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Garam Masala


girl chow
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I previously posted this on the cooking board, but just was scrolling down and found there is a whole board to discuss Indian food! Wow (and duh on my part).

I'm getting bored with my garam masala mixes, which usually I grind from a variation of the following: whole anise, whole cloves, whole cardamon, whole cinnamon and black peppercorns and sometimes some cumin and corriander.

I can't seem to find a mixture that I like that has a lot of flavor, but tastes pretty balanced when mixed into a curry or a yogurt marinade for meat. Hubby (he's Indian), likes really flavorful, spicy blends like the ones his mom makes. I like aromatic and flavorful blends, but not necessarily really spicy (I'm a wuss).

I'd love it if some of you could give me their recipe with their ingredients and ratios of spices for a nice, aromatic garam masala blend that can really make a curry or a marinade pop.

Or, if you've got links to good Indian cooking sites, bring 'em on.

A palate, like a mind, works better with exposure and education and is a product of its environment.

-- Frank Bruni

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My garam masala is adapted from Joyce Westrip's Mughal cook book. Hers,

while exquisite, has a little more cardamom than I find optimal. But I

will post hers saboot (whole, like cumin seeds) so that you can make

your own interpretations.

Moghul Garam Masala

1 tbsp light-coloured cumin seeds

2 tsp black cumin seeds

3 tsp cardamom seeds, extracted from pods

1.5 tbsp black peppercorns

20 cloves

1 tsp fennel seeds

3 cinnamon sticks, each about 1" long, broken into tiny bits

1 tsp mace powder

Heat a small frying pan and separately dry-roast the light and black

cumin seeds, cardamom seeds, pepper corns, cloves and fennel seeds until

they begin to change colour and release their aromas. Do not allow them

to burn. When cool, add the broken pieces of cinnamon to the roasted

spices and grind to a fine powder in a coffee grinder. Finally mix in

the mace powder and store in an air tight container.

Kashmiri Garam Masala

1 tsp black cumin seeds

2 tsp large brown cardamom seeds, extracted from pods

1 tsp light coloured cardamom seeds, extracted from pods

1 tbsp black peppercorns

10 cloves

3 cinnamon sticks each about 1" long, broken into little pieces

1/2 tsp saffron threads

1/2 tsp mace powder

1 tsp nutmeg powder

Same dry roasting routine as before. Add the cinnamon and saffron before

grinding and the nutmeg and mace after.

What I know about these:

The moghul masala is Meg Ryan to the Kashmiri masala's lsabella Rosellini.

Mace is awesome.

You can cheat and sort of dry roast everything together but be careful

Black peppers should be the most precious material on earth

The kashmiri masala is exquisite and fragile.

I've been thinking of using it in a dessert - icecream of thickened

milk, honey and kashmiri garam masala.

If you have some that has become stale, dry roasting wakes it right up.

Enjoy

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Click here to learn about some of these Indian spices we use in Garam Masala

Indiagirl has given us great recipes for garam masala. I am sure your hubby would love one of them.

If you still want to play with more recipes.. here is a simple one I have enjoyed..

GARAM MASALA:

1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup cumin seeds

1/3 cup coriander seeds

1 rounded tablespoon green cardamom pods

1 rounded tablespoon black peppercorns

2 teaspoons whole cloves

1 whole, dried red chili

1/8 teaspoon ground mace

Combine the cinnamon, bay leaves, cumin, coriander, cardamom, peppercorns, cloves and red chili in a frying pan and toast over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the cumin turns uniformly brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Put into a spice grinder and grind to a powder. Stir in the mace and store in an airtight container.

Welcome to the Indian forum at eGullet.:smile: Glad that you made it to this spicy ghetto. Hope you enjoy it and share with us whatever you think would inspire the rest of us to cook more with spices and recipes from the Indian sub-continent.

Garam Masala is a great way to begin the journey into the world of Indian cooking... thanks for this thread. Looking forward to reading more from you... :biggrin:

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I knew I came to the right place! You guys absolutely rule.

Thanks Indiagirl and Suvir for you recipes. I think maybe mace is the secret ingredient that's missing from my mixes. Interesting. Tonight, I'll go home and start playing around with my spices -- my favorite thing to do in the kitchen.

