Garam Masala – The Famous Indian Blended Spices

A blend of ground spices used alone or with other seasonings is called the Garam masala. Different regions prepare garam masala recipes in accordance to region and personal taste and thus varying combinations of spices are used as per the local flavour. The spices are carefully blended to achieve a balanced effect. The famous Indian Garam Masala is available as a commercially prepared ground mixture. It is often added at the end of cooking a dish to retain its aroma. The garam masala is the most popular spice blend used throughout India. It is the basis for Indian curries. It gives a delicious final touch to a dish. Some of the basic whole spices used to prepare the garam masala are….bay leaves, cloves, cardamoms, peppercorns, cinnamon, mace, cumin seeds nutmeg, carom seeds, star anise, coriander seeds, etc. It has a pungent taste which is important to make the flavourful recipes.

The Garam masala is used in vegetable recipes, curries, dal and many such dishes. It can also be used as a great sprinkling powder, and can be used just before serving the hot and sizzling dishes. Using a small amount of garam masala powder is enough to bring out the richness of gravy and even vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Dal fry, dal makhani, simple dal can be topped with a pinch of garam masala for that unique touch at the time of serving. The Garam masala is to be stored in air-tight container and should be away from wet places.

Garam masala is known to be the heart of many Indian dishes. Spices actually slow down the ageing process while promoting weight loss. Black pepper used in the garam masala contains a type of antioxidant that is so powerful that it does a lot of good. Pepper is anti-bacterial and anti-carcinogenic. It increases the body’s ability to absorb vitamins, minerals, and proteins. It is a natural metabolism booster, and also contains a compound that breaks down fat cells. Black Pepper is high in Vitamin K and manganese, which assists the body in metabolizing fats and carbs. Cardamom relieves gas, heart burn, and soothes stomach upsets. It increases blood circulation and also flushes the toxins from the body. It is a natural breath freshener. Cardamom reduces the formation of blood clots while lowering blood pressure and is a great source of manganese. It is also anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-carcinogenic.

Cinnamon is an excellent source of calcium and fibre. It is a natural painkiller and containsGaram Masala a potent antioxidant. It fights bad breath, and kills the bacteria responsible for it. Cinnamon lowers blood sugar levels while increasing insulin production. Cloves relieve tooth aches. Cloves have a blood purifying property and thus support a healthy immune system. Cloves boost the metabolism and remove toxins from the blood stream. They help cardiovascular health by preventing the formation of blood clots while regulating blood sugar levels. Cloves provide an excellent source of calcium and vitamin K. While low in Omega 6’s, cloves are impressively high in omega 3′s. So the famous Indian garam masala is not just tasty…but healthy too.

All About Garam Masala – One of The Most Famous Indian Spices

One magic ingredient in Indian cookery is Garam Masala, a blend of spices. In fact it will not be wrong to say that Garam Masala is the heart of Indian cuisine. It is used in many dishes.  It is called ‘Garam’ not because it is spicy but due to the intensity, warmth and aroma of spices used in making Garam Masala.

Many spices are used in making Garam Masala. The amount of spices may be used in different combinations. All are equally popular. The trick is in being able to get just the right proportions of the spices and mixing them together to get balanced mixture. No single ingredient should over power the flavour of the other spices.  No flavour should be too strong and emphasised. Different blends of spices will make mixtures of different flavours and aromas.

The spices that are used in making Garam Masala are cloves, cinnamon,   small cardamoms, big cardamoms, nutmeg, mace, black & white peppercorns, black & white cumin seeds and bay leaves. The ingredients may differ from region to region and also every chef likes to make changes according to his expertise. In fact at times when powdered Garam Masala is bought from the market, it may contain less of the expensive spices and more of spices like coriander, fennel, aniseed, turmeric, chillies etc. which are cheaper.  One must be careful to buy it from reputed manufactures.

