Garam masala is an ingredient in the dal recipe I posted a few days ago (see Gentle Lentils) and was new to some people.
Garam means hot and masala means a spice mix.
The “hot” is not a spicy hot but rather a heat that warms the body (in principle).
I’ve learnt about this subtle and delicate flavouring mix from Kris Dhillon whose cookbook, The Curry Secret, is from the same imprint as Delicious Dishes for Diabetics–i.e. Right Way).
“…the theory comes from the Hindu concept of medicine and diet called tridosha, which teaches that some foods have a warming effect on the body while others have a cooling effect. Spices such as cardomans, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg are garam constituents of this aromatic mixture.”
Garam masala is usually added towards the end of the cooking process; it can also be sprinkled over cooked food to enhance the flavour.
It is a mixture of spices that has infinite variations. You can buy it (just as you buy curry powder) or you can make your own. This version is from the wonderful Indian actress and food writer Madhur Jaffrey, author of Indian Cookery.
1 tablespoon cardoman seeds
2″/5 cm stick of cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 a small nutmeg–grated
Whizz the mix to a fine powder in a spice or coffee grinder.