from one generation to the next
Light and air are the natural enemies of dried herbs and ground spices. Left whole, the natural oils and resins of the seeds which are the flavour vehicles are preserved, but once the spice is ground, they evaporate quickly and the flavour fades away. This is good reason to buy spices in small quantities, to be fussy about choosing products that are vacuum sealed, to transfer opened packages into glass jars with tight fitting lids and to give space to your spice rack in a kitchen cupboard or drawer away from heat and light.
Your nose is the best guide when assessing if spices are still good enough to use. Rub some spice between your fingers. If the aroma has faded then you can be sure that the flavour has too.
Because there is no guarantee that packaged ground spice mixes have been treated with respect by food wholesalers and retailers, I like to make my own. I buy whole spices online from “Herbies,” a specialist spice shop in Sydney. The cost of postage for a next day delivery of super fresh spices far outweighs the cost of wastage from faded flavour.
The taste of freshly ground garam masala is more fragrant, more complex and much more enticing than a mix made to price by a generic grocery manufacturer. Treat yourself next time you make an Indian dish, grind a fresh batch of garam masala, if stored carefully it will keep at it’s best for up to a month.
10 cardamom pods
2 Indian bay leaves (cassia leaves)
I teaspoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
10 cm cinnamon stick
1 1/2 teaspoon cloves
Remove the cardamom seeds from the pods and discard the pods.
Break the cinnamon stick and the bay leaves into small pieces.
Pound the spices in a mortar and pestle or put them into a grinder and process to a coarse powder.
Store in a airtight container away from light and heat for up to one month.