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Friday, March 30, 2012

Gimme Garam Masala

I think this might be my desert island spice (er, well...blend, actually). It's a tough choice for me because I love so MANY spices...but when daydreams take hold, I drift to thoughts of Garam Masala (yes, I'm well aware that makes me weird).

Sit down - I'm about to tell the tale of this lovely spice blend from India (I really have to visit there). Forgive me in advance, it's not just the taste of spices that enthrall me, but also their history - it's just so colourful. I figure people that continue to follow this blog share the same obsession, so it's all good! Again - my reward for diligent readers: a great recipe at the end! Susie's OWN recipe!

Let's get the easy stuff out of the way first, just what IS Garam Masala? Why, it's a spice blend - and a hypnotic one at that. Common in India and other South Asian cuisines, garam ("hot") masala ("mixture") is not a spicy-hot spice, but is indeed intense. The word "hot" in this instance refers to the blend's ability to 'heat' the body, thus raising one's metabolism. I'm pretty sure that every household in India boasts a different recipe for Garam Masala (just like their lovely chai). Experts could probably taste a blend and identify what region it comes from just by the ingredients. I'd like THAT job, please! Sigh, that was a nice little dream - but back to reality! Common ingredients used in the making of garam masala include (but are not restricted to): black and/or white peppercorns, cloves, long pepper (aka 'pippali'), black cumin, cumin seeds, cinnamon, black/brown/green cardamom, nutmeg, star anise and coriander seeds. You see?! You see why it's so delicious?!??

I recently learned that a rite of passage for Indian cooks is to become a 'masalchi' or master spice blender (um, sign me up for THAT, too). There's good reason for this: a single dish in India can call for as many as a dozen individual spices to create its unique flavour profile. In the words of Alannis Morissette: thank youuuuu, Indiaaaaa! I digress. So, the brave home chef can most certainly take up the challenge of making his or her own blend, but beware: it's a tedious (but beautiful) process. You begin with quality whole spices, you'd need a good quality mortar and pestle (I'd recommend granite), and you need to know how to toast spices to coax out their gorgeous flavours. If you're beginning, there are some fanastic ground blends at the ready for you (I'm addicted to the one I have here at my shop). The things to be careful for if buying a blend: buy from a reputable seller and buy in small quantity to maintain freshness. Store your garam masala blend in an airtight container away from light, heat and moisture.

So, what does one DO with garam masala, exactly? Let me pleeeeeeease demystify for you (because seriously - you have to use this blend, you do!). I pretty well think it pairs with EVERYTHING beautifully - it's great in tomato-based dishes to give Indian flare, it's lovely with chicken, lamb, snacks (think oven-roasted garam masala chickpeas) - I even make garam masala cookies (such an exotic, unique taste for a sweet dish). Anyway, to get the ball rolling, I'm giving you my SUPER DUPER easy recipe - this is made once a week at my house and even my 3-year-old son devours it. Happens to be healthy, too. Bonus! Enjoy, thanks for reading...and now you understand why I say, "GIMME GARAM MASALA!"

Susie's Chana Masala (Chickpea Curry)
This is a vegetarian dish...nice served over a bed of Basmati rice and topped with fresh cilantro. You may play with the quantities of spices used here, I always eyeball it...

1-2 tablespoons oil (any oil with high smoke point will do fine)
2 onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp. Charmed Spices Cumin Seed
1 tbsp. Charmed Spices Garam Masala
2 (19 oz.) cans of chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
3/4 cup plain yogurt (can be low-fat, but not no-fat)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 tbsp. tomato paste
Cilantro, chopped (for garnish)

1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large pan;
2. Add in chopped onions and garlic. Saute until onion is translucent.
3. Add in both your cumin seed and garam masala. Stir well and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. You will notice a lovely fragrance at this point!
4. Add in your remaining ingredients (minus the cilantro) and stir really well. Reduce heat a beat and allow everthing to heat through.
5. Serve over basmati rice and top with chopped fresh cilantro.

SO EASY, SO DELICIOUS. And that's all I have to say about garam masala (for now!). Thanks for reading!


  1. One of my faves! I love making my own...the fragrances are so heavenly! I'm sure yours is delish too, of course. (0:

  2. It feels very rewarding to create this blend on your own, doesn't it?! YUM YUM AND YUM!!!!!!!


    Try it...soooo good!


  5. I'm making this tonight. This recipe is phenomenal! So good!

  6. I gave the recipe to my sister last Tuesday and she's hooked! She's made it twice already. I made butter chicken this weekend too. It was so good! Thanks for breaking me into making my own!

  7. SO glad to hear it! Oooh.....I should get your recipe for butter chicken, then! I LOVE Indian food!!! Glad you and your sister are enjoying it!