One of the few spice blends that I buy instead of making myself is garam masala, a spice blend common in India and South Asia. There are about as many recipes for garam masala as there are people who make it, but most recipes include cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, coriander, and black pepper at a minimum; fenugreek, cloves, cumin, and nutmeg are also frequent players. I keep all of these ingredients around, so why not make my own? It’s no harder than the curry spices I blend, and I love making spice mixes: measuring, weighing each thing in my hand, crushing out the scents and dust of the spices with my mortar and pestle.
The real reason, I think, is that I go through garam masala so quickly that I’d be making a fresh batch every week, and there’s only so much time in my life. I use it not only in savory dishes such as curries and chili, but also in sweet ones; I often replace the half the cinnamon in dessert recipes with garam masala. It took me a while to start doing that, and you can’t do it with all commercial blends (the one sold in bulk by Whole Foods, for example, is far too heavy on the cumin for this use; the one from Penzey’s, on the other hand, is about perfect). The garam masala imparts a warmer, softer flavor than plain cinnamon.
Here is one of my favorite uses for garam masala:
Special Pancakes with Fruit and Whipped Cream
Pancake recipe (makes 10-12 medium pancakes):
- 1 cup milk
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp garam masala
Blend dry ingredients. Blend wet ingredients. Blend blended ingredients – it will be a bit lumpy, and that’s fine. Cook in butter as you would any pancakes.
Fruit: Raspberries, sliced strawberries, blueberries.
Whipped cream: whipping cream & confectioner’s sugar. Whip cream with a whisk in a metal bowl, or in a mixer. Add confectioner’s sugar while whipping, to taste.
Other: dark brown sugar
Bringing it home
Make the pancakes, then top with fruit and whipped cream, and sprinkle with brown sugar.