Kiran's Cooking Club

Everyday Indian Food

Curry Capitals -“I can make it at home for nothing”: Garam Massala

Indian restaurants in the UK have moved on a long way from the 1960s and 70s when everything – from the chairs to the menu – was decked out in deep red velvet. Not to mention that embossed flock wallpaper, the dizzying carpets, and the kitsch curtains with gold brocade and tassels. It was all meant to set the scene for the opulent meal you were about to experience.

Indian restaurants also used to conjure up images of lads ‘going out for an Indian’ and ordering the “hottest curry on the menu” to demonstrate how macho they were. Tellingly, a real live Indian person would be cooking and serving the food, but you would never actually see one eating it. (Which reminds me of that brilliant Goodness Gracious Me sketch with Indians in Mumbai ‘Going out for an English’!).

Most Indian restaurants in the UK are actually a slight misnomer because they are owned and run by entrepreneurial Bangladeshi families. This means of course the methods and spice blends are heavily influenced by the cuisine of India’s south Asian neighbours.

Moreover, the food is often ‘tailored’ to apparently better suit the British palate. This usually meant more tomatoes in the sauce, extra chili, and quicker cooking techniques.

I’m sure old school Indian restaurants are still out there, but the Indian food dining experience has certainly become more sophisticated these days in the UK.

Flock wallpaper has now become trendy.

And an Indian curry is the nations favourite cuisine, with more than 8,000 Indian restaurants across the country and the average Britain eating an Indian inspired dish twice a week. Indian restaurants have become cool. Dare I say it, Indians have become a little bit cool/er.

As if to demonstrate how much things have moved on from the old days, National Curry Week is coming up this month. Indian restaurants, who have been nominated to represent their local government councils, will compete for the prestigious award of Britain’s Curry Capital. Interestingly, the award itself was started to help promote community cohesion, and to highlight how immigrants to this country make a positive contribution to their cities, and vice versa. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing more and am excited for the restaurants competing!

I can make it at home…! 

There is of course nothing like home-cooked food (Indian or otherwise) if you can make it yourself (or get an invite to an Indian home with a good cook!).

Home cooked Indian dishes are often slow-cooked to sweeten the onions, release the flavours, and fuse the spices. It can be a real labour of love. (A curry always tastes better the day after it’s cooked; the spices have had a chance to get to know each other and make sweet spicy music).

At home, if you have time, the spices are roasted and then ground from scratch, and this care and attention to detail can really make an astounding difference to dish.

North Indian food is rather famous for its spice blends – particularly “Garam Masala” – literally ‘hot spice mix’. The ‘hot’ in the Garam Masala refers to the depth of spicy flavour, rather than chili led piquancy.

While the restaurants all fight it out with each other this month, (Go Glasgow!) I hope you’re inspired to make a home-cooked curry and celebrate Indian food too. Start by perfecting your own Garam Masala mix. Here’s my home version.

You’ll need this for my slow-home-cooked Channa Masala recipe (Spicy Chickpeas), coming soon…

The basis of most Garam Masala recipes seems to be all of the spices you can think of beginning with the letter ‘C’.


Coriander seeds

Cumin seeds


 and Cardamom (for this mix I have used black cardamoms, green is an optional extra).

I’ve also added the beautiful Star Anise

and Bay Leaf.

Recipe: – (You can increase and decrease any of the spices you love or like less, and add more spices to the mix):

– 2 inch Cinnamon stick
– 1 tbp Coriander seeds
– 1 tbp Cumin Seeds
– 1tsp Cloves (approx)
– 3-4 Black Cardamom pods (crack them open. Keep the inner seed,  discard the shell)
– 1 Star Anise
– 1-2 Bay Leaf


Take a skillet, griddle or frying pan.

Heat up the empty pan.

When the pan is hot, add in all of the spices.

Drop in the spice mix for literally a few seconds to release the oils and flavour.

Enjoy the aroma.

When done, throw the mix into a grinder (electric or hand) and flick the switch or pound away!

* Don’t over grind, leave the spice a little coarse to really maximise the flavours!

Store in a clean jar with a tight lid to keep those flavours fresh.

Or prepare smaller amounts, as and when you need Garam masala for your dish. Done.

59 comments on “Curry Capitals -“I can make it at home for nothing”: Garam Massala

  1. petit4chocolatier
    September 30, 2012

    I love all the spices and aromas! I am going to reblog this post with another post of yours on my new reblog tasting page. If anyone visits it they can click on your links and find your beautiful blog. Love your blog!


