Garam Masala

May 4, 2009

Garam masala, derived from the Hindi garam, “hot” and masala “paste”, is a richly hued and intensely layered blend of ground spices. Regional variances of this magical mix abound, so no one recipe should be considered authentic—but many should be deemed unique. To make matters more confusing (not vexing, but rather complex) garam masala is sometimes used as the luminary and other times as an accourtrement to the remainder of the core dish.

Garam masala is frightfully versatile: chicken, lamb, goat, fish, salads, vegetables, curries, soups, stews, and so on. Try it as a grill rub sometime, just for grins. Garam Masala can be stored for several months in an air tight container in a cool, dark place, and is a pantry essential (see A Cupboard Not Bare).


4 T coriander seeds
1 T cumin seeds
1 T black peppercorns
2 T black cumin seeds
2 T ginger powder
12 cardamom pods
1 T cloves
4 cinnamon sticks, cut in half
1 T crushed bay leaves

Heat heavy skillet on medium and gently roast coriander, cumin, peppercorns, cumin, cardamom (in pods), cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaves—until slightly darker, stirring occasionally. Do not be tempted to speed up the process by turning up the heat as the spices will burn on the outside and remain raw on the inside. Allow to cool, and then add ginger powder.

Remove the cardamom seeds from the pods and mix them back with all the other roasted spices.

Grind them all together, to a fine powder in a clean, dry coffee/spice grinder.


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