Garam Masala – Blended Masala, Pavbhaji Masala, Chana Masala, Chaat Masala

GARAM MASALA…

A blend of ground spices more common in Indian cuisines is called the garam masala. It may be used alone or along with the other seasonings. In English, garam means hot and masala means mixture. Garam masala is pungent and it actually refers to intensity of the spices rather than capsaicin content. The composition of the garam masala differs from region to region. The components may be toasted and ground together. It is available as a commercially prepared ground mixture. Garam masala is the heart of many Indian kitchens as it is the easily available, all in one masala, especially while cooking subzi….the Indian vegetable, lentils and pulses. The common ingredients may include coriander seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, black cumin seeds, dry ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, crushed bay leaves, nutmeg and mace. The combination results in a wonderfully aromatic blend. The proportions may vary according to the different regions and household to household. Garam masala is usually added at the end of cooking or may even be added to a dish after serving and it normally peps up the dish. Store the Garam Masala in an air-tight container. As long as the container is tightly closed after each use, it should last for a long time.

Spices have been in use as our food since centuries, and now become an essential part of our lives. Spices are also known to have natural anti-helminthic function. The cinnamon is used in the garam masala is known to be anti-microbial as well as anti-inflammatory ingredient. It promotes brain functionality and helps in controlling blood sugar. Cumin is good for digestion and has properties to fight against cancer and also is rich in iron. And the use of garam masala is not limited to just vegetable and daals, it can be added to all curries to enhance their taste and can be added to chicken and meat for the same purpose. It can also be sprinkled over rice dishes and added to fresh fruit salads. Black pepper, one of the ingredients in garam masala is a natural metabolism booster and contains a compound that breaks down fat cells. It improves skin complexion and fights against skin cancers. Black Pepper is high in Vitamin K and manganese, which assists the body in metabolizing fats and carbs. Cardamom in the masala relieves gas, heart burn, and soothes upset stomachs and is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-carcinogenic and also is a natural breathe freshener. Cloves are great at relieving tooth aches and improve metabolism while removing toxins from the blood stream. Cloves are also said to improve cardiovascular health by preventing the formation of blood clots while regulating blood sugar levels. Garam masala is the most important blended masala and vital to north Indian food preparations, added just before serving the dish to enhance its flavour. In short, it is usually used for finishing the dishes throughout northern India. Garam masala is the most aromatic and fragrant of all Indian spice blends and can be added to appetizers and soups to yogurt salad and main courses.

Some other popular blended masalas/spices include …

Pavbhaji masala……Pav refers to the bun and bhaji is a combination of semi-mashed vegetables. From its modest origins in the laaris of Mumbai, it has become one of the most sought after delicacies everywhere… in hotels or wedding parties and many more such functions. Pav bhaji is easy and simple to cook and thus very popular with everyone. Children who otherwise are choosy with vegetables also enjoy the pavbhaji with relish!

Chana masala…..chana/chole is a popular Punjabi dish which is favourite everywhere. Chole/chana can be made spicy or mild, and it tastes especially superb when eaten with a kind of an Indian bread, called bhatura. You can also relish it with bread, parathas, and even rice.

Chaat masala…….the chaat masala is normally a blend of dried mango powder, coriander, dried ginger, salt, black pepper, asafoetida, cumin, black salt, and chilli powder. it is usually sprinkled on fruits, vegetables and other chaat dishes. It is tangy and delicious.

How to Store Spices?

Very few cooks store the spices correctly. Dried spices are usually displayed in glass jars on the kitchen shelf or in wall racks, and fresh spices such as ginger or lemon-grass, are often kept on a kitchen shelf or in a vegetable rack, sometimes in a sunny spot or under bright lights.

Storing fresh spices…unless you are going to use the fresh spices the day they are bought, they should be chilled rather than stored at room temperature. Lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves and curry leaves are best wrapped in a piece of kitchen paper and stored in the salad compartment of the fridge up to 2 weeks. Fresh galangal, ginger and chillies will keep for up to 3 weeks in a sealed container, lined with kitchen paper in the fridge. If you would like them to keep longer, fresh spices can be pounded to a paste, then put in small sealed containers and frozen for up to six months.

Storing dried spices…both ground and whole dried spices should be stored in air tight containers in a cool, dark cupboard or drawer as light, heat and moisture lessen their quality.

Storing other spices….bottles or tubes of spices pastes or purees, such as ginger and garlic puree, will keep unopened until the best before date. However, once opened, they should be stored in the fridge and used within the time specified.

