Usha Raikar’s Garam Masala

This version of garam masala comes from a cook in Mumbai. Any garam masala mixture may be substituted if the ingredients for this mixture are unavailable.

This recipe comes from Raghavan Iyer’s book, 660 Curries, pages 27-28.

½ cup dried red Thai or cayenne chilies, stems removed

4 dried bay leaves

2 tbsp coriander seeds

1 tbsp white poppy seeds

1 tbsp black peppercorns

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp black cumin seeds (Nigella sativa)

1 tsp black or yellow mustard seeds

6 green or white cardamom pods

2 whole star anise

2 black cardamom pods

2 cinnamon sticks (each 3 inches long), broken into smaller pieces

5 blades mace

1 tsp canola oil

½ tsp ground asafetida

  1. Combine the chilies, bay leaves, and all the whole spices, including the mace, in a medium-size bowl. Drizzle the oil over the ingredients and toss them well to coat them evenly with the oil. (This is much easier to do in a bowl than in a skillet.)
  2. Preheat a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mixture and roast, stirring constantly, until the chiles blacken slightly, the spices darken a bit, and the mixture is highly aromatic, 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Immediately transfer the pungent, nutty-smelling mixture to a plate to cool. (The longer they sit in the hot skillet, the more likely it is that the spices will burn, making them bitter and unpalatable.) Once they are cool to the touch, place half the ingredients in a spice grinder or coffee grinder, and grind until the texture resembles that of finely ground black pepper. (If you don’t allow the spices to cool, the ground blend will acquire unwanted moisture from the heat, making the final blend slightly “cakey.”) Transfer the ground mixture to a small bowl and repeat with the remaining batch. Thoroughly combine the two ground batches. The blend will be dark brown and the aroma will be sweet and complex, very different from that of the pre-toasted and post-toasted whole spices. Stir in the asafetida.
  4. Store the blend in a tightly sealed container, away from excess light, heat and humidity, for up to 2 months. Do not refrigerate.

Note: Do not roast the asafetida with the other spices; it will give a foul smell to the mixture.  Mace is the covering of nutmegs; a blade of mace is a long strip of such a covering.

Makes a scant 1 cup.

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