I really enjoy making homemade spice blends for a number of reasons:
- I can use whole spices,
- I can control the proportions of each spice added,
- I know that the blend is freshly made and is more aromatic than store-bought, and
- I have the option of dry roasting the spices.
Garam Masala is an Indian spice blend which has no exact recipe. I have used it in two recipes in this blog so far Chickpea and Paneer with Basmati Rice and Lentils with Baked Egg. A couple more are on the way now that I have three batches of garam masala!
There are gazillions of recipes for garam masala in cookbooks and on the Internet. However, I decided to try 3 from chefs that I follow. Vij Vikram is a chef who lives and owns restaurants in Vancouver, has written cookbooks. I ate at one of his restaurant a couple years ago. You can see how happy I am in front of his restaurant, rain or shine!
I pulled out all the ingredients for the three recipes and compared in the chart below. The statistician in me came out and I had to compare and analyze. All three have cinnamon, cumin and cloves in varying amounts. Vij uses black cardamom seeds, Madhur uses green cardamom seeds and Bal uses both. However, both Madhur and Vij use just the seeds whereas Bal grinds up the pods, seeds and all. This first one I will prepare in detail is Vij’s from his cookbook, Vijs Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine. Below is a picture of black cardamom pods and the seeds that are in them. Vij’s ingredients are heavy on the cumin, an entire 1/2 cup, along with nutmeg, mace, cloves, and cinnamon stick. What makes this blend so aromatic is the cumin seeds, cloves and cardamom seeds are all roasted until the cumin seeds turn dark brown and the smell in the kitchen is fabulous.
Before dry roasting above. After dry roasting below.
All the roasted spices plus the cinnamon, grated nutmeg and mace are ground together. Spice Blend #1 completed.
The easiest blend to prepare is Spice Blend #2 ala Madhur Jaffrey. No roasting; just grind together peppercorns, cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon stick, green cardamom seeds and ground nutmeg. Bal’s recipe from her cookbook, Bal’s Spice Kitchen, dry roasts all the ingredients for 30 seconds: cumin seeds, coriander seeds, bay leaves, black and green cardamom pods, black peppercorns, cloves, mustard seeds and cinnamon stick. Then they are all ground into a powder. Brown shades are noticeable due to the differences in ingredients. Vij’s, the one on the left has a pungent roasted aroma due to the large amount of roasted cumin seeds. Madhur’s, in the middle has a sweet smell because of the green cardamom seeds and no roasting. The addition of bay leaves in Bal’s blend gives the last batch a fresh, grassy aroma.
I would use all three garam masala spice blends. It is all a matter of personal taste. Sometimes it depends on which ingredients you have on hand that makes the choice for you. All three blends should last (and still smell fragrant) for 3-4 months in an airtight container. Thank you for allowing me to share my research and I hope you will try one or more of these garam masala blends at home in your own recipes.
Vij Vikram's Garam Masala Mix
1 1/2 tsp. whole cloves
1 1/2 tsp. black cardamom seeds (about 7 pods)
1/2 cup cumin seeds
2 inch piece of cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground or whole mace
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg (I ground my from a whole nut)
- In a frying pan, heat the cloves, cardamom seeds and cumin seeds over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until the cumin seeds turn dark brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool 20 minutes.
- Put roasted spices in a coffee or spice grinder and grind to a powder. Add the cinnamon stick, mace and nutmeg and grind all together. Makes about 3/4 cup.
Madhur Jaffrey's Garam Masala Blend
1 tbsp. cardamom seeds (about 6 pods)
1 1/2 inch cinnamon stick
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. whole cloves
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg (I ground this from the whole nut)
Place all the spices in a coffee or spice grinder and grind until powdery.
Bal Arneson's Garam Masala
12 whole cloves
8 green cardamom pods
6 black cardamom pods
6 bay leaves
4 inch cinnamon stick
2 tbsp. coriander seeds
2 tbsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. mustard seeds
- In a fry pan, toast all the spices over low heat, stirring constantly for about 30 seconds. You will begin to smell all the aromas.
- Process the spices in a coffee or spice grinder until it turns to powder. Makes about 1/3 cup.