October 13, 2006

The Spice Is Right-VII/ Garam Masala Mix

Garam Masala

Every household has its distinctive spice mixes and when Habeas Brulee, the must see site for great photos and recipes, announced the theme of the Spice is Right VII as Seasons of love-spices and spice mixes, the first thought I had was this Mix which is also my mom's Biryani Garam Masala.

This is one of the spice mixes that I associate with the smells of my mom’s kitchen and the aroma of her cooking. If I do not have it on hand, I feel my kitchen is incomplete. For a long time, I did not trust myself to make the mix here, so had to have it roasted and powdered by my mom and sent to me via any friend traveling to Kerala. Then during her last visit, she made me learn it and make it under her guidance. (But I still make her sent it from home.)

So what is Biryani Masala? Is it the same as curry powder? No. It is a blend of whole spices lightly roasted to release its aromas and then powdered. The name comes from the hindi term "Garam Masala" which translates as “hot spices” and the term is used generally for whole spices. It is not spicy but has a pungency which if used carelessly can overpower the dish. It stays well in an air tight container for months, but if freshly ground, is a whole new experience. Then you only need a pinch to make a difference. It is similar to comparing fresh ground coffee made from beans and stored powdered beans.

Uses are only limited by your imagination. The main purpose of its being is Biryani, Rice layered and cooked with meat or fish or vegetables and baked to infuse the flavors together. Furthermore, we use a dash for any spicy Goat or Lamb curry, Chicken curry, where it holds its own and even comes out boldly against the strong chili powders and coriander smells. The gamut of the curries runs from the dry Beef Fry to Goat Stew. Adding a pinch in vegetable stew or Pilaf/pulav gives it richness beyond its humble vegetables. It is little different from the store bought garam masala as it does not have cumin, ginger, mustard etc in it.

Mixed with lemon juice,salt, olive oil, garlic powder and pepper, it is an excellent marinade for beef and lamb chops giving it a semi mediterranean flavor. The recipe for the grilled beef is explained in my post on Grilled Beef Gyros.

Lastly but not the least, I use a teaspoonful to spice up my Banana Nut Muffins and Carrot-Date Cake instead of powdering nutmeg and cardamom. It cuts the smell of the eggs without the overpowering taste of the vanilla.

Biryani Masala:
Cinnamon(Karopatta)- 2 inch piece
Cardamom 8
Nutmeg (Jathika)-1/8 of a whole piece
Bay leaves- 1
Fennel seeds- 1tsp
Mace( Javithri/Jathipathri) 5-6
Caraway seeds/Shah Jeera- 1 tbsp
Star Anise-1
Dry roast all together and grind to a fine powder. Store in a tight lidded bottle and use only sparingly. This will yield 3 tbsp.
To roast, I usually use a cast iron skillet which holds the heat well without burning the spices. Keep the flame on medium heat, roast one ingredient at a time and keep stirring to distribute the heat evenly. This takes about 4-5 minutes.
Alternately, roast in the oven at 300 degrees for 5-10 minutes depending on tyhe quantity and size of oven.


shilpa said...

Ahh..thats a nice recipe. I will stop buying the biryani masala now. Thanks a lot dear.

rp said...

Wow! Good that you made a detailed post on this. I couldn't find mace yet. :( Actually husband was shopping and I told him over the phone, he says there is no such thing! Maybe I will try again when I shop. :)
shaheen, what is the shelf life of this powder?

Danielle said...

This is great! Thank you so much for participating. I'll be making this mix and keeping it around from now on, definitely.

gattina said...

Thanks for your detailed explanation on garam masala, always learn something new from you. Although I don't usually eat red meat or poultry, I still like to experiment your recipe esp in cakes as you mentioned, sound very good indeed!

Shaheen said...

Shilpa: U are welcome.

RP:Mace is the orange colored skin in strands around the nutmeg. I didn't have it on hand so couldn't put it in the photo. Try in Asian stores.
Shelf Life.. MIne lasts for 4-6 months.If unopened, it lasts even longer.

Shaheen said...

Danielle: Thanks a lot. Hope you make and like this mix.

Gattina:Thanks.:)I learn something from you too.Try making this.It changes the flavors of the cake.

Anonymous said...

that's a gt8 idea. i always used to grind as n when i need it. but making it in bulk n storin is a gud idea.then u can put it other things like cakes...
but it will hav to wait, as my mixie's small jar conked off:(

do u get only this masala from home, or like me get,
sambhar masala, meat masala, chilli powder,turmeric etc etc...

maneka nirmal said...

i was thinking about posting a recipe for garam masala and there u r...hmmm.. nice pics shaheen... i like the fresh aroma of the home made masalas compair to the store bought ones.

Ashwini said...

Beauuutiful photo of the spices Shaheen. I am so glad you shared your mom's authentic recipe with us.
I hate (yes hate) how the authenticity and taste of Indian spices is being compromised by products that market themselves as "curry powder" or "chicken masala paste" and other crap!!!
You don't see the same happening with herbs du provence or italian seasoning do you?

Foodie's Hope said...

Excellent entry for spice mix event! Great job!! Thanks for the Biryani recipe too!

Shaheen said...

Ki: I get this and coriander from home. somehow I am finicky about the store bought unroasted coriander powder.He he..

Shaheen said...

Maneka:Thanks. I love the smell too..I hardly buy garam masala and meat masala etc from stores.

Ashwini: I agree.The first time I heard of curry powder, I was amused. To think we don't use curry powder in India! I guess it will change as everybody gets more comfortable with the Indian spices and cooking methods.

ASha:Thanks and try this even in your rajma malai wallah.

indosungod said...

Shaheen I can smell the aroma from here, looks wonderful. It is so versatile like you said so worth the effort in making it fresh.

Linda said...

Hi Shaheen, this looks wonderful! I will definitely try making it -- like RP I will have to get mace. Thank you for sharing :)

gattina said...

thanks for your fantastic idea of using garam masala in baked goods. I tried and the result's excellent! You're right, garam masala does a much better job than rum/brandy in getting rid of egg-y smell in cake. And I just love its light aroma *two thumbs up* Since the result is so terrific, hope you don't mind, I add the link of this post in my entry to WHB :D.

Shaheen said...

Gattina: i saw ur entry.. its looks really good. U are always welcome to link any post of mine. Great work.

Linda: Do try to make this at home and u won't regret it.

Ruth said...

Shaheen, the masala does sound awesome. Just one question about the roasting....what temperature is the oven and how long do you roast the spices for?

Thanks for sharing a great mix!

sarwaan said...

I love the beauty of India


meeso said...

I saw the link for this over at Zaiqa's and I will have to try this as I have to try the lamb she made with it! I can't wait :)

Anonymous said...

What is Mace( Javithri/Jathipathri)?

David said...

Hi Shaheen,
Do you use all the whole nutmeg when you grind the ingredients after roasting?(biryani masala)
Is there an easy way to print the recipies off the web page?
Thanks for all your tips and wonderful recipies.


Anonymous said...

thank you fr ur tasty recipes.how to grind the nutmeg in the mixie?