Wednesday Wisdom: Homemade Garam Masala
Of many issues that gluten free community in Pakistan are facing, labelling is definitely among top five. Not everyone is keen on reading the ingredients list and if, luckily, there are no questionable ingredients, there is no way of knowing how the product is being handled, process and packed in a facility/factory. Not knowing these details means the fear of cross contamination can not be eliminated. Although Celiac disease or Gluten allergy aren’t life threatening Alhamdulillah and people have a certain threshold for tolerating gluten (like accidentally consuming a gluten containing item or cross contamination etc) but no body would like to risk their efforts and compromise the quality of their health either.
We are well aware of the significance of spices in our cuisine, whether we use whole spices or in powder form. These spices are capable of lifting the oomph factor of any dish on their own. Not only do they add another layer of subtle flavor and aroma to all desi food. Sometimes one spice is good enough to make its presence felt and breathe life to a certain dish or beverage like green cardamoms in Kashmiri Chai, black cardamom in Karachi Highway Style Wok Chicken, black pepper in Namkeen Gosht and Namak Mandi Style Dumba Karahi (Lamb Karahi). We have special blends for many local favorite dishes which are available under different brand names as well. No doubt these packed spice mixes are great convenience but for gluten free community, there are question marks because no brand has labelled their product gluten free and we are cluless when it comes to cross contamination as big comapnies are handling all sorts of ingredients, including wheat, barley and rye, in the same factory. I have shared a few of my favorite Homemade Masala Blends/Spice Mix which include ,Karahi Gosht Masala (Wok Chicken Spice Mix), Qorma Masala, Tandori Masala (Tandori Spice Mix), Biryani Masala (Biryani Spice Mix) and In Sha Allah will be posting more homemade spice mixes on the blog. Although I prefer a non recipe post for Wednesday Wisdom but I really want to share this basic recipe of garam masala, using basic pantry spices, which is way more aromatic and flavorful than any boxed masala. Another perk of homemade spice blend is that you get to add or subtract any spice plus you can play around with their proportions as well. Being your own kitchen boss is fun with power 🙂
A little sprinkle on simple daal/ lentil is enough to make its mark! Ingredients are the usual white cumin, black pepper corns, cinnamon sticks, cloves, green cardamoms, star anise, black cardamoms and the magic mace! The kick you get from mace is unmatched. You can add nutmeg as well but I don’t add it to garam masala and rather sprinkle a little ground nutmeg separately if I feel like it. A tip for quick and fine grind is to warm and toast dry spices lightly in a dry pan. Not only it will help the grinding process but also help releasing more aroma while adding a hint of toasted spices.
Homemade Garam Masala (Spice Mix)
Garam masala is a must sprinkle over almost all desi dishes. It is so easy to make your own blend of garam masala which is far more flavorful and aromatic than any spice mix available commercially. The secret is in light toasting.
- 3 tbsp white cumin seeds sufaid zeera in Urdu
- 3-4 small sticks of cinnamon daar cheeni in Urdu
- ½ tbsp cloves long in Urdu
- 1 flower star anise, broen in to pieces badiyan ka phool in Urdu
- 9-10 pods green cardamoms, use seeds only hari ilaichi in Urdu
- 3-4 pods black cardamoms, use seeds only bari ilaichi in Urdu
- ¾ tbsp black pepper corns sabit kali mich in Urdu
- 3-4 pieces of mace jawitri in Urdu
- ¼ tsp nutmeg, optional (I don't add this to garam masala) jaiful in Urdu
Take a medium sized, preferrably non stick or heavy bottom, frying pan. It should be thoroughly washed and wiped clean so there is no grease or moisture.
Put all ingredients in to the frying pan. Spread.
Place the pan over medium flame and toast spices gently and lightly while stirring continuously, for about 15-20 seconds.
Be careful as spices like cumin will burn quickly if not stirred properly or if heated for long.
It should look slightly toasted and should be fragrant.
Transfer to a dry mill/coffee grinder while still warm and grind in to fine powder form.
Depending on the machine, time might vary from 45 seconds to one and a half minute.
Put ground masala in an airtight jar and use as required.
This would yield about ¼ cup of masala.