Garam Masala is a classic Indian spice mixture; in Hindi it means “hot (garam) mixture (masala)”. It is a basic blend of spices common and it is used alone or with other seasonings. The word temperature reference in its name refers mainly to spice intensity, not heat; garam masala is pungent and fragrant, but not “hot” in the same way as a chili pepper, although some versions (such as this one) contain some spicy hot peppers.
There are infinite versions of Garam Masala – virtually every Indian home cook has his or her own variation – depending on the region and the personal taste. Pre-mixed Garam Masala can be found easily in international sections of big groceries store or in any Indian or South Asian shops, but I particularly enjoy making my own mixes, so that I can use different variations every time.
Today I opted for my “#” Garam Masala – I particularly enjoy the smokiness given in this version by the black cardamom pod, and the subtle heat of the chili peppers.
Line a baking sheet with foil and preheat your oven to ° Fahrenheit. On your baking sheet place:
- / cup of cumin seeds
- / cup of coriander seed
- Tablespoons of mustard seed
- Tablespoons of black peppercorns
- small cinnamon stick
- large bay leaves
- hot chili peppers
- or cloves
- black cardamom pod
- a handful of curry leaves
Toast the spices in the oven for about minutes – make sure to check them from time to time, as you want to make sure they don’t burn.
Uses for Garam Masala are many, especially in Indian dishes, such as the Saag Gosht (Lamb with spinach) I posted here – this version is particularly indicated for it, as it hints back to the black cardamom used in the recipe, but I sometimes have it also on my popcorn: melt some butter, stir in a tablespoon of salt and a tablespoon on Garam Masala; then pour on freshly popped corn for an exotic evening on the couch