We were almost ready for the spring weather, making plans to start our herb garden for the year. Me and the husband were discussing about or action plan to get rid of the pesky weeds that seem to have overrun our yard. But what we did not expect was one last punch from the winter in the form of a cold spell that lasted a good part of the week. I heard on radio, that the farmers are worried that this cold spell will wreak havoc on the strawberry crop and that the delicate plants and vegetables were affected by the cold. However, It was fun to see some snow.
As I have always mentioned, India is famous for its wide range of whole spices and spice blends. One of the most famous spice blends from India, is known as the “garam masala” which literally means a hot blend of spices. We get ours from India 🙂 My mother-in-law sends it to us. This time around, I tried making the spice blend on my own. While I was happy with the overall result, I can never get it exactly as it is in India. I think the reason for that is the fresh aromatic spices that are somehow significantly more potent and fragrant in India. Inspite of this, I prefer the homemade spice mix to some store bought garam masala as it is definitely a hundred times better when I make it myself. I believe the key to getting the perfect garam masala is the quality of the ingredients and the proportion of spices in the blend.
- 5 Tablespoon Black peppercorns
- 5 Tablespoon Cumin seeds / Jeera
- 3-5 Cinnamon sticks (2 inches long)
- 5-7 Star anise
- 3-5 Mace / Javitri
- 2 Nutmegs
- 15-18 Green cardamom / Elaichi
- 13-15 Black cardamom
- 20-23 Cloves
- 8-10 Bay leaves
Mace and Nutmeg
Mace is the outer covering of the nutmeg seed. Nutmeg and Cinnamon powders are used in many baking recipes to give a distinct flavor to the food. Mace has a very strong flavor like the star anise. Do not add mace directly to any dish. It has a very distinct taste and can ruin the dish if not used properly.
Cinnamomum tamala Indian bay leaves have a cinnamon like flavor to it and are different from other bay leaves native to Indonesia, California, West Indies, Mexico etc.,
Some are stronger and spicier while others are more fragrant. I find that the ones with smooth inner bark are less spicy than the ones which are rough. The cinnamon that you find in Indian stores are the Indian or Srilankan cinnamon. Any of the varieties will do for the blend. Cinnamon sticks can be hard to blend to a smooth powder, but they give a unique fresh flavor to the spice mix.
Cardamom is the third world’s most expensive spice after saffron and vanilla bean. It is native to India. Mainly there are two types of cardamom pods widely used in cooking. Black cardamom and green cardamom. I use black cardamom pods in biryani. Green cardamom are relatively smaller and I generally use it for making spice blends.
Cloves Syzygium aromaticum are the dried aromatic flowers buds. They are widely used in Peruvian and Indian cooking and have many medicinal properties.
Illicium verum in Latin Illicio means “ entice” . Star anise gives a sweet and spicy flavor to the dish and has very strong fragrance to it. So be mindful about the quantity to be added.
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Curry powder is different from garam masala. It has turmeric, curry leaves and other ingredients that are usually not present in garam masala. Curry powder is a British or Western spice blend introduced to India. It works well as a spice blend to add to dishes, but it does not give a traditional or authentic flavor to the recipes.
- Dry roast cinnamon and nutmeg in a saucepan for 2-3 min on medium low heat. Blend into a fine powder. Use a coffee/spice grinder.
- Add star anise, mace and cloves. Roast on low heat for 1-2 min . Make a fine powder.
- Dry roast cardamom, black peppercorns, cumin seeds and bay leaves for a minute. Blend with rest of the spice mixture for another minute.
- Sieve the mixture for a much finer spice blend.
- Use fresh ingredients to get the exact flavor and fragrance.
- Keep the masala in an air tight container and it can last for more than 6 months. Although I would suggest to make it in small quantities, the fresher the better.
- Use around 1/2 tsp or so for cooking a meal for 2-4 people.
So, what are you waiting for ?
Get blending …
? Let me know how it was.
Have a nice day everyone !!