I am an Indian woman….and what do we do best? Yep, whip up the spiciest, taste bud tantalising meals for our family and friends, using only the freshest ingredients and cooked with all heart. From the age of about 12, I developed a keen interest in cooking – having both working parents, my sister and I were often left to our own devices after school, with our grandmothers and much of the Art of Cooking was born watching our two much loved and masterful cooks and gleaning so so much from ‘old school’ cuisine through their cooking methods.
My meals and that of our family is mostly curried, even our roast chicken has some element of chilli or some masala in them. Taught by my grandmothers years ago, the best and purest spices are the one’s you make yourself. We used to watch them lovingly and painstakingly roast the whole seeds, grind them either with a pestle and mortar or on a heavy stone grinder, making them develop mean biceps muscles as the energy and effort in the grinding was huge!
To this day I often make my own spices, making large batches at a time and storing them in air-tight containers, often in the refrigerator to keep them fresh. They go for months in storage so this is a safe method, as long as there is no liquid contamination.
Below are a few of my tried and tested, much used spice recipes. All whole spices are available from spice stores, health food stores and major chain supermarkets and pharmacies.
Garam masala is a blend of ground spices used extensively in Indian cooking. It is used alone or with other seasonings. The word garam (hot) refers to intensity of the spices. Some cooks prefer sprinkling Garam masala over the meal immediately after cooking, others use it as a spice mixture when the curry is at the braise stage. Which ever way you use it, Garam masala is sure to make your curry extremely flavourful with the slightly extra “zing”to your bite! There is are also individual preferences to the ingredients in Garam Masala and I have relatives that will add roasted bay leaves, turmeric, mustard and fenugreek (methi) seeds into their blends. I go with a very well tried and tested recipe, as below:
Coriander seeds – 1/2 cup
Fennel Seeds -1/4 cup
Cumin seeds – 1/8 cup
Cardamom – 4 (white variety although you can use Green)
Cinnamon – 2 inch piece
Cloves – 1 tsp
Pepper corns – 1/2 tsp
Dry Red Chillies – 2-3
Star anise – 1
Nutmeg – 1 small
Dry roast all the ingredients till golden brown – you’ll smell the awesome aromas. I use the oven and sometimes on a non stick frying pan on the stove. The ingredients can also be roasted separately as some burn or toast quicker than the others. The cardamom can be separated from the pod so that you get a cleaner masala. Grind all the ingredients a little at a time in a coffee grinder, ending in a rich gold coloured aromatic masala, store in an airtight container.