Home-ground garam masala

Making garam masala, a spice mix common in Indian cooking, is easy. Sourcing the ingredients, in particular the black cardamom, can be difficult. Check the ethnic section of your local grocery store and bulk store. If you happen to have one close, an Indian grocer is your best bet.

Ingredients for garam masala.

Garam masala
This recipe comes from ecurry. I recommend it. Use it in traditional Indian recipes or make up your own, as I did last week, adding it, along with some tumeric, grated ginger, garlic and yogurt to a quick saute of chicken, cauliflower, onion, carrot and red pepper.

125 mL (1/2 cup) whole coriander seeds
60 mL (1/4 cup) cumin seeds
30 mL (2 tbsp) small green cardamoms
6 to 8 black cardamoms
30 mL (2 tbsp) cloves
15 mL (1 tbsp) black peppercorns
cinnamon sticks measuring 20 cm (8 inches) total
3 bay leaves
3 dried red chiles
2 mL (1/2 tsp) ground nutmeg

Toast each spice separately in a dry pan, until just fragrant. They will burn easily. Allow to cool.
Grind spices in a spice grinder (I have a coffee grinder I use just for spices.)
Store in a tightly sealed container.

Home-ground garam masala.

In search of India

It’s easy to pull together a fairly tasty Indian dinner using the pre-blended spice mixtures, curry powder or garam masala, or sauces you find at the grocery or bulk food store. But for a meal that is more authentic and satisfying in its preparation and flavours, I am learning to start with the whole spices, then grind, toast, fry and blend.
We are hosting dear friends for an Indian feast this weekend. And, while I won’t spoil the surprise by detailing the menu here, I did want to post about the spices required to make six dishes from scratch — starter, main, two sides, condiment and dessert.
Although my spice cupboard (not rack, cupboard) is well stocked, I did need to add some items for this undertaking. Here is the sum of my list.

Perhaps the prettiest of spices, star anise.

These items (most of which I always have on hand) are readily available in my local Bulk Barn:
• green cardamom
• star anise
• coriander seeds
• cumin seeds
• fennel
• cinnamon sticks
• whole dried red chiles
• bay leaves
• saffron
• nutmeg
• mace
• tumeric
• cloves
• cayenne

Indian ingredients: mustard oil, dried fenugreek leaves, fenugreek seeds, kalonji, black cardamom and black mustard seeds.

For other items, look in the Indian section of larger grocery stores or an Indian grocer.
Since I happened to be in downtown Toronto Tuesday, I stopped by a stall at the St. Lawrence Market that had everything else on my shopping list:
• dried fenugreek (methi) leaves
• fenugreek seeds
• kalonji
• black cardamom
• black mustard seeds

I’m excited to start cooking.