To prepare the Garam Masala, required spices are usually dry roasted on slow fire before being ground in order to release flavours. It can be done on a griddle. If roasted on hot fire, there is danger of burning them which would ruin the flavour. Cardamoms are roasted in their skin. All the spices can be roasted together or one by one in different batches.

As the Indian spices are roasted well, the aroma will fill the air. The spices are then allowed to cool. The skin of the cardamoms, both green and brown, is removed. Cardamoms are added back to the mixture. Once the spices have cooled down completely, they are ground to a fine paste using a pestle or mortar or an electric blender. Make sure to cool the mixture before grinding or lumps will be formed. Some people prefer to keep the masala little coarse as they feel the flavour is better.

If so desired, the masala may be sieved. Any bits left without being ground can be worked on again. Once ground, the Garam  Masala is packed in air-tight jars and stored in cool dry area of the kitchen. Garam  masala jars should not be stored on a shelf above the fire place as it will lose its flavour. It can be used as required. It is best to make fresh batches of Garam Masala and grind it when required.

Garam Masala is used in curries and gravies to enhance the flavour of a dish. It gives out its aroma when added to hot oil or dish. Garam masala is added at the end of cooking when the dish is ready. It must be used in very little quantity as the flavour of blended spices is very strong.

Use Blended Spices to Prepare Tasty Indian Food

Indian cuisine has become greatly popular all over the world due to the variety in the number of dishes found in India. Even in India itself as you travel from one end to the other you come across entirely different dishes and methods of cooking which adds interesting variety to simple food items. One factor that greatly influences the difference in taste of various dishes is the use of various Indian spices.

Spices add flavour, taste colour and texture to the dish.These may be used fresh or dried. Some spices lose their flavour when dried so have to be used fresh only. Usually they are stronger when dried. In southern India fresh spices are used more as they are readily available. In North fresh spices are not readily available in winters so people depend more on the use of dry spices.

Spices are ground together in the pestle and mortar or a grinder to make a homogenous powder that can be stored in an air-tight jar. It should be used quickly and not stored for longer periods of time as the mixtures lose their flavour over a period of time.

It is judiciary to use the quality Indian spices in the right amount to get the authentic taste of a dish. No spice should be so overpowering as to hide the true taste of the main ingredient whether it is vegetable, pulse, meat, fish  or poultry that is cooked using the spice. Important point is to use the right amount of spices to get the proper balance.

Different blend of spices should be used in different dishes to highlight the taste of the dish. If the same combination is used in all the dishes, they will all taste same.

Most commonly used spices are red chillies, pepper, cayenne, cumin, coriander, aniseed, poppy seeds, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, caraway seeds, mustard seeds and saffron. The spices are blended in different ways to produce different effects.

Indian cuisine will be incomplete without garam masala, often referred to as magic masala, which is a combination of cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon, cumin, coriander seeds, peppercorn and bay leaves. Garam masala is used in a variety of Indian dishes.

Famous Five Spice Powder combination may vary, but usually it contains cinnamon, aniseed / anise, star seed, fennel and cloves.

Chaat masala used to spice up the salads consists of mango powdered, roasted powdered cumin seeds, black salt, salt, pepper, mint, a pinch of asafoetida, Some pomegranate seeds can be added if desired.

Essential ingredients of sambhar masala, used in the preparation of sambar, are mustard seeds, whole red chillies, asafoetida, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, peppercorn, coconut, turmeric powder, chana dal ( split baby chickpea ,  urad dal ( split black gram), and a dash of asafoetida.

Some spices are blended together for tempering hot oil or ghee for which is then poured over a dish like dal tadka or raita. Most commonly used combination is cumin, mustard seeds and red whole chillies.

Spices have been used in India down the ages for their medicinal, preservative properties as well as for seasoning. Use of spices set Indian cuisine apart from the cuisine of the rest of the world.

