Showing posts with label Indian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Indian. Show all posts

Apr 19, 2017

Panch Phoron (Bengali Five Spice)

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Panch Phoron is a fragrant blend of five spices and a signature flavor of traditional Bengali cuisine. Panch means five and phoron means spices or flavors. What makes this spice mix unusual is that it's typically used in its whole form rather than ground or powdered. Panch phoron can be used with any vegetable or lentil dish and is particularly good with seafood.

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The five spices that traditionally comprise panch phoron are: fenugreek seed, nigella seed,  radhuni seed, fennel seed, and cumin seed. All the spices have their own unique notes: the pungent maple-like flavor of fenugreek seed, the celery-like greeness of radhuni seed, the slightly bitter oregano-like nigella seed, the anisic punch of fennel seed, and the peppery warmth of cumin seed. So simple yet such depth of flavor!
Ajwain or Carom seeds
Radhuni or wild celery seeds
Some variations may substitute anise for the fennel, ajwain for the radhuni, and black cumin for nigella. Generally the ingredients are added in equal proportions, though this can vary according to taste. To make panch phoron you simply mix equal amounts of all the spices together and store it in an airtight container.

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In the tradition of Bengali cuisine, one usually fries the panch phoron first in cooking oil or ghee. This causes the whole spices to start popping and become wonderfully fragrant. This technique is called baghaar or bagar in Bengali, and chaunk in Hindi. After this tempering, other ingredients are added to the fried spices to be coated or infused with the mixture. Dry roasted panch phoron is sometimes ground to make a powder that is sprinkled on chutneys. Although panch phoran is utilized in other parts of northern and eastern India, it's almost impossible to imagine Bengali food without it!

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Panch phoron is available commercially under several brand names. You may also see this blend called panch puran, panch phutana,  panch phoran or panch pora. If you'd like to make it yourself here's the recipe:

Ingredients:
1 TBS nigella/kalonji seeds
1 TBS cumin/jeera seeds
1 TBS mustard seeds (or radhuni/wild celery seeds)*
1 TBS fennel/saunf seeds
1 TBS fenugreek/methi seeds

Here's what to do:
1) Combine all the ingredients in an airtight light-proof container.

2) Shake well to mix ingredients. Store sealed away from heat or direct light.

Helpful Hints:
I'm using mustard seeds in place of the traditional radhuni/wild celery seeds. You could also use ajwain for the Nepali version of panch phoron or just the plain celery seeds you can find in western markets.

Apr 12, 2017

Garam Masala Deviled Eggs

Garam Masala Deviled Eggs, garam masala, eggs, easter, recipe, easy, indian, deviled, spicy, worcestershire, hard boiled, hard cooked, vegetarian,For a more authentic Indian take on curried deviled eggs try this recipe with garam masala instead of curry powder. Garam masala is a traditional Indian spice mix whose warm and peppery notes brilliantly contrast with creamy egg yolks. Tangy tamarind from Worcestershire sauce and tart lime lend added zest to this dish also. An easy treat to make that can be served as an elegant appetizer before a posh dinner or at a springtime picnic!

Garam Masala Deviled Eggs, garam masala, eggs, easter, recipe, easy, indian, deviled, spicy, worcestershire, hard boiled, hard cooked, vegetarian,
Nepali Style Garam Masala
I really think garam masala works much better with deviled eggs than the usual curry powder. Traditional blends of garam masalas are varying ratios of black pepper, cassia/cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, and possibly cumin, fennel, or star anise. The slightly sweet and richly aromatic warmth of these spices are far more complimentary to the delicate, creamy flavor of hard-cooked eggs than the readymade curry powders you'll find in western markets. Most of the curry powders you find for sale in western countries are far too harsh and fenugreek heavy. Try this recipe with your favorite store-bought brand of garam masala or make your own with one of these regional recipes from South Asia: Nepali Style Garam Masala, Basic Garam Masala, Mughlai Garam Masala, Kashmiri Garam Masala, or Parsi Garam Masala.

