Have you ever made your own spice blends?
I adore doing this!
Sure, it takes a little effort and you have to grind it to a powder, but you have such creative control! You can add more of the flavors you like and less of the flavors you dont, and being able to take whole spices and toast and grind them to create your own blend, you spend less than buying the pre-blended suff at the store and you get much more of it to use. Generally, I only make the spice blends that I use a lot of and it literally costs me pennies!
If you keep your eye out at ethnic markets, like your local Mexican grocer, you are liable to find great prices on cinnamon sticks, cumin, coriander, etc that they tend to use a lot of that you need whole or in larger quantities to make a spice blend and its nearly 60% cheaper than buying each whole spice in the store and you have plenty left for other uses and its most times much more fresh than the blends you can buy at the supermarket.
There just isn’t a really good reason not to do this yourself. Plus it makes the house smell fabulous! My girls woke up to the toasted Garam Masala blend and immediately went running into the kitchen to see what I was up to, instead of stopping at their toys first for a bit. Anything that happens in the kitchen is well-worth investigating afterall!
Garam Masala is an Indian spice blend but it is used on a whole bunch of different dishes and can be a great rub for grilled chicken. I decided to whip up my own batch of it because I plan to make Tikka Masala which requires a smidgen of it and making it at home is free since I have all the spices that I need – but if I were to buy it in the store, it would cost nearly $10 for a little bottle of it. And we do like to make plenty of different Indian dishes in our house, so it was really worth just making it for ourselves. If you aren’t interested in buying the spices whole, you can always approximate the amount of ground spice to mix in. Smelling the blend as a whole is another great way to tell if you’ve put in too little or too much of something. It should all smell really blended. You should be able to pick out each spice and it shouldn’t be too heavy in one or another. It should smell harmonious!
I hope you enjoy this one! It is of course, much better if you start with all fresh, whole spices but you will see which spices I only had ground and which I had whole, and the blend still tasted great!
A word to the wise, you don’t want to be toasting ground spices, it will get into your nose and get really smoky in a hurry and it’s just all-around, not pleasant. And you can burn the spices, so just be sure to do this over no stronger than medium heat and keep an eye on it.
Ingredients: yields about 1/2 C
- 1 whole nutmeg (medium sized)
- 3 TBS coriander seeds
- 4 tsp peppercorn
- 1 TBS green cardamom pods
- 5 whole star anise
- 2 tsp cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 TBS ground cumin
- 1-3 tsp cayenne pepper to taste (add 3 or more for more heat)
Take a small frying pan with sides or a small saucepan and put it over low heat while you assemble your spices. Add in all the whole spices you have (or up to the bay leaves) and bring the heat up to medium and gently toast the spices until you can smell each of them and they become aromatic. Roughly 5-10 minutes. You can toast for longer, just be careful not to burn the spices.
Once you have finished toasting your spices, put them in a coffee grinder or food processor and process until they are as coarse or as fine as you prefer. Put the processed spices in a bowl to mix in the ground spices, stirring to thoroughly combine. Then store them in an airtight container for future use, covering with a lid only once the blend has cooled to room temperature.