While there are plenty of tasty masala mixes in the marketplace, toasting grinding and mixing up your own spice mix is a sensorial experience unlike any other. What may seem like a tedious, timeconsuming process, I find to be an enlightening. One, that even after decades of practice continues to bring knowledge about the flavor and medicine of spices.
The experience begins when I heat up my “for toasting spices only” cast iron pan. The one I picked up at a random thrift shop driving along the California coast more than a decade ago. Not touched by anything but spices since its purchase, the pan permeates like that of an old spice stall filled with whole garam masala sacks. As the heat rises, my nose wiggles from the past pools of oils seeped into the pan, alerting my mind to drift into the memories that start to arise. Years of accumulated data about the spices my tastes buds know so well, simmer into the background. They move somewhere within reach, but far enough away so to let my senses lead the way.
Memories untapped for days and even years bring a warming, heart-filled smile, and at times anxious laughter, from the days when curry was not the preferred perfume. The days when even closing door after door, opening window upon window, still meant never escaping the scent that loved to linger deep into the fibers of my school clothes.
Not soon after am I startled with a convulsive expulsion of air from my lungs through my nose and mouth by pungent cloves, cardamom, and star anise, who are now heating up and adding their mark to the grit of my pan. With every attempt to resist my body’s erupting response, I am reminded that my ego is fighting a losing battle. For their volatile oils aim intensely and fast. Clearing space, expanding my lungs, and shaking up stagnating blockages so their prana can flow through my now red nose.
While a little tired from the touchless treatment, I feel lighter, more alert and refreshed. Happy toasting, grinding and happy digesting. (keep kleenex’s nearby)
Here’s the recipe for my new favorite spice blend, sweet rose masala. I use it to make rose chai, sprinkle atop oatmeal, in cakes, frostings, and even add a little to steaming savory grains. Since every spice is pre-toasted, this masala is already “cooked” and can be used similar to a condiment.
a spice blend of 6 spices, scented with roses
- 4 cups dried rose petals 1 cup of rose petal powder
- 1/2 cup green cardamom pods 8 tbsp cardamom powder
- 1 1/2 tbsp vanilla bean powder
- 2 tbsp fennel seeds
- 3 star anise
- 12 cloves
over low heat, in a slightly warm pan, gently warm the rose petals, about 30 seconds. Set aside to cool
in the same pan, over medium heat, add cardamom pods, cloves and star anise, and toast for about 1-2 mins until the aroma is released, then turn off the stove add fennel seeds to slightly warm. let cool
add all ingredients (except vanilla powder) in small batches to a spice or cleaned coffee grinder. Grind until all ingredients are blended into a fine powder.
add the ground spices to a mixing bowl or your storage jar with vanilla bean powder and mix well.
store in a tightly covered jar
4 heaping cups of dried rose petals equals to about 1 cup of rose powder