Also, just a quick question about the use of garam masalas... when cooking something, such as a curry, do you usually add your GM at the end of the cooking process? I've read this elsewhere and it makes sense -- that the essential oils from the spices would best serve the dish at the end of the cooking process, so they don't evaporate away during cooking. Or, if anyone else has a thought on this, please post and let us know what your theory/method is for when to add the garam masala during the cooking process.

Thanks for the warm welcome. I've started reading through the threads and I'm completely impressed with the depth of the information I've found here. I plan to spring a few recipes I've seen on hubby. Right now, I have only a handful of Indian dishes in my repertoire, so it will be nice to mix things up a bit. Hubby isn't picky though. He eats ANYTHING I put in front of him. He rocks.

My husband is 1/2 Punjabi and 1/2 mixed European-American. His mother is Punjabi, born and raised in India, and his father is your typical mixed-European American (they met in India and moved here in 1970). I'm really interested in learning more about the regional cooking of the Punjabi region, especially any dishes that are specialties of that particular area.

Can't wait to read through some of those posts!

A palate, like a mind, works better with exposure and education and is a product of its environment.

-- Frank Bruni

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Hi Girl Chow:

I'm pretty new here too, and this place is just filled with wisdom, wit and warmth. I just love these guys :wub: !

I have an excellent book on spices at home that has a fantastic garam masala mixture in it. I'll bring it in to work tomorrow and type it out for you.

Katie

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Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

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a quick question about the use of garam masalas... when cooking something, such as a curry, do you usually add your GM at the end of the cooking process?

Garam Masala can be added to food at most any time. Certainly I add it towards the end when cooking curries, but also I add it to some dishes at almost the beginning. Sometimes both :smile: If added towards the beginning it enriches the whole flavour of a dish without being noticable in itself (although it's absence is most noticable) whilst adding at the very end its flavour is quite distinct.

My advice: experiment!

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Hi Girl Chow:

I'm pretty new here too, and this place is just filled with wisdom, wit and warmth.  I just love these guys  :wub: !

I have an excellent book on spices at home that has a fantastic garam masala mixture in it.  I'll bring it in to work tomorrow and type it out for you.

Katie

Katie, thanks so much! That's very kind of you.

And while we're on the topic of cookbooks... I'd love to hear everyone's favorites. Or, maybe there's already a thread on this that I haven't yet read?

Thanks again for the warm welcome to this board (for the last few years, I've rarely strayed from the PNW board).

Scottish Chef, thanks for your hints. :biggrin:

A palate, like a mind, works better with exposure and education and is a product of its environment.

-- Frank Bruni

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Also, just a quick question about the use of garam masalas... when cooking something, such as a curry, do you usually add your GM at the end of the cooking process? I've read this elsewhere and it makes sense -- that the essential oils from the spices would best serve the dish at the end of the cooking process, so they don't evaporate away during cooking. Or, if anyone else has a thought on this, please post and let us know what your theory/method is for when to add the garam masala during the cooking process.

This is a great question....

And one most home chefs will answer with a surprisingly common answer.

For the most part whole garam masala is used in the first stage of cooking something. This is a process whereby you fry the whole spices in oil or ghee or butter, this brings out the essential oils of the spices, flavors the oil and thereby makes the resulting curry (sauce) one of very complex spice flavors.

Garam Masala powder is mot often only added at the very end of cooking. The fine powder has a great bouquet and you want to keep that alive when you get the food onto the table. The reason you use the powder is not to add to the very complex back spicing of a dish, but you want to add a front taste that is almost full of zing and a statement that is at once immediate and then allowing of a background of spices to come into play without fighting against them. It is that which powdered garam masala is used for in most dishes.

Powdered spices cannot exude as much of their essential oils into anything for they have already exuded that in the process of being crushed. What you do when you fry powders is to actually make the spice more subtle. On the other hand whole spices will leave a much stronger essential oil into the dish.

Does any of this make sense??

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For the most part whole garam masala is used in the first stage of cooking something.  This is a process whereby you fry the whole spices in oil or ghee or butter, this brings out the essential oils of the spices, flavors the oil and thereby makes the resulting curry (sauce) one of very complex spice flavors.

Garam Masala powder is mot often only added at the very end of cooking.  The fine powder has a great bouquet and you want to keep that alive when you get the food onto the table.  The reason you use the powder is not to add to the very complex back spicing of a dish, but you want to add a front taste that is almost full of zing and a statement that is at once immediate and then allowing of a background of spices to come into play without fighting against them.  It is that which powdered garam masala is used for in most dishes. 

