Garam is the Hindi word for “hot” and Masala stands for “spice”. Despite that, Garam masala is not hot like chilli is but is a warming, beautifully aromatic mixture of spices such as cumin, cardamom and nutmeg.
“Curry powder” is a common thing one finds in the Western supermarket but one you wouldn’t find in an Indian grocery shop. Masalas on the other hand are a lot more familiar to the Indian ear and let me assure you that each of them is a unique blend of spices and is used to flavour only certain dishes. Of these, garam masala, is in my opinion the king of all masalas as it is really versatile and can bring life to the most boring of vegetables. You can cook it into a dal or sprinkle it on top of one, you can use it to flavour savoury lassi or the mashed potato filling that goes into a samosa , and to add flavour to the bean mixture that goes into vegetarian nachos – it’s uses are endless. Someone’s even written a page about the many avatars of garam masala.
I have given you the garam masala recipe from the book “How to Cook Indian” by my favourite chef Sanjeev Kapoor. I would highly recommend this book as would I it’s sister book “Mastering the Art of Indian Cuisine”. The garam masala recipe itself is really simple once you’ve assembled the raw ingredients. Being quite a strong flavouring, you only need to use a tiny amout to flavour any dish and so it lasts a fair while in a cool dry place in your pantry.
Hope you try making it and come up with new ways of using it!
Ingredients (makes ~75gms) :
I have provided Hindi ; Kannada translations for the ingredients in case that helps track them down
8 teaspoons of cumin seeds (jeera; jeerigay)
4 teaspoons of black peppercorns (kali mirch; menasu)
25 whole cloves (laung; lavanga)
25 pods of green cardamom (elaichi; yelakki)
10-12 pods of black cardamom (bada elaichi; kappu yelakki)
8-10 bey leaves (tej patta; pattey)
8-10 x 2.5 cm sticks of cinnamom or cassia bark (dalchini; chakke)
10 to 12 blades of mace (javanthri ; jayi patre)
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg (jayphal; jayi-kayi)
1. Place a shallow pan on low to medium heat (I use the 3-setting on my electric hob).
2. Place the spices, one by one, in the pan and “dry roast” them until they release their aroma and change colour slightly. You have to watch them constantly as you do not want them to burn. “Dry roasting’ means that you do not use any oil or any form of grease to roast the spices. You just let the heat of the pan do the job.
3. Let the roasted ingredients cool on a kitchen towel for 10-20 minutes.
4. Grind the roasted ingredients to a fine powder using a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle though the latter might take you a while.
5. Once cool, store the garam masala in a clean, dry jar and always access it with a clean, dry spoon. As long as the jar is airtight, the masala should keep for upto a year if not more.
1. Mace is the red skin that encloses a nutmeg seed. The biological term used to describe it is “aril”. It is different in flavour and texture to the nutmeg seed.