Whole Spices & Garam Masala
Garam Masala literally translates to ‘hot spices’ however I’d say it brings more of a warmth to the dish and to your body when consumed and not necessarily a ‘spiciness’. I blended my garam masala myself (and separated it out for a visual aid, see photo below) and it comprises cinnamon, back cardamom, green cardamom pods, cloves, black peppercorns, cumin seeds and coriander seeds. Garam masala can also contain curry leaves, nutmeg, star anise and fennel. If I’ve left anything out, please do comment below.
You can use the spice blend whole or you can gently toast it in a pan for extra flavor/fragrance and then grind it down to a powder, which is how you’d normally see garam masala in the supermarkets, as a powder. This may be a revelation for some, because whoever I tell this (who’s new to South Asian cooking) always seems so happy to understand how it's made! I remember when we were younger, my mum would toast garam masala and blend it in a coffee grinder in bulk. But even just toasting as much as you need for a meal and then grinding with a pestle and mortar does the job!
I keep this mix of whole spices in a glass jar on an exposed kitchen shelf, alongside jars of rice, pasta, oats etc. because it looks really pretty! It’s also fab having a whole garam masala blend because you can pick out the bits you want and brew it with black tea, and BOOM! You got masala chai hunnies.
If you're new to using whole spices and garam masala I’d say to start with cumin seeds and/or bay leaves in your cooking. You can experiment by adding a pinch of cumin seeds and a bay leaf when boiling rice. Cumin seeds can also be fried in oil and then garnished over any curry for extra fragrance.
And there we have it, an introduction to garam masala and whole spices you can use! Please drop any questions in the comments or if you have something to add that I missed out!