KitchenAid Blade Coffee and Spice Grinder Combo Pack – Onyx Black. The electric spice mill of course gets the job done faster and is less strenuous.
RecipeForte’s Secret Garam Masala Recipe
- ½ Cup Coriander seeds
- ¼ Cup Cumin seeds
- 20-25 Green cardamoms
- 6-7 Bay leaves
- 10-12 Black cardamoms
- 15-20 Cloves
- 6-8 Blades of mace
- 3 Cinnamon sticks, preferably Ceylon cinnamon
- 2 Star anise
- 1 ½ Tbsps. Fennel seeds
- 1 Tsp Black peppercorns
- ½ Tsp Fenugreek seeds
- ½ Nutmeg
- ½ Clump Dried ginger
- 5 Red chilies, optional
- ¼ Cup Poppy seeds
- ¼ Cup Caraway seeds
- Clean and inspect the spices. If they look spoilt or have any stone, husks, and discard them
- In a heavy bottom pan dry roast the spices on low to medium heat until warm and fragrant.
- Allow to cool completely and then grind them into a fine powder using a spice/coffee grinder/blender. Depending on your grinder size you may have to do this in batches.
- Sift the powdered spices and you may get a residue that you can grind again and sift.
- Cool completely and store it in an airtight container in cool dry space and use it as required.
WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?
What you will predominantly taste in a garam masala is the quantity of the whole spice that you have used in a large proportion as compared to other whole spices. There are several garam masala recipes available, and that is part of its appeal: If you like a sweeter mixture, add more cinnamon and fennel seeds; if you prefer a spicier mixture, add more black pepper and cloves.
The finished garam masala will vary slightly depending on the variation. My recipe is a warm, fragrant spice blend with depth of flavor and hidden layers of spices. Something, usually not found in the store bought ones. Simply because it is an uncommon family recipe, handed out from one generation to the other.
The spice jars sold at grocery stores only contains about 5 or 6 whole spices, that is not enough to build profile needed for a rich, palate tickling spice mix.
HOW TO COOK WITH GARAM MASALA?
You can use this Indian spice mix to season the food, enhance the aroma and add it to the food towards the end of cooking a dish. Some recipes also call for sprinkling the masala over the dish that does not involve cooking. One such dish is raita, an Indian yoghurt mix.
I prefer to ground the garam masala spices that would last me about a month. It also depends on how frequently do you use this spice mix in your kitchen. Traditionally, families would ground the spice mix from scratch everyday for daily cooking – a lifestyle choice that is simply impossible to sustain now a days!
HOW TO STORE GARAM MASALA
You may prepare garam masala a month in advance. Store in an clean, dry, airtight container. And place in a cool, dark area.
- Since spices are the key component of this dish, make sure to use fresh ones of good quality.
- The whole spices can be roasted in a skillet or oven. I do not advise sun drying them as they can be contaminated by birds, insects, small animals or simply get dirty due to weather conditions.
- It is advised to roast the whole spices so the powder will be more fragrant and easier to grind.
- Refrain from roasting black cardamom as it can make it bitter. I just add them at the end after switching off the heat.
- You can roast each spice separately or all at once, as I did.
- Avoid over-roasting the spices because this could make them bitter and give them a darker hue.
- Depending on the quality of the spices and the length of roasting, the color of the garam masala powder may vary slightly. The store bought spice jars are usually light brown in color as they are slightly roasted.
- If after sifting the powdered spices you get a residue, you can use the residue for your sabzis/dals.
- To preserve its freshness and flavor for longer use, store it in the freezer or refrigerator in an airtight container.
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