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GRILL HILLS: How to make your own masala

24 October 2011 - 23:46 By Hilary Biller

Please would you explain the difference between garam masala and masala - and provide a recipe to make my own garam masala. - Andrew, Bloemfontein

I turned to Chandrika Harie of Spice Emporium in Durban. Harie really knows her stuff. She should - Spice Emporium has the largest and most interesting selection of spices in Durban. The family has been in the spice trade for three generations. Harie's grandfather came from Gujarat in India and arrived in South Africa along with the second wave of indentured Indians.

Harie explained that a masala is a mix of spices used to add flavour and taste to a dish, and the particular mix would depend on what is being cooked. A garam masala, on the other hand, is a garnishing spice. It is used sparingly and usually added when the cooking process is complete.

"So you would finish your bean curry, for example, with a sprinkle of some garam masala over the top and put the lid on the pot and it would be ready for eating," says Harie. "Garam masala is typically used with vegetarian dishes, a potato and pea, or a vegetable curry."

Since her marriage many years ago, Harie has used her mother-in-law's garam masala recipe.

"If you roast it properly and store it in layers of whole asafoetida (hing), it will last for up to a year," she says.



1kg indori dhania (coriander seeds)

100g khus khus (white poppy seeds)

100g fennel seeds

25g whole cloves

250g green elachi (cardamom pods)

100g mace

50g whole nutmeg

100g bay leaves

500g jeera (cumin)

250g cinnamon sticks

100g black elachi (cardamom pods)

250g whole black peppercorns

250g star anise


Wash the indori, the khus khus and the fennel seeds. Preheat the oven to 100°C and roast each of these separately on a baking tray until thoroughly dried out. Remove and roast the remaining ingredients all together at the same temperature until fragrant. Grind all the ingredients thoroughly in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder. Preserve in a canister with layers of whole asafoetida (hing) between 10cm-deep layers of garam masala.