I work at a college that runs a program called "Friendship Families." This program matches international students with contacts at the school or in the area. We're not responsible for hosting our students, just checking in on them, taking them to dentist appointments, and making a homemade dinner every once in awhile. One of our new students this year is from Nepal. As we were getting to know each other over the summer I asked about the foods she liked and promised to try to make them here.
Her: "Well...no offense, but American Nepali food just doesn't ever taste quite right."
Me: "I totally get that. You know what? When I cook for you I'll make homemade garam masala instead of using the bottled stuff. Maybe that will be better."
She replied with lots of nice words, but didn't sound convinced.
When I served my curried greens with this spice mix, she actually liked it! Or, she's faking it. And we all know if you fake it, you are dooming yourself to receive a repeat performance! I loved the sweeter and smokier flavors of the toasted whole spices. Give this recipe adapted from 660 Curries a try.
1Tbl of coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp whole cloves
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
3 cinnamon sticks broken into small pieces
3 dry bay leaves
Preheat a small skillet over medium high heat. Add all the spices and stir gently every minute. The mix is ready when the coriander and cumin are reddish brown, the cinnamon is fragrant, and the bay leaves are crinkly and brittle. This took about 3 minutes for me.
Quickly transfer to a plate to cool.
When completely cool, spin in a spice grinder until the texture resembles finely ground black pepper. Next week I'll post a greens recipe (to help use up the autumn spinach / kale / collards from the CSA) that showcases these flavors!