spicy bean soup, whose vital ingredient was garam masala, I did what I should have done ages before, I googled garam masala recipes, found two which sounded right and made my own.
There is no such thing as a standard garam masala in India. Every family has their own combination of spices, some more aromatic, some milder, some hotter. So it’s up to you to find the balance that suits you. For me that was aromatic and relatively mild, enough pepper to tickle the taste buds but not enough to sear them, and chilli an optional extra to add to an individual recipe later. Cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, nutmeg provide the aromatics; black pepper, cumin, coriander and ginger the heat and depth.
The recipes I used as a guide were both Punjabi ones, advising you to dry the spices in the sun, once you’ve cleaned them all carefully. It was winter when I was making this, so I took the alternative option and lightly roasted the spices in a hot pan, one spice at a time, so that the smaller seeds didn’t burn. Then once they’d cooled, all I had to do was grind them up in the coffee grinder and inhale the gorgeous aromas.
(TIP: unless you like your coffee chai scented, you might need to grind a few coffee beans and discard them to get rid of all the spice oils before returning the grinder to coffee duty!)
So this is what I used for mine. Feel free to create your own version of garam masala and customise your Indian recipes. I’m never going to buy ready made garam masala ever again, that’s for sure.
½ cup coriander seeds
¼ cup cumin seeds
2 tablespoons cardamom seeds
2 tablespoons cloves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
8 sticks cinnamon
4 bay leaves
Other things you can add: 1 star anise, 1 inch dried ginger, mace.
Once you’ve ground up the spices, store them in an air-tight jar and use within a few months, otherwise they lose their aroma and you might as well have bought that sadly flat, dull brand from the supermarket.
Two favourite recipes that are totally dependent on really good garam masala: my Persian bean soup, and Madhur Jaffrey’s sag aloo.
P.S. Just in case you’ve been wondering where I was in August (thinking of you here, Marcheline, as my most attentive reader!), it was somewhere exciting and I’ve got a ton of photos to sort through before I share some of it here... hint, there were huge sand dunes and lots of wildlife.