Here is another recipe that works in nicely into the essential recipes category. Garam Masala, or the fragrant spice mix is a finishing spice blend that is essential to a lot of Indian cooking. In case, you are wondering what I mean by a finishing spice, let me explain. Despite, lots of folks who innovate differently by using this as a base spice, the typical use of garam masala is to add it later in the game just before wrapping up.
Now, as I always say, there are no general rules with Indian cuisine. This of course applies to garam masala as well. The blend of spices varies from region to region but almost always consists of the core fragrant spices of cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Actually, in eastern India, this is it. Northern India gets more complex, I settle for something in between with smaller amounts of the black peppercorns, since my kids do not like it too spicy.
So, call it the Hudson Valley Garam Masala blend.
Either way, this is a spice blend that is delicate and of course, well worth the effort (which really is not a lot!) in preparing from the scratch.
- 2 large (about 2 to 3 inches) stick of cinnamon, broken
- 11/2 teaspoons cloves
- 11/2 teaspoons cardamom seeds (about 30 seeds)
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- Place the spices in a small skillet and heat for about 1 to 11/2 minutes. The objective of this process is to release the essential oils and enhance the fragrance of the spices but not to brown the spices.
- Place in a spice blender or coffee grinder and grind until powdered.
- Store in a tight fitting air-tight jar in a cool place and use as needed.
Well, if I give you a classic spice recipe, I should offer you a classic recipe to go with it, well or to be more precise, a recipe that uses the spice blend. Something, that I usually never make without garam masala is Keema Matar or Ground Lamb with Green Peas.
In my universe of quick fixes, I have managed to successfully work through a lot of recipes without garam masala, but not this ground lamb recipe. This is a very versatile recipe, since it can be used as filling for samosas and an entire host of things. It is also one of those recipes that freeze well.
When, I say this, I mean freezes well, because I am very finicky about using frozen stuff.
For some reason, I just do not think that it works as well as it should in a lot of cases.
This recipe is also heavier, just by virtue of the fact that it uses lamb, making it a great recipe for these still chilly evenings. You are welcome to try a lighter version with ground chicken just reduce the cooking time to make it work. Actually, healther and quicker, but then again there are days for indulgence and yesterday was one of those. This tastes great with any kind of bread but of course, best with homemade Indian flatbreads.
A classic north Indian style dish with lamb and green peas, finished with garam masala.
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 teaspoon whole cumin
- 1 red onion, cut into a dice
- 1 teaspoon ginger paste
- 1 teaspoon garlic paste
- 1 pound of ground lamb
- 1 teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
- 3 minced green chilies or more to taste (make sure they are spicy)
- Salt to taste
- 1 cup cubed tomatoes (can be canned)
- 3/4 cup frozen peas (they do not need to be thawed)
- 3/4 teaspoon garam masala
- Chopped cilantro to garnish
- Heat the oil on medium heat for about 1 minute and add in the cumin seeds and wait until the seeds begin to sizzle.
- Add in the onion and sauté for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are wilted and begin to turn lightly golden.
- Add in the ginger and the garlic and stir well.
- Add in the lamb and begin browning the meat, it should release a fair amount of oil. Drain most of the oil, until you want a really rich dish.
- Add in the cumin-coriander powder, green chilies and salt and mix well.
- Add in the tomatoes and mix into the meat mixture and cook for at least 5 minutes, until the liquid has mostly evaporated.
- Add in the frozen peas and mix well, cook for another five minutes, stir in the garam masala and cook for another minute.
- Garnish with the cilantro and serve.
Rinku Bhattacharya is a daytime financial professional, who spends the rest of her time immersed in food. Rinku is the author of the blog, Cooking in Westchester, where she shares her life experiences and original recipes that combine Indian spices with produce from her backyard and local farmers markets. Rinku is blessed with a gardener husband, who always surprises her with a prolific and fresh supply of produce to keep her creative instincts flowing. Rinku has been teaching recreational cooking classes for the past six years, and her newly released cookbook the Bengali Five Spice Chronicles, highlights and offers many simple recipes from Eastern India. Rinku can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest