10 years ago almost no one I knew had even heard of Garam Masala… fast forward to present… they sell it at Wal-Mart. Like blackening seasoning or BBQ sauce, there is no real consensus on exactly what is in Garam Masala. This blend of spices from India is an important part of many curries but can be used in sweet dishes as well. I’ll bet if you looked at 100 recipes you wouldn’t find 2 that were exactly the same. You will see that they all have a few things in common: cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, nutmeg, mace and a whole slew of seeds (cardamom, mustard, coriander, caraway, fennel, etc…).
You used to have two choices if you wanted to try this delicious blend: the mystery reddish powder in the Wal-Mart jar, which no doubt is heavy on the cinnamon and light on all the expensive spices, or buy individual jars of all the different seeds and spices, mix them, toast them and grind them. The second option produced a much better result but was expensive and inconvenient. In the last few years a few different bulk spice stores have opened in Colorado Springs and they all offer a new option: premixed “whole” Garam Masala. By the way, if Colorado Springs has a spice store there is one near you. The only things that get here first are new chain restaurant concepts. You do still have to toast it and grind it yourself, but it only takes 10 minutes and your house will smell delicious for days. And… it will save you from having to buy a lifetime supply of mace and trust me one jar of mace is a lifetime supply.
Enough already… “what’s it taste like?”
Chicken…oh wait that was last post. It tastes unique, different, like something you’ve never had but that reminds you of a lot of different things. Many people tell me it reminds them of Thanksgiving, I think that is because Americans only cook from scratch and use spices twice a year: Thanksgiving and Christmas. The cinnamon and nutmeg taste like pumpkin pie and eggnog. But if it will convince you to try it, I’ll play along.
Tonight’s comfort food remake: Butternut squash soup with Garam Masala and yogurt. I’ll post a recipe with tested proportions but squash soups are all incredibly easy. Sautee an onion in some fat, I’m using light olive oil. Peel and cube a squash. Add the squash to the pot add enough stock to cover (more stock thinner soup, less stock thicker soup), I used chicken. Cook until the squash is soft, puree in blender, add some cream or half and half if you like, today I didn’t but if it was having company for dinner I probably would. Season with your freshly ground Garam Masala, start with a little, stir, taste then add a little more. Don’t forget to salt and pepper it. I garnished it with toasted pumpkin seeds from Whole Foods and a dollop of Greek yogurt sweetened with a little honey.
For you advanced beginners out there, here’s a picture of a great presentation idea you could use. All told almost no fat, lots of squashy goodness and it will warm up your taste buds for the Holidays to come.
One last thing, be very careful blending hot soup in your blender. Do it in very small batches, hold the lid on with a towel using lots of force and pulse it a couple time first. If you just flip it on the air in the blender expands superfast resulting in burns and butternut soup on your ceiling. The easiest and safest way is to use one of those wand blenders right in the pot. Enjoy