Garam Masala Deviled Eggs, garam masala, eggs, easter, recipe, easy, indian, deviled, spicy, worcestershire, hard boiled, hard cooked, vegetarian,Garam Masala Deviled Eggs, garam masala, eggs, easter, recipe, easy, indian, deviled, spicy, worcestershire, hard boiled, hard cooked, vegetarian,

This recipe came about as I was looking for an appetizer to serve at a dinner party we were hosting. I wanted to showcase the beautiful eggs we have here in Nepal. (Above you see our handsome Gaston in black and white checks with with his lovely ladyfriend in red, Mademoiselle Belle.) We certainly don't have any curry powder in our Indian household so I used a recent batch of garam masala I had made. Shabash! It was a hit at the dinner party and has been requested at every meal we've hosted since! My Indian husband had never tasted deviled eggs of any sort but now these are his favorite which he lovingly calls "Eggs with cream." (Most Indians call mayonnaise cream.)

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Look what I found at our local supermarket! All the way from New Orleans it's Crystal brand Worcestershire sauce. It's somewhat the worse for wear as one of the bottles in the case broke and leaked all over. How it got to Nepal from Louisiana boggles my mind. I do love the sharp, sweet, and tangy tinge of tamarind that worcestershire sauce gives to these deviled eggs. Worcestershire sauce has a slight asafoetida/hing-like umami punch that adds Indian flair too. I put a pinch of turmeric in for rich color and to cut the eggy taste a bit. Lime juice is another ingredient typical of Indian cuisine that brings it's floral tartness. Cilantro's fresh green herbaceous note is typically Indian also.You could certainly customize this recipe to your tastes and to what you have on hand. In place of the cilantro I've tried fresh mint, chopped chives, chopped olives, chopped cornichons, mango chutney, finely diced radish, finely diced red onions, and pickled jalapenos with great result!And so without further ado is the recipe:

Ingredients:
6 eggs, hard-cooked and peeled.
1/4 C mayonnaise
1 TBS lime/nimbu juice (or 2 tsp white vinegar)
1 tsp ground mustard powder or prepared mustard
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 TBS chopped cilantro/dhania (fresh mint, chives, chopped olives, chopped cornichons, mango chutney, finely diced radish, & pickled jalapenos are all options too)
salt to taste
For garnish: paprika, Kashmiri mirch, cayenne powder, chopped mint or cilantro

Here's what to do: 
1) Slice peeled hard-boiled eggs in half lengthwise, removing yolks to a mixing bowl. Placed halved whites on a serving platter.
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2) Combine yolks with the mayonnaise, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garam masala, turmeric, chopped cilantro, and 1/2 teaspoonful salt in mixing bowl.

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3) Mix ingredients until creamy using fork, food processor, blender, or mixie. Adjust salt to taste.

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4) Spoon or pipe egg yolk mixture into halved egg whites. For a do-it-yourself pastry bag, clip the end of a small sandwich bag and fill with the egg yolk mixture. Gently squeeze the bag from the top to pipe the mixture into the egg white halves.

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5) Garnish each egg with chopped mint or cilantro. Sprinkle a little Kashmiri mirch, paprika, or cayenne pepper for an extra kick of flavor and color. This recipe can be made up to 4 hours ahead of serving. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 12 deviled eggs.

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Mar 6, 2017

Tips & Tools: Some Like It Hot!

Well, I really wasn't talking about fiery chilis or spicy heat.


No, no, NO! Not the movie Some Like It Hot (1959) either. Although that is my favorite movie. How could you go wrong with an all star cast (Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon) and Billy Wilder's brilliant script and direction? If you haven't seen it, SEE IT!

Bibi's cooking - FIRE IN THE HOLE!!!
I'm talking about food temperature! When we were first married my Indian husband would complain about the food I served being too hot. "Why so hot!?!" I looked at him absolutely bewildered as I proudly put a piping hot dish on the table. That just boggled my American brain. The objective of getting the food as hot as possible to the table was something that I'd just never questioned about my Western culture. With the exceptions of certain foods like salads and ice cream why are we Westerners so obsessed with our food being served so hot? And why do Indians not want their food served sizzling hot?


