Lesson II: Ground masalas

Mallika Basu - Lesson II: Ground masalas

Posted 3rd April 2007

masalas-sm.jpgI almost didn’t notice it was Spring. The climate in my office swings from sweaty armpits to freezing my balls off.

Oh sorry, I don’t have any.

Tits off.

Oops not that neither.

Let’s just move on to cooking, shall we?

This is step two of the basic lessons. It’s all about powdered masalas. These are whole spices ground to a fine powder.

Normally powdered masalas are added after whole ones or after wet ingredients like onions, ginger and garlic. When you first add them they have pungent, strong aromas that burn the tip of your noses. You know when they are cooked when they blend into a wonderfully aromatic but subtle fragrance.

Ground masalas include:

  • Turmeric: The ground root of a plant belonging to the ginger family. Yellow, warm and lovely
  • Chilli: Red, sharp and hot hot. Use with care
  • Cumin: Ground roasted whole cumin
  • Coriander: Ground seeds of the coriander plant
  • Garam masala: Ground bay leaf, cinammon, whole black peppercorns, cloves and cardamom

There are load of other ground masalas. But these are the very basic. And you can do some serious damage with a turmeric, chilli and cumin combo.

Like some added to chicken and then pan fried.

Or used with lemon juice on salmon fillets.


The best way to use these is to buy in small quantities, store tight away from sunlight so they don’t lose their flavour and follow recipe instructions.

This is where I confess to never bothering to make powdered masalas from scratch. It’s too much hassle, especially when you can buy perfectly lovely ready ground masalas in the shops.

But if you’re aching to do this the proper, old fashioned way, here is a (very basic) guide:

4 cardamoms
4 cloves
1″ stick cinnamon
1 bay leaf
4 whole black peppercorns

Roast the whole lot on a medium over for 10 minutes and then grind in a blender/grinder. You can make lots of this and store in an airtight container for at least a month.

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