Garam Masala

Unless otherwise stated, when I use Garam Masala as an ingredient, it is this version. Needless to say this is one of a million: Garam Masala is an idea, not a recipe. It varies according to place, to pocket, to what sort of food it is accompanying. A dish might have more than one masala added to it.

It’s the thing that turns ordinary into sublime. Not, however, the dried up dessicated stuff you would get in a plastic sachet at a supermarket. You have to make it yourself. It lasts quite a while, so it’s not like you will have to take TEN minutes out of your life every day or something. Look at that. Ten minutes. Who on earth would begrudge this, when it makes a dish sing? One of the dishes I use it in is my everyday rice.

Madhur Jaffrey’s Garam Masala

• 1 tbsp cardamom seeds (take rich plump dark oily ones from the pod. Throw all the rest out. And NOT those blown up bleached cardamom pods either.)
• 1 tsp black peppercorns
• 1 tsp black cumin seeds
• 1 tsp whole cloves
• 1/3 of a whole nutmeg (you can break a whole nutmeg by placing it on a cloth and bashing it with a meat mallet or rolling pin)
• a medium stick of cinnamon, about 5-8cm/2-3 inches, broken up into 3-4 pieces

1. Put all the ingredients in a clean coffee grinder or other spice grinder and grind as finely as possible.

2. Store in a tightly lidded jar, away from heat and sunlight and use as needed.

They always say this don’t they. ‘If you don’t have basil use thyme.’ ‘If you don’t have potatoes use bananas’ This idea that you can willy-nilly substitute things for each other like it really doesn’t matter. Authenticity of taste doesn’t matter. Bullshit, say I. Nothing in the world is a substitute for black cumin. It makes ordinary cumin look like a Roman Centurion; they might as well be, in fact, chalk and cheese. It is sometimes called ‘royal’ and that’s because it is.

Me, if the only way I could get black cumin was to mug the elderly lady walking down the road with her walking stick in one hand and the last of the Indian grocery shop’s black cumin in the other, I wouldn’t think twice about it and neither should you. Let me put it this way, if you prefer. It is worth going to a lot of trouble for. If necessary I get people to bring it from India for me. Getting black cumin is difficult not only because it is rarely stocked but because many Indian grocery shops think kaljoni is black cumin. It isn’t. It has nothing whatsoever to do with black cumin. You might as well substitute vanilla icecream. Honestly.

7 thoughts on “Garam Masala

  1. This one made me laugh and I shall fess up to being completely ignorant on the issue of black cumin but shall try to put the fear of god into some little old lady over the last packet soon.


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