Essential Indian Spice – Cardamom, Mustard Seeds

SPICES-2

Cardamom – along with cumin and coriander seeds, cardamom are an essential Indian spice. The pungent and warm bouquet of cardamom seeds with their distinct aroma is unforgettable and the spice adds a pleasing, warm, slightly lemon-like flavour, with an element of eucalyptus and camphor. The plant grows in tropical and sub-tropical areas and comes mainly from India, which produces 80% of the world’s crop. It is a tall shrub with short stems that, after flowering, carry small green seed capsules. Green cardamoms are the most common and useful; white cardamoms are the same type of pods that have been bleached (they are used in Indian desserts). Black cardamoms are quite different; the black spice is used in long cooked, highly flavoured savoury Indian dishes. The flavour is coarse and too overpowering for light dishes. Cardamom plays an essential role in both sweet and savoury dishes worldwide. It is an essential flavour in Indian curries, pulaos, garam masala and other spice mixtures, and is also essential to the flavour of many Indian sweetmeats, desserts, ice-creams and drinks such as the classic chai. The spice is also used widely in Scandinavian and German cooking- in pickles, with herrings and in cakes and pastries. It is one of the spices that flavour aquavit, along with caraway. It is also said that chewing cardamom seeds helps to freshen the breath. The ancient Egyptians used the spice for this purpose, simultaneously whitening their teeth. The eucalyptus and camphor of cardamom does seem to be an antidote to the smell of garlic or alcohol on the breath. Cardamom is also widely used in Arab and North African cooking in spicy stews.

Mustard seeds – the word mustard comes from the Latin word mustum or must, the name for the grape juice used to mix the ground seeds to a paste, known in turn as the mustum ardens, the burning paste. There are three different kinds of mustard seed: white (alba), brown (juncea), and black (nigra). Mustard seeds have little or no smell. The hot taste that gives mustard its bite is released only when the seeds are crushed and mixed with water. Crushing and moistening the mustard, or mixing powdered mustard with water, activates an enzyme present in the seeds, and it reacts with other natural constituents to develop the essential oil, which gives mustard its characteristic taste. Black seeds have the sharpest, most pungent flavour, white seeds are much milder, while the brown seeds come somewhere in between. Mustard is an indispensible ingredient in cooking: the different whole seeds, ground or powdered seeds, prepared pastes and oil are all used. The white seeds are used in pickling and the brown and black seeds are used throughout India in curry powders and also as separate spice for tempering. The seeds are cooked in hot oil until they pop and are then stirred into a variety of vegetable and daal dishes. Mustard oil is used in many Indian recipes. Mustard is used in salad dressings and in mayonnaise. It is also added to cheese sauce, and sauces for cabbage and cauliflower. The seeds can also be sprouted in a glass jar, in a similar way to beansprouts. The delicate sprouts can be used in salads and sandwiches.

Great Indian Spices – Chilli Powder, Coriander, Cumin

SPICES

Chilli powder – prepared from the different variety of mild to hot chillies, different types and brands vary in their degree of heat. Check the ingredients before buying, as some chilli powders may contain flavourings such as garlic, onion, cumin and oregano. For best results buy RAMDEV pure chilli powder prepared by seeding, drying and grinding the finest of chillies. If the dish requires other herbs and spices, you can add them individually to taste. Chilli powder is used in almost all parts of the world. Central and south America, West and East Africa, the whole of the Asian continent and most parts of the Middle East use chilli powder in a significant proportion of meat, vegetable and rice dishes. Even in those countries where chillies are less apparent, they still have a walk-on role, in the pasta sauces of Italy, for instance, and in pickles, chutneys and relishes.

