Garam Masala – India’s Aromatic Spice Blend
Garam Masala is an intoxicating, complex and aromatic spice blend that is essential when cooking Indian cuisine. The addition of the Garam Masala to Indian dishes enhances and balances the flavors of the recipe bring out the fragrant floral notes and hints of the warming spices. Garam means “to warm or heat the body” Masala means “spice.” The natural properties of the spices not only provide flavor but helps to aid in digestion.
Today we take for granted spices like black pepper, cinnamon, cardamon, clove, cumin, and nutmeg, but there was once a time only the very wealthy we could afford these new and exotic spices. It was the during the “Spice Trade” that these spices were brought back to Europe and sold for incredible prices. The prices being so extravagant that the Dutch still use a phrase for anything that is outrageously expensive – “Peperduur” meaning “as expensive as pepper.”
The combination of whole spices used in Garam Masala varies from region to region and home to home. Each cook has their favorite blend and amounts of spices they like to use in their recipe. The dry pan toasting of the spices is key to bring out the natural oils of each of the spices and allows the flavors to blend together when ground in the spice grinder.
Where would I find and purchase these spices? Here in the Detroit Metro Area we are very lucky to have access to many Indian and Middle Eastern Markets. I have found the prices for the whole spices in these markets very reasonable compared to a grocery store. I would recommend using “Google” to find the nearest market near you. It is a great opportunity to talk with the owners and show them your list of ingredients as you explore the market for the whole spices. I found they are more than happy to show you the spices and ingredients you are looking for and will often share their family recipes with you. I have provided you with the Indian names for the whole spices as sometimes they are only marked that way.
Why purchase whole spices rather than pre-ground? Whole spices contain essential oils that are not release until the spices are ground. Whole spices bring exceptional flavor to any dish they are used in. Toasting and grinding the whole spices as you need them for a recipe will insure you are getting the best flavor each and every time. Once you have returned home place all the whole spices in airtight glass containers and store in a cool, dry, dark place in your kitchen. This will preserve their flavors for up to a year.
The Garam Masala will keep for 6 months if stored in an airtight glass container in a cool, dry, dark place in your kitchen. Heat and sunlight will cause the oils in the spices to degrade leaving you with less flavor to enjoy.
Here is my recipe for Tandoori Chicken. It uses half of this Garam Masala Recipe for the marinade. Click on the picture for the full recipe and YouTube video for Tandoori Chicken:
The full instructional video for Garam Masala is at the bottom of this blog post. Follow this link to “LIKE” and “SUBSCRIBE” to my YouTube Channel “Just One Bite, Please?” http://www.youtube.com/c/justonebiteplease/
- Measuring Spoons
- Small bowls
- Plate lined with Parchment Paper
- Sauté Pan
- Spice Grinder/Coffee Grinder
Garam Masala (Dry Spice Mix)
- Measured Ingredients
- 3 Tbsp. Cumin Seeds (jeera)
- 2 Tbsp. Coriander Seeds (dhaniya)
- 2 Tbsp. Fennel Seeds (saunf)
- 1 Tbsp. Fenugreek Seeds (methi)
- 1 tsp. Whole Black Peppercorns (kal mirch)
- 8 each Green Cardamom Pods (elaichi)
- 8 each Whole Cloves (laung)
- 3” piece Cinnamon Stick (broken into small pieces) (dalchini)
- 1 each Bay Leaf (Large or 2 to 3 small) (tej patta)
- 1 tsp. Ground Nutmeg (jaiphal)
- 2-3 each Dried Red Chilies (hot, stems removed and broken into small pieces) (lal mirch)
Toasting and Grinding the Garam Masala:
- Place a sauté pan over medium low heat.
- To the sauté pan add the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, whole black peppercorns, green cardamon, whole cloves, and broken cinnamon stick.
- Slowly toast and shake the spices in the pan until they become fragrant and smoke slightly.
- Remove the pan from the heat and immediately pour the toasted spices onto a parchment lined plate.
- Add the bay leaf, ground nutmeg, and dried red chilies and cool the toasted spices for 10 minutes before grinding.
- Place all the spices into a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder.
- Store the Garam Masala in an airtight glass container.
Note: The Garam Masala will last for up to 6 months in a airtight glass container.