Monday, February 11, 2013

International spice blend extravaganza

I've said before that I like to make my own spice blends.  The quality is so much better, and when you buy your whole spices at your local Indian grocery store, you save a ton of money.  I've made several different blends from my favorite 660 Curries,   and I recently decided to have a spice blend party and make some from Vegan Eats World, too.  Once you've got a good supply of whole spices in the house, all you need are a frying pan and a coffee grinder to make just about any spice blend you can think of.  And the toasting spices make the house smell great.

This is my all-time favorite, Punjabi garam masala (what most people just call "garam masala," but I learned from my boyfriend Raghavan Iyer that there are many different garam masalas), from 660 Curries:

before toasting . . . .

. . . . and after.

My masala-making got kicked up a notch when I finally discovered black cardamom pods, or as I like to call them, rat turds:

I wanted to try some recipes from Vegan Eats World, so I made two more spice blends.  This is baharat, a seven-spice Persian blend that bears some resemblance to garam masala, but is heavier on the peppercorns:

And this is the Ethiopian classic, berbere.  First you toast some whole spices:

And then after you grind those up, you add a bunch more pre-ground ones:

Here are the three spice blends, ready to be used:

 I haven't used the berbere yet, but I made  some baked tofu with the Persian blend and it was really great.

My only criticism of the spice blends in Vegan Eats World is that there is no instruction to spread the spices out and let them cool between toasting and grinding.  This is an important step, because if the spices are too hot when you grind them, you'll trap moisture in your powdered blend and it will cake up and I imagine not keep well.  As soon as the spices are toasted, pour them out of the frying pan and onto a dinner plate.  Spread them out in a single layer.  It only takes a few minutes for them to be cool to the touch, and then you can grind to your heart's content.  

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