Garam masala, which means hot spice, is the Indian equivalent of the French herbes de Provence or the Chinese five spice powder. The recipe changes from region to region in northern India, with each household adding its own touch. As a rule, garam masala is added at the last step of cooking, almost like a fresh herb. If cooked too long, it tends to become bitter. Garam masala is available on some grocery store spice racks as well as in Indian markets, but for the best flavor, toast and grind your own.
Heat the cinnamon, bay leaves, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, peppercorns, cloves, and chile in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the cumin seeds darken to a deep, toasty brown color, 2 to 3 minutes—the spices may crackle and smoke a bit. Immediately transfer to a plate or bowl to cool. Add the nutmeg and mace, and grind the spices in a spice grinder to a fine powder, working in batches if necessary.
Make Ahead Tips
Garam masala can be stored in an airtight container for up to 4 months.
Photo: Scott Phillips