Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Homemade garam masala spices up navrattan

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SEVERAL weeks ago, Adele Stevens wrote in looking for a recipe for navrattan, an Indian dish of vegetables in a creamy spiced sauce. She was hoping for a version that might come close to the one served at The East India Company, a popular Winnipeg restaurant. Terri Fillion and her husband are part of a gourmet club, and one year the theme was Indian food. They tested many recipes for navrattan (also spelled navratan and navaratan), and ended up with this recipe, which got rave reviews from other club members. Terri also included their recipe for homemade garam masala, a spice mix used for many Indian dishes.

I plan to return to lemon desserts next week. Thanks so much to everyone who has sent recipes in so far. I'm overwhelmed! If you can help with a recipe request, have your own request, or a favourite recipe you'd like to share, send an email to, fax it to 697-7412, or write to Recipe Swap, c/o Alison Gillmor, Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6. Please include your first and last name, address and telephone number.

Garam masala

250 ml (1 cup) coriander seeds

175 ml (3/4 cup) cumin seeds

60 ml (1/4 cup) dried hot red pepper flakes

7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) turmeric

7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) ground ginger

7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) black peppercorns

3 cardamom pods

2 ml (1/2 tsp) whole cloves

2.5 cm (1 in) piece of cinnamon stick

Preheat oven to 175C (350F). In a shallow baking pan, combine coriander seeds and cumin seeds and bake in the middle of the oven for 5 minutes or until fragrant. In a small bowl, combine roasted seeds with remaining ingredients. Using a well-cleaned electric coffee or spice grinder, grind spices in batches to a powder. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Tester's notes: You can find premade garam masala in the spice section of most grocery stores, but this process was very satisfying, surprisingly easy, and left the kitchen smelling delicious. And you can adjust the heat and spice ratios to your liking.

It's absolutely key to clean the grinder well beforehand. (This is a good thing to do periodically anyway, since accumulated coffee grounds can make your coffee bitter.) And, of course, clean it again before you go back to coffee-making, or you'll have spicy coffee.

I had many of the ingredients on hand already, and I shopped for the remainder at a bulk-bin store that allowed me to buy just the amount of spices I needed. I made a half-recipe because I didn't think I would use up the whole batch within six months.


oil or ghee

125 ml (1/2 cup) white or yellow onion, finely diced

5 ml (1 tsp) fresh ginger, minced

2 cloves garlic

7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) chili powder

10 ml (2 tsp) coriander

7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) garam masala

375 ml (1 1/2 cups) cauliflower (about 1 small head), boiled, drained well and lightly mashed

dash turmeric

60 ml (1/4 cup) vegetable broth

100 g (1/2 cup) paneer

175 ml (3/4 cup) whole milk

45 ml (3 tbsp) half-and-half cream

salt, to taste

Heat oil or ghee in a large heavy pot. Sauté onions, ginger and garlic until softened and beginning to brown. Add chili powder, coriander and garam masala and sauté for 1 minute. Add cauliflower and sauté for 5 minutes. Add turmeric and vegetable broth and sauté for 5 minutes. Add paneer, milk and cream and heat gently but do not boil. Season with salt to taste and serve hot, garnished with cilantro, if desired.

Tester's notes: This vegetable dish is creamy but not too rich with a subtle range of flavour and a little lingering heat.

Ghee, a South Asian version of clarified butter, and paneer, a fresh Indian cheese, can be found in specialty food stores and some supermarkets. This navrattan relies on cauliflower, but many recipes use up to nine boiled vegetables, which can include potatoes, carrots, peas, green beans, peppers, cabbage and squash. You can mix and match but just make sure to drain vegetables well so that you don't end up with a watery sauce.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 25, 2012 D5

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