If you’re like me, you probably have several dozen different spices sitting in your pantry cupboard that need to be used up. So, why go and buy a spice blend when the ingredients are probably sitting right there? Spice blending is a lot of fun, makes your house smell amazing, and it’s more economical than buying something you already have. The best part is, you get to tweak it to your taste and call it your own.
I use garam masala a lot in my curries. Garam masala means “warming spice” but the range of heat varies from region to region. In some northern provinces, it relies on black pepper alone to deliver the heat. In the more southern regions, chilies are added and it becomes more potent. I prefer to keep it fairly mild and customize the heat to suit the dish and my guests. Decide for yourself!
Garam masala varies from region to region and no two recipes are identical. I've listed the basic, core ingredients that are present in almost every version with a list of optional ingredients to enhance aroma and heat, to your taste. My list has a mixture of dried and ground spices, for ease of sourcing, but the more whole spices you can use, the better. I've also used tablespoons as the measure for all of the core ingredients so that it is easier to scale the recipe up or down.
- 8 tbsp coriander seeds
- 4 tbsp cumin seeds
- 4 tbsp green cardamom seeds (not pods)
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 3 sticks cinnamon sticks
- 1 tbsp whole cloves
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 star anise
- 2 large bay leaves
- 1/4 tsp ground mace
- 1 dried Indian chili
Heat up a dry pan on medium high heat then add all of the whole spices. Toast, swirling the spices around often so that they don’t get scorched, for about 2 to 3 minutes and the seeds begin to darken a little. Heating brings out the fragrant aroma of the spices and is called “blooming”.
Let cool, then add to the coffee mill, with the ground ingredients. Pulse until all the spices are blended into a fine powder. Store in a cool dry place in an airtight container.