Apparently it’s called Columbusing, when you “discover” something that’s existed forever. Just that it’s existed outside your own culture, nationality and neighborhood. Bonus points if you tell all your friends about it. I’m pretty much all or nothing, so I’ve told everybody about garam masala, the Indian “signature” of a great cook. In case you wanted to know, the word garam means hot and masala means spices, so the mixture’s traditionally one that heats the body according to the Ayurvedic system of medicine.
I was following a Hemsley And Hemsley chicken curry recipe that uses the unspoken flavor passed down through generations of (amazing) cooks and I couldn’t get enough of the aroma and the way it made everything taste. Apparently when you buy it off the shelf, the commercial mixtures often cut down on the more expensive cardamom and fill up with the cheaper coriander and cumin. So I thought why not make my own?
It’s a cathartic, sensual process grinding seeds down with a mortar and pestle and the results are akin to a sort of potion that can be rubbed and sprinkled on pretty much anything. I made a Hyderabadi version (because it was the first recipe that came up on my google search), an amalgamation of Mughlai, Turkish and Arabic influences and my goodness, it’s truly scrumptious.
Hyderabadi Garam Masala with Saffron and Black Cumin
2 tspn saffron threads, 1/4 cup black pepper, 1/4 cup black cumin seeds, 1/4 cup cloves, 1/4 cup cinnamon, 1/4 cup green cardamom seeds (adjust the proportions to suit your preferences)