Garam literally means hot or warm. So this spice garam masala lives up to its name. In case a movie or a restaurant uses garam masala as a title or name understand that we can expect some zesty and spirited stuff.
Just a pinch of garam masala added towards the end of the cooking process (dals, vegetables, meat curries, pulaos, sprinkled on chilled dahi wadas!) ensures a flavour to the dish that is unique.
What goes into making this masala so garam
A wide variety of spices
Just as we are penning down this piece there will be someone somewhere mixing up his or her own characteristic garam masala taking the traditional cinnamon, coriander, star anise, cuimn, caraway seeds, cloves, fennel, green cardamoms, bay leaves, button chillies etc etc. in a proportion that is his or her wish to make a powder that will give the recipes a kick, a magical spin, or a heartwarming effect!
Why store bought garam masala is not good enough
Incidentally many commercial mixtures may include more of other less expensive spices like the regular dried red chillies, dried garlic and ginger powder, or sesame and mustard seeds to give volume.
This sort of mixture really does not keep well too and soon loses its aroma even if you put in a bottle with the tightest lid.
The right way to make it
The correct method to make your garam masala is the traditional way and that is it to take the whole spices (which keep fresh much longer), roast them individually and then pound them in a mortar with a pestle. Well, that might be stretching it too far, so just take these roasted spices and whirr them up in the electric grinder.
Indian food is the only cuisine that has more than one unique spice in most of the dishes. In addition to that we add this concoction: garam masala! Fact is that garam masala is used (though the recipes vary from region to region, from home to home) only in India and the rest of the Indian Subcontinent.
The perfect garam masala recipe.
Here is one particular blend that we totally recommend and are sure you will love to have on your kitchen shelf: 1-2 (2 grams) star anise; 6 (6 grams) black cardamoms; 2½ teaspoons (3 grams) (58) black peppercorns; 10 one inch sticks (7 grams) cinnamon; 1 tablespoon (6 grams) (76) cloves; 4 grams (8) green cardamoms; 1 flower (1 gram) mace (javitri); 4 tablespoons (20 grams) coriander seeds; 3 tablespoons (17 grams) cumin seeds; ½ teaspoon (2 grams), grated nutmeg; ½ teaspoon (3 grams) salt.
Heat a heavy frying pan on medium heat and gently roast all ingredients (leave cardamoms in their pods till later) except the salt, till they turn a few shades darker. Stir occasionally. Do not be tempted to speed up the process by turning up the heat as the spices will burn on the outside and remain raw on the inside. When the spices are roasted turn of the heat and allow them to cool. Once cooled, remove the cardamom seeds from their skins and mix them back with all the other roasted spices. Grind them all together, to a fine powder in a clean, dry coffee grinder. Cool completely and store in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place.
Try out a bunch of recipes that use this wonder ingredient only on SanjeevKapoor.com
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.