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Six basic spice mixes – you may call them “garam masala”. . .Part 1 of my garam masala series.

 The above image shows the six garam masala spice mixes. From L to R top row we have the spice mixes for: seafood, vegetarian, poultry; from L to R [bottom row] for: red meat, nilgiri’s biryani mix, kebabs

How do you simplify a complex cuisine which has at least a billion different interpretations, all of them equally correct in their own way?

One way is to call it a ‘curry’ and just leave it at that!

But that is not the point and honestly does not do any justice to the millions of khansaamas, bawarchis, dastarkhwans, aka chefs, who have devoted their lives trying to tell the world that this is an intricate cuisine and not just ’a bit of this and a bit of that.’

So, let’s get down to one of the basics of any dish.

What is it? The type of pan used? Cast iron or copper, or is it the oil that should be used? Or the sort of bread that should accompany a dish?

No folks, none of these is the basics of a dish that I want to discuss [though hold your breath because in the following year I will be touching on some of these]!

But for now I want to direct my attention to spice mixes. This week I want to show you how to make, step-by-step, six spice mixes that we use in my kitchen at nilgiri’s.

Next week I’ll be using one of the spice mixes and over the next SIX weeks I’ll be be using all six spice mixes that I am explaining today. If you want to make the recipes in the coming weeks that use these spice mixes, get started and make all six now – since  they’re spices, they won’t ‘go off’, in fact, the more they’re left to ‘talk’ to each other in the jar, the more infused and enthused they’ll become! But  you must store your spice mixes in airtight glass jars that are kept away from direct heat, sunlight, or any moisture. If you get this right your spice mixes will be perfect for months.

Okay, so let’s start. You’ll need whole spices and six separate airtight glass jars and once you’ve got that, you’re sorted (of course, you can make one, or two, or all, or none of the spice mixes!). The choice is yours.

Follow my method of adding each spice as I have. Want to know why? I believe it is a good habit to add one ingredient at a time even if it is not being cooked as in this case.(When cooking it is important to add the biggest spice first followed by the next  in size and so on…. this gives the biggest spice a longer time to cook and bring out the volatile oils, you know what I mean!!!)

Anyway, the first garam masala mix that we’re setting up is for seafood.

I call this one, guess what? Seafood GM, not too romantic I know, but it does its job and is a sensible name.

Let’s begin.

SPICE MIX 1 ~ GARAM MASALA FOR SEAFOOD

Starting clockwise you have:  1 cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon cardamom pods, 1 teaspoon cloves, 2 teaspoons black peppercorns, 3 dried red chillies and 2 teaspoons fennel seeds.

Add the cinnamon stick to your bowl

Then add the cardamom pods

The cloves

Then the black peppercorns

Then the dried red chillies

And finally, the fennel seeds

Here is your spice mix for seafood ready to be stored in its glass jar

Place spices in the glass jar

SPICE MIX 2 ~Vegetarian garam masala

As its name implies, this is great for flavouring vegetarian dishes, including dishes made out of paneer, or cottage cheese, or fresh cheese…I like to think of it as my “vegetarian garam masala”. You can call yours what you want but trust me, it’ll taste superb.


Starting clockwise we have:  2 teaspoons coriander seeds, 2 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, 2 bay leaves and 3 dried red chillies.


First of all add the coriander seeds to your bowl

Then add the cumin seeds

The bayleaves

And finally, add your dried red chillies


Now store all your whole spices in an airtight glass jar

And as I mentioned before, keep your spices away from direct heat, light and moisture

SPICE MIX 3 ~Poultry Garam Masala

Poultry garam masala is as follows: 1 cinnamon stick, 2 teaspoons cardamom pods, 1 1/2 teaspoons cloves, 3 star anise, 2 teaspoons fennel seeds and 2 teaspoons mace blade.

Add the cinnamon stick to your bowl

Then add the cardamom pods

And the cloves

The star anise

The fennel seeds

And finally, the mace

Your poultry garam masala is now ready for storing in its glass jar

Putting the poultry spices into the glass jar

Voila! All ready for storage.