Well, duh Bibi. Indians eat with their hands! Nobody wants to stick their hands into scorching hot food. Traditionally, the fingers are used to determine the temperature of the food as well as combining flavors. In fact, there is a Hadith in Islam that warns there is no blessing in food that is too hot. Ayurvedic practices too recommend eating food that is warm or at room temperature for optimal health. 


So where did this Western notion of the hotter the better for certain foods come from? After all we Westerners eat certain foods with our hands. Fried chicken, pizza, french fries, and hamburgers are all eaten commonly with hands and are served hot. A tepid cooked item tends to induce unease in the Western palate. A lukewarm temperature suggests that the food has been languishing, possibly festering, or has at best been poorly reheated. I actually like cold fried chicken and pizza but a congealed burger and fries is truly icky.


Apparently this fetish for piping hot foods began with the 19th century trend of higher social classes' dining styles switching from the service à la française to the service à la russe in Western Europe. The service à la française (literally service in the French style) began in the 17th century and evolved over the next 150 years. A formal dinner served à la française would have a variety of hot and cold dishes all set on the table at one time before the diners arrived. The diners would then seat themselves and enjoy the dishes communally. The great disadvantage of this à la française style of service was that hot foods often became cold before it was even time for the diners to eat. Contrast this to the service à la russe (literally service in the Russian style) in which dishes are brought out sequentially in courses and served individually. Dishes such as roasts served à la russe were prepared in the kitchen then sent out to the table whilst still hot, similar to a Western style restaurant today. And so the rush to get hot food from the kitchen to the table was on! (Service à la russe also gave way to the Western fascination with the esoteric and redundant cutlery you see in the above photo too. No one ever heard of a salad fork or dessert spoon before service à la russe became en vogue.)


I thought it would have more to do with Western cultures preferring their foods served hotter due to colder climates or something more mundane. I am certain fast food commercials in the West have reinforced the notion that hot equates to fresh. It probably doesn't occur to the average Western consumer of such items that their hot food item is hardly fresh at all. In reality it was probably lurking in the walk-in freezer for months previously to being served. Come to think of it, most all foods Westerners eat with their hands are rather informal and cheap foods. Perhaps that's part of the disdain Westerners have about eating with their hands?


Anywho, be sure to serve your Indian guests warm food not sizzling hot. It doesn't matter if your guests are seated at a table, on flimsy plastic chairs at a wedding, or on the floor aside a dastarkhaan. I'm not going to go into the details of how to properly eat with your hands as I still can't do it. Always eat with your right hand even if you are a lefty though. (Although you can use your left hand to pass dishes or to serve or drink water.) If you don't feel comfortable eating with your hands don't feel embarrassed if you need to ask for a spoon, special requests are usually welcomed at an Indian dinner table.


There are some things that are traditionally served quite hot on the Subcontinent though. Momos are a juicy, stuffed dumpling popular in Nepal but often found as a street food all over India now. Freshly steamed momos taste best served piping hot  arranged pleated side up on a warmed plate. Yes, momos are eaten with hands only also. Nobody wants cold or lukewarm momos! 


Chai or milky tea must always be served scalding hot. No matter if the weather is oppressively humid, swelteringly torrid, or blisteringly broiling. Your chai must be served positively burn-your-mouth and cauterize-your-tonsils HOT! We Americans like our coffee served about the same temperature as molten lava too. Be forewarned the majority of times your chai will be pre-sugared to syrupy sweetness. Actually it's becoming fashionable to serve sweeteners on the side so that guests may adjust it to their tastes. But it better be HOT!


So always remember, some like it hot!!!

Please be doing the needful,
Bibi

Feb 27, 2017

Ingredients: Cumin, Jeera, Zeera, Zira, Jira ko Geda, Zyur, Safed Jeera, Jeeragam, Jikaka

cumin, india, Indian, ingredients, jeera, jirako geda, safed jeera, spice, zeera, zira,

Cumin is one of those spices that is absolutely essential in stocking any spice cupboard. It's warm, earthy, and smoky flavor works especially well in combination with chilis, cinnamon, and coriander. Cumin is native to southwest Asia and has made its way into cuisines around the world through the spice trade. It's a hallmark flavor in North African, Indian, Latin American, Spanish, Portuguese, and Middle Eastern cuisines.

