Shahi garam masala is that one treasured spice blend that is exquisitely unique to Indian cuisine and culture. This heavenly blend of most aromatic spices of the world now truly identifies with Indian cuisine, very much like French herbs de Provence. Few spices or herbs when uses collectively can lends a truly magical and unique touch to the dish, each of the spices, the herbs then narrates stories of that region.
Indian cuisine is one of the most rich and diversified cuisine of the world, and as you traverse across the country, even with slight shift in latitude, the taste changes, the flavours takes a completely different notes. Thus we have many regional versions of same garam masala, each one of them differ in flavour profile and identified with the taste of that region. Each of the spices brings their exclusive touch to the dish that is so much identical to the region.
Like Punjabi garam masala must have coriander seeds and some even add dry ginger powder , Kashmiri garam masala typically contains fennel seeds, and Bengali garam masala contains just three C (cinnamon, cardamom and cloves), khandeshi (Maharashtrian) garam masala (contains two types of dry red chillies), south Indian garam masala (coriander seeds, chillies and fenugreek sometimes) and so on. In fact, Every home has their unique secret blend of garam masala.
It is said that you need to be a good masalchi, the one who understands the true nature of spices and prepares the spice blends, before one can become an established chef or cook. The spices that goes into basic garma masala recipe without the regional variations are all warm and highly aromatic. Warm or hot does not means here that spices are spicy hot but spices are hot enough to raise the body temperature, thus increasing the metabolic rate of the body.
So, when using garam masala in a recipe, use sparingly. Just a pinch is enough to bring out all those flavour notes.
Unlike Bengali cuisine, where every other recipe from dals to pure vegetarian dishes without onions and garlic, calls for garam masala, in other regions it is strictly restricted to non vegetarian dishes like meat, poultry and seafood.
There are two ways of adding garam masala to the dish. One for lighter gravies or stew style dishes, where whole garam masala like whole cloves, cinnamon, cardamoms are used. Even our pulaos and biryanis use the whole garam masala. That way the spices adds highly aromatic note to the dish but without making it too hot or warm.
Another way, actually my favourite way and this is also the traditional way to use the garam masala specially in some meat dishes, is to use them wet. The spices along with whole dried red chillies are soaked in water, then grind to a smooth paste. The concoction is then ready to test the hot mustard oil and fills in every corner of the house with its rich and flavourful aroma.
For other purposes, I always (I had never liked any commercial brand of Garam masala so far) makes my own spice blend, and to large extent what goes in it, depends upon my current state of mind, or rather I include the spices as per my whims. Every time I try to bring out some variations in it by adding some or by omitting others, or sometimes simply by playing with the ratios and proportions of the spices used.
My Garam masala spice blend is very royal in nature, hence the name “shahi meaning royal”, fit to serve the nobles and kings. And this royal touch to the spice blends comes from the range of prized and aromatic spices, sometimes I add dried rose petals too for floral under tones. This is something I have learned from the experts and if you had never used dried rose petals in spice blends, then please try it at least once. They are simply hedonic.
I sourced my spices, whenever possible, from “spice country Kerala”. Spices are cheaper there and also the quality is very good, full of oils. The essential element of my garam masala spice blend contains a well blended mixture of cinnamon quills (tan brown color one), cardamom (both green and black), cloves, black pepper (for heat), mace, nutmeg, kebab chini (cubeb pepper, it lends a sweeter touch to the blend), shah jeera (caraway seeds), star anise (my favourtie one), fennel seeds.
Sun drying the spices before blending is always the best practices to follow, that way the essential oils in the spices are not lost. But if sun drying is not possible then heat a griddle or tawa. Switch off the heat and then spread the spices flatly, toss it three to four times till the faint whiff of aroma releases.
Grind them together.
Please note that do not heat black cardamoms. As they turned bitter if heated or roasted.
Another important note here for By leaves – most of the garam masala recipe calls for dried bay leaves.
Bay leaves are crucial in Bengali cuisine, from cooking a simple dal, vegetarian dishes to meat and seafood, bay leaves are ubiquitious everywhere. But we never used it in shredded form. Infact when I bought my spice rack from US, it comes with a bottle of shredded bayleaves. Shredded bay leaves are not edible and dangerous to eat. They are liable to casue any oesophegal discomfort or injuries, if swallowed by mistake. I had tried roasting it and then grinding it to a fine powder, but that does not solve my problem. Grinding to a fine powder is really difficult and moreover I did not like it’s powdered taste.
I am little old fasioned in that sense. When a recipe calls for bay leaves, I simply add two-three directly in hot oil. And as I had told you before that it is essential in Bengali cuisine, so we have this habbit of licking the whole bay leaf clean before throwing it away, when served in a dish.
- Cloves -15 gm,
- Cinnamon -20 gm,
- Green cardamom – 5 gm,
- Black cardamom -15 gm,
- Black pepper – 5-10 gm (depends upon how much hot you want to make it) ,
- Shah jeera / Caraway seeds– 10 gm,
- Fennel seeds – 10 gm,
- Kebab chini -10 gm
- Star anise – 2
- Mace -2
- Nutmeg – 1
- Select the best spices, shell the cardamoms and nutmeg, break the cinnamons and collect all in a big plate.
- Spread the spices flatly on a big and wide plate. Sun dried them for three to four hours under hot sun.
- Else, heat a griddle or tawa. When it is sufficiently hot, switch off the heat. Spread the spices flatly on it.
- Toss it three to four times till the nice aroma releases.
- Cool the spices sufficiently.
- Grind to a fine powder.
- While grinding the spices, heat will release from the mixer. So give a break of two to three minute till the heat dissipates.
- Continue with the grinding till you get a fine powder.
- Store it in airtight box.
- With time, the flavours will become dull, so try to make it in small quantities.
Have you checked our Rakhi special dessert today?