I have been cooking without too many spices for a long time. I tend to rely more on herbs and seasoning, salt, pepper, I could venture out and use some paprika, love saffron, but have never been big on turmeric or curry for example. The other day I was preparing a dish of south asian origin, a dish that featured pilaf and lamb (I will be posting this soon) and I came across this spice blend, garam masala, which you can get at the store or you can mix it yourself at home, which I really recommend to get the whole experience of toasting seeds, and smelling the amazing aromas. The flavor was wonderful as well. I’m more open to spices these days but still try to be careful not to use them in a way that they could cloud or overwhelm my dish or the person it.
Mortar or Spice blender (I use a tiny food processor that works miracles)
3 Tb. coriander seeds
3 Tb. cumin seeds
4 tsp. peppercorns
2 pieces dried ginger
1 Tb. green cardamom pods
3 whole star anise
2 tsp. cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
1 whole (small) nutmeg
01: place all the spices on a skillet and roast until fragrant 2 mins
02: pulverize spices in a spice blender
Makes plenty, store in a cool dark place or in the fridge, enjoy!!!!
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They say a picture is worth a thousand smells! Looks AMAZING!
Using more spices is new to me too. In the past, I have used them sparingly, relying more on fresh herbs, salt and pepper. It’s a whole new world, isn’t it?
Btw, your photos are awesome! I don’t have natural light in my kitchen so I am super envious of those who do!
Since I’ve taken on cooking more seriously, yes, a whole new world opens up. Sometimes our experiences with certain cuisines based on our experiences in restaurants aren’t as compelling as the stuff we can pull off in our own little kitchens, I’m more open to trying new things at home these days.
Thanks for the compliments on the photography!!, I too am envious of people with good natural light in their kitchen, I don’t have that, it’s all night time photography mostly (my kitchen is a cave even during day time), because that’s when I have time to cook so I rely on my flash 🙂
I would never have know that your kitchen is a cave! Your photos look great! Is that really flash photography?!
It’s so true that when you start playing around in the kitchen, you can get very good results. It also has the downside of making you much pickier when you go out to eat.
Yeah, we do get pickier don’t we? 🙂 but that’s good, if you are gonna pay for dinner at a restaurant it better be great, it surely is far more expensive than making dinner at home. No point in eating out otherwise!
And to answer your question, yes, this is all flash photography, I actually have to dim my kitchen lights so I don’t get double shadows, or bad harsh shadowing which turn my kitchen into an actual cave! I only see the blue propane burners going hahah. Flash photography is a great way of getting good results, and you don’t require using a tripod as often.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d take a sunny skylight or window over flash photography any day, but with some practice, a flash can produce almost natural sun light results.
Agreed! When I eat out, I want to eat something I would not prepare at home or could not prepare as well!
I seriously cannot believe that is flash photography. It looks amazing! And might I add that your composition is fantastic? Are you a food stylist in real life?
Thank you, so glad you like it! I’m not a food stylist 🙂 I really like photography though, and I’ve been taking photos for years as a hobby, but nothing food related. I never did flash photography until recently because I needed a way to get photos for the blog and the lighting in my apartment isn’t good at all. If you want to see some of my other photography, you don’t have to of course, but you could check:
let me know what you think!! And if you want to talk gear or techniques, let me know. I don’t mind sharing that.
Thank you so much for sharing! I really like your photos and you have a terrific sense of composition. Very, very nice. I love when food looks like someone is bout to eat it, or when it’s kind of half eaten. When food looks perfect, it kind of makes me not as hungry.
You also have some amazing landscape shots, and a great feel for your subjects when they are people.
All that being said, yes! I would definitely be interested in tech talk and tips! Thank you for the offer and thank you again for sharing the pics. Really impressive. Wow.
Im so glad you liked the pics! Thank you!!
In terms of gear, I do own a digital slr, I have a pretty old canon 20d (don’t judge me! Im sure iphones have better resolution these days) but I still love my camera. I have a few lenses I shoot with, 1.8 50mm is what you’ve been seeing lately those posts. I also have a 1.8 80mm that is super crisp and fast but I rarely use it. One I really like is my sigma 105mm macro lens, it is trickier to use, very shallow DOF so you have to be on a tripod otherwise good luck. I have a nice gitzo tripod that I use when doing long exposures or using the macro. I have a BH-55 Really Right Stuff ball head on my tripod and the proper lens brackets. I have a canon speedlite 430ex II and my kitchen has white cabinets, white ceiling and white countertops, so it is pretty easy to bounce off flash light from any direction and get white diffuse light back. A good starter kit would be, a canon rebel body, the somewhat inexpensive cannon 1.8 50mm and the speedlite flash unit, those should get anyone a pretty good edge when taking any food photography.
