Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spiced Pantry

There is nothing as comforting as a well stocked pantry, it holds so much potential - an unlimited variety of possibilities where one can continually pull rabbits out of the hat - or so to speak.  I enjoy challenging myself to work down the inventory from time to time in order to keep things fresh and to force myself to use some of the more obscure products I may have picked up along the way.  My diverse pantry includes spices and spice mixes - a couple of which I really enjoy and use often are: Garam Masala, and Ras el Hanout.  I use a retired coffee grinder as a dedicated spice grinder and the results are great. 
Garam Masala is a blend of spices essential to northern Indian dishes, I cook with it and often finish dishes off with a little more.  Every recipe is a little different, however I use Smita Chandra's aromatic recipe. I had the pleasure of working with her many times at a local cooking school.

Smita's Garam Masala
1.5 tablespoons whole cardamom
4 cinnamon sticks, broken in to 1" pieces
1 teaspoon whole black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon whole cloves
2 bay leaves, broken
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
Put all of the ingredients into a grinder and grind until fine.  Store in an airtight container.

Ras el Hanout is a spice mixture sold in Maroccan markets, a blend of anywhere between ten and one hundred spices. The translation literally means "top of the pile", which is often the way spices are displayed in souks - in large piles.  I enjoy this spice mixture sprinkled on pita chips prior to baking, in ground lamb or beef dishes and as a dry rub component.  Like the Garam Masala, this spice mixture is also very versatile.

Ras el Hanout
1 tsp each black pepper, ginger
1/2 tsp each cumin, cinnamon, coriander, allspice, cardamom
1/4 tsp each nutmeg, turmeric
1/8 tsp each cloves, cayenne pepper
This recipe has a modest eleven spices in its recipe. I grind some of the spices, and the others I measure out, adding in the freshly ground ones for a homogenous mixture.