(Almost) All about whole masalas

Mallika Basu - (Almost) All about whole masalas

Posted 28th March 2007

condiments-sm.jpgI just got back from the gym. It’s been a while since I bothered doing anything anything remotely healthy.

So what is it with sullen gym receptionists anyway? You think they’d make an extra special effort to be nice.

After all we’ve forgoed a deep fried meal, evening in front of the telly and rush hour travel to spend a whole hour working up a sweat, with the grand finale of getting verucca and wiping ourselves clean with a crusty complimentary towel.

Ah. And the towel. Said sullen receptionist forgets to give it to me at the door.

No worries. I change into pathetic gym clothes and request her for one.

Sullen receptionist: “What happened to the one I gave you?”

Me: “You didn’t”

SR: “[Pointed look] Really?”

Me: “[Pointed look back] No, I’ve hidden it to take it back home with me”

And they didn’t even give me the £20 they owed me for recommending a colleague!

On the way back home, I decided to start the lessons this week with one about the whole dry masalas used in Indian cooking. The way it works is that you heat the oil and then add these. They crackle, pop and release the most wonderfully aromatic flavours. This is also called tempering or tarka.

Once you get their heady smell, your pot is ready for whatever you need to add next.

There are literally hundreds of dry whole spices but I won’t bore you do death with this post. Instead, I’ll stick to the basics.

These are cloves, cardamoms, bay leaves, whole black pepper, cinnamon, whole dry red chillies, star aniseed, whole cumin and mustard seeds. The first five of these together make up garam masala, which is used in both whole and ground form.

There are enough places on the web that tell you what each of them do and what they taste like. Suffice to say, biting into one of them is not pleasant or clever.

Whole red chillies, in particular are the devil incarnate. You have been warned.

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