I promised to share with you guys, what I so fondly refer to as, Jikoni Magic’s Homemade Pilau Masala Mix which I used to make the scrumptious Kenyan brown pilau made on a charcoal jiko.
The pilau masala mix is so potent and a small amount of it really goes a long way. A teaspoon of it is normally enough for me, as seen in this pilau video.
I always have a number of whole spices in my pantry and when the occasion calls for it I throw them in my coffee grinder and within no time I have my special blend for different occasions.
I make it a point to grind just enough for a few cooking sessions because it literally takes less than five minutes from start to finish to make a fresh masala spice mix. Remember, once you grind spices they tend to lose their flavour very fast.
And as you proceed to read the rest of this post, please, bear in mind that you can switch this recipe up or down to suit you. If there’s a particular spice that you cannot stand, or maybe do not have, then just leave it out, do not stress over it. You could even reduce the quantities. In my case, I use only three cloves because I find their flavour to be too overwhelming. How people can make clove tea or clove rice is beyond me, but like I say, to each their own. 😆
Two more things to bear in mind; nutmeg is a very potent spice and a little goes a long way, use it sparingly. And, if you do not have a coffee grinder or any other grinder that can help you grind your spices to a powder, leave out the fenugreek seeds from your homemade pilau masala mixture. They are very hard almost like small pebbles that will not break no matter how hard you pound them in your pestle and mortar, and in addition, they are extremely bitter if you bite into them.
So where do I buy my spices from?
From most of the leading supermarkets, actually. I’m asked this question so many times by so many people. The prices range from Ksh. 60 to Ksh. 200. I have also been asked for my preferred supermarket for spice shopping. Well, here’s the thing, I do not have