The fragrance that you get from woman’s sari is the aroma of the spices that clings to her while she cooks……..
Strangely Sindhi Garam masala is not used in Sindhi Curry, nor is it used in that famous Saibhaji, nor in popular DhalPakwan too. Garam masala is mainly used in meat dishes
The very first cooking class that I had attended (way back) in my teens, the instructor had said “Don’t think that if you use too much of Garam masala, the food is going to taste beautiful, on the contarary, you will spoil the taste, always use garam masala moderately” this piece of advise has stuck on to me till today and whenever I used garam masala, I use it carefully.
My mom was the greatest cook ever, I don’t remember her churning out a bad dish, whatever she cooked, it always tasted good. I had asked her once as to where did she learn cooking. She had told me that she has been cooking from age nine. Her mother (My granny) cooked only lunch and then spend rest of her days visiting families (either attending condolence meetings, or was on social call, or some private gatherings) and my mom (being the eldest) cooked dinner for the family everyday. If I have to trace my roots, I can go only as far as 1947. Pre-partition stories have been blocked out from my family completely and are rarely discussed (such pain they brought) Sindhis decided to move on (because feeding their family was their priority) and being penniless after partition, men went back to trading, while women cooked together in community kitchens churning out tasty dishes.
Nobody can deny that Sindhis are very hospitable and will never let you go hungry. If you were to create a stereotype Sindhi, then you must agree that they are kind and welcoming, fun-loving, adaptable and extremely close-knit.
I did a little research and this is what I stumbled upon:
It is said that "between the eighth and 10th century the Abbasid Caliphs of Baghbad were at the height of their power and spent lavish amounts of money on their kitchens. The expenditure on food was matched by their gluttony, and cooks from all over the Muslim world, namely Turkey, Arabia, Egypt, gathered at Baghdad and incorporated their own local dishes into the courtly culinary repertoire."Even Indian cooks arrived from Sindh (the southern part of what is now Pakistan), which had been conquered by the Arabs in the year 713. The cooks hailing from Sindh were known for their trustworthiness, ingenuity, and extremely spicy dishes,"
as quoted in the chapter titled Biryani in the book, Curry: A tale of Cooks and Conquerors by Lizzie Collingham.
During my growing up days, I watched mom roast the spices and then pound them in mortar and pestle mill till they acquired the rough powdery consistency. The pounding of the spices gave me headaches but the aroma that filled my rooms was heady. Eventually I learnt to make Garam Masala from my mom and helped her in the kitchen.
Here I am sharing the recipe of Garam Masala that my mom used to make.
To make Sindhi Garam Masala
100 grams cumin seeds
50grams Caraway seeds
50 grams Cinamons
12-13 Bay leaves
Dry roast together all the spices on hot plate on low heat, stirring continuously till you get the sweet aroma of spices.
Take them off the heat and set it aside to cool
Grind when cool and store in air-tight glass bottles.
If you have my book on Sindhi Cuisine, you can find this recipe on page 52
I normally use Sindhi Garam Masala in gravy made of burnt onions, and in meat recipes, but otherwise, most of the vegetarian dishes that I cook, I normally sprinkle crushed mixture of cardamom and Shahi Jeera.
In many Sindhi dishes, a mixture of Caraway-Cardamom powder is added at the end of cooking instead of Garam Masala. This enhances the flavours and aroma of the dish and is beneficial for its cooling effects, as compared to the more heavier garam masala, which is primarily used in meat dishes.
To make one teaspoon of caraway-cardamom powder, grind togather one teaspoon of caraway seeds and 2-3 peeled green cardamom.
This post has been written to mark the tradition (of drying and grinding spices in the month of May) by celebrating 20th May as International #MasalaDay
May the flavours of Masala enhance your cooking.....hope you are celebrating too.