Garam Masala – the magic spice mix

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 “#3” 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 325°  Fahrenheit. On your baking sheet place:

  • 1/2 cup of cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup of coriander seed
  • 2 Tablespoons of mustard seed
  • 2 Tablespoons of black peppercorns
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 2 hot chili peppers
  • 4 or 5 cloves
  • 1 black cardamom pod
  • a handful of curry leaves

Toast the spices in the oven for about 20 minutes – make sure to check them from time to time, as you want to make sure they don’t burn.

You can use this mix whole or grind it – I have a coffee grinder that I use just for my spices – and keep in an airtight jar or container.

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 :-)


Garam Masala on Foodista

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