GARAM MASALA quite literally means a mixture of hot spices and is a blend of dry-roasted whole spices from northern India (cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, cumin, cloves, peppercorns and bay leaves) that are ground to a powder. It is usually added at the end of cooking to finish off a dish with a delicate aroma of roasted spices, but it can also be added with other spices during cooking.
I love making my own spice mixes because once you make your own blends, there is no comparison between yours and the shop-bought varieties that have probably been sitting on a shelf for months. If you enjoy making Indian foods from scratch, why not make a batch of Garam Masala for yourself.
We buy many of our herbs and spices in large bags (400g/14oz, roughly) so have all the ingredients for this on hand. You’ll need a spice mill or an electric food chopper/processor or if you feel like putting some elbow grease into it, a mortar and pestle. I will admit the electric way is much easier, especially with the bay leaves as they are not very easy to grind!
Makes about 5 Tablespoons
4 pieces cinnamon stick or cassia bark, each 5cm/2in long
12 bay leaves
5 black cardamom pods, crushed
20 green cardamom pods, crushed
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp black peppercorns
Heat a dry frying pan over a medium heat until you can feel the heat rising. Add the cinnamon, bay and black cardamom and roast for about 1 minute, shaking the pan.
Add the remaining spices and continue roasting, shaking the pan or stirring the spices around for about another 1-2 minutes or until you can start to smell the aroma of the spices. You will note that the bay leaves will start to dry and curl up. Watch carefully that the spices do not burn.
Remove the pan from the heat and carefully tip the spices onto a plate and allow to cool.
Transfer the spices to the spice mill and blend until finely ground.
Store the mixture in a airtight container, away from direct sunlight for up to 6 months.