Spice up Your Life: How to Make Garam Masala

We’re continuing on our weekend menu planning/cooking marathons where we shop/cook/prep over the weekend to be prepared for the better part of the week. This has pros and cons. The biggest pro being that we don’t have to do much more than heat a few things up to enjoy a delicious dinner, even if when we get home after 8:00pm on a weeknight. The downside is that many precious weekend hours are devoted to doing this. Usually the time flies by and I don’t even notice when I’ve spent 4 hours cooking. I wish I had the luxury to do that most every day. The downside is there is less time to do other fun things. Life is always a choice on how to divide the time between all of the many demands we face. I feel fortunate that I do get to make these decisions though. I know there are many people without the freedoms and options to decide what to do when (within reason).

One of our options for this week is an Indian dish with a wonderful spice blend. I figured I could easily whip it up and then move onto the next thing. The spices and ingredients seemed like something I could find lurking in our spice area.* And I was right and wrong. Coriander: check. Cumin Seeds: Check. Tumeric: Check. So far so good. Garam Masala. hmmmmm.

garam masala

So, after I’d already committed to this dish, I realized I was missing one of the key spice ingredients. Garam Masala is a spice blend used in Indian Cooking. The ingredients vary slightly by region, but include coriander, cumin, pepper, and clove. Although I didn’t have Garam Masala, I somehow had all of the many seeds, spices, and powders to mix up my own. I had already gone this far, so I figured it couldn’t be too difficult. Alternatively, there’s a great market about an 8 minute walk away that sells bulk spices and I could always run there to get it. But I thought going to the store and back would surely take longer than just whipping up my own batch of Garam Masala. It’s funny how the mind rationalizes so many things that might otherwise not make any sense. Toasting spices, crushing cardamom pods, and grinding my own spice blend seemed like a perfectly natural course of action. So I got right to it. And you know, it probably would have been quicker to go to the store than to make my own, but this was far more satisfying and provided the added benefit of being able to adjust it to my own taste preferences.

cardamom pods

If you’re ever feeling so inspired, I encourage you to try making your own spice blends. Although a bit more time consuming at the beginning, they’ll store for several weeks in an airtight jar and provide seasoning enjoyment for many more meals.

*I say area rather than cabinet because we have a portion of the pantry devoted to spices. We seem to have collected quite the variety of seasonings as time has progressed.

Garam Masala
1 Tbsp. green cardamom pods
1 1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
2 1/2 cumin seeds
1 1/4 tsp. black peppercorns
1/2 tsp. whole cloves
1/2 tsp. fennel seed
scant 1/2 tsp. anise seed
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp. cinnamon

1. Place all ingredients except nutmeg and cinnamon in a dry frying pan. Toast over a low heat, stirring or sliding the pan around so they don’t burn. Toast for several minutes, until fragrant.
2. Let spices cool in a bowl and remove cardamom pods.
3. Crush pods with mortar and pestle so that you can separate out the seeds. Return the seeds to the spice blend and discard the outer pods.
4. Grind in spice grinder or coffee grinder until you have a fine powder.
5. Return spice mix to bowl. Add cinnamon and nutmeg and stir to combine.
6. Enjoy this spice blend in your favorite indian recipes. Store in a glass jar.



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