Spice blends and a recipe.
There's no doubt I'm a spice Maniac and probably (no, I do) have every single spice right in my kitchen. Some spices made there way into my home all the way from Morocco. Today I chose 3 very popular spice blends Curry, Masala, and Ras Al Hanout. You're probably thinking Ras Al Hanout is my favorite, right? Well, you're wrong. I still find my self lost as to which one is my favorite. I love them all!
Curry powder is a mixture of spices of widely varying composition based on South Asian cuisine. Curry powder, and the contemporary English use of the word curry are Western inventions and do not reflect any specific Indian food, though a similar mixture of spices used in north India is called garam masala but curry powder is actually closer to the south Indian sambhar powder. The word curry is widely believed to be a corruption of the Tamil word kari, variously meaning something like sauce, cooked vegetables or meat, but it may instead be derived from the French cuire meaning "to cook".
In the western world, curry powder mixtures tend to have a fairly standardized taste, though a great variety of spice mixtures are used in Indian cuisine.
Curry powder was largely popularized during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries through the mass exportation of the condiment to the western table, throughout Europe and North and South America. Curry powder did not become standardized, as many of the original blends of curry powder were still available throughout the world. The late 1960s and early 1970s saw a large increase of Indian food consumption in the west and internationally. This led to an increase of Indian restaurants throughout the world. The tradition of keeping special blends of curry powder simply became uneconomical, and curry powder became increasingly standardized outside India.
Indian cooks often have readier access to a variety of fresh spices than their foreign counterparts. Some curry cooks will have their own specific mixtures for different recipes. These are often passed down from parent to child.
There are many versions of Garam Masala, some using hot spices, such as pepper, and others only fragrant spices. Whatever the blend is be sure its made from good quality spices.
The composition of garam masala differs regionally, with wide variety across India. Some common ingredients are black & white peppercorns, cloves, malabar leaves, long pepper (also known as pippali), black cumin (known as shahi jeera), cumin seeds, cinnamon, black, brown, & green cardamom, nutmeg, star anise and coriander seeds. Varying combinations of these and other spices are used in regional variants of garam masala, none of which is considered more authentic than another.
Some recipes call for spices to be blended with herbs, while others grind the spices with water, vinegar or other liquids such as coconut milk to make a paste. In some recipes nuts, onion or garlic may be added. The flavours may be carefully blended to achieve a balanced effect, or in some cases a single flavour may be emphasized for special dishes where this is desired. Usually a masala is roasted before use to release its flavours and aromas
Garam Masala, Recipe.
4tbsp coriander seeds
2tbsp cumin seeds
1tbsp whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons cardamon seeds (measure after removing pods)
4x 7.5 (3inch)cinnamon sticks
1tsp whole cloves
1 whole nutmeg
In a small pan roast separately the coriander, cummin, peppercorns, cardamon, cinnamon, and cloves. As each one starts to smell fragrant turn on to plate to cool. After roasting, peel the cardamoms, discard pods and use only the seeds. Put all into electric blender and blend to a fine powder. Finely grate nutmeg and mix in. Store in a glass jar with tight lid.
Ras Al Hanout
Ras Al Hanout is mostly popular in Morocco but can be found and used in neighboring countries like Algeria and Tunisia. This spice blend is easily found in every Moroccan home. The most popular use for it in my inlaws home would have to be when making chicken Rfisa, a Moroccan chicken dish made with lentils, onions, garlic, saffron then served on a bed of bread such as Msemen or leftover bread.
Ras el hanout or Rass el hanout (Arabic: راس الحانوت) is a popular blend of spices that is used across North Africa. The name means "top of the shop" in Arabic and refers to a mixture of the best spices a seller has to offer. There are three types of blends for Ras el Hanout: Lamrouzia, L'msagna and Monuza.
There is no definitive set combination of spices that makes up Ras el hanout. Each shop, company, or person would have their own secret combination containing over a dozen spices. Typically they would include cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ground chili peppers, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, peppercorn, and turmeric.
Some recipes include over one hundred ingredients, some rarely found in Western food, such as ash berries, chufa, Grains of Paradise, orris root, Monk's pepper, cubebs, or dried rosebud. Usually all ingredients are toasted and then ground up together. Individual recipes are often improvised.
Ras el hanout is used in almost every kind of food, sometimes rubbed on meat and stirred into rice. It is often believed to be an aphrodisiac.