Thursday, March 31, 2016

Masala Explained

Masala is a staple in Indian cooking.It is a blend of various spices that vary from region to region and family to family. Getting the right flavor can be tricky.However , with practice even American home chefs can create the perfect masala. Once made it can be added to anything from barbecue  to even mashed potatoes.

Kim Severson wrote about the classic flavoring in yesterday's New York Times Food section. She had help thanks to Raghavan Iyer who has written books and conducted demonstrations on how to cook food of the Subcontinent. She caught him as he was giving advice and lessons to the cafeteria cooks at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.Mr Iyer goes to various campuses , both academic and corporate to teach cooks and workers how to cook Indian food. it is popular now thanks to a large influx of Indian workers and students.It also makes a nice change from the usual cafeteria food does have to be made according to the original recipe due to cultural awareness. Teaching how to make any ethnic meal properly is valuable and important in respecting the various cultures that make up the country.Many cafeteria workers, like home chefs, have no idea what to do with the wide array of spices that are vital in Indian cuisine. Mr. Iyers demystifies that , explaining how one kind of spice can be prepared three different ways.

Masala is an easy prep, once home chefs get the hang of making it.The trickiest part, according to Mr. Iyer is getting the yellow split peas and spices called for the recipe.It requires fresh curry leaves which can easily be bought at Indian and international markets. They are not required but do add an anise like flavor to the mix.  Home chefs can customize the recipe to their tastes. The recipe given is sambhar masala from Southern India  and is Mr Iyer's mother-in-law's recipe. It is a melange of different seeds, from the common such as cumin, poppy, coriander and mustard to the exotic fenugreek. Curry leaves are added, and again, no sweat if they can;t be found.There are also Thai or cayenne chilis added for heat and cinnamon for sweetness. They have to be cooked with sesame oil until the split peas turn brown and the mustard seeds pop. Half the mixture is then put into a spice or coffee grinder.Grind until the texture is like that of finely ground pepper. It can be stored for up to two months,It is versatile. It can be made into a quick curry if it's added to shrimp and coconut milk or make grilled veggies more exotic. Mr. Iyers likes to add it and clarified butter or ghee to mashed potatoes.Home chefs can try it with anythig , from kebobs, to roasts for a true Indian flavor.

Home chefs will love cooking with masala once they deconstruct it. It's a spice mix that's rapidly gaining fans and favor  thanks to its' versatility.Make it and liven up any dish with its' smokey, sweet fieriness.

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