Spice up your life with the ultimate garam masala
Don't get me wrong, I love summer but as soon as the heat fades and the nights start to draw in I'm positively gleeful. There I am, dragging the slow cooker out of the back of the cupboard and donning all my autumn knitwear; dinner thoughts turn from the fresh crispy summer greens and onto the richer, spicier deep sensuous depths of curries and slow cooked stews.
I have one spice blend that I swear by and it’s inspired by a recipe I read long ago in a Madhur Jaffrey book (one of my top 5 food heroes of all time) and is the staple of my spice drawer. It's my version of a garam massala blend and all you need is some whole cloves, nutmeg, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, cardamom seeds and a pinch of salt. The other things you need are either a small coffee grinder or a heavy pestle and mortar (along with some elbow grease).
The ultimate garam massala
Place into your grinder:
1 cinnamon stick, broken up a bit
10-12 cardamom pods
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp whole black peppercorns
1 whole nutmeg (you fish half of it out later)
1 good pinch sea salt
Now blitz it all up until things are breaking down - your nutmeg will reduce in size and when it's ground down by around half fish it out, blow off the spice residue and keep it for your next batch.
Now the world is your spicy oyster…
- Sauté the spice mix in a little butter and stir through cooked lentils for the fastest dal ever, so satisfying.
- Mix with lemon juice and yogurt and smear all over a chicken before roasting for a fresh take on the Sunday roast.
- Use it to season lovely little new potatoes before tossing them in oil and roasting in the oven.
- Great to season a fillet of your favourite fish, I’m thinking salmon or haddock. Delicious.
This blend can flex too, I've been known to throw in a cheeky dried chilli or a teaspoon of mustard seeds. There really are no boundaries when it comes to spicing up your life…in the kitchen at least.
How us chefs keep it spicy
1.If you can, NEVER buy ground when you can buy whole spices. They last sooooooooooo much longer and keep so much more flavour.
2.The other no no is keeping your spices where sunlight can get to them. This just destroys their flavour compounds in no time, and renders them sad and lifeless.
3.If you are lucky enough to have a large freezer, keep all spices there. If you, like me, are blessed with a mere postage stamp sized kitchen then keep them somewhere dark. I use a drawer. It makes access nice and easy as I cook up a storm.