Showing posts with label star anise. Show all posts
Showing posts with label star anise. Show all posts

Feb 20, 2017

Parsi Garam Masala

Parsi Garam Masala, parsi, garam, masala, recipe, authentic, star anise, parsee, persia, iran, india, spice mix, spices, chakra phool,

Parsis are an ethnic and religious group that emigrated from ancient Persia to India in the 10th century. Parsi cuisine has evolved into a delicious fusion of Persian and Indian influences. This recipe for Parsi style garam masala perfectly reflects this unique blend of cultures. The earthy warmth of green cardamom, cumin, and black pepper are perfectly balanced by the sweet heat of cinnamon, cloves, and star anise in this flavorsome mix.

"Parsis of Bombay" engraving, ca. 1878

Parsis practice a unique religion called Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism encourages wealth creation as well as charity.
 For centuries, prominent Parsis have shared their success through philanthropy. The names of top Parsi traders and industrialists are a common sight on hospitals, schools, and libraries in India.

Parsis celebrating Navroze Mubarak

No Parsi function is complete without good food that has been laboriously and lovingly prepared. The Zoroastrian community gathers for six annual feasts called gahambars and a new year's celebration called Navroze. Weddings too require a lavish multi-course feast called a lagan no bhonu. Parsi dishes reveal traces of their Persian past in a fondness for nuts, dry fruits, and sweetness. The Indian influence on Parsi cuisine is the addition of garlic, ginger, and subcontinental spices.

I've adapted this recipe from Neela Batra's cookbook, 1,000 Indian Recipes. Unfortunately Ms Batra's book has rather incongruent instructions for those 1,000 recipes. The recipes also often result in unsuitably large quantities for the home cook. So I reduced the amounts by half to yield a half cup. The quantities in the original recipe were for ground spices so I've left them that way. I used whole spices and ground them in the same amounts with excellent results. It's the ratio that's most important in spice mixes. Ms Batra's recipe calls for dry roasting the ground spices too. DO NOT DRY ROAST GROUND SPICES OR YOU'LL END UP WITH A SCORCHED MESS.  I don't dry roast my spices for reasons listed here. I'll include instructions for roasting whole spices if you are one of those sorts who simply must dry roast though.

Parsi Garam Masala, parsi, garam, masala, recipe, authentic, star anise, parsee, persia, iran, india, spice mix, spices, chakra phool,

2&1/2 TBS ground green cardamom/elaichi
2 TBS ground cinnamon or cassia/dalchini (or four 2 inch pieces of cassia bark/cinnamon sticks)
2 TBS ground black peppercorns/kali mirch
2 TBS ground cumin/jeera
1&1/2 TBS star anise/chakra phool
1 TBS ground cloves/laung

Here's what to do:

For raw/unroasted garam masala- 
Coarsely grind all spices until roughly the texture of coffee grounds. Traditionally a mortar and pestle or "sil batta" was used to get this texture. Garam masala is not supposed to be like that finely ground powdery stuff you see sold at stores. To get the traditional texture we're looking for use the pulse button on your mixie, food processor, or coffee grinder until you get the desired results. If you are using a coffee grinder or small mixie jar you might want to grind each spice separately in batches to get a consistent texture. Breaking the cassia bark (or cinnamon sticks) into smaller pieces before grinding helps also. Store in an airtight container out of sunlight or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Parsi Garam Masala, parsi, garam, masala, recipe, authentic, star anise, parsee, persia, iran, india, spice mix, spices, chakra phool,

Two methods to dry roast garam masala-

1) Heat a heavy bottomed frying pan or tawa for 7-10 minutes.
2) Dry roast spices one at a time in batches, or toss all spices in and stir frequently until spices give off a fragrant aroma.
3) Allow to cool completely. Grind coarsely using pulse button in mixie, food processor, or coffee grinder.  Store in an airtight container out of sunlight or in freezer for up to 3 months.
(The problem with this traditional method is that the temperature isn't really even over a tawa on a gas flame &and some spices may scorch while others remain unroasted. Cumin usually roasts faster than the other spices and when burned has an unpleasant bitter flavor.  Roasting spices separately reduces the risk of scorching but is tedious. Why do South Asians still do use traditional tawa method? Because most South Asians do not have any sort of oven in their homes.)

Fast & easy oven method-
1) Preheat oven to 220F/100C.
2) Spread all spices over 13 inch by 9 inch baking pan or cookie sheet. Bake spices for 10 minutes.
3) Allow to cool completely and grind coarsely using pulse button in mixie, food processor, or coffee grinder.  Store in an airtight container out of sunlight  or in freezer for up to 3 months.

Aug 1, 2016

Ingredient of the Week: Star Anise, Chakra Phool, Badian, Anasphal

This beautiful star-shaped dark brown pod is the heady aromatic spice known as star anise. A native of China and Vietnam this spice's sweet and complex licorice-like flavor can be found in many cuisines worldwide. It's highly fragrant oil is valued for it's scent in perfumery, cosmetics, and toiletries.

An evergreen tree, star anise is closely related to the magnolia family. It's important to distinguish the edible Chinese star anise (Illicium verum) from the Japanese star anise (Illicium anisatum) as the latter is poisonous.

The star anise tree grows to about eight meters tall preferring sheltered shade or low light. It's leaves will burn or scorch in direct sunlight making it an excellent houseplant. The fruits are gathered when green before fully ripening in March or May and allowed to fully dry to a rusty brown for use. 

Star anise's unique flavor comes from anethole which is the same compound that flavors the distantly related spices anise and fennel. To me, star anise is much stronger in flavor than anise or fennel with not only licorice-like pungency but also a little bit of a warm, sweet root beer or sassafras note. Cineole is a cinnamon-like flavored compound also found in star anise giving it a spicier and more nuanced taste than fennel or anise. Interestingly, star anise is also a good source of shikimic acid, a precursor in the pharmaceutical synthesis of the dubious yet oft prescribed anti-influenza drug oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu).

In South Asia star anise is known by the names badian, chakra phool, or anasphal. Badian is from the Persian and can refer to both star anise and fennel in Kashmiri. Chakra means wheel and phool means flower or bloom in Hindi so chakra phool translates to wheel flower. In China star anise is very popular and is an ingredient in the famed Chinese five spice blend and is used in the technique of red braising. In Vietnam star anise embues the favorite beef noodle dish pho with it's rich flavor.

Star anise plays a rather limited role in Desi cuisines. My favorite way star anise is used across India is in the flavoring of many versions of masala chai (spicy milk tea). Every chaiwalla has their own special blend. In Northern India and Pakistan the warm aromatic flavors of a few petals of star anise often perfume the layered rice of the many regional renditions of the royal Mughal dish called biryani.

The garam masala mixes of South India often include star anise as it pairs brilliantly with chili, cinnamon, coriander seeds, cardamom, cloves, cassia, fennel, garlic, and ginger. Perhaps as an influence of Chinese traders star anise is favored to flavor to many meat dishes in South India too.

In my own Scandinavian background I can recall star anise's familiar and distinctive flavor in the Christmas cookie pfeffernüsse, stewed fruits, and pickled beets.

Star Anise is certainly one of the most versatile of spices working well in sweet as well as savory dishes and spice mixes. Be sure to use it sparingly though as a few petals can lend dimension to a dish but too much can be overwhelming. It's quite inexpensive and if kept in an airtight container will last for at least a year.

Helpful Hints:
1 whole star anise = 1/2 teaspoon ground star anise
A good substitution for 1 whole star anise would be: 1/2 teaspoon anise plus a pinch of allspice
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