Garam masala is used extensively in North Indian and Pakistan cuisine is a spice blend that is as organic as it is singular. Garam masala ~ garam (hot) and masala (spices) is a blend of whole spices that are roasted and ground to a powder.
A spice blend that is fragrant and pungent and hence the term 'garam' here refers not to heat i.e. capsaicin content but rather to the intensity of the spices as they come together. I consider it organic because it is a recipe that has evolved with each family.
Though varied in the composition of spices and each family uses its own signature recipe its foundation remains intact. It is not unheard of that in some family recipes as many as 36 whole spices are used to blend their garam masala.
In mine, we tend to stay with the masala in its classic form - coriander seeds, cumin seeds, whole cardamom pods, whole dried kashmiri red chilies, cinnamon sticks, cloves & black peppercorns. I do add a bit of fennel seeds in mine though my mother does not and I know others who substitute it with nutmeg.
Tweak to your heart's content but know this, store-bought garam masala can never come close to homemade and since it can last fragrant for up to a year if refrigerated in an airtight container, now there's simply no excuse to grind up some of your own.
And don't forget - a little goes a long way!
Indian Pantry Essential ~ Homemade Garam Masala
Cook's Tip: It is best to roast the spices and allow to cool overnight on kitchen paper towels. If you roast the spices warm, condensation will occur significantly increasing the risk of mold upon long term storage.
3/4 cup coriander seeds
1/2 cup cumin seeds
8 qty 2-inch cinnamon sticks
8-10 qty dried Kashmiri red chilies
1/4 cup cloves
1/4 cup black peppercorns
1/4 cup cardamom pods
1/8 cup fennel seeds
Line a baking tray or jelly roll pan with a double-layered kitchen paper towel.
Combine all ingredients except for the coriander seeds
Heat a kadhai or pan for a few seconds on medium-high heat.
Add the coriander seeds and saute for about 2 minutes or so till a fragrant aroma exudes from the spice. Remove and spread on the paper towels to cool.
Add the spice mixture to the pan and saute for a few minutes till a fragrant aroma exudes from the spices. Immediately remove from the heat and spread the spices on the kitchen paper towels along with the coriander seeds.
Allow cooling overnight on the countertop.
The next day, using a coffee grinder or food processor capable of fine grinding, grind the spices in batches to a powder.
Cook's Note: I do not grind mine to fine dust. I like a bit of texture to my masala even though none of the spices should be whole or discernable.
Combine all the ground spices from the various batches into a dry air-tight container. Secure lid and shake to combine.
Remove a small quantity in a spice jar for daily use and refrigerate the remaining for extended long term use.