A small, clear Perspex can be used to grind both cinnamon and cassia bark. Traditional wooden Japanese ginger graters make the work of grating light and are easy to clean. A stainless steel grater works equally well.  Use the finest grating surface and work over a flat plate to catch the juices. Opaque jars made of either china or metal don’t need to be stored in a dark place, but they are still better kept in a cool cupboard out of the heat of the kitchen. The stainless steel spice container is ideal for storing dried spices. The individual pots are sealed when the inner lid is closed. A second lid ensures that no light or moisture gets into the tin. Small jars with air-tight seals or screw tops are perfectly good containers for storing dried spices, providing they are kept in a cool, dark cupboard and not in a rack on the wall, or on a kitchen shelf.

Spice baskets make useful and interesting gifts. Choose small baskets and line them with pretty, patterned fabric, tissue paper or a banana leaf. Fill with a collection of spices. If you like, pick a theme for each basket, for example, pack spices for Thai cooking, seasoning mixtures for Indian cooking, or spice mixtures to mull warming drinks or just take a mixture you like and pack them in cute bundles.

The spicy flavour of CHAT MASALA may seem a little strange at first, but it can become quite addictive!

Coriander has a warm spicy flavour, which goes particularly well with lemons.

Herbs and spices have been prized since the earliest times, and today we still depend on them to enliven our daily meals and bring fragrance to our lives.

Types of Masalas – Garam Masala, Chat Masala, African & Barbeque Spice Mixtures

MASALAS…

Masalas are a blend of spices which can be a dry mixture or a paste. The flavours can be mild and fragrant or more highly spiced. This depends largely on the cook and the dish in which the masala is to be used. Sometimes the spices are dry-fried before grinding, which greatly enhances the flavour.

Garam masala – means hot or warm or hot spices. This is more used in north India. Unlike other spice mixtures, garam masala is often sprinkled over a finished dish to enhance the flavours, adding a gentle aroma of roasted spices, just before serving. It may also be used in the early stages of cooking to flavour a dish.

Chat masala -.chat is an Indian salad snack. It might consist of banana, papaya, guavas, chickoo, apples etc. chat masala is a spicy or rather a tart mixture used to flavour the salad, which can also be served as a refreshing first course before the main meal. The whole spices and salt are ground without dry-frying or roasting and then thoroughly mixed with the other ingredients.

Green masala paste – this mild masala paste, rich jewel-green in colour, is tangy with fresh mint and coriander leaves. It makes a wonderful addition to prawn, poultry and vegetable dishes or as addition to a simple dal.

Madrasi masala – this blend of dry and wet spices is typical of seasonings from South India. The dry spices are roasted and ground before adding garlic, finely grated ginger and vinegar to make a paste, which is then cooked in oil to develop the flavours before being stored in an airtight jar.

African spice mixture – highly spiced food is eaten with relish throughout the African continent. The spices were brought by the Arab traders and merchants over the centuries. Many of the cooks are women, and recipes are passed through the generations by families meeting and preparing food together for feasts, festivals and weddings so that the traditional recipes are kept alive. Of all he recipes, harissa is the best known and is quite simple to make at home. This chilli based condiment with a definite kick is widely used in Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian cooking. It is used neat as a side dish in which to dip pieces of grilled and barbequed meat and also stirred into soups and stews or added to the sauce for couscous. Harissa is sometimes to a puree of skinned and seeded fresh tomatoes and offered as a dip for kebabs or snacks. When added to natural yoghurt, harissa is an excellent marinade for pork and chicken. Harissa is prepared using red chillies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cloves, salt and olive oil.

Barbeque spice mixtures – barbequing is perhaps the most primitive yet delicious method of cooking whereby pieces of meat, poultry, fish or vegetables are rendered even more delicious with the addition of an aromatic blend of spices and herbs. These are rubbed into the food before cooking or converted into a marinade. Dry spice mixtures will keep for several months in a cool, dark place.

Chatpata Chaat – A Starter for Some, A Full Meal for Many

CHAAT….

Chaats are conglomerates of crispy and luscious ingredients with a generous dash of peppy chutneys, flavourful condiments and attractive toppings. Spicy, piquant, sweet and sour, chatpata chaats are all-time favourite, which can be a starter for some, a full meal for many. You can serve them at parties and picnics, as tea-time accompaniments or side dishes during meals. Whenever and wherever you choose to serve them, they tend a special flavour and are delectable and exciting to savour.

DAHI BATATA PURI

Ingredients:

10 large puris (golgappas)

1 ½ cups thick curd

1 teaspoon sugar

4 medium potatoes (boiled)

2 teaspoon chaat masala

Salt to taste

Sweet and spicy chutney

For garnishing: thin sev, fresh coriander leaves (chopped)

Method:

Peel and mash potatoes. Add salt and chaat masala. Mix well, and keep aside.  Beat curd and add sugar and a pinch of salt. Add water to get the desired pouring consistency. Arrange puris on a serving plate. Make a hole in the centre of each puri and fill it with mashed potato and curd. Top it with sweet and spicy chutneys. Garnish with sev and coriander leaves and serve immediately. Continue reading