Posts Tagged 'spice'

Roasted Garam Masala

Garam Masala

Garam Masala is literally translated as “hot spice mix”, but the “hot” refers to the intensity of the spices and the heat they generate in the body – not the pungency we associate with chillis. The spice mix can be bought pre-prepared and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, but you should prepare your own if you’re doing a special dish. I’ve only recently started grinding my own garam masala and I’ve found that the difference in flavour is staggering. It is said that commercial garam masala preparations are bulked up with the cheaper and milder spices such as cumin or coriander. The homemade version will be much more intense and fragrant.

You don’t have to toast your spices first but I find it gives a nice roasty flavour and a deeper colour which goes particularly well with lamb curries. I wouldn’t consider making a rogan josh without this. I’ve experimented with various combinations of spices and this is the one I like best. Mamta Gupta of the fantastic Mamta’s Kitchen advises adding black cumin and fennel seeds for a Kashmiri-style garam masala.


  • 5 green cardamoms
  • 3 brown cardamoms
  • 3 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 4 dry bay leaves
  • 3-inch piece of cinnamon stick


Heat a heavy frying pan and gently toast the spices for a minute or two until they start to smell really fragrant. Transfer the toasted spices to a coffe/spice grinder and allow to cool. Grind to a fine powder and store in an airtight jar.


Sambhar Powder

Indian Spices

This is what you need to make the spice mix for sambhar, a South Indian lentil soup. It is supposed to be quite fiery, but reduce the number of chillies if you wish. The ground lentils in the powder will help to thicken the soup slightly.


  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 12 dried red chillies, de-seeded
  • 12 dried curry leaves
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp asafeotida
  • 3 tsp sunflower oil
  • 3 tsp split black lentils (urad dal)
  • 3 tsp split yellow lentils (toor dal)


  1. Heat a dry frying pan and dry-roast the black mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, chillies, peppercorns, coriander seeds and lentils over a gentle heat until lightly toasted. Keep the seeds and lentils moving constantly so that they do nor burn!
  2. Transfer the seeds to a spice grind or mortar and pestle and grind to a fine powder. Add the turmeric, asafeotida and sunflower oil and mix well to combine. This keeps well in a sealed jar for four weeks.

“Old El Paso” Fajita Spice Recipe

There’s a particular type of foodie out there who has a bizarre fascination with replicating brand name products at home. I can kind of understand this fascination – I was overjoyed when I chucked some dried oregano into garlic butter and stumbled on what I consider to be a dead ringer for “Pizza Hut” garlic bread.

If you’re sad like me and interested in researching this topic further, check out Top Secret Recipes. It’s a database of recipes for (mostly American) brand name foods. If you’re really insane, you might be interested in following this guy’s mind-bogglingly detailed instructions for reproducing a Big Mac!

I’m currently going through a phase of trying to eliminate as many processed foods from my diet as possible, plus we all know that homemade tastes better anyway. Here then, is my take on Old El Paso’s Fajita Spice mix. I’m not ashamed to say that this product and I go back a long way. Unlike some of the fajita spice preparations available, this one has a deep smoky flavour which I really like. The smokiness in this recipe is provided by the chipotle chili powder. Use Mexican oregano if you have it, but the regular one will do fine.


  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp oregano (preferably the Mexican variety)
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp dried onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chipotle chilli powder

Mix together the ingredients and store in an airtight jar. This recipe makes about 5 tablespoons of spice mix. I like to use 2 tablespoons when I’m frying chicken and vegetables for 2 people as I like it quite spicy, but you can use more or less. Just hard fry some boneless chicken fillet until it just starts to blacken in patches, then add your vegetables: onions, peppers etc. Now add 2 tablespoons of spice mix and stir-fry for a few minutes until the vegetables and chicken are cooked through. Add a splash of water if you think the spices are starting to burn. I like to serve this in the (cough!) traditional manner with flour tortillas, lettuce, fresh tomato salsa and sour cream.

And you know the best thing? There’s not an ounce of maltodextrin, hydrolyzed soy protein, silicon dioxide, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, sulfiting agents or ethoxyquin in sight. Ay caramba!

Cajun Seasoning

This is a tasty and fiery seasoning which I use on chicken breasts and when I’m making jambalaya. Go easy on the cayenne if you’re not a chilli fan, this is quite pungent.

Cajun Seasoning

2 teaspoon each salt, dried oregano, dried thyme

1 teaspoon each freshly ground black pepper, white pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika and cayenne