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Article Published on: 30TH OCT 2023 |

Spices have been at the heart of culinary traditions across the globe for centuries. They are the key to adding depth, complexity, and bold flavors to dishes, transforming a simple meal into an unforgettable culinary experience. In this article, we will explore the art of cooking with spices, focusing on a specific recipe and technique that showcases their ability to elevate the taste of your dishes.

I. The Magic of Spices Spices are the aromatic, flavorful, and often colorful components that are extracted from various parts of plants, including seeds, bark, roots, and fruits. These tiny powerhouses of flavor have the potential to transport your taste buds to far-off regions, adding character and depth to your dishes. The world of spices is vast and diverse, offering a wide range of tastes, from sweet and pungent to hot and earthy.

II. The Foundation of Flavor: Spice Blends One of the keys to cooking with spices is mastering spice blends. Spice blends are mixtures of different spices and herbs, carefully crafted to deliver specific flavors and aromas. Here, we'll focus on the garam masala, a versatile spice blend hailing from the Indian subcontinent. Garam masala typically contains a combination of warming spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, cumin, and coriander.

Photo by Shantanu Pal | Source:

Recipe: Garam Masala Spice Blend Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds

  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds

  • 1 tablespoon cardamom pods

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1 teaspoon cloves

  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns


  1. Heat a dry skillet over medium-low heat and add the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, cloves, and black peppercorns.

  2. Toast the spices gently, stirring occasionally, until they become fragrant and slightly darker in color. This should take about 2-3 minutes.

  3. Remove the toasted spices from the heat and allow them to cool for a few minutes.

  4. Once cooled, transfer the toasted spices to a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind them into a fine powder.

  5. Store your freshly ground garam masala in an airtight container, away from direct sunlight, to preserve its flavor and aroma.

III. Techniques for Bold Flavors: Cooking with Garam Masala Now that you have your homemade garam masala, let's explore how to use it to create a flavorful dish. We'll focus on a classic Indian recipe, "Chicken Tikka Masala," to showcase the technique of cooking with this spice blend.

Photo by Charlotte May | Source:

Recipe: Chicken Tikka Masala Ingredients: For the Marinade:

  • 1.5 pounds (680g) boneless, skinless chicken thighs

  • 1 cup plain yogurt

  • 2 tablespoons garam masala

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin

  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander

  • 1 tablespoon paprika

  • 1 teaspoon turmeric

  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic

  • Salt and black pepper to taste

  • Juice of 1 lemon

For the Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

  • 2 teaspoons garam masala

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (adjust to taste)

  • 1 can (14 ounces) crushed tomatoes

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • Salt to taste

  • Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

  • Cooked basmati rice or naan bread for serving


  1. Start by marinating the chicken. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, garam masala, cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric, ginger, garlic, salt, black pepper, and lemon juice. Mix well.

  2. Cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces and add them to the marinade. Ensure that each piece is coated evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but overnight is ideal for the best flavor.

  3. Preheat your grill or broiler to high heat. Thread the marinated chicken pieces onto skewers and grill or broil them until they're cooked through with a nice char, about 10-15 minutes.

  4. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the sauce. In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté until it becomes soft and translucent.

  5. Add the garam masala, cumin, coriander, paprika, and chili powder to the skillet. Cook for about 1-2 minutes until the spices become fragrant.

  6. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and cook for an additional 5 minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken.

  7. Lower the heat and pour in the heavy cream. Stir to combine, creating a rich and creamy sauce. Let it simmer for another 5 minutes.

  8. Once the chicken is cooked, transfer it into the skillet with the sauce. Simmer together for a few more minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

  9. Taste the sauce and add salt as needed.

  10. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve your Chicken Tikka Masala with basmati rice or naan bread.

Photo by Janine Beth Salazar | Source:

IV. Exploring the Flavor Profile In this Chicken Tikka Masala recipe, the garam masala is the star of the show, infusing the dish with warmth and complexity. The blend of spices in the garam masala adds layers of flavor, from the earthy notes of cumin and coriander to the sweet warmth of cardamom and cinnamon. The result is a rich, aromatic, and balanced sauce that envelops the succulent pieces of chicken.

Cooking with spices, especially with a well-crafted spice blend like garam masala, allows you to experiment with different flavor profiles and levels of heat. Adjust the amount of chili powder in the recipe to suit your spice tolerance, and feel free to explore other spices and herbs that can complement the garam masala.

Conclusion Cooking with spices is a journey that opens up a world of culinary possibilities. The garam masala spice blend showcased in the Chicken Tikka Masala recipe is just one example of how spices can elevate your dishes from ordinary to extraordinary. The key to success is understanding the flavor profile of the spices you use and experimenting with different combinations to achieve the perfect balance. With practice and a willingness to explore, you'll find that cooking with spices can be a truly magical experience, transforming your meals into flavorful masterpieces that delight the senses and satisfy the soul.

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