Tag Archives: Spice

Garam Masala – The Ultimate Winter Warmer

Isn’t it cold? Outside my window it’s raining, there’s a howling wind and I’m shivering at the thought of going out.   It’s going to be a busy morning tomorrow and I want to come home to something that makes me feel I’m wrapped up in a fluffy, woollen blanket.  Something warming from the outside in.   Garam masala.

Garam masala

Warming spice mix

A lot of Indian recipes call for garam masala but the Gujarati food I grew up with only uses it occasionally.  When I was little I used to sit and watch my grandmother grinding the spices.  She’d sit cross legged on the floor.  I’d sit next to her and pour the spices into the mill or sit on her lap and help turn the wheel.  Nowadays there is no grinding stone.  I just use my pestle and mortar or a spice grinder.

Garam masala stimulates blood flow

There are lots of recipes for garam masala. This one only uses spices which are ‘garam’ or hot for the body. They stimulate blood flow bringing energy and heat which is why I don’t use them all the time.  In fact I will breakout into spots with regular use.  They are however perfect for days like today which chill me to the bone and when I feel the sniffles coming on.

A simple but powerful mix of spices  

The following measures are for a small jar and should keep for a couple of months.  Throw it away after that because spices do go stale.  Simply grind them all up to a powder.

  • 3 tsp black cardamom seeds
  • 3 tsp black peppercorns
  • 3 tsp caraway seeds
  • 3 tsp cloves
  • 2 large cinnamon sticks
  • a small nutmeg

A teaspoonful adds depth to most dishes

You can add a teaspoon to the dishes below.  I balance this with a little extra lemon juice to help distribute the spices in the blood.  That’s what I was always taught.



What makes your shivers go away? Do you use any special dishes in your culture to ward off colds and flu?


A Quick Tour of My Masala Dablo (Spice Tin)

I thought I’d do a quick tour of the main spices we use in Gujarati food which most Gujaratis would keep in a ‘Masala Dablo’ or spice tin.

My masala dablo was part of my dowry along with other household items like my ‘velun’ (rolling pin), ‘lodhi’ (chapatti frying pan) and other ‘dabla’ (tins).  It’s quite special to me and sits on my cooker ready to use everyday.

masala tin

My Masala Dablo

So what spices do I put in there? 

Turmeric powder


Turmeric Powder – Hardar

This really is a wonder powder.  It’s a natural antiseptic and brilliant for rubbing onto cuts and grazes to help the healing process.  As a child I also had it with honey or in milk to help sore throats heal.  It’s only used in small quantities in powder form so don’t buy a large bag.  It keeps for ages and brings mainly colour to dishes. The flavour is slightly peppery but also a little bitter if it’s eaten on its own.

Red chilli powder

Red chilli powder

Red Chilli Powder – Murchoo

Most Gujarati dishes use red chilli powder though there are times when I have used fresh red chillies too.  The difference is the depth of flavour you want to get.  Fresh chillies will obviously be more fragrant but you’ll never really be sure of the heat they will bring to your food so you may add too many or too few.

Using the powder will give you a reliable heat level.  There are different strengths of powder so I would suggest a medium if you follow any of the recipes on this blog as that’s what I use.

Cumin and coriander powder

cumin and coriander powder

Dhana Jeeru

As the name suggests this is a 50-50 blend of cumin powder, made from ground cumin seeds, and coriander powder made from ground coriander seeds.  It’s a milder flavour than if you were to toast these seeds and then grind them.

Mustard seeds

mustard seeds

Small Mustard Seeds – Tal

These, along with the cumin seeds below are essential for the tempering element of most Gujarati recipes.  Tempering is the process of heating spices or seeds in oil to release their flavour.  There is also a little heat in these seeds (the same kind of flavour you find in mustard) which is why you don’t need a lot.

Cumin seeds

cumin seeds

Cumin Seeds – Jeeru

These are harvested from a plant called  Cuminum cyminum from the parsley family.  They have such a wonderful aroma and the slightly peppery flavour is released when toasted or heated in oil.


I only ever use table salt in Gujarati cooking as that is what my mother taught me with.  I use a lot less salt than mother.  I think this is because I’m more mindful of the health impacts nowadays of eating too much.

That’s really it.  Even with these simple spices you’ll be able to create a lovely Gujarati shak. They are the basics I started with and learned to build upon.  

The following spices and herbs are also sometimes used in Gujarati cooking.

Curry leaves

curry leaves

Limbu na ful

These are from the curry tree which is native to India and give a slightly nutty, citrusy flavour.  You can buy them fresh in most Indian supermarkets nowadays. They don’t keep very long so simply pop them in the freezer and they last for ages.




This is such a fragrant spice and this is really what it adds to the recipe.  A slightly sweet, woody flavour.  You can use the powder but I prefer adding the sticks into hot oil to release the flavours and aromas.




They are the buds of an evergreen tree native to Indonesia and used in their dried form and usually whole.  These are very strong so you’ll only ever need a few in each dish.  They are also used in ayurvedic treatments because they have a warming effect in the body.  My mother used to make hot clove oil when I had earache. It always worked.

I hope that’s given you a good intro to the basic spices I’ll be using on this site.  If you have any trouble finding them, please leave me a comment below and I’ll do my best to help.