    • Kiran
      September 30, 2012

      Dear Judy,
      That’s so nice! I’m really flattered as I’m genuinely a big fan of your blog! Thank you so much – how lovely to get such instant feedback.
      best wishes

  2. chefmimiblog
    September 30, 2012

    How would you describe the difference(s) between what is known as curry powder and garam masala? Do you only use garam masala at the end of a dish?

    • Kiran
      October 1, 2012

      Good question – Garam Massala is the spice blend used in North India. While Curry powder is the spice blend more common to South Indian cuisine. You use Garam Masala both during the cooking and at the end to give the dish an extra boost.

      • chef mimi blog
        October 9, 2012

        Very interesting! Thank you so much!

  3. gwynnem
    October 1, 2012

    Yet another reason I need to come to the UK this fall. Now, I just need to find money for a flight. 🙂

  4. Cam
    October 1, 2012

    I wish we had Curry Week here in the US. Looking forward to your chickpea recipe 🙂

  5. cindyknoke
    October 1, 2012

    Yumm! Love your blog! This sounds delicious.
    Thanks for posting,

  6. Laurie
    October 1, 2012

    Interesting post. I enjoyed it.

  7. vinicooksveg
    October 1, 2012

    Pictures are amazing, Kiran! Loved the way , you presented the post!

  8. virginia
    October 1, 2012

    Be watching out for your recipe on Spicy Chickpeas. Tried it once when a colleague at work brought some for morning tea. Loved it.

  9. trkingmomoe
    October 1, 2012

    Interesting spice. I don’t know much about Indian cooking so this was a fun read. Thanks

  10. croftgarden
    October 1, 2012

    Thank you for a “good read”. I about to buy a spice grinder o you have any tips or recommendations?

    • Kiran
      October 1, 2012

      Thank you 🙂 I use my coffee grinder! Works well. Just to add – that you need to leave the spices a little coarse.

  11. Doggy's Style
    October 1, 2012

    I bought over the counter garam massala the other day, was blah, I’ll try this pretty soon, thanks.

  12. Allison
    October 1, 2012

    Gorgeous photos of each of the spices! I already have plenty of garam masala at home, but this makes me want to grind up a fresh batch!

  13. Skuggs
    October 1, 2012

    Hi Kiran,
    Thanks for posting this, I’ll be trying this out soon as we love a good curry.
    I took some visiting friends from South Africa for a curry last week and I had a type I hasn’t tried before. I can’t remember the name but it had banana chunks and litchis in it. Something I’d love to try recreating. Can you help?

    • Kiran
      October 1, 2012

      Oh wow – I’ve never heard of that – sounds south Indian? But I’ll certainly have a think and get back to you 🙂

      • Skuggs
        October 1, 2012

        Hi, I found it, its a Kashmiri? It does seem to be southern actually. I’d never seen it on a menu before and really enjoyed it.
        P.S. I made your fenugreek & coriander courgettes. Yum yum yum yum! Thank you!

      • Kiran
        October 1, 2012

        How great that you made it! Glad it worked 🙂 Now Kashmiri I should be able to help you with… will get back to you asap!

  14. Paula {Salt, Pepper and a Dollop of Cream}
    October 1, 2012

    Thanks so much for sharing. I’ll be trying this tomorrow! Xx P

  15. JM
    October 1, 2012

    Mmm I love garam masala! I have some store-bought at home but it’d be interesting to make my own to compare! I have a feeling I know which would be better! Thanks! 🙂

  16. girlinafoodfrenzy
    October 1, 2012

    A very beautiful post. I love the array of spices and without a doubt I know the curry must have tasted amazing!

  17. skilletgirl
    October 1, 2012

    Kiran, what beautiful photos! Thank you for stopping by my blog so many times and for being my FIRST follower! I love your blog and enjoy learning about Indian cuisine and culture. Cheers to you!

    • Kiran
      October 1, 2012

      You’re welcome – I just bought an iron made pan – more wok than skillet but am looking forward to cooking with it and being inspired by your blog! cheers 🙂

  18. eatgoodblog
    October 2, 2012

    I have all the ingredients you mentioned but didn’t knew i can make garam masala from them. I am going to make my own garam masala at home from now on. Thank you very much for sharing.

  19. Our Growing Paynes
    October 2, 2012

    Hi there! I wanted to let you know I nominated you for the Wonderful Team Membership Award. 🙂 Here is the link to let you know what to do:

  20. amandycat
    October 3, 2012

    Reblogged this on Adventures in Bruntonia and commented:
    I stumbled over this blog the other day – anyone who has spent time in Bruntonia will know our love of good, slow-cooked curry. This post gives you a good place to start with an epic garam masala recipe. Get cooking people!

