Holy Colours: a Recipe for Garam Masala…

March 31, 2008 at 2:42 PM (aromatic mixtures, dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, India)


Of all the wonderful gifts I’ve received over the past year from fellow food-bloggers, none are more precious to me than the garam masalas that I keep carefully tucked-away and labeled in a drawer of my fridge.  Some of you might wonder why I feel this way…after all, a simple search through cookbooks or an internet search-engine will land you hundreds of recipes- each of them unique in some way (I seriously believe that a determined person could find enough to grind and sample a new one for each of his/her remaining days! Astounding to think about, no?), but it is far more exciting to hold in your hands a delicious aroma that is connected to a person you have come to know- like how we tend to associate the scent of a flower, or that of a designer fragrance with people who wear it often.

So it is enough to be given such a gift, for, in India’s northerly cuisines, a sprinkling of garam masala seems to function as a final “signature” of a great cook who has gone to great lengths to present a charming, if not splendidly sensual, meal. I ponder whether some of these cooks prefer to limit its use to a single dish at a table (less is more?), or… could it be used to unify divergent dishes on a thali? Such questions! Still, a final, unique signature. And often an unspoken way of saying: this is the flavour of my family, for this recipe has been passed down through many generations of cooks, each one changing it just slightly from its former avatar. (or, I made this one up myself! What do you think?) With you I share its spirit; let it entice your nose and tongue as it passes your way…

It has even greater significance when a food-blogger sends a smidge (or much more than a smidge!), for now all dishes containing it in their ongoing, online collection can be reconstructed very near to what the writer intended: any other garam masala will work, but what a delight to taste it just as it was meant. And this is why I treasure these dry potions so.

But, sadly, I must admit that I am yet to construct my own. True, I came across a lovely recipe a few years back and have stuck with it; I’ve even sent out a smidge or two. I liked it better than any I had tried to that date. But now, I’m not so sure…this past year has exposed me to new things, new people, new food, new spices. It’s hard to remain so faithful to that old standby now. And maybe this is how it should be: the best garam masalas make you turn your head to look again. They tantalize and seduce you as if a most-beautiful person- judiciously-dabbed with a most-alluring fragrance- has passed you on the street and you have no choice but to surrender and silently watch while you can- nevermind who sees you doing it! That is its potential power. Use it sparingly; grind it in small amounts at a time. And why buy ready-made in a packet with all of this at your feet?!

While contemplating these things, an idea struck me. Why not make a very special garam masala that means nothing more or less than right now, your friends, your self. Why not take just a bit of every garam masala that you carefully keep, including your own, and mix them together? Imagine the complexity… And so I did. A half-teaspoon of each. Exquisite, of course…and I reserve it for the most special of dishes. I’ve dubbed it Sri Garam Masala…Thank you.

I would aslo like to extend a very warm thank you to all of my readers- the regulars, the once-in-awhilers, the silent readers, the new readers, and especially to those who can’t stay on the topic in the comment section. You’ve all made this a fine and fabulous first year for Elaichi et Cetera (yes, March 20th was the blog’s anniversary; better late than never!), and I hope to continue posting for awhile yet. I also send wishes to all of you for a very happy spring: may you be as enraptured by its spell as I am… and here is hope that the coming year brings many blessings (and fine vegetables) to you all. Until next time, I’ll be grinding away at something new…




  1. musy said,

    Happy Spring time to you too, Pel! Love the concept of Sri garam masala 🙂 That is the true spirit of holi!

    And i am now feeling annoyed with myself for not having taken care of some emails i have been meaning to reply since many days 😦

    What’s with the last picture?

    Happy B’day to dear Elaichi and the other lovely etceteras 🙂 My kitchen celebrated its b’day on the 23rd 😉

    Thanks for the wishes, Musy- and happy birthday to yours too! Last pic? I was experimenting with a new vase… 🙂

  2. Manisha said,

    Yes, those who can’t stay on topic should be hung out to dry. They will be along shortly.

    What is it with March and anniversaries? My blog turned 5 in March but my first two posts were a harbinger of the following years. No recipes! Fine folks such as yourself, Sri Gogji, have done much better for the food world than I can ever make a false claim for. So I decided to just let it slide this year.

    Uh, that last pic? Is it for Click? Tulips aren’t edible so it won’t qualify. Neither does poo.

    Happy Anniversary! I can’t believe it has only been one year since you started enthralling us by pairing karela with eggs and the might of your keyboard!

    Musy, Happy Anniversary to you, too!

    Stop…you’re making me blush! Oooops, no….it was just coloured water. Where’s the thandai fountain? I needs a refill…

  3. Meera said,

    Very Happy Anniversary, Pelicano.
    With lots of best wishes!! – Meera

    Thank ye kindly… [bows]

  4. bee said,

    what a gorgeous pic, pel. happy blogiversary to a great site. that garam masala you sent us was awesome. really. i plan to make it soon.

    It does have a certain charm….very good in Moghlai dishes BTW….or any tomato-cream sauces. Thanks much for the wishes!

