A Masala is a combination of (often dry-roasted) spices and herbs that have been ground and mixed together. For masalas to be most effective they should be made fresh at least twice a month. Certain herbs are better for you in certain seasons, and as the weather changes and chills our environment, it is best to flavour meals with warming, soothing and potent herbs and spices that fight off the colds and flus associated with the cool temperature. When roasting and grinding herbs and spices try to be in a peaceful and calming environment so you are able to enjoy the experience (this may mean having your little one help you or maybe this is an activity reserved for when they’re safely tucked in at night). If you take the time to breathe in the smells and enjoy the colours and textures in front of you, your brain will begin to send signals to your stomach- curbing cravings and aiding digestion. Perhaps preparing, roasting and grinding spices will start to become a meaningful and enjoyable weekly ritual for you.
This ‘early winter masala’ recipe is from the book ‘The Path of Practice: A Woman’s Book of Aurvedic Healing’ by Bri Maya Tiwari.
It is delicious added to rice bowls, for marinating tofu or to spice up a steamed vegetable dish.
2 tbs caraway seeds
2 tbs cumin seeds
1 tsp black/brown mustard seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garlic powder
Roast and grind the seeds before adding the powders
Caraway Seeds- are especially beneficial for the gastrointestinal system, soothes sore throats and aids in fighting coughs and colds.
Cumin Seeds- are naturally antiseptic, high in iron and have been used to help with flatulence, indigestion, morning sickness and diarrhea. They increase heat in the body creating more energy and increasing the metabolism.
Black Mustard Seeds- are known to be naturally laxative (mildly for the amount added to your masala) and have also been used to treat minor respiratory problems.
Turmeric- is known as one of natures most powerful healers- used as an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent for centuries. It is also thought to be a major anti-carcinogenic.
Garlic- is another natural anti-biotic that has been throughout history to treat coughs, colds and even ear infections. Garlic is also a naturally warming herb.
As with anything, the more pure your herbs are, the more confident you can be that they are going to do their job well without polluting your body in any way. I think it is especially important to examine your spices and read the information labels looking for harmful preservatives. Also make sure none of your herbs are past their used by date or you could be doing more harm than good. A trustworthy Australian Organic herb provider is gourmet-organics. They have an online shop if you can’t find their brand at your local health food or organic shop.
I encourage you to research spice and herbs that have been frequently and historically used in your family and country and by your ancestors. Experiment and create your own masalas. They do not have to use only dried herbs and spices, but fresh ones as well.