Garam Masala

When translated from Hindu, garam masala literally means “hot spices”. This Persian by way of Northern India seasoning totally rocks my world! I have a consistent love affair with this spicy melange and have found creative ways to incorporate it into my home recipes.

Growing up in a small backwater corner of the world provided me with not a lot of early gastronome information beyond my family’s tasty, but simple home cooking. Little did I know of the epicurean palate or even the vast array of esoteric cooks’ ingredients. My vernacular of spices and seasonings was brutally limited.

Cinnamon – check.
Nutmeg – check.
Cloves – check.
Allspice – check.
Ginger – sometimes check.

These spices all made regular appearances in our holiday pumpkin pie.

…..but coriander, cardamom, mace, star anise, cumin or saffron? Of course, I had come across these words in the required school reading of this historical tome or another. But I had no clue what any of these “fragrant” spices would do to food or how desirably addictive they could become……

My Garam Masala initiation came by happy accident when I fell into a house sitting job for several months for artist friends who travel to warmer climes each winter. They cook everything from scratch (including their weekly bread) and live a mostly vegetarian existence. Their kitchen is filled with cooking ingredients brought back from their far-flung travels. On a shelf above their sink is a collection of lidded, hand thrown clay containers – all shapes, colors, and sizes – each filled with a different spice. In one of these little pots is their personal hand-ground garam masala.

The spicy odor, which perfumes the entire kitchen, repeatedly riveted my attention. Each time I entered the kitchen I could not help but pull down the garam masala, open the lid and take a hit of this wondrous, mysterious bouquet. It became my young, barely informed foodie drug of choice!

Many years later, after discovering a whole world of global foods and ethnic recipes, I decided to learn to make my own Garam Masala. This spice mixture had haunted me to the point of trying every commercially packaged masala I came across – but nothing came close to that early fragrant stimulating encounter.  Sorting through many recipes from various easterEurasianrasian cultures I settled on an assortment of likely ones and began to experiment.  Grinding, roasting mixing until I concocted a blend that satisfied my recollection of this exotic treasure.

Here’s the ingredient list….a fascinating and vivid seasoning for the adventerous!  Pour it on for a racous party in your mouth or use it as subtle underchord to quietly enhance.  Your guests will ask for recipes!

Garam Masala will boost the body temperature to a comfortable warm fuzzy glow, which promotes health inducing responses in body function.
Cinnamon is anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory, and it may help boost brain function and control blood sugar in people with diabetes.
Cumin is an excellent source of iron, it aids digestion and it has cancer-fighting properties.
Coriander is sometimes referred to as an “anti-diabetic” plant because it helps control blood sugar. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and it helps lower cholesterol.


Print Recipe
  1. Roast whole spices – over low heat in heavy metal skillet. Stir constantly. Heat 1 [1/2] to 2 minutes until the aroma from the spices rises. You are releasing the aromatic oils from the spices. Working with a small amount at a time, pour the spices into a mortar and grind by hand with the pestle, until ground to your choice of spice size. This can be coarsely ground for visual impact or ground to a fine powder.
  2. OPT: You may also use an electric grinder.
  3. Cool – store in an airtight -dark interior- container away from heat and light. Spices will degrade if not stored properly.
Recipe Notes

**NOTE – you may choose any mixture of spices from the above list. It’s not necessary to use all (but if you do, the result is a highly fragrant and saporous seasoning.) Mix the various spices to your taste.

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