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Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) was originally cultivated in the Mediterranean region and is a member of the parsley family. It is an annual herbaceous plant with slender, branched stems that grows to 8–12 inches tall. It's tiny white or pink flowers are borne in small compound umbels. The seeds come in paired or separate carpels and are 1/8-1/4 inches long bearing a striped pattern of nine ridges. The seeds do greatly resemble caraway seeds, but are lighter in color and have minute bristles barely visible to the naked eye.

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Cumin is a drought-tolerant, tropical, or subtropical crop with a growth season of 100 to 120 days. The main producer and consumer of cumin is India. Cumin is sown in India from October until the beginning of December, and harvesting by hand starts in February. Sandy, loamy soils with good aeration, proper drainage, slightly alkaline pH, and high oxygen availability are necessary for the optimal growth of cumin. The plant tends to droop under its own weight and so is planted closely together for support.

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Field of cumin in the Indian state of Gujarat
The main producer and consumer of cumin is India. Cumin is sown in India from October until the beginning of December and harvesting by hand starts in February. India produces 70% of the world supply of cumin and consumes 90% of that. That means that India consumes 63% of the world's cumin! In total, around 300,000 tons of cumin per year are produced worldwide.

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Workers bagging cumin at the wholesale spice market in Delhi
Cumin is used predominantly in cuisines where highly spiced foods are preferred. In the Middle East it is a familiar spice used in fish dishes, grilled meats, stews, falafel, couscous, and the spice mix baharat. In Europe, cumin flavors Portuguese and Spanish sausages as well as Dutch Leyden cheese. Cumin is an essential spice in just about every savory Mexican dish from chile con carne to enchiladas

Leyden cheese from the Netherlands flavored with cumin seeds
Indian cooking utilizes many spice mixtures which contain cumin. North Indian cooking features a spice mixture called garam masala meaning "hot spices." Garam masalas vary in composition by regional preferences but most often combine earthy spices like cumin and fenugreek with aromatic spices like green cardamom and cloves. In southern India there is sambar podi, a mix of mostly cumin, coriander, roasted lentils, and aromatics used to flavor vegetarian dishes. In Southern Nepal, Bengal, Bangladesh and parts of North East India, there is a spice mix called panch phoron meaning "five spices" which consists of cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, and nigella seeds. Panch phoron is never ground and is used to flavor vegetable, fish, and meat dishes of those regions. 

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Spice shop in Varanasi
Dry roasted cumin seeds are also used in refreshing drinks and cooling condiments in India. Jaljeera is a popular summer drink in India usually made with a blend of cumin, lime juice, mint, ginger, black pepper, and black salt. Jaljeera is purported to stimulate appetite and aid digestion and commercial mixes are widely available. A salted lassi is a traditional savory drink of chilled water blended with yogurt and oftentimes flavored with toasted cumin seeds. A raita is a dip made of yogurt with toasted cumin seeds and raw or cooked vegetables often served with spicy foods for it's cooling effect on the palate.

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The earthy, warm, and smoky flavor of cumin is best showcased when used with restraint and cooked or dry roasted. Cumin is one of those spices that can quickly overpower an entire dish. Some hearty meat dishes can accommodate a full tablespoon but usually no more than a teaspoon is required for legumes and vegetables. Frying or dry roasting cumin mellows it's harsh raw flavor to a pleasant nutty earthiness. Ground cumin can­ not be toasted as it would char quickly. However, dry roasted cumin can be ground and used as a sea­soning and added just before serving. Almost every North Indian curry starts with spices being fried in ghee or oil. Ground cumin can be used but it must be added after the onions have been fried to prevent burning. Burnt cumin in ground or seed form has an unpleasant bitter flavor. There really isn't anything you can do to rescue a dish tainted with the bitterness of burnt cumin but to toss it and start over. 

