My ‘gold powder’ ran out when I last made Vegan Richa’s wicked WICKED Cauliflower Musallam so absolutely had to make myself a new batch since my awesome friends J and D were coming over to find out what the fuss was all about in this cauliflower recipe I keep raving non-stop about. Plus, J loves cauliflower so no getting out of this one just cos I have no more garam masala.
I’m not going to launch into some lengthy explanation of what garam masala is. Go Google it yourself, you lazy bum. But for the uninitiated who don’t want to get into the fine details, garam masala, as I make it, consists of a toasted and therefore very fragrant spice mix of warming spices. Specific ingredients and proportions vary according to household and region obviously, but adding some of it to your cooking essentially does the same — help add a spiced flavor, deepen the complexity of a dish by enhancing flavors, and also stimulate warmth in the body.
With a more updated spice collection this time after my pilgrimmage to Mustafa, I thought myself ready to advance to a more authentic looking recipe (this one’s Punjabi!) compared to an easier version which I didn’t want to invest as much effort in previously (PS. The latter tasted awesome too btw). Besides the usual coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, black pepper and nutmeg, this time the recipe called also for black cardamom (which I’ve never used before), dried ginger and fennel seed.
Two things I learnt:
- Roasting spices one at a time surprisingly takes much less time than it sounds.
- Roasting spices transforms their inherent flavors.
I don’t think I will be trying non-roasted recipes of garam masala for a long time. Roast spices smell absolutely divine as are such a treat for the nose to make. As I stood peering into the pan stirring each spice, I really enjoyed the wafting sweet scent of each different spice, especially upon roasting as flavors become deep and intense. The smell of cloves, I found, especially penetrating, while coriander seed very very delicious. Surprisingly, black pepper smelt like an entirely different thing losing it’s sharp, pungent edge, almost appearing sweet to the senses. I was most impressed though by the alluring smell of roast green cardamom. Sweet, sweet, exotica.
Embarrassingly, I’ve found it hitherto difficult to warm up to the flavor of cardamom especially since it really makes its presence known even in tiny amounts. Roasting seems to be the key, this experience of toasting intuitively tells me, to mellowing down the strong and sometimes harsh edge a spice might have, at the same time developing its flavor.
Some recipes featuring cardamom that caught my eye which I’d like to try experiment using roast cardamom:
Cardamom & Rose
Cardamom Rose Almond Milk (uses dried rose petals but probably can substitute rosewater)
Cardamom & Nut
Orange and Pistachio Vegan Chocolate Truffles (more interested in the cardamom pistachio coating which can be switched up with different nuts/seeds and used as a coating for mochi :D–)