f there was a scratch-and-sniff internet, you and I could both be enjoying the exotic scent experience I'm surrounded by at the moment. If I close my eyes the toasty aromas of cinnamon, cardamon, coriander, cumin and fennel could easily convince me I was in a far-away place.
But here I am. The gray dampness of winter persists in the Pacific Northwest. Maybe you are in the American East, where it's snowing for the third time in rapid succession. While we may yearn for daffodils, warming spices continue to comfort this winter. In the Ayervedic tradition, these spices are said to nurture the vada and kapha dosha's in winter and encourage digestion for everyone. Some research indicates that the premier male aphrodisiac is cinnamon, an important ingredient in garam masala.
All I know is cinnamony garam masala is showing up on our Valentine's Day dinner menu. Make of it what you will, Gentle Reader.
There are as many recipes for garam masala in the Indian kitchen, I'm told, as there are marinara sauce recipes in the Italian kitchen. Everyone has their favorite, and it is better than anyone else's. This one is a combination from several books and online sources.
2 three-inch pieces of whole cinnamon stick, placed in a small baggy and crushed with a meat mallet
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns (I used mixed peppercorns; that's what I have)
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon green cardamom seeds
1/2 teaspoon black cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Place crushed cinnamon, coriander seeds, peppercorns, cumin seeds, green and black cardamom seeds, whole cloves, and fennel seeds on a dry baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes until very fragrant and you feel all the goodness has been coaxed out. Check frequently to avoid any burning. Remove spices from oven and cool.
Place all toasted seeds, salt and red pepper flakes into spice grinder and grind until very fine. Store in a glass jar and use right away. Spices loose their special freshness after about one month. I like to make only what I can use within a week, or better yet, what I will use for one meal at a time. The scent of the toasting spices is heavenly, and I like to enjoy that as often a possible!