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Cumin or Safed Jeera seeds
Caraway seeds
An interesting aside:
I think I've found out why cumin, caraway, and black cumin are so often confused for each other.  The root of the English word cumin is from the Latin cuminum which is ultimately derived from Semitic origins. But many other European languages do not distinguish clearly between the cumin and caraway. In German the word for caraway is Kümmel while the name for cumin is Kreuzkümmel (literally "cross-caraway). This indicates that European cooks saw cumin as an exotic spice comparable to the native caraway. (Caraway's carrot-y dill flavor tastes nothing like cumin's earthy warmth to me but the plant and seeds do look similar.) Similarly in Swedish and Danish, caraway is kummin, while cumin is spiskummin. In Romanian cumin is called chimion turcesc or "Turkish caraway." In Hungarian cumin is egyiptomi kömény or "Egyptian caraway." Like most Mediterranean spices cumin seems to have been introduced to northern and eastern Europe around the 9th century by Charlemagne's Capitulare. The Capitulare de villis vel curtis imperii Caroli Magni was a complete list of administrative, legal, and agricultural rules for the new Frankish empire. Towards the end of the document is a complete list of culinary and medicinal herbs to be grown in imperial gardens. Apparently northern and eastern Europe never developed much of a taste for cumin yet it retained it's identity as an exotic variant of caraway. This probably explains why shahi jeera/black cumin is often confused with caraway also.

Black Cumin or Shahi Jeera seeds
Jeera is the Hindi word for cumin and is derived from the Sanskrit root jri meaning to digest. Related words for cumin are today found from the Caucasus to central and southeast Asia: Urdu = zeera, Farsi = zirah, Georgian = dzira, and Burmese = ziyah. In Hindi cumin is sometimes called safed jeera (literally white cumin)  in order to differentiate it from black cumin or shahi jeera.

Feb 15, 2017

Kohinoor Chicken Curry

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From the royal courts of the ancient Mughals comes this recipe for a rich chicken curry. First, the chicken is marinated in yogurt and spices which will render it moist and flavorsome. The marinated chicken pieces are then slowly simmered until tender in a creamy gravy lavishly laced with traditional spices. Truly a regal dish that requires far less effort than you might think to prepare!

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This is one of those creamy, rich, ultra-posh Mughal dish with all the "bells and whistles" so popular around Delhi. The long list of ingredients does look quite daunting, but I've broken it down and simplified the steps so it's really not that difficult! It is also a great recipe for any special occasion as most of the preparation can be done a day in advance. A word of warning though, this chicken curry is VERY spicy. This isn't one of those bland, timid Mughlai recipes relying mostly on butterfat and cream for it's flavor. There's definitely a lot of spice and heat going on here, but it is masterfully blended to perfection. So if you're looking for a chicken curry recipe with bold, vibrant, IN YOUR FACE flavor - this is it!

Ingredients:
1kg/2lbs chicken, skinless and cut into 8 pieces, bone in preferred
3 TBS cooking oil or ghee
1 C onions, thinly sliced into half moons
3 tomatoes, diced finely or pureed
2 C water or stock/shorba
1 TBS dried mint (optional for garnish)
Grind to smooth paste for masala:
1 TBS coriander/dhania
2 tsp cumin/jeera
9 cloves/laung
12 black peppercorns/kali mirch
7 green cardamoms/elaichi
1 inch piece cassia bark/dalchini, broken into small pieces
1 TBS water
Grind until smooth for marinade:
1 C full fat yogurt
1/2 tsp flour/maida (this will keep the yogurt from splitting)
1 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1 TBS ginger/adrak paste
3-4 green chilis/hari mirch
1/4 C almonds/badaami, ground finely (or coconut cream)*
2 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1 tsp paprika plus 1 tsp cayenne powder)
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi
2 tsp salt

Here's what to do:
1) Grind almonds to fine powder in mixie, food processor, or blender. Grind powdered almonds and all ingredients listed for marinade to smooth paste in a mixie, foods or blender. Coat each piece of chicken in marinade. Place chicken and marinade in airtight, sealable container and allow to marinate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight in the refrigerator.

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2) When ready to cook, heat oil over medium heat in a large heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai for 5 minutes. While oil is heating grind spices with water as listed for masala in mixie, food processor, or blender and set aside. Add thinly sliced onions to hot oil and fry for 5 to 7 minutes or until just beginning to brown. 

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3) Add diced or pureed tomatoes and ground spices for masala to the fried onions, stir well, and fry for 5 minutes or until oil separates from the mixture.


