I love the complex yet delicate flavour of garam Masala. Garam means hot in Hindi, and Masala means mixture of spices. This traditional Indian spice mix is often used to add fresh, spicy flavours to a dish during or at the end of cooking.
I have always blended my own Garam masala. This reassures me all the ingredients are as fresh as possible. Living in London, getting the elements at their freshest isn’t always possible like it is when living in India. Because the natural oils in the whole spices perish fairly quickly once the spices are ground, I recommend making seasoning blends in small batches so that you can use them up quickly.
While this blend will keep for several months (and still taste better than store-bought) the flavour will weaken over time, so for maximum flavour it’s best to use it within a few weeks.
I used to go with my mum to the local family-run stalls or a tiny hole in the wall called a shop. The display of the spices was so pleasing to the eyes, and the aroma on its own used to cry out. This is fresh. My mum used to buy just enough spices for one or two weeks. This ensured it was always fresh.
In London, I get most of my spices from Aziz Grocers 15 Electric Avenue Brixton or Tooting. These spices are now widely available. Unfortunately, the supermarkets are a bit more pricey than the traditional shops.
I generally choose not to write about too many potential medicinal benefits of the spices I use because someone needs to consume high dosages, which is not always good for your health. So instead, I aim to inspire you to eat healthy and nutritional recipes without any medicinal advice.
They have a vast selection of spices and pulses. I mainly use Rajah and TRS brands; their produce is of good quality. If it’s not convenient to find Indian grocers, most supermarkets select spices and Daals.
Ingredients (All dried) and some health benefits.
As well as adding flavour and aroma to the dishes, spices can have health benefits too.
- White Cumin seeds. ( Jeera in hindi)
Cumin has many evidence-based health benefits. Some of these have been known since ancient times, while others are only just now being discovered.
Using cumin as a spice increases antioxidant intake and promotes digestion.
- Cinnamon sticks.
Cinnamon is a spice used by many different cultures as a seasoning for savoury and sweet foods. There are different varieties of cinnamon.
Ceylon cinnamon, also known as Cinnamon zeylanicum and cinnamon cassia, are the most common.
Cinnamon cassia is more common. It may already be in your spice cabinet. But Ceylon cinnamon is different from other varieties. It has a distinctive shape, lighter colour, and delicate taste. It also has properties that contribute to many health benefits.
- Star anise
Star anise aromatic and sweet flavour made it famous amongst Asian and South Asian cuisines. The active compounds that carry sweet smell and taste profiles also possess many medicinal attributes, can aid in digestion, and have antioxidant properties.
- Black and Green cardamons
The main reason this spice is expensive is that it needs to be harvested by hand. It is a very labour-intensive handpicking process. In addition, each cardamom pod must be picked when it is about ¾ ripe, so time and care are needed to yield this spice. A popular Indian herb called Badi elaichi or kali elaichi is used in many of the cuisine’s signature dishes. It is in the form of seed pods, which are dark brown to black in colour and take on a smokey flavour due to the way they are dried.
Originating in Indonesia, cloves are dried flower buds from the clove tree. They are a popular spice used in soups, stews, meats, sauces, and rice dishes. Cloves can also be used for tooth pain, and one clove can be sucked to refresh the breath after a heavy meal. However, don’t chew on it as it’s very bitter.
- Dried Corriander seeds
Coriander seeds are plump and brown
in colour, have a hollow cavity which contains essential oils that lend to the flavour of the dishes when used in cooking. They are harvested when the plant turns brown, and its leaves start to dry and fall. Immature seeds are light green in colour and taste quite bitter. Apart from being a popular spice for many dishes, coriander seeds are also known for their health benefits, such as digestion. Coriander seeds have antioxidant properties and dietary fibre that advance the healthy working of the liver and facilitate bowel moments. If you experience some indigestion, try adding coriander seeds to your diet and see if it helps.
Black pepper is most commonly used as a seasoning or crust that adds a robust spice to meats, eggs, salads, fries, soups and more.
Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis, Lauraceae). Fresh or dried bay leaves are used in cooking for their distinctive flavour and fragrance.
I usually get a Garam masala mix packet, which has all the ingredients needed. I also get a few separately as some packages don’t have all the above. The Masala will still be fine, but I like to add if any is missing. The Packet is very reasonably priced. 220g for £2.29.
Grind half the ingredients and use the rest for Pillou. Recipe for pillou to follow.
Dry Roast all the ingredients in a pan. Just for 1 min. The aroma is incredible. I love having these aromas in the kitchen as it is a statement of freshness.
Put all the ingredients in a grinder and grind till it’s powder.
Store the Garam Masala in an airtight Jar. The Masala will go a long way. If you not using as much, just grind according to how much you need.
It’s very tempting to smell the garam masalas; the aroma fills the atmosphere.
Please leave the Masala in the grinder before opening it to smell, as it can really irritate the mucus in the nose if the Masala is inhaled too early before it has settled.