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If your tongue starts watering on mentioning Indian cuisine, then its time you start learning the art of it. You may be familiar with this extensive cuisine and now should know that it's the wide range of masalas (spices) used in cooking, which makes it oh-so yummy.
At some point of time while cooking Indian food, we come across Garam Masala, which is a brown powdery ingredient, which brings spark to any Indian dish. It's readily available in super markets and grocery stores in the Asian aisle for less than five pounds for half-a-kilo bag. I prefer to make my own garam masala for a fresh flavor using fresh whole spices, which brings a distinct aroma to my dishes.
♥ What is Garam Masala: ************************************* Garam is a word from Hindi language which means `Hot' and masala means `spice'. Masala is a word that is often used in an Indian kitchen (and now some English kitchens as well!). It literally means a blend of a number of spices. Garam masala is the most important blend masala and an absolute essential to north Indian preparations, added just before serving the dish to enhance its taste. The aromatic spices in this variable blend are those that the Indians say heat the body. This easy-to-make spice blend is the heart of most Indian dishes. The balanced garam masala is a blend of cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and a few other conventional spices. It can be either dry, roasted ground or paste form. In England, we get it in a dry powdered form, but in North India, there are variations. Some people, like me, like to make their own garam masala.
♥ How to make your own garam masala: ************************************************** (NOTE: The following is my recipe and since I use the quantity of ingredients purely by my instinct, I cannot tell their exact amount in ml or grams.)
Cumin Seeds - 1 cup Green Cardamom - 1/2 cup Black cardamom - ½ cup Black Pepper - ½ cup Fennel (Saunf) Seeds - 5 tbsp Black Cumin Seeds - 5 tbsp Coriander Seeds - 5 tbsp Cloves - 3 tbsp Cinnamon - 4 sprigs Bay Leaf - 4-5 Ginger Powder - 2 tbsp (crushed dry root) Nutmegs - 2 (broken)
Roast all the ingredients except ginger powder until their colour changes to black, stir between roasting so that all spices get evenly cooked. Transfer onto a plate and let it cool slightly. Grind finely in a food processor with ginger powder (In earlier days, people used to use pestle to grind).
♥♥ Garam masala is best made fresh just before you begin cooking, but if you haven't got the patience (like me!), make a batch ahead and store for several months in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place. Every time you will open the jar your nose will get a treat. You will be able to smell a fusion of spices, which will make you anticipate how your Indian dish would smell.
♥ Using Garam Masala: ********************************* This extraordinary blend of spice is used in a small quantity at the end of cooking or fried in the beginning of cooking to add a subtle flavor to the cooked dish. Garam masala must be added in small quantities, or else it will overpower the dish and will be a disaster. Once you get a feel for the taste it gives your cooking, experiment and alter it to suit your needs.
♥ My Opinion: ******************* I have been to several Indian restaurants in England and have observed they are quite expensive. Being an Indian myself, I normally cook Indian food at home but occasionally like to try Indian food which sells on High streets. On all occasions I have been shocked to see the food is poles apart from the real Indian food. Believe me; the Indian food these restaurants sell is more high in calories and greasy than what we Indians cook at home! I think if you understand the nitty-gritty of Indian cooking and ingredients used, you can make your own curries at home without having to shell out 50 pounds in a restaurant and that too on something which is only half-Indian.
In my opinion Garam Masala can make any disgusting dish flavorsome, but if used in small quantity. For nearly one year I have been making my own masala and don't I just love it! It's a secret spice, which can make almost as many numbers of dishes as much as there are people in India!
♥♥♥ Below is yet another of my much loved recipes, which is so simple that even a novice can cook it. This Indian dish is called Pindi Chhole and is a popular Punjabi dish savoured by people worldwide. It sells between 15-20 pounds in a high street Indian restaurant. Try this at home and relish the wonderful taste!
Ingredients: 1 cup chickpeas ( kabuli chana) 1 tea bag 2 1/2-inch ginger, finely chopped (some shredded finely to garnish) 3 tbsp oil 2 onions, finely chopped 2 tsp garlic, finely crushed 2 green chilies, de-seeded and sliced (leave the seeds for a stronger flavour) 3 medium sized tomatoes, finely chopped 1/2 tsp garam masala 2 tsp ground coriander 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin 1/2 tsp turmeric powder (Haldi) Red chili powder as per taste Salt to taste Finely chopped coriander leaves to garnish
Soak the peas in water overnight. Cook the peas with tea bag, salt and enough water in the cooker till tender (the tea bag will give this a light-brown colour). Leave to stand for a few minutes then drain, reserving 2 cups of stock for the gravy. Heat oil in a wok and saute onions till golden. Add garlic and chopped ginger and green chilies, saute for 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes, coriander, cumin, turmeric and chili powder and saute over low heat until the oil separates. Add cooked peas, the stock, salt and half of the coriander leaves. Simmer; cook uncovered until half of the liquid has been absorbed. Add a pinch of garam masala and serve sprinkled with the remaining coriander leaves and shredded ginger.
This can be served with naan bread, which is again available in Indian market, or with steamed rice with a side salad.