Coriander – just as fresh coriander (cilantro) is one of the most important herbs of Indian cuisine, so are the seeds of the coriander plant also up there with the other great Indian spices. The seeds look like tiny, pale, creamy-brown peppercorns. When they are dry-fried, the seeds have a heady, slightly burnt orange aroma which is very appealing. The ground seeds give a pleasing, mild and sweet taste that is not overwhelming. Every Indian household uses huge quantities of ground coriander in curry powders, garam masala, and a variety of other spice mixes. Coriander seeds are frequently combined with cumin seeds, the two spices being dry-fried together before being ground (dhania-jeera powder). This combination is common in Middle Eastern dishes too, and coriander seeds also feature as flavouring in many South-east Asian recipes. Whole coriander seeds may be added to chicken and pork casseroles and they are one of the ingredients in basic pickling spice. Whole or ground seeds may be used in chutneys.

Cumin – native to eastern Mediterranean countries and upper Egypt, cumin is now grown almost anywhere where the climate is dry and warm. The spice comes from the seed of this plant, which grows to about 30cm/1 foot high and has flowers that range in colour from mauve or rose-pink to white. Black cumin has a smaller seed, and is occasionally confused with nigella. White cumin is the most available variety. Black cumin seeds have a slightly sweeter aroma and a more delicate flavour than the white ones. Cumin has a strong, spicy, sweet aroma with a warm, slightly bitter and pungent taste. These last two qualities are particularly noticeable in the ground spice, although this is counter-balanced when it is used with ground coriander. Dry-frying before grinding brings out a toasted, nutty flavour, making the spice less harsh. Cumin, with its distinct and strong flavour, is a hugely popular spice in India, the Middle-East, North Africa, Mexico and practically any country where highly spiced food is enjoyed. It is used in almost all Indian curry mixtures and in garam masala. The spice is added to soups and stews, Moroccan lamb dishes and Mexican meat dishes.

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.

Indian Vegetable Dish – Malai Kofta, Mixed Vegetable Curry, Spicy Masala Brinjal

Indian Vegetable Dish – DIL SE…

MALAI KOFTA……

Ingredients:

Gravy:

125 grams Cream

75 grams Khoya or paneer

150 ml. milk

50 grams cashew nuts

3 tsp. White pepper powder.

2 1/2 tsp. sugar

2 tsp. grated ginger

1/4 tsp. nutmeg powder

1/2 tsp. turmeric powder

1 tsp. garlic crushed

1″ cinnamon

6 cloves

6 cardamoms

Salt to taste

3 tbsp. ghee

Kofta:

50 grams khoya

50 grams paneer

5 medium potatoes

20 grams cashew nuts

20 grams raisins

4-5 green chillies chopped fine

1/2 tsp. ginger grated

1 tsp. coriander chopped

1/2 tsp. cumin seeds

Salt to taste

Garnish:

1 tbsp. grated cheese or paneer

1 tbsp. chopped coriander

Method:

Koftas

Boil the potatoes, peel and smash them.

Mix together all the ingredients except raisins and cashews.

Take small ball-sized dough in hand.

Flatten. Place 2-3 cashews and raisins in the centre and shape into a ball.

Repeat for the remaining dough. Keep aside. Continue reading

Potatoes Galore – Recipe for Tasty Dum Aloo, Potato Chivda & Potato Kachori

DUM ALOO….

Ingredients:

Medium size boiled and peeled potatoes 250 grams

Curd or yoghurt -250 grams

Oil for frying potatoes

Ghee -2 tablespoons

Red chilli powder -2 teaspoons

Coriander powder -2 teaspoons

Turmeric powder -1 teaspoon

Powdered cloves- ¼ teaspoon

Cinnamon powder -¼ teaspoon

A pinch of cardamom powder

Black pepper powder -¼ teaspoon

Coarsely powdered fennel seeds- 1 teaspoon

2 bay leaves

Water

Salt to taste

Method:

Fry potatoes in oil. Pour two tablespoons of oil and ghee into a deep pan. When heated, add chilli powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder and bay leaves. Stir for few seconds. Pour potatoes and curd. Stir for five minutes. Add water to the mixture and cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes on low fire. Before removing the pan from fire, stir in the other ground spices and salt. Serve hot dum aloo with chapatties or parathas. Continue reading