Powdered spices cannot exude as much of their essential oils into anything for they have already exuded that in the process of being crushed.  What you do when you fry powders is to actually make the spice more subtle.  On the other hand whole spices will leave a much stronger essential oil into the dish.

Does any of this make sense??

That makes complete sense!

I had never tried using whole spices to flavor the oil of a curry dish, but I think I'll give it a shot this weekend. I can't believe I haven't come across that in any of the articles I've read on Indian cooking. What a great tip!

And what you're saying about the spices (in the GM powder) losing their oils in the grinding process makes total sense.

I'm going to be experimenting this weekend.

A palate, like a mind, works better with exposure and education and is a product of its environment.

-- Frank Bruni

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For the most part whole garam masala is used in the first stage of cooking something.  This is a process whereby you fry the whole spices in oil or ghee or butter, this brings out the essential oils of the spices, flavors the oil and thereby makes the resulting curry (sauce) one of very complex spice flavors.

Garam Masala powder is mot often only added at the very end of cooking.  The fine powder has a great bouquet and you want to keep that alive when you get the food onto the table.  The reason you use the powder is not to add to the very complex back spicing of a dish, but you want to add a front taste that is almost full of zing and a statement that is at once immediate and then allowing of a background of spices to come into play without fighting against them.  It is that which powdered garam masala is used for in most dishes. 

Powdered spices cannot exude as much of their essential oils into anything for they have already exuded that in the process of being crushed.  What you do when you fry powders is to actually make the spice more subtle.  On the other hand whole spices will leave a much stronger essential oil into the dish.

Does any of this make sense??

That makes complete sense!

I had never tried using whole spices to flavor the oil of a curry dish, but I think I'll give it a shot this weekend. I can't believe I haven't come across that in any of the articles I've read on Indian cooking. What a great tip!

And what you're saying about the spices (in the GM powder) losing their oils in the grinding process makes total sense.

I'm going to be experimenting this weekend.

Let us know what all you experimented with this weekend.

Have a good one. :smile:

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I had never tried using whole spices to flavor the oil of a curry dish

I'm going to be experimenting this weekend.

You could Give yourself a headstart with the spicing of oils or ghee to cook your spices and curries in.

It's very useful to keep the oil you use for cooking pakoras, bhajias and popadoms in as it then has hints of additional flavour (all Indian in essence) and you could then add a large peeled garlic clove and an eqaul sized peice of ginger after using the oil as it cools. Drain it all through a very fine mesh and you have a fine start to any curry sauce or dish.

Adding a dozen mixed peppercorns, sometimes a few dried red chillies can help too. Labeling helps you recall which has chillies and which not.

Good luck with your experiments. More importantly, have fun when conducting them :smile:

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I had never tried using whole spices to flavor the oil of a curry dish

I'm going to be experimenting this weekend.

You could Give yourself a headstart with the spicing of oils or ghee to cook your spices and curries in.

It's very useful to keep the oil you use for cooking pakoras, bhajias and popadoms in as it then has hints of additional flavour (all Indian in essence) and you could then add a large peeled garlic clove and an eqaul sized peice of ginger after using the oil as it cools. Drain it all through a very fine mesh and you have a fine start to any curry sauce or dish.

Adding a dozen mixed peppercorns, sometimes a few dried red chillies can help too. Labeling helps you recall which has chillies and which not.

Good luck with your experiments. More importantly, have fun when conducting them :smile:

Interesting... I have never thought of doing this for Indian cooking.

I infuse oils and use them for so many other dishes I make.

Does the oil remain clean and fresh??

How long have you done this ASC?

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Does the oil remain clean and fresh??

How long have you done this ASC?

It's very important to use the oil to fry in just once before flavouring with the ginger, garlic and peppercorns. Any more and the flavour can be a quite powerful presence.

For making curries I use vegetable ghee. I don't fry anything in this. I turn it out into a pot, gently melt it and then add ginger and garlic in eqaul qauntities. I let the garlic begin to turn brown and float before I remove and discard it. Then I add the peppercorns. Because some of the curries I make have little or no heat, I don't use chillies when seasoning the ghee this way.

Babu taught me to season the ghee this way with ginger and garlic. I added the peppercorns and chillies myself after experimenting a wee bit. Some things just didn't work well in the mix, cloves being one of them. So I have been doing it from the start of my indian cooking adventures.

