Why should you Dry Roast Spices?

A typical day for me finds me out trekking trails with my puppy all morning. Then I have to rush home and get in the kitchen and start grinding spices. Homemade Curry Powder does not make itself! And how can I possibly create the best curries in Southern California without my own home dry roast spices?

If it’s autumn here in our mountain town you better believe me, we are enjoying Indian curries most nights. Is there anything that tastes as delicious on a chilly autumn evening then a Moroccan Lamb Curry left to simmer on the stovetop all afternoon? One of the most awesome things about that cooler autumn weather, is I’m no longer afraid to turn my oven on when those sultry summer nights have passed.

To Anglo-Indians spice really is life. As a wanderlust-obsessed world traveler, I really have learned from the best. I never grew up eating Indian food or curries. Learning to be a great Indian cook and how to master all those savory south Indian curries is something that has come to me over time in the last ten years. I’m blessed to have some great mentors in my quest to learn all I can about Anglo-Indian cooking. The knowledge of Indian traditions and cuisine I have inherited from my Indian-born boyfriend and his aunties over the last ten years. This knowledge has been life-changing for this home cook.

These fall colors and cool weather call for a good curry dinner.

When concocting an authentic Indian curry, the very first step has to be dry-roasting your spices. This is not a step you can skip or half-ass. If you want to elevate your Indian cooking skills there are a lot of tips I can give you. Starting with dry roast spices will help your curry not have that raw spice flavor that has ruined many a curry. Obviously building your own Curry Powder from scratch is hands down my first recommendation. Roasting your own spices before you even start to create your masalas is another extremely helpful suggestion.

Another huge piece of advice I like to give newbie Indian cooks is never, ever make a thirty-minute curry. Yes for sure, Rachael Ray made the thirty-minute dinner trendy and I’m quite sure she has a thirty-minute Butter Chicken recipe somewhere on the internet. I’m also quite sure her spices taste raw. How can you possibly cook your onions well enough and create a delicious masala base in just thirty minutes? Her onions simply can not be cooked enough if you are half-assing a curry like that.

Indian meals have stronger flavors that is for sure. Uber spicy Indian meals are not for everyone but if you, like me, love the robust flavors of a Muslim-style Lamb Biryani girl, you better roast those spices first! Dry roast spices will lend a deeper flavor to your Indian meals than you ever would expect to find.

How to dry roast spices like a pro

  • Roast the spices whole. Ground spices will burn almost immediately.
  • Roast those spices in a small heavy-bottomed pan, stirring constantly, not more than four minutes.
  • The most important spices to roast are the most aromatic ones such as cumin seeds and coriander seeds.
  • Can you smell your spices roasting? You are done! It’s as simple as that!

Roasted Garam Masala

Did you just pick up a jar of garam masala from your local grocery market? Well, that was your first mistake. Don’t make this common mistake! The last thing you want to do is buy stale, store-bought garam masala. One of my favorite Indian curries of all time is Chicken with Figs, made with just minutes before, ground fresh garam masala. Okay, Meera Sodha is just about my favorite Indian cook of all time. Any time I can get my hands on fresh figs, I make this awesome korma. And you can bet your ass, I grind my own garam masala in the process.

I like to roast up this sensual autumn garam masala in the late fall. As I roast the spice blend before I grind it, it really contributes that spicy autumn smell to our home. And roasting up a big batch of garam masala in early November means I am ready to package it up in little jars to give to friends and family at Christmas time!

The best Garam Masala for your curries

6 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

10 black peppercorns

2 cardamom cloves

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 a chunk of nutmeg

Roast the cardamom, coriander and cinnamon stick just lightly for four minutes in a saucepan. When you can just barely smell the roasting, transfer all the spices to a Nutri-Bullet and grind well. Save in a mason jar for up to two months.