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The Essential Masalas

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India eats, breathes and lives spices, rightly being called the land of spices. There are spices are used to give flavour, to cure and heal, to lend auspiciousness to every little aspect of life in India — whether you are in Kashmir, Bengal, Karnataka, or Goa, spices have their own story to tell. 

In a traditional Indian household, masalas (or spices) are ground and prepared in-house and every lady has her own secret recipe to that perfect blend.  Through this article, I will try and attempt to revive this practice in those, who have taken to the homogenised and ever so often chemical laden spice mixes off the shelf from a market place. Below are a couple of traditional spice recipes which were handed down over generations.

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Tea is a favourite go-to for many Indians, enjoyed during any time of the day, can be spiced up with homemade aromatic tea masala. Just add a few pinches per cup when preparing the tea mixture over the stove.

Recipe for tea masala:

3 cups of white peppercorns

1 cup of black peppercorn

2 cups of elaichi

Few sticks of cinnamon

Combine the mixture leave it out in the sun for a couple of hours and then grind together and store in an airtight container.

Another key masala is garam masala — a combination of cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorn, nutmeg and several other exotic spices. Prepare a bulk of this masala and store in an airtight container to warm up all your favourite dishes throughout the year.

Recipe for garam masala:

1 kg coriander seeds

1/2 kg cumin seeds

1/4 kg cinnamon sticks

1/4 kg cloves

1/4 kg black peppercorns

1/4 kg white peppercorns

1/4 kg green elaichi (with skin)

1/4 kg black elaichi (with skin)

1 ounce javitri

4 whole nutmeg

1/4 kg star anise

1/4 kg bay leaves

In a large wok, add a small amount of oil and a little turmeric powder. Bring to heat and lightly roast the coriander seeds. Repeat the same procedure with cumin seeds.

All the other ingredients can be roasted together, this time without oil and turmeric powder.

Mix the cumin with coriander seeds and grind them together.

Next grind the rest of the ingredient mix.

The two sets of ground mixture can be mixed together in a large container. Store in an air-tight container.

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