If you are a fan of Indian cuisine, you have likely heard of Garam Masala, a distinct blend of spices. The exact blend will vary depending on the creator, but typically it will include peppercorns, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and bay leaves. These ingredients are toasted to enhance flavor and then ground into a fine powder. A little goes a long way and it can be used to add interest to savory as well as sweet dishes.
Garam Masala has origins in northern India where winters get bitter cold. Though it’s not exactly spicy, it is used as a “warming spice” because its ingredients are all known to increase metabolism and therefore raise the core body temperature. This can be very helpful in winter months. For this reason, it has spread in popularity amongst other cultures and you can find it utilized in many types of cuisines. Its metabolism-boosting effects are great for your health and its pungent flavor combination makes it a favorite addition to any curry or soup.
To make your own garam masala, try this recipe by Julie Sahni, in her book Indian Regional Classics: Fast, Fresh, and Healthy Home Cooking (Ten Speed Press 2001).:
Makes 1/2 cup
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cardamom seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
3-inch stick cinnamon, broken up
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground saffron (optional)
Put the cumin, coriander, cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon and cloves in a dry heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Toast the spices, stirring occasionally, until they turn several shades darker and give off a sweet, smoky aroma, about 10 minutes. Do not raise the heat to quicken the process, or the spices will brown prematurely, leaving the insides undercooked. Cool completely.
Working in batches if necessary, transfer the mixture to a spice mill or coffee grinder and grind to a powder. Stir in the nutmeg and saffron. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to six months.
Since Fall is approaching, here is an awesome recipe for a tasty pumpkin garam masala tart!