How to Make Garam Masala by Bobbi Mullins


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GARAM MASALA (Warm Spice Blend)


My son and I have been going back and forth about including garam masala in his list of favorite spices for our cookbook. If it were entirely up to him, he would say, “Yes!” He prefers to buy time-saving blends because he doesn’t necessarily use the individual ingredients.


However, I say, “No!” I already have all of the individual ingredients in my spice pantry and I’d like to control the amounts of each one in any given recipe. Additionally, if you like to bake like me, then you’ll need many of those individual spices for sweets. And you don’t want to have black pepper or cumin mixed in with them!


So, I guess our answer is yes and no. If you don’t think you’ll be baking, like Greg, and you don’t want to purchase or measure out all of the individual ingredients, then garam masala is a good way to go. But, if you want to bake or want to increase or decrease certain spices based on your taste preferences, then having the individual spices is your best bet.


But, there’s a third option! You can do both! You can buy a garam masala blend like Greg:


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Or, you can buy all of the individual spices and make your own! 


How do you make garam masala? I decided to look online, and I discovered that “garam masala” means “warm spice blend” and is an Indian blend of spices to warm the body. (Makes sense!) It varies greatly and each family might come up with their own special recipe to reflect that family’s tastes. So, there’s no right or wrong way to make it!


As I perused a number of recipes, I took note of certain common spices. The proportions of each were all over the place, but common sense (if you’re familiar with spices) would dictate certain parameters. 


This got me excited to make up my own version, since I have all of the ingredients anyway. In the future, I intend to play around with it even more, but today I’m sharing my first attempt with you. 


I also learned that there are mild and hot versions of garam masala. Unfortunately, foods that are too spicy can cause me to have a coughing fit, so I’ve mixed up a mild version. If I want to add heat, I’ll just add red pepper flakes separately, although some versions included hot red chili peppers in the mix.


Since I have 2 bottles of cumin seeds (I obviously forgot that I had some and bought a second bottle, which is so irritating), I decided to go all out and roast the seeds. 


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I let them cool, then pulled out my trusty mortar and pestle. There’s something very meditative and peaceful about crushing seeds by hand…


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Fresh-roasted cumin seeds smell so good! No need to worry that they’re not evenly ground up.


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Of course, you can use ground cumin as well, although the flavor won’t be quite as intense. 


I pulled out the other spices I wanted to include too. The traditional way is to use all whole spices, roast or sun dry them, and then grind them all yourself, but I wasn’t going to go that far, not this time anyway!


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Here’s what I included in my recipe:


BOBBI’S GARAM MASALA, VERSION 1

T.=tablespoon and t. = teaspoon


1 T. cumin seeds (or ground cumin)

1 T. ground coriander

1/2 T. ground cardamom

1/2 T. ground cinnamon

1/2 t. ground cloves

1/2 t. ground nutmeg

1/2 t. ground black pepper


1. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add cumin seeds, turn heat to medium-low and swirl the pan around occasionally as they roast. Cook this way about 5 minutes or until fragrant and just becoming darker. Remove from heat, pour into a mortar and allow to cool. (By the way, if you ever get confused, the mortar is the bowl and the pestle is the part you hold and use to crush whatever is in the mortar. The pestle crushes pests!)

2. When cool, crush the cumin seeds. An alternative is to just measure out pre-ground cumin and continue with the following steps.

3. Combine the crushed or ground cumin with all of the other spices. Mix thoroughly and store in an airtight container away from sunlight. 

4. Use within one year.


© Bobbi Mullins 2011, All rights reserved. FOOD FITNESS FAITH™