SPICE MIX 4 ~ Garam masala for red meat

Starting clockwise: 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 teaspoon cardamom pods, 1 teaspoon cloves, 1/2 nutmeg and 2 teaspoons black peppercorns.

Take the cinnamon sticks and place in your bowl

Then the cardamoms

The cloves

The nutmeg

Yes, you’ll have to grate your nutmeg!

But don’t grate it all, about a 1/2 a nutmeg should do

Then add the peppercorns

And your red meat garam masala is ready for storing in your glass jar

The final product for red meat garam masala!

SPICE MIX 5 ~Biriyani mix (nilgiri’s garam masala)

From clockwise: 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons cardamom pods, 4 black cardamom pods, 2 teaspoons cloves, 1 nutmeg, 3 spears mace, 4 bayleaves,  2 teaspoons black peppercorns, 2 teaspoons fennel seeds and 1 teaspoon saffron threads.

Take the two cinnamon sticks and place in your bowl

Then add the cardamom pods

Then add the black cardamom

Then add the cloves

Add the nutmeg

And the mace spears or blades

The bay leaves

The black peppercorns

The fennel seeds

And finally, the saffron threads

Place all spices  into the glass jar,except the saffron. Place the saffron in a separate container as this will be soaked in milk when we use it for our recipe for the biryani!!!

And your biryani garam masala is ready for storage

SPICE MIX 6 ~ Kebab Mix

Starting from clockwise:  2 cinnamon sticks, 12- 15 cardamom pods, 2 teaspoons cloves, 3 mace spears, 5 dried red chillies, 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, 2 bay leaves and 1 teaspoon saffron threads.

Add the cinnamon sticks to your bowl

Then add the cardamom pods

Then the cloves

Then add the mace spears or blades

And the dried red chillies

The coriander seeds

The bay leaves

And finally, the saffron threads

Here is your melange of kebab garam masala without the saffron. Place saffron in a separate container.

Storing your spices in the ubiquitous glass jar

Ready to be stored. A visual feast!

Phew!!! Once done we will use each one of the above spice mixes to create a dish starting with the seafood spice mix next week.
My plan is to create a southern style fish with coconut.
Until then. . .

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhava!!!

About Ajoy Joshi

i've been a chef for over three decades now! i trained in chennai and started off with the taj hotel group. i've owned nilgiri's indian restaurant in sydney for over 15 years. i'm on a mission to dispel the myth that indian food is no more than a 'curry in a hurry'! come with me as i try and educate. indian food is my passion (alongside cricket!) and i'm enjoying exploring the new social media and as well as having published cookery books i'm now moving into videos. simple and easy to follow that don't go on for hours like some Bollywood movies!

19 responses »

  1. I love your blog because of the stories you have, rather than just recipes. Interesting post! But isn’t the spice mix influenced by the dish, the culture you come from and the mood you’re in, rather than a `one size fits all xxxx dishes’? I’m not a chef, just an amateur cook, so I could be wrong.

    Reply
    • Hi Shruti,
      Thanks for your feedback. You are absolutely right in saying that the spice mix is influenced by a lot of factors and culture is definitely one of them. Having said this, I am trying to get people to think of Indian food as something that is as easy to make at home as Italian or Chinese is and this is just the start. All I am trying to say is that there is no such thing as ‘a garam masala’, one size does not fit all!!
      We have identified the dishes and are ready to go but am using the spice mix as a starting point.