4) Add marinated chicken pieces to fried onion mixture in pan. Reserve marinade. Cook chicken pieces for 2 minutes on each side. Add reserved marinade and 2C water or stock/shorba. Stir well.

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5) Bring the dish to a simmer covered over medium heat. Stir well every 5 minutes turning the chicken pieces to be sure they cook evenly. The dish is ready when the chicken is cooked through, about half the liquid has evaporated, and the oil separates from the gravy. This usually takes 20 to 25 minutes.  Salt to taste, garnish with dried mint if desired and serve!

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Helpful hints:
For persons suffering peanut or nut allergies a good substitute for ground almonds is canned coconut cream. (Persons suffering peanut and tree nut sensitivity can usually safely eat coconut.)

Lithograph dated 1844 from the online gallery of the British Library depicting the Maharaja Ranjit Singh's jewels including the famed Kohinoor diamond (top center). Maharaja Ranjit Singh extorted the Kohinoor diamond from the Emir of Afghanistan in 1813. The lithograph also portrays one of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's favorite horses shown with the head officer of his stables.

Jan 25, 2017

Mughlai Garam Masala

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In Hindi, masala refers to a mixture of spices and garam means hot or warming in the Ayurvedic sense. Mughlai garam masala is a traditional mixture of cardamom, cassia bark, cloves, black pepper, and nutmeg added. It adds a subtle aromatic flavor to dishes and is considered a hallmark of classical north Indian cooking.


Garam masala is used as a finishing touch in many Subcontinental cuisines just as ground black pepper is used in Western cooking. Recipes for garam masala vary from region to region and even household to household! This classic recipe for garam masala in royal Mughal style is adapted from the famed chef Julie Sahni's brilliant cookbook, Classic Indian Cooking. Differing in the lavish use of expensive spices this particular blend is not often commercially available. If you were to purchase the ingredients for this garam masala at a western supermarket or specialty spice store the cost would be exorbitant. However, if you buy the whole spices at your local Indian grocer and grind them yourself, this blend will cost mere pennies!

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The flavor of this garam masala is sweeter and more delicate compared to most ready made blends too. I like to use this recipe when cooking the rich cream, milk, or meat-based dishes of north Indian cuisines. According to Chef Sahni, the spices in this blend are so naturally fragrant and easily digested that dry roasting them isn't necessary. I chose green cardamoms for this batch but using black or brown cardamoms results in a deeper, smoky flavor. I also used cassia bark rather than cinnamon sticks because it's traditional and I prefer it's peppery bite over the sweeter cinnamon. Anyway you choose to customize this blend it's sure to add a little Mughal splendor to everything you make!

Ingredients:
1/3 cup (about 200) green cardamom/elaichi pods or 1/2 C (about 60) black cardamoms/badi elaichi
2 three inch pieces of cassia bark/dalchini or cinnamon sticks
1 TBS whole cloves/laung
1 TBS black peppercorns/kali mirch
1&1/2 tsp grated nutmeg/jaiphal (optional)

Here's what to do:
1) Crush cassia bark or cinnamon sticks with a kitchen mallet, rolling pin, or belan to break it into small pieces. (If you have little bits and bobs of cassia bark or cinnamon stick about this is a good place to use them.)

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2) Combine all the spices except nutmeg and grind to a fine powder in a coffee grinder, a spice mill, or a mixie.
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3) Mix in the grated nutmeg, if desired. Store in an airtight container away from heat and light. Use within three months. Makes about 3/4C

Helpful Hints:
Chef Sahni advises removing the seeds from the cardamom pods and discarding the skins. I disagree, the skin of green cardamoms and black cardamoms have flavor. I can't bear to throw the skins away! Anyway, I use the whole pod when I grind my masalas but peel away if you must. (But don't throw away those skins, put them in your masala chai mix!)

If you are interested in trying other regional variations of this classic spice blend try Punjabi Garam Masala, Nepali Garam Masala, or Kashmiri Garam Masala.

Portrait of Mughal Emperor Zahir ud-Din Mohammad (Babur), founder of the Mughal empire
date 1630AD, artist unknown
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