How to Make Both Versions of Garam Masala
Can I use ground spices to make garam masala, and if so, what would be the recipe?
Could you be more specific? Mughal garam masala is the traditional mixture of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper (occasionally with a little nutmeg added). It adds a subtle flavor and is considered a hallmark of classical Indian cooking.
Over many years, coriander and cumin were added to the mix, producing a mixture that is sharper and more pungent. This Punjabi garam masala is also primarily used in northern Indian cooking, in meat, poultry, seafood, and vegetable dishes.
Other regional garam masala combinations may include cassia, cassia buds, fennel, and bay leaf. In Hindi, masala refers to a mixture of aromatic spices, while garam means warm or hot.
The Punjabi garam masala is now the more generic of the two, and it what people mean when they simply say, "garam masala." It is what you get if you purchase premixed garam masala – which we are sure you do not!
The cooking teacher Julie Sahni says you must make your own. First, only Punjabi garam masala is available commercially. Second, a commercial mix is likely to include salt, ground ginger, garlic, thickening agents such as poppy seeds, and possibly other seasonings, "which are quite unconventional and unnecessary. They mask the robust and honest tanginess of the spices"
To add insult to injury, Sahni says the spices in commercial mixtures have quite likely not been roasted and are probably stale. Commercial versions also come in paste form, where an amount of vegetable oil has been added to make the paste.
In any case, we'll share recipes for both the Mughal garam masala and Punjabi garam masala, so that you can experiment on your own, and also to introduce you to Sahni's wonderful book, Classic Indian Cooking
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