  21. luffymoogan
    October 3, 2012

    Great blog! I have you favourited ( is there such a word?!) and there is no escape. Your food looks FABULOUS

    • Kiran
      October 3, 2012

      That’s wonderful! Thank you 🙂

  22. saintjohnmasterscrossfit
    October 4, 2012

    I love making my own spice mixes. We have curry week once a month in our house. I look forward to the chick pea recipe. What I need to find is a paan recipe/mix.

  23. silverblackbird
    October 4, 2012

    Love the photos 🙂

  24. Fit Meet Food
    October 6, 2012

    Omg your pictures are flawless! Such an informative blog 🙂

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  26. Ashima
    October 8, 2012

    Hello Kiran!

    Beautiful blog! If I had come across this a year ago then maybe I would have come to your cooking club while I was living in London 🙂

    My mom also makes garam masala at home and everytime I go to visit them she packs a jar for me.. 😀


    • Kiran
      October 8, 2012

      That’s so wonderful – thank you for connecting, and hope you enjoy!

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  28. yummania
    October 12, 2012

    i`m in love with spices and this post rocks

  29. crayonsandcroissants
    October 13, 2012

    Wonderful and informative post!

  30. beccysfoodies
    October 13, 2012

    mmmmm sounds soooo goood!! i love anything with spices! 🙂 – loving the blog!

  31. The Domestic Ingenue
    October 14, 2012

    Hi Kiran, I can imagine how delicious your home must smell after toasting these spices. I’m really excited that I found your blog. I’ve been wanting to try making Indian cuisine at home, but am so intimidated. Thanks for all the tips you post!

  32. Call me nostalgic, but I sort of miss the old red velveted themed Indian restaurants of yesteryear. Thank you very much for the informative and beautiful post!

  33. Anne @GtSlamseysFarm
    October 16, 2012

    Beautiful photos as ever. How long would a jar of garam masala keep fresh?

    • Kiran
      October 23, 2012

      Hello! apologies for the delay in getting back to you! The Garam Massala should be fine for around 3-4 week if in a sealed container. It keeps for a lot longer, but the intensity of the flavours will reduce over time. Hope you enjoy!

  34. food4thoughtnyc
    October 17, 2012

    This is fantastic! I just got a big jar of cardamom seeds and I’ve been trying to figure out how to use them- this is perfect. 🙂

  35. Simple Nourishing Delicious Food Blog
    October 19, 2012

    Hello! I’ve nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Please check out: for badge and info. -Simple Nourishing Delicious

    • Kiran
      October 19, 2012

      This is so lovely! Really nice to receive. Thank you!!

  36. erika
    October 20, 2012

    Love! I’ve been meaning to buy garam masala for the longest time but thanks to you, maybe I’ll make it myself instead! Thanks for the great post 🙂

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  38. eclectic faerie
    October 23, 2012

    i really enjoyed this post and am a huge fan of “curry powder” and garam masala {usually purchasing them both ready-made}

    thank you for an inspiring recipe!

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  40. musingmar
    October 25, 2012

    Such a beautiful post; your photos are magical. I’m inspired to try this recipe as it’s quite different from the garam masala recipe I’ve been using. It’s so much better to make your own from scratch!

  41. lauracookphotography
    October 28, 2012

    Your food photography is awesome. Really, really, really good. You should enter without a doubt. The photos for the comp cannot be ones published anywhere (including blogs etc) but I am sure having looked at these you would do really well in some of the categories. I love the food you write about but these photos would make me want to eat it even if I didn’t! Well done, this is one of the best blogs I have signed up to in recent weeks by a long way.

    • Kiran
      October 28, 2012

      Wow! Thank you so much – I’m really flattered. I’ll definitely have a look at the pink lady site. Really excited that you like the site! Thank you 🙂

  42. Tovah
    November 29, 2012

    Love this recipe, so many healthy spices! Great pics.

  43. sockmonkeyskitchen
    December 13, 2012

    Beautiful pictures! I’ve just begun using Garam Masala in the last 6 months, and I am wondering why on earth I hadn’t cooked with it all these years! (Probably because where I live, it’s difficult to find Indian cuisine)
    I’ll be following your blog now, hoping to pick up some of your wonderful cooking tips and recipes.

  44. MarlisB
    December 15, 2012

    Your photography and writing are superlative.

    • Kiran
      December 15, 2012

      That’s very kind – thank you!

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This entry was posted on September 30, 2012 by in Garam Masala, Quick and Easy, Spice and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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