My friend Gaya was always popular at university, but never more so than at the beginning of the new term. Maybe we’d all missed her fun, vivacious and caring personality. Or maybe we knew that she’d return armed with dozens of tupperware boxes crammed with Keralan food goodies from her mother.
Best of all was going to see Gaya at their house in the holidays and spending most of the visit telling Mrs Radhakrishnan how much we loved her, in the calculated and not overly subtle hope of being fed continually. Never failed.
After twelve or so years of Mrs Radha being the subject of our mass adulation, she agreed to hold a cookery class for five over-excited thirtysomethings who duly crammed into her kitchen. Notepads poised, with an alertness our university lecturers may not have recognised. Gaya too. Because – guess, what? – in all the years of her mother cooking these amazing dishes Gaya hadn’t learned how herself. But now, now she wanted to learn as much as the rest of us.
Unsurprisingly, garam masala came out as being the mainstay of so much of the cooking. Mrs Radha told us to never – ever – buy it. Shop bought garam masala will spoil the rest of your endeavours with spices that have lost their flavour since being ground several months ago and a balance of flavours that’s too heavily weighted in the cheaper spices. Make your own garam masala and all your Indian food will sing.
You’ll need a grinder but they’re not pricey and if you like cooking / eating Indian food then you’ll easily get your money’s worth out of it. There are spice grinders to be had, but I use a coffee grinder. Same difference, I think. Mrs Radha used a coffee grinder too. And if it’s good enough for her….
Grind everything together – including the shells of the cardamom pods. And there it is. The garam masala will smell incredible and keep for a little while in an airtight jar.
At the end of the lesson (and the eating), we each left Mrs Radha’s with our very own bundle of delicious tupperware and a bag of her precious garam masala. And we loved her even more than we did before.