Garam Masala is a favourite spice blend for Indian and Pakistani dishes. This is a spice blend that's meant to warm you, although it isn't usually a fiery hot spice on its own. Think of cold days, and the warming comfort of a bowl of curry. That kind of warm. The words Garam Masala actually mean "warm spices", because according to Wikipedia, these spices are thought to elevate the body temperature.
What is Garam Masala?
There are many different variations of the garam masala spice blend, depending on the region, and the cook. The constants are usually cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, pepper, and nutmeg. Some cooks add chiles, but this recipe leaves them out. You can add your own, or not, according to your preference.
Should You Make Your Own Spice Blend?
I think so. If you are looking for serious flavour, and you must be, or you wouldn't be here, then yes. You can buy packaged garam masala. However, it usually doesn't have the depth of flavour that you can achieve when making your own blend. The intensity of the individual spices will fade after a short time in a package, which will change the balance of flavours. For this reason, when making your own blend, it's best to make it in small amounts. Make just enough for your recipe, or that you'll be using within a few weeks. Never buy spices in bulk, unless you plan to use them soon.
What Do You Need to Make Your Own Spice Blends?
You don't need much equipment to make your own blends. However, it works really well to have a spice grinder or a coffee grinder (my solution) that you keep for just that purpose. Electric coffee grinders aren't expensive, and it's worthwhile to have grinder set aside for just coffee and another one specifically for spice grinding. They also work as perfect nut choppers, too!
An electric grinder is nice, but do you need one? An old fashioned mortar and pestle work, too. I still use the mortar and pestle for simply grinding up some dried chillies, or crushing some cloves for a recipe. I find it somehow satisfying to grind my own spice blends by hand, although you may not agree, and if so, that's perfectly fine. A food processor will also work, but for such a small amount, it's best if you have a mini one.
Another, easy simple way to grind together some spices is with a rolling pin. Heavy, marble rolling pins work best. But if you are up to the muscle, even a lightweight wood pin will do the job. Just put all of your whole spices between two pieces of parchment paper and roll hard on them until they are crushed. You'll get a mini arm (and ab) workout, as a bonus.
How to Use Your Garam Masala
Add Garam Masala spice blend to your dish near the very end of cooking. This will keep its flavour true. Use your freshly ground spice blend in your favourite Indian dishes, like this Chickpea Curry with Sweet Potatoes, or the ever-popular Roasted Cauliflower Red Lentil Curry.
This recipe makes about three tablespoons and comes from one of my favourite Indian cookbook authors, Madhur Jaffrey.
Garam Masala – Indian Spice Blend
- 1 tablespoon cardamom seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon cloves
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- ¼ average sized nutmeg
- Put all ingredients in a spice grinder, coffee grinder, or use a mortar and pestle.
- Grind until spices are fine, about 30-40 seconds in a machine.
- Use immediately, or store in an airtight container.