You just don’t know it yet…but they are already lurking in your pantry, probably hiding in your spice drawer.
Most Indian recipes; authentic or Indian-inspired (ahem, that’s us) list ‘Garam Masala’, literal translation: hot spices, as one of its key ingredients. Based on all the Garam Masala questions I receive, my guess is that a simple recipe is not-so-simple when a key ingredient like Garam Masala isn’t easily available. And I’m with you on that one…If I have to jump through hoops to procure an ingredient from a special store, I might drop the recipe idea too.
But Garam Masala doesn’t have to be that ‘bad guy’….you already have everything you need for it in your spice cabinet, now all you have to do is bring it all together.
So, here’s a ‘Garam Masala’ crash course with information and a simple recipe for a home-made Garam Masala Spice Blend: (This other spice article is worth a read before you go ahead.)
Let me introduce you to Garam Masala, a warm Indian spice blend made using 4-6 of what I like to call the ‘warm spices’ (think of the warm comfort of cinnamon and nutmeg in an apple pie; they are also two important ingredients in a Garam Masala.)
Firstly, don’t let someone more familiar with Indian food intimidate you into thinking there is one definitive blend of Garam Masala…cause there isn’t. Except for a few common threads, this blend of various daily use spices is unique to each part of India; based more on regional cuisine preferences and personal tastes than on one standard recipe. What I’m saying is ‘since there is no absolute right way…you can’t really go wrong with it’.
Recipe for a Homemade Garam Masala Spice Blend
Here on Peri’s Spice Ladle, our Garam Masala is a basic roasted and ground blend of 6 essential spices used by my mum that makes for a warm and hearty spice blend. While many versions also use coriander seeds in Garam Masala, I prefer to add ground coriander separately to my curries and other Indian preparations.
Yield: 1.5 oz/ 30g
2 tablespoons cardamom
2 tablespoons black peppercorn
1 ½ tablespoons cloves
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
½ oz/12-15g cinnamon (about 6 sticks, each 2 inches in length)
1 whole nutmeg, crushed
¼ teaspoon salt (helps preservation)
Roast all the ingredients on a dry heavy bottom skillet for 3-4 minutes. Let your nose guide you; roasting brings out the oils in whole spices.
Using a spice (or coffee beans) blender, grind the spices to a fine powder. Use as required in recipes.
Storing the Garam Masala Spice Blend
The aroma and taste of freshly ground spices is irreplaceable but that is a lofty goal for any busy home cook, including me. The Garam Masala spice blend keeps perfectly well stored in a glass bottle in a cool dry place (that’s your pantry) for 6 months or longer; though it will lose some potency over time.
Cooking with the Garam Masala Spice Blend
Here I’d say, ‘unlike other spices, too much Garam Masala will upset your stomach faster than it will upset your tongue.’ Use this spice sparingly; a pinch at a time is best.
This versatile spice blend can be used to spice up beverages like tea and hot chocolate, as a dry rub for meats, as a seasoning for roasted vegetables and also in salads. Try out the Garam masala flavored oil recipe at the end of this piece.
In Indian food, Garam Masala is found most often in meat dishes where the strong spices lend an amazing flavor. It is also used in small quantities in almost all Indian vegetarian preparations as well as Daals, the Indian lentil staple.
Recipe Ideas for the Garam Masala Spice Blend
Garam Masala Flavored Oil recipe: Heat oil in a pan. When the oil is hot, turn off the flame and add a pinch or two of Garam Masala to the hot oil. Drizzle this flavored oil over warm cooked rice or meats, vegetables and lentils.
Some more recipes using Garam Masala:
Hope this article and ideas on Garam Masala will put one more essential Indian food element within easy reach.