If you are used to buying masala in packets, off supermarket shelves, the freshly ground, home-made version can be an eye-opener. That was just the case with us.
While we have always made our sambar powder, rasam powder and dosa milagai podi at home from scratch, we never did the same with garam masala. Garam masala always came out of a store-bought packet, for my grandmother, my mother after her, and me too. We didn’t use too much of it, for one, and we didn’t know what went into its making either.
About 2 years ago, when the husband and I started taking baby steps towards a healthier, more eco-friendly, more ground-roots style of life, I began thinking seriously about beginning to make our own spice mixes at home. Very recently, I got around to making garam masala from scratch, with help from an online recipe. Like I said before, it was a revelation.
Home-made garam masala smells so much fresher, so much better than the packaged version! You need just about 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground masala in a dish in which you might have used 3-4 teaspoons of store-bought masala earlier – it’s that powerful! Now that I know how simple it is to make home-made garam masala, just how magical it is, here is no way I am picking up a box off a supermarket store shelf any more!
And, I cannot not talk about the sense of accomplishment making things from scratch gives you. I had a ‘Mistress Of Spices’ moment right there!
For those of you who are interested, I used this recipe from Spice Up The Curry to make home-made garam masala, with a few changes and additions. Here is my version, which we are absolutely loving using in our day-to-day cooking.
Ingredients (yields about 1 cup):
- 3 tablespoons cumin (jeera)
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds (sabut dhania)
- 1-1/2 tablespoons fennel seeds (saunf)
- 1 tablespoon green cardamom (hari elaichi)
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns (kali mirch)
- 1 tablespoon long pepper (pippali)
- 1 tablespoon cloves (laung)
- A 2-inch piece of cinnamon bark (dalchini)
- 1-1/2 tablespoons mace (javitri)
- 10 small-sized bay leaves (tejpatta)
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds (shahi jeera)
- 1/2 nutmeg (jaiphal)
- 1-1/2 tablespoons stone flower (dagad phool)
- 1-1/2 teaspoons of carom seeds (ajwain)
- 2 black cardamom (kali elaichi)
- 3 pieces of star anise (chakra phool)
- 6-8 kapok buds (Marathi moggu)
- 2-1/2 teaspoons dry ginger powder (saunth)
- Break the cinnamon stick and the nutmeg using a mortar and pestle.
- Put a heavy-bottomed pan on high heat. Let it heat up slightly.
- Put all the spices except the dry ginger powder in the pan. Turn the flame down to medium. Dry roast the spices till for 2-3 minutes, taking care to ensure that they do not get burnt. Transfer the spices to a plate and allow them to cool down completely.
- When the spices have completely cooled down, transfer them to a medium-sized mixer jar. Add in the dry ginger powder. Whizz to a fine powder.
- Let the garam masala cool down fully, after the grinding. Then, store it in a clean, dry, air-tight glass jar. Use as required.
- Check the inside of the cinnamon stick for any insects or larvae, before proceeding to use it in making the garam masala.
- Pick out any impurities that might be there in the spices, before you start making the garam masala.
- Make sure the spices do not burn while roasting them. Just roast them lightly for a couple of minutes, and then transfer to a plate. Over-roasting might change the flavour of the garam masala.
- Some garam masala recipes suggest that the spices be ground together as is, without roasting. I am sure the powder would taste great that way, too. I roasted the spices as per the recipe I used suggested, and am quite happy with the result.
- It is important that you allow the roasted spices to cool down entirely before proceeding to grind them into a powder.
- You may even grind the spices a little at a time, in a smaller mixer jar, and then mix all the ground powder together. I ground all the spices together at one go, in a medium-sized mixer jar.
- Increase or decrease the quantities of the above spices, depending upon personal taste preferences. I have slightly altered the quantity of the spices the original recipe I used suggested.
- You may even add in Marathi moggu (I’m not sure what the English name of this spice is) to the garam masala.
- A piece of dried ginger can be used in place of dried ginger powder.
- Some people add dried red chillies to the spice mix as well. I avoided this, as I prefer adding red chilli powder separately to the dishes I make.
- Home-made garam masala tends to be more fragrant and fresh as compared to store-bought versions. Hence, you need to be very careful while using it – use very little to get the same effect as you would have by using a few teaspoons of the store-bought version.
Why don’t you try making home-made garam masala too? I’m sure the results will amaze you!