How to Use My Kashmiri Garam Masala
I love this garam masala! If you know commercially-available Indian garam masala, you know only one variant. Each region of that great country has its own version – indeed, even families and individual cooks riff on their regional spice base to suit their own taste preferences. I find Kashmiri garam masala (“garam masala” means “spice base”) somehow lighter and more flavorful. It makes me smile when it hits my tongue.
I blend my own Kashmiri spice base to my own preferences, starting with whole spices. Some are dry pan roasted to boost their flavor potential before they are ground, blended, and packaged. I work in small batches for better quality control, making only enough for about a dozen packets at a time – and I do it all in one day to preserve flavor and nutrient vitality.
Coconut Curry Fish
Use any type of firm fish fillets (salmon, swordfish, red snapper, catfish, grouper, etc). You can even add other types of seafood to this curry: shrimp and mussels would be wonderful in addition to or in place of the fish. It’s a quick, 30-minute meal that tastes great!
- 1 pound boneless, skinless fish fillets
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ½ onion, grated on large holes of box grater
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 fully ripe tomato, diced or 1½ cups canned diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon of my Kashmiri Garam Masala
- ¼ tsp chili powder (cayenne)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup coconut milk
- ¼ cup water
- 1-2 fresh chili peppers, cut in half lengthwise (optional); or red pepper!
1. Wash the fish and pat very dry. Cut the fish into 2-inch pieces.
2. Heat a saucepan over medium heat and swirl in the oil. When the oil is heated, add the onion, ginger and garlic. Turn the heat to medium-low and let the aromatics cook slowly. Saute until very fragrant, about 5 minutes. Take care not to let it burn!
3. Add the tomato and saute for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Use your spatula and smash the tomatoes a bit to break them up.
4. Add the Kashmiri Garam Masala, chili powder, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and cook for 2 minutes. This forms the masala (spice base).
5. Turn the heat to medium-high. Pour in the coconut milk and the water. Add in the chili pepper if using. When the mixture comes to a good boil, add in the fish and cook for 4 minutes or so, until the fish is cooked through.
Kashmiri Masala Chicken
This dish is a bit more involved, and provides a taste treat that makes it well worth the effort!
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- ½” fresh ginger, grated
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 tbl coriander powder
- 2½ – 3 lbs chicken parts
- 6 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1″ fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
- 1 tbl Kashmiri Garam Masala
- 4 tbl oil (olive, coconut, or pure peanut)
- 3 medium sized onions, finely diced
- 4 medium sized tomatoes, finely diced or grated
- leaves stripped from 1 bunch cilantro, separated into two parts
- 1 cup water
1. Make a paste by mincing the garlic, grating the ginger, and mixing both with the turmeric and coriander powder. Mix until a paste forms.
2. Place chicken parts in a bowl, and toss to coat with the paste. Set aside for 20-30 minutes.
3. In a blender, combine and thoroughly blend the garlic, ginger and Kashmiri Garam Masala.
4. Heat the oil in a heavy, deep-sided pot (I use a Dutch oven) over medium heat. Add onions. Turn the heat to low and fry until golden brown, stirring constantly to prevent burning.
Add the garlic-ginger-garam masala paste and cook 2-3 minutes until nicely fragrant.
5. Add the chicken pieces and their marinade. Mix thoroughly to combine the seasonings and completely coat the chicken.
6. Add the tomatoes. (Grated or finely chopped is better than blended, for a desired grainier texture.)
7. Continue cooking until the oil starts to separate and the gravy is dry, 15-20 minutes.
Add ½ the bunch of cilantro leaves and 1 cup water. Cover and cook another 15 minutes until the chicken meat is cooked through and tender.
8. Garnish with the remainder of the cilantro leaves and serve with rice.
Turnip and Kidney Beans
I know – it sounds a bit strange, but you have to try it to believe it! Be-cause the people of North India eat a lot of turnips, they’ve found some of the best ways to serve up this staple winter vegetable. Mmm!
- 2 turnips, peeled and cubed
- 1 cup water
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can kidney beans, drained
- 3 tbl olive or coconut oil
- ½ tsb whole cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon whole fennel seeds
- 1 cup finely chopped red onion
- ½ tsp minced fresh ginger root
- ½ tsp minced garlic
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp paprika
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 2 tbl water
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes
- ½ tsp Kashmiri Garam Masala
1. Place turnips in a saucepan with the water and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the turnip is soft, about 5 minutes. Once tender, stir in the kidney beans, and cook 5 minutes more.
2. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the cumin and fennel, and cook until the spices toast and become fragrant, about 1 minute.
3. Stir in the onion, and cook until it turns golden brown, about 5 minutes.
4. Stir in the minced ginger and garlic, cook and stir for 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes and salt, and continue cooking until the mixture turns pasty.
5. Stir in the paprika, turmeric, ground ginger, and 2 tablespoons water; cook 2 minutes more.
3. Add the tomato mixture to the turnips, and simmer 10 minutes. Season with my Kashmiri Garam Masala before serving.
This delicious recipe also tastes great made with beef (or any red meat)! I recently served it to a dinner party and got rave reviews. I even had to drag out my homemade spice mix for friends to sniff! One of the great things about Kashmiri Garam Masala is that it’s sweeter than the usual commercially-available garam masala, which my dinner companions found delightful!
(‘Garam Masala’ means ‘spice base,’ and it can be dry or wet, depending on the dish.)
Hint: I have tamed the heat of this recipe considerably! This is a delicious, very pleasant, and slightly sweet meal. Don’t let the next paragraph scare you!
However, if you like hot food – and I mean really hot food – replace the first 3 ingredients with the traditional 4 dried red chili peppers (such as cayenne) and 3 long, green chili peppers (such as Indian Jwala) – and be sure to provide hand towels and handkerchiefs for your guests. (By the way, ‘Jwala’ means ‘volcano’. You’ve been warned!)
Now, for the rest of us —
- 1 large red pepper, diced
- 1 large green pepper, diced
- ⅛ – ¼ tsp cayenne pepper depending on taste (start with a small amount; add more toward the end if it’s not hot enough for you)
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp of my Kashmiri Garam Masala
- 1 (1 inch) piece fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- ¼ cup dried unsweetened coconut
- 3 tomatoes, chopped
- 6 tbl oil (olive, coconut, or pure peanut)
- 2 large onions, thinly sliced
- 2 pounds lamb meat, cut into 1½-inch cubes
- salt to taste
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- ½ tsp saffron threads
- 20 whole blanched almonds
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1. Place peppers, cayenne, cumin seeds, Kashmiri Garam Masala, ginger, garlic, grated coconut, and tomatoes in a blender; pulse several times to chop, then blend into a smooth spice paste. Set aside.
2. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in onion; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, and continue cooking and stirring until the onion is very tender and golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes more.
3. Stir the spice paste into the onion and cook and stir until the oil separates from the mixture, about 3 minutes.
4. Stir in lamb pieces, turmeric, and salt. Cook, stirring frequently over medium-high heat, until the lamb pieces brown, about 8 minutes.
5. Mix in yogurt, saffron, and blanched almonds until well combined.
6. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the meat is tender and the gravy is thick, about 1 hour.
7. Garnish with chopped cilantro before serving.
Serve with rice or hearty bread.