The real trick behind any good photography, take tons of pictures and good light. If you dont have good light, get a flash or long exposures, but thats a bit more technical, but again.. tons of takes is probably what any serious photographer out there doest systematically.
Let me know if you have questions, that was a lot of information poorly written, so I apologize! 🙂
There are loads of versions of garam masala; I love the addition of green cardamom in yours. I must confess myself to be something of a spice obsessive. Welcome to my world!
I wouldn’t have understood you before I blended these things in my food processor a few days ago… remarkable stuff! And yes, there are probably as many garam masala recipes out there as there are families in say… pakistan or india, it is one of those flavors that can be tailored very personally. When I was researching it, I figured I’d have to find common denominators amongst recipes, otherwise I would never come to the one recipe.
Interesting. I used to be more of a fresh herbs person too, but blogging has inspired me to do more with spices. Still I’m always careful not to overpower the basic ingredients!
pretty much. I was thinking this morning about learning about cooking and learning about cooking and keeping a blog. Just the fact that we interact is fascinating to me. I’ve learned tons from other people’s suggestions and ideas, I don’t think picking up a book and trying to learn on my own would have been as rewarding or challenging.
…or as much fun! 🙂
I’ve a spice blend board and this is the 2nd recipe for garam masala that I’ve pinned. I just don’t use it that often. In fact, as I write this, I realize that the garam masala I bought is about a year old — time to go. Maybe if I make a batch, it will motivate me to find more recipes and use it. Buying some sure didn’t work! 🙂
Thanks for sharing your recipe, Paul.
thanks John! I don’t use it often, but I’ve learned a couple of things, and my understanding of spices and how to use them got a bit better. I guess I could be a bit more adventurous with them now than before having tried this spice blend. When you make your own batch, and you toast each seed individually, and then there’s the aroma that comes out, and all of a sudden you are in this scent heaven. is kinda crazy. Highly recommend it. This is coming from somebody that not too long ago would have never deviated from using salt, pepper and a few herbs 🙂
I can’t wait to try this out! I am always getting my garam masala from my mother in law when I visit because she is too tricky to give me her recipe 🙂
I bet! it is a wonderful spice mix! If I were a mother in law, I’d be hesitant to give my garam masala secrets away! Brittany, thank you for visiting!!!
For some reason, garam masala has been popping up in lots of recipes lately. Did you see this post? http://petitworldcitizen.com/2014/02/28/my-masala-dabba/
Now I can make my own in my coffee grinder. Thanks, Paul. The ingredients remind me very much of a Persian spice blend called Advieh that I have used in Khoresht. Beautiful photos! I love saffron, too – and the occasional smoky, Spanish paprika.
Ah, the smells of garam masala, I still remember! Gotta find a good recipe to use this again. I made Kabuli Palaw as part of a national dish compilation idea I had about a year ago (which I never really worked on after this dish… mainly because I didn’t want my blog to become the object of political discussion, since so many countries are enduring war and political conflicts and this could spark discussions, and I was not gonna leave any country out… maybe I should revisit this idea) but anyways… 🙂 I just followed your friend! I like that spice organizer! Thank you for the link Shanna!!!!
Paul, I am certainly a thinker and well-informed, but I also try to keep the blog from becoming “political.” I also worry about offending – or leaving out – any of my friends and readers. I will certainly look up Kabuli Palaw on your blog. Particularly if the smell memory is so strong from the garam masala. Martine @ Petite World Citizen is really a wealth of knowledge about international cuisine. She is extremely well-travelled and holds a masters in public health. She will have some great garam masala ideas, for sure! 🙂 I love complex, gorgeous Indian spices… MMM.
I never posted the kabuli papaw Shanna, I had already changed my mind about it by then. I will certainly be checking Martine’s blog, I’m not very knowledgeable about international cuisine, but Ive been lucky to have done a fair amount of traveling 🙂
I searched your blog and no answer to the phrase “kabuli papaw.”. 😉 Do send your recipe and prose to my email, completely confidentially, if you feel appropriate.
i couldn’t find it Shanna, but the idea is simple. Basically, get some basmati rice, and steam it, make a pilaf, add julienned carrots and add raisins, drizzle some peanut oil, and season with the garam masala, pour hot sizzling oil over the seasoning to “roast” it and make fragrant. The lamb, brown it, then cook it with garlic and other aromatics, then combine everything together, add more garam masala to taste… this is what I remember from trying it, and it was delicious and bold. My recipe could have used some refinement and better technique, but the dish was very tasty
That sounds amazing! You really need to blog about this! I am sure you could perfect it. :-)The raisins, garam masala and garlic sound delicious, particularly with lamb (which I love – rich and sweet flavor!).