Indian Cookery - Mixing Your Own Spices

While you can easily obtain ready mixed spices in most supermarkets or Asian speciality shops these days, you get a fresher, more authentic taste when you mix your own. It may be a little time consuming, but well worth it for the extra flavour.

If you are going to mix your own flavourings from whole, rather than powdered, ingredients, you will need an electric coffee grinder or spice grinder, otherwise you will not obtain the powdery consistency.

A much used spice mix, usually incorporated towards the end of cooking time, is Garam Masala (which actually means hot spice) and there are probably as many recipes as there are families in India. However, one of my favourite cookery writers is Madhur Jaffrey and in her book Indian Cookery, she recommends the following:

1 tbsp cardamom seeds
A 2 inch (5cm) stick of cinnamon
1 tsp black cumin seeds
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp black peppercorns
¼ of an average-sized nutmeg

Finely grind all the spices together and store in an air-tight jar in a cool dark place.

Another recipe uses rather more ingredients as follows:

1 tsp coriander seeds
1tsp cumin seeds
½ a dried chilli
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp black peppercorns
1tbsp cardamom pods
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 fairly large bayleaf

Remove the seeds from the cardamom pod and if you don't want a hot mix, the seeds from the dried chilli. As before, grind finely and store carefully.

For a slightly different, more aromatic flavour, dry roast the spices first in a frying pan.

If you often cook in a hurry, you may want to have a pre-prepared curry powder to hand. Shop bought curry powder is not particularly flavoursome, so make some of your own as store as for Garam Masala. Don't make too much at a time as it will lose its flavour.

1 tsp coriander seeds or coriander powder
Dried chillies or chilli powder to taste.
1 tsp cumin seeds or cumin powder
½ tsp garlic powder or garlic salt
½ tsp salt (omit if using garlic salt)
1 inch (2.5cm) cinnamon stick or 1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 large bayleaf
½ tsp cloves
Seeds from 8 cardamom pods
1 tsp black peppercorns or powdered black pepper

If you are using whole spices, you will need an electric grinder, but if you are using powdered ingredients, just mix them together in a bowl or jar and store as before.

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About The Author, Liz Canham
Liz Canham: As well as a love of Asian cooking as you can see in her Asian Food and Cookery website, Liz seeks to help newcomers to the world of internet marketing with tools, tips and training from her Liz-e-Biz website.