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My garam masala is very much like Suvir's, but I add about 1/4 tsp. of grated fresh nutmeg. Just seems to add a little something.

Thanks for that post! I'm also a fan of nutmeg.

I have been putting some of the recipes from this thread to test. I've been taking notes and plan on writing up my thoughts next week. I'm also experimenting with flavoring my clarified butter. More on that later....

A palate, like a mind, works better with exposure and education and is a product of its environment.

-- Frank Bruni

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have a question about using cardamom pods - sometimes one is instructed to remove the seeds from the pods and sometimes not - sometimes it seems the pods are roasted whole and then everything including the pods are ground up. Do the pods add something to the spice mixture? It just seems odd to me.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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The pods add great flavor to sauces. Savory sauces in particular. For desserts, you want the spice flavor but not all the heat. Hence the seeds are ground by themselves. In khara masala stir fries (whole garam masala) the pods are left in... and they add great flavor and heat as well.

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Pods and seeds.

Yes, in most powdered masalas it is only the seeds that are used. In fact, I do not think I have ever heard of the pods themselves being ground. The seeds are sometimes roasted in the pods because they are quite delicate and the heat that gets to the seeds through the outer covering is quite sufficient to release the aromas. They can indeed be roasted directly, just with more care. For usage in garam masalas they are typically roasted outside the pods because with the combination of spices being used, a slightly spicier and stronger cardamom flavor is quite acceptable. Many recipes, especially desserts, call for no roasting at all.

The pods are quite flavorful though if not as intensely flavored as the seeds - try eating one. They are used whole in recipes where they are able to cook in some liquid over a long enough period of time to allow their flavors to seep into the liquid. Pilaf and indian milk based desserts are good examples. A typical Indian thing to do is to save the pods from making masalas and so on and then use them while brewing tea. They are added to the water/milk before it is heated and release the aromas and flavors as the liquid begins to heat.

Does that help?

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Pods and seeds.

Yes, in most powdered masalas it is only the seeds that are used. In fact, I do not think I have ever heard of the pods themselves being ground. The seeds are sometimes roasted in the pods because they are quite delicate and the heat that gets to the seeds through the outer covering is quite sufficient to release the aromas. They can indeed be roasted directly, just with more care. For usage in garam masalas they are typically roasted outside the pods because with the combination of spices being used, a slightly spicier and stronger cardamom flavor is quite acceptable. Many recipes, especially desserts, call for no roasting at all.

The pods are quite flavorful though if not as intensely flavored as the seeds - try eating one. They are used whole in recipes where they are able to cook in some liquid over a long enough period of time to allow their flavors to seep into the liquid. Pilaf and indian milk based desserts are good examples. A typical Indian thing to do is to save the pods from making masalas and so on and then use them while brewing tea. They are added to the water/milk before it is heated and release the aromas and flavors as the liquid begins to heat.

Does that help?

Thanks, Indiagirl. I have seen a number of recipes for garam masala which go along the lines of:

x teaspoons of cumin seeds

x teaspoons of coriander seeds

x cardamom pods green

x cardamom pods black

dry roast and then grind to a fine powder

no mention of removing pods - are the recipe writers then assuming that the user knows to remove the seeds from the pods the same way that when one reads "1 cup of chopped onion" we know they mean peeled?

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Anna N, I think it is as you assume - when you are grinding it you do not use the pods, cookbooks implicitly assume that you will remove the pods, a la your onion example.

However, Suvir, seems to indicate otherwise? He may have been referring to the use of whole spices in garam masala - a phrase Indian cuisine applies equally to a set of whole spices used during tempering as well as for the roasted ground powder.

Perhaps, Suvir could clarify? Although, I have never heard or seen the pods ground, I would defer to Suvir's superior knowledge.

:)

Suvir - so here is the specific question - when making ground garam masala, are the pods included?

Edited by indiagirl (log)
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wow. one lives and learns.

no, suvir, i never add whole cardamom to ground garam masala, and i was just telling anna-n that until now i'd never heard/seen anyone do it, either.

now, I'm going to have to make a couple of batches and see which i like better - the recipe i use explicitly mentions seeding the cardamom but i'll experiment

so anna-n, i guess it is done both ways and unless the recipe explicitly says seeds you use the whole darn thing .....

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