      Kind regards,
      Ajoy

      Reply
  2. Hi Ajoy,
    thanks for these spicy hints!
    Any chance of getting a recipe for Aloo Naingan at some stage? I have moved to the country and I really miss it! I have tried some online recipes but they just don’t taste anything like yours….
    You will be pleased to know that I have found a shop selling Herbies Spices and all sorts of Indian staples in my town! So I have my spice mix ready and I’m looking forward to your next post.
    cheers,
    Valmai

    Reply
    • Hi Valmai,
      Thanks for your email and good to hear that you have found a shop with all the spices you need!
      All you need to do now is use them.
      I will send you a recipe for Aloo Baingan ‘Nilgiris style’ by mid next week.
      Hope that is ok with you.
      I may even do it for the next blog, how’s that?
      Regards,
      Ajoy

      Reply
      • Hi again Ajoy,
        that would be fantastic, you are so generous with your knowledge!
        many thanks,
        Valmai

  3. Hi Ajoy!

    Though I hardly cook or love to eat, I love to read your blog. Primarily because of your presentation. It was wonderful to know about the various garam masalas and now that you are going to use them in dishes in your upcoming blogs, its going to be more interesting. Will wait to read each one of them!

    Reply
  4. hi ajoy,

    your taste, talent and the art of cooking is unmatched really great, I love the way you have presented each and every receipe step by step, hats off…….
    I follow you guruji…..

    warm regards,

    pawar

    Reply
  5. Hi,

    I have just started small trading in spices after completion of my college looking forward to learn how to make Garam masala for diffrent variety and test. I have just got your blog to know the manufacturing. I wud be very oblige if you can share some more spices ingredients.

    Thanks,
    Abhishek shrivastav
    abhishri09@gmail.com

    Reply
  6. Namaste Chef Ajoy,

    I am a food and Bharat afficianado (along with Ayurveda) and I do like the passion and the story you have to tell. Really love your blog, and please keep sharing.

    Also what would the perfect spice blend would be for a simple cabbage dish? I am just trying to come up with my own spice blend :). Stumbled upon your blog … Love it!

    Thanks!
    -Narayan-

    Reply
    • Hello Narayan,
      Mate for cabbage I prefer to keep it simple and use either 1.black mustard, asafoetida, dry red chillies (whole), fresh ginger finely chopped, fresh curry leaves and fresh coconut( finely grated). OR
      2. Cumin seeds, asafoetida, fresh green chillies, turmeric, ground ginger, fresh Coriander, and lemon juice.

      Reply
  7. Pingback: Six basic spice mixes – you may call them “garam masala”. . .Part 1 of my garam masala series. | thoughtsfromajoy | The Fair Seas Spice Co.

  8. Hey!!
    Finally a post on garam masala! I am food nerd and do a lot of research..
    I looking for a perfect recipe for Punjabi garam masala. Interestingly in ,my research and trying different kinds of garam masala`s , I am able to confidently dispel the myth that garam masala needs to have a lot of spices. Punjabi garam masala, is similar to garam masalas in Pakistan, coz it has dry ginger. However having tried some pakistani garam masalas, I have learnt that they just use six basic spices..
    Please share any ideas or knowledge you have of it. And ofcourse if you know or have a recipe for punjabi garam masala!

    Reply
  9. Hello. What a nice idea! Six different spice blends to start. I just found your blog and I am so interested in these blends. Can I ask a question about the red chili? Are they Kashmiri chilies?? I understand that Kashmiri chilies are not as hot as most types of red chilies. Or are they like cayenne chilies? I love, love Indian cooking and food, but I can not eat really hot dishes, I am sorry to say.

    Reply
  10. Hi;;
    I m to inspired with your blog & the recipes… just one thing since i am based out in Kolkata and the kinara shop near me supplies only Shalimars garam masala. Can i go ahead and use it for variety rich recipes ( http://www.scwl-india.net/garam-masala-2230070.html ) … or can you suggest a brand otherwise.

    Reply
  11. Hi
    I m inspired with your blogs & the recipes… just one thing since i am based out in Kolkata and the kinara shop near me supplies only Shalimars garam masala. Can i go ahead and use it for Rich recipes ( http://www.scwl-india.net/garam-masala-2230070.html ) … or can you suggest a brand otherwise.

    Reply
    • Hi Swati
      My apologies for the delay in getting back.
      I personally believe that recipes are just a guideline and one should do what one believes in. So please go ahead and use the garam masala that is available and enjoy the process!!
      Kind regards

      Reply

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