The Spice of Life

I love spicy food. Now, before you assume that I’ll eat anything that’s mind-blowingly hot and spicy, let me assure you that you would be terribly wrong in that assumption. I like spice, I don’t like hot. I like to be able to actually taste the food I’m eating. If it has a lot of hot chillies in it, you can be guaranteed I won’t like it. But give me a bowl of something like Chana Masala and I’m in heaven.

Last weekend, John and I went to the library and I came out with an armload of cookbooks. One of them, “The Big Book of Curries, 365 mouthwatering recipes from around the world” by Sunil Vijayakar, is a temptation of spicy foods and I’m finding it fascinating. The book begins with a section of recipes for making your own spice blends, both dry and paste. I decided to try making the Garam Masala, and to make it the more traditional way (I assume), using the mortar and pestle I bought last week.

Oh my! The scent that filled my kitchen as I heated the spices slowly was intoxicating and magnificent! I did that part last night and allowed it to cool until this morning, when I ground up the spices in the mortar and pestle. I must say that using the M & P is fun! It’s almost meditative watching the spices turn from seeds and pieces to a powdery, magnificently scented conglomeration. Even the physicality of using the mortar and pestle, though I can feel it in my arm and shoulder, is equally meditative and rewarding.

I haven’t used the Garam Masala in anything yet, but I do have a couple of recipes lined up to try. I’ll post the links to those recipes at the end of this post. In the meantime, here’s the recipe for the Garam Masala.

Garam Masala

from “The Big Book of Curries, 365 mouthwatering recipes from around the world” by Sunil Mijayakar

[printable version]

  • 4 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 tbsp. cumin seeds
  • 4 tbsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. cloves
  • 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. ground mace or nutmeg (I used 1 whole nutmeg, crushed)

Put all of the ingredients in a large dry, non-stick skillet and heat over low heat, stirring continuously, 4-5 minutes, until fragrant. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Transfer to a small blender or spice grinder and grind 2 minutes until the mixture forms a fine powder (or use a mortar and pestle). Use immediately or store in an airtight jar up to 1 month or in the refrigerator up to 3 months.

Makes about 2/3 cup

Recipes to try:

Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup

Chicken Curry with Coconut Milk


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