Garam Masala: What the "hot spice" is made of and how to use it

Little spice science
Garam Masala: What the “hot spice” is made of and how to use it

Garam Masala gives a special aroma to many dishes

Garam Masala gives a special aroma to many dishes

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You can find it in well-stocked supermarkets, the spice that bewitches the senses: garam masala. But what exactly is it and what is it used for? A little spice science.

A spice has become mainstream when you find it in the little white jars on the spice shelf in the supermarket. For example, you will find garam masala, a spice mixture from Indian cuisine. As beguiling as the name sounds, the spice is just as aromatic.

In German it means “hot spice” and means the effect that the spice mixture is supposed to trigger. According to Ayurvedic medicine, the spices contained should heat the body. These include black cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and cumin. Almost every family in India has its own recipe. The modern mixtures can also contain fennel or green cardamom, which are said to have a cooling effect.

Garam Masala: Indian flair in our kitchen

Which spices you use plays an essential role for the aroma: if you like it a bit spicier, add chili. Coriander seeds and saffron give the mixture a special touch. Typically, the spices are roasted whole in a pan. This is how the essential oils are released. When cool, crush the spices in a mortar or grind them in a spice grinder. But you can also use them uncut.

The spicy mixture has long since been tasted not only in Indian curries, where garam masala is one of the most important basics. It is also suitable, mixed with yoghurt or oil, for marinating fish or meat. Prepared in the oven, a new world of taste opens up. Soups get a special kick. If you like aromatic tea, add a teaspoon of the spice mixture to black tea. Garam Masala can also set a spicy accent in desserts. It is important not to add the seasoning until the end. With long and strong heating, the flavors evaporate and you tend to over-season. The result is a bitter note in the food.

Recipe for homemade garam masala

If you grind your Garam Masala yourself, you should end up with a fine powder for seasoning

If you grind your Garam Masala yourself, you should end up with a fine powder for seasoning

©Getty Images

There is no uniform recipe for this spice mixture. Here is a simple version that can be expanded and changed as you wish:

Ingredients for garam masala

Tip: Buy all spices whole, if possible organic

  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp cumin
  • 8 capsules of black cardamom
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • optional: chili peppers

Preparation:

  1. First, toast the spices over medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant. This is how the essential oils unfold.
  2. Then let the spices cool.
  3. Remove the shell of the cardamom pod.
  4. Then pound all the ingredients in a mortar and grind in a spice grinder until a homogeneous red-brownish powder is formed.

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