An Old Delhi Food Walk http://www.masterjikeehaveli.com/ is incomplete without an introduction to the ubiquitous curry powder-"Garam Masala".Most Indian recipes are incomplete without this magical blend.
Garam means "hot" or heating and masala means "spice blend". "Hot" refers to the ability of the spice blend to raise the metabolic rate (as per ayurveda) rather than to some hotness of flavor; garam masala contains no chilies. It contains black pepper and cinnamon (native to the subcontinent); as well as cardamom, cloves and coriander seeds.
Much like all of Indian cuisine each family has its own traditions and tastes around Garam masala. There would be as many recipes of Garam masala as the number of families in India. Recipes also vary as per regions. Being from Delhi, I see heavy usage of the more expensive spices like cardamom and mace, indicating a Mughal influence. Garam masala also brings memories of a mortar and pestle past, when much of Indian spice wasn't milled.
While most Indian grocery stores carry this masala, I think nothing can beat the flavor of the freshly grinded masala.
Here is a recipe from my grandmother's kitchen and now from my kitchen, tweak it as per your taste buds.
1/2 cup cumin seeds/ jeera
2 tbsp coriander seeds / dhania
1½ ” (1.5 inches)cinnamonstick /patta / dalchini
1 tsp green cardamomseeds /elaichi
1 tsp black cardamomseeds /moti elaichi
2 tsp cloves /laung
1/8 nutmeg kernel /jaiphal
2 blades of mace / javitri
1 tbsp black pepper corns
2 whole star anise/ chakra phool
4 bay leaf /tej patta
Grind the spices to a powder. You can use a coffee grinder. This recipe will yield 1/3 cup of garam masala.
Let the powder cool in jar and try to use it within 2-3 weeks. Remember, powdered form of spices looses flavor faster than the pods.
Heat the skillet over medium-high heat. Place the peppercorns in the skillet and dry roast, stirring frequently for about 3-4 minutes. You should feel the aroma. Turn out in a bowl. Repeat with the remaining ingredients one at a time.