  5. Ramya's Mane Adige said,

    I can’t stop admiring the pic…. And congratulations on the first anniversary!! I just posted on my blog about my blog’s anniversary too 🙂

    Well well! Looks like springtime caused many of us to bloom! Thanks Ramya!

  6. sagari said,

    nice pics

    I started to read my manual…. 😀 Thanks.

  7. Suganya said,

    I was expecting the garam masala recipe. I don’t have a recipe of my own, yet. Congratulations on yr blog anniversary.

    Thank you….I am sorry to disappoint you, but I also need to work on my own recipe, so I am in the same boat!

  8. Anita said,

    Mine’s in there, isn’t it?! I think it is safe for you to send a smidgen (or more) of your garam masala this way – I have heard only great things about it on the blogs. How else can we get to follow the ‘recipe’ (?!) you have included here?! I need a few kinds to make Sri Garam Masala…
    Congratulations on the first birthday! Isn’t it time for some more Thalia around here? 😀

    PS: TLO managed to stick to the topic too! We are all being so nice this spring! not the best time for vegetables though, not here in Delhi.

    Sorry to hear it…but soon, soon will come the abundance. 🙂 Remind me about the GM….shouldn’t be a problem. I think it might be Lucknowi-esque, but I don’t know, as I know precious little of that Moghlai branch…

  9. Zlamushka said,

    congratulations, Pel. Is it kosher to celebrate a year of blogging by grinding tulips? thats pretty poohey, what did u do with it, btw?

    Oh…pure illusion m’dear! I sent a little haldi-atta paste through first, but don’t tell now! 😉

  10. evolvingtastes said,

    Happy Blogiversary! Love the pictures with the spices on silk, no comments on the other one. :D)

    You definitely know where good taste is! 🙂 Thanks for the wishes….

  11. Mansi said,

    That was a very loving and touching post! Congrats on your blog anniversary, and wish you many more!:)

    Thank you so much Mansi, and for that I think I have energy for at least one more… 🙂

  12. Cynthia said,

    This is a post that warms the heart and I am going to grind my own masala mix and send to you too. The sentiments expressed are so very true.

    I really love the way you have them displayed on the satin. I too am a garam masala junkie and am always on the lookout for a new mix/combo.

    An exchange seems in order, yes?

  13. Hot Masala! Making your own Garam Masalas - A wealth of recipes « A Life (Time) of Cooking said,

    […] Elachi et Cetera talks about the different garam masala recipes – every household has their own version of this ubiquitous spice mixture. He says “it is far more exciting to hold in your hands a delicious aroma that is connected to a person you have come to know- like how we tend to associate the scent of a flower, or that of a designer fragrance with people who wear it often.“ Read the post here. […]

  14. Tempting! - Quickfind fabulous food « A Life (Time) of Cooking said,

    […] Elachi et Cetera talks about the different garam masala recipes – every household has their own version of this ubiquitous spice mixture. They say “it is far more exciting to hold in your hands a delicious aroma that is connected to a person you have come to know- like how we tend to associate the scent of a flower, or that of a designer fragrance with people who wear it often.“ Read the post here. […]

  15. bee said,

    knock knock. stop drinking perfumed coffee and post something.

    Don’t tell me that it, too, causes impotence! 🙂

  16. shriya said,

    My first time here and I already started loving your blog. Such an awesome pics here and beuatiful posts. Love the garam masala recipe. And the pic is absolutely awesome.

    Thank you very much! I’m not really known for my pics, but each month I force myself to push a new button to see what it does! 😉

  17. zlamushka said,

    Pellio, u OKay? havent heard about yr KREYZEE kitchen adventures fro ages now… anyway, come over to my site, there is a little something for you 🙂

    So there was…I am touched. (Quiet TLO…)

  18. Jyothsna said,

    Sri Garam Masala indeed!! 😀 Congratulations on the blog-anniversary and wish you many many more! Nice picture!

    Thank you-thank you! But I would be nothing without all of the help!

  19. shilpa said,

    Where are you? When are you going to write next post?

    Sooner than I had hoped! 😉

  20. Meera said,

    Where are you? Long time no news! Hope you are doing great..

    Greatness is over-rated. But it’s nice to see you stop by!

  21. AJ said,

    Hey, just dropped in to say that if your recipies are anything like the pic, should be fun trying them out! 🙂

    That must mean that my pics are getting better- all of these buttons, display-screens and symbols make my head swim!

  22. enjay said,

    That picture = Super cool.

    Can’t believe I did not discover your blog earlier. *Goes to kick self*

    Don’t go bruisin’ yer ‘eels now! Things happen when they are meant to happen…or something like that.

  23. srilekha said,

    first time to ur site! u have a very nice cooking blog here!

    visit my blog while u find time! join in the chicken event going in my blog!

    add us as a follower of my blog to have my recipes in ur dashboard itself!

    Thank you!

  24. Miri said,

    Happy anniversary – belated though. I discovered your blog through your comments on Anita’s and Jugalbandi’s blog and am so happy I did! 🙂


    Thank you! Now I should get back to posting to retain my reputation! 😉

  25. Garam Masala Powder said,

    Wow that’s nice picture of aromatic Indian spice blend – Garam masala. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful picture

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