Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Garam Masala: The Bengali Way

At the time when The Techie and I decided to say ‘I do’, we had barely anything in common. Right from our temperaments (I'm glad about that one.) to hobbies (or lack thereof in someone who walks around with an I-know-only-coding tagline ;)) to four legged creatures that we love (or make us freeze, depending on who we are talking about!) to everything and anything in between, we differed. If it wasn’t for our love of books, we would have formed a perfect Venn diagram with two mutually exclusive circles.
We don't read the same books though – which is quite evident from the contents of the two shelves that we have at home. 'His' is mostly and even predictably so, are all technical with the exception of a few biographies. Mine on the other hand is a confused blend of old classics and other fiction (rarely contemporary), some cookbooks, some odds and ends and even a few on stitching, drawing and painting. This clash of preferences always seems to amuse those who are visiting us at our home for the first time.
Despite his inherent disinterest in the subjects of my collection of books, the Techie cannot resist making wisecracks when it comes to cookbooks. I can detect the sly look that says 'But you are not going to read it, let alone cook from it!' whenever I order a new one. (I must confess that it is true. Except for a couple of them, I haven't completely gone through any of the cookbooks that I own. And, I rarely cook from them!). To break off from this rather unproductive habit of meticulously invading our precious storage space with one cookbook after another, I have decided to challenge myself to read through my books one at a time and to cook at least one recipe from each of them. Though I had no intention of doing so, the first post in the series got so long winded that it now is a sort of review. I'm thinking of doing that for my other books too. Hopefully, it would be fun and more importantly, I would actually sit down and read some of the more serious ones from the likes of Reinhart.
This post is only a prelude to the actual recipe, which is a Bengali Dry Mutton Roast (Mangshor Kasha). The Recipe uses this Garam Masala as well as a Cumin-Coriander Powder. I was slightly apprehensive of making the powders as I wasn't sure if they will get used after that. I was more confident about the Garam Masala though the Cumin-Coriander powder is also surprisingly getting used in some dishes.

Garam Masala: Bengali Style

The Bengali version of Garam Masala is pretty straightforward. It demands only three spices and that too in equal proportions. Cardamom, Cinnamon and Cloves together in their powdered form make a very strong and heady mix. The recipe is basically from Rinku Bhattacharya’s ‘The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles’, which is the same book as I made the Mutton Roast from. However, as I get my spices very conveniently in small packets of 20 gms each, I thought it better to just go by the weight of these spices, rather than follow measurements given in the book.   I have given the quantities in tablespoons in the ‘Notes’ if you’d rather go by volumetric measurements.


  1. Cardamom Pods - 20gm.
  2. Cloves - 20 gm.
  3. Cinnamon Sticks - 20 gm.

Dry roast the spices together in a pan.

Once done, remove them onto a plate and allow to cool. Grind to a fine powder and store in an airtight container. 

  1. Rinku’s recipe specifies Cardamom ‘seeds’ and is probably the reason why they are used in a lesser proportion than the other spices in the mix. However, I rarely bother with removing the shells of Cardamom pods and so decided to go with equal weights of all three spices.
  2. You can make the same quantity of Garam Masala as above by taking approximately 3 and a 1/2 tbsp. each of cardamom (whole pods) and cinnamon (break into small pieces before measuring) and 3 tbsp. of cloves.  
  3. If your grinder can handle even smaller quantities, it is better to halve the recipe as powdered spices lose their strength quite fast.
  4. Note that this is a very strong version of Garam masala. If you are using this in other recipes, start with a much smaller amount than you otherwise would add. You might also have to add other spice powders to account for regional differences. 

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