Spice Fundamentals: Roasted Cumin and Garam Masala

Madhur Jaffrey

Lesson time 07:13 min

Madhur explains how spices can be altered to create depth, the same way a painter uses paints. A simple action like roasting or combining spices can completely transform them, giving you different “shades” of a spice.

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Topics include: Roasted Cumin · Garam Masala


[MUSIC PLAYING] [NON-ENGLISH SINGING] - All the countries in the world still fry, roast, steam, boil. But what really distinguishes Indian food is this magical use of spices. We've got the spices from all over the world, and we use them like a painter uses colors. We get different shades from the same spice by doing something to the spice. For example, you take a very simple spice like cumin seeds. So you know what they are. They're simple seeds like this. And you can eat them the way they are, put them in oil and hot fat and let them sizzle and then add ingredients to them, you can have them ground in a ground form, and you put that over various dishes-- potatoes, peas, whatever you want. But you can get a third flavor when you roast them. And that's when they become so exciting. So what I'm going to do is roast some ordinary cumin and change it to something different, something spicier that makes your mouth water, and nuttier in taste. So the first thing I have to do-- I have a small cast-iron skillet here. And I'm adjusting the heat to-- click on the medium heat, but you have to be very careful and be ready to take the pan off the heat when the cumin seeds are getting brown. So we'll take this much, shall we? I'm using cast-iron because it's heavy, and it can hold the heat, and it's actually excellent for roasting spices. I always use cast-iron when I'm making cumin seeds that are roasted, because I've seen my mother do it this way, and I guess I do it this way. But you need a heavy pan, because you don't want them to burn quickly. You just want them to roast and turn a shade or two darker. What I do is I have a paper towel handy over here. I'm going to put them in that. And I'll tell you why I do that, because I want them to cool off slightly before I grind them. Not too much, but I do want them to cool off a little bit. Otherwise, they'll ruin my little coffee grinder that I'm going to grind the spices in. It's a very toasty aroma, very toasty, and it'll spread through the room like a nice little haze. It will be wonderful. And that's the way you know that they're roasting very nicely. And you see that the cumin seeds change a shade darker. You don't want that much darker than that. In the smoke coming-- you can see the smoke. And they'll go very fast now. So I'm ready to take it off the heat. And they will keep on cooking, so you have to get them out of the pan and onto this paper towel. Do you see how they're just lightly colored, a shade darker? And I'm going to get my little coffee grinder. I have one grinder for spices and one for coffee. And I use the paper towel to create a kind of funnel so the spices can go in. All right, now all I have to do is put it on. [COFFEE GRINDER RUNNING] OK, now it's ground roasted cumin. So whenever my recipes call for ground roasted cumin, this is what I'm talking about. You don't have to do it every single time. I've made a fair quantity here. And what I'...

About the Instructor

With more than 30 award-winning cookbooks and a James Beard Foundation Cookbook Hall of Fame Award, Madhur Jaffrey may be the greatest living authority on Indian cuisine. Now she shares those vast and storied traditions with you. Learn 30 authentic recipes: vegetables, breads, South Asian meats, street foods, and more. Blend and layer spices and bring it all together—from the perfect bite to full menus of vibrant flavor.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Madhur Jaffrey

7x James Beard Award winner Madhur Jaffrey teaches you 30 authentic recipes and shares India’s vast culinary traditions and techniques.

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