Make your own Garam Masala
If you have ever cooked Indian, you will have heard of Garam Masala. It is a wonderfully warm and versatile mix of spices used in a range of Indian dishes. Not necessarily hot (in the chilli sense), but consists of spices that warm the body, such as cardamom, cloves and cinnamon.
The word Garam means hot and Masala means spices, so the mixture of spices are traditionally those that heat the body according to the ayurvedic system of medicine. I think the words garam and masala are Hindi words, but I might be mistaken. There are hundreds of languages in India – if it is from another language, please let me know.
The spices used are all very aromatic as well. But often when you buy Garam Masala off the shelf, the commercial mixtures often cut down on the more expensive cardamom and fill up with the cheaper coriander and cumin. So why don’t you make your own? It is a wonderful process and the results are STUNNING. If you have never tasted a home made spice powder, this is your chance.
Generally, Garam Masala should be sprinkled over food towards the end of the cooking to retain its aroma. The Garam Masala spices can be used whole, but more traditionally, they are ground together in a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, quick! Go and buy a strong, large, solid one from your local Indian or Chinese Shop. You will never regret the purchase. If you can’t rush out and buy one, well, a blender or spice grinder will do. I prefer the taste from grinding, but it is certainly Ok to use a more mechanical method.
[Update: These days (2013) I am more prone to using a spice grinder, for quick grinding to a powder consistency.]
There are as many Garam Masala recipes as households in India. Here are some for you to choose from. If you have any others that you use, please add them in the comments.
Different Garam Masala recipes highlight different spices, for example, some contain predominately coriander, others perhaps highlight nutmeg.
How to select a mix?
The first time that you make Garam Masala, you may not have a large range of ingredients in your pantry – select a recipe that most closely matches your available ingredients. After that, visit your Indian shop or local spice supplier and add various spices to you pantry cupboard.
How to make the mix?
Dry roast all ingredients separately in a kadhai (Indian wok) or frying pan, shaking the pan frequently, until the are starting to brown and a wonderful spicy aroma arises. Be careful not to burn. Mix together the whole ingredients and store in an air-tight container in the fridge.
When required, grind the whole roasted masala ingredients to a fine powder in a mortar, spice grinder or blender, and use as directed in the recipe. Store in an airtight jar.
The recipes for Garam Masala
Adjust the proportions to suit your own preferences.
Hyderabadi Garam Masala
20g Cinnamon, 20g Peppercorns, 20g Cloves, 20g Green Cardamom, 15g Indian Bayleaf, 25g Black Cardamom, 10g Nutmeg, 10g Mace, 10g Fennel Seeds.
Hyderabadi Garam Masala with Saffron and Black Cumin
2 tspn saffron threads, 1/4 cup black pepper, 1/4 cup black cumin seeds, 1/4 cup cloves, 1/4 cup cinnamon, 1/4 cup green cardamom seeds
25 cm stick Cinnamon, 2.5 tspns black Peppercorns, 1 Tblspn Cloves, 4g Green Cardamom, 3 stalks Curry Leaf, 3 Tblspn Cumin Seeds.
10g Cinnamon, 10g Cloves, 10g Green Cardamom, 10g Black Cardamom.
5 cm stick Cinnamon, 1 Tblspn Peppercorns, 1 Tblspn Cloves, 2 tspn Green Cardamom seeds (not pods), 0.5 tsp grated Nutmeg, 5 Mace blades.
20g Cinnamon, 20g Peppercorns, 20g Cloves, 20gGreen Cardamom, 100g Nutmeg, 20g Mace, 20g Star Anise.
Cinnamon, Peppercorns, Cloves, Green Cardamom, Cumin Seeds, Ajwain, Peppercorns, dried fenugreek leaves, Coriander Seed, Curry Leaves, Bay leaves, Black Cumin Seeds.
Madhur Jaffrey’s Very Warming Garam Masala
5 cm stick Cinnamon, 1 tspn Peppercorns, 1 tspn Cloves, 1 Tblspn Green Cardamom, 1 tspn Black Cumin Seeds, about 1/3 pod Nutmeg, 1 curl Mace.
2.5 Tblspn Coriander Seed, 1.5Tblspn Cumin Seeds, 1.5 Tblspn Black Peppercorns, 1.5 Tblspn Black Cardamom, 0.75 Tblspn Green Cardamom, 2.5 cm stick Cinnamon, 2 – 3 Cloves, large pinch grated Nutmeg.
3 tspn Nigella seeds, 2 tspn Black Peppercorns, 1 tspn Fennel seeds, 10 Cloves, seeds from 5 Black Cardamom pods, seeds from 5 Green Cadamom pods, 5 Mace blades, 1/3 Nutmeg pod, 1 Cinnamon stick, 3 tspn Cumin, 1.5 Tbslpn Coriander
Read Some More:
Elachi et Cetera talks about the different garam masala recipes – every household has their own version of this ubiquitous spice mixture. He says
“it is far more exciting to hold in your hands a delicious aroma that is connected to a person you have come to know- like how we tend to associate the scent of a flower, or that of a designer fragrance with people who wear it often.”
Read the post here.
People are Saying:
Sept Liuies links to this post in a post in French describing her delicious looking curry dish.
Post updated on Dec 5th 2013
From the Spices Series
- Spices:A Note on Ajwain Seeds aka Carom
- Spices: A Word about Anise and Star Anise
- Spice Advice: Asafoetida (Devil’s Dung)
- Spices: Chat Masala
- Spices: Drying Chillies
- Spices: Chilli Paste
- Spices: On Indian Bayleaves (Teja Patta): They are NOT Sweet Laurel Bay Leaves!!
- Spices: Sambar Powder
- Spices: Turmeric the Wonder Spice
- Spices: Red and Green, Fresh or Dried – On Chillies in Indian Food
- Spices: A Note on Allspice
- Spices: A Word about Anise and Star Anise
- Spices: A Note on Four Types of Bayleaf – European, Indian, Balinese and West Indian