My great-grandmother was the world’s best cook. I know everyone says this about their mums and grans and aunts and other members of the maternal club. But this woman was quite something. For her day and age, she was surprisingly enthusiastic about world cuisine, introducing the family to au gratins, jams, jellys, and other non-Maharashtrian foods. To this day, we use her sacrosanct recipes and party proportions and it’s amazing how the simplest of her recipes can yield almost orgasmic responses from people who aren’t even fond of food.
Today, I’m sharing with you her recipe for kala (black) masala. Otherwise also known as goda (sweet) masala, this almost nutty and musky mix of spices is a staple in all Maharashtrian Brahmin homes. Of course, recipes differ from family to family, but the essence remains the same. It is used blindly to add flavor to vegetable curries, dals (good old aamti, for instance), rice dishes, and can even be mixed with a spot of peanut oil to use as a chutney.
The reason it was named the “black” masala was because of the dark, almost black color that the clay-stove-roasted-dried coconut imparted. Now, of course, we roast grated dried coconut in an iron kadhai/wok so it turns a rich gold, and not charred black. The resultant masala is, therefore, anything but black.
Here’s the recipe salvaged from my aunt’s cookbook that has come to me as inheritance:
- 1 cup, coriander seeds
- 2 bay leaves
- 7-8 cloves
- 10-12 dried red chilies
- 1 tbsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. asafetida
- ½ cup grated, dried coconut
- 1 tbsp. sesame seeds
- 1 inch piece, cinnamon
- ½ tsp. turmeric powder
- 1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
- Dry roast the coriander seeds, coconut, and chilies.
- Sauté all the other ingredients individually in very small amounts of oil.
- Cool and process to get a coarse powder.
- Store in an air-tight jar.
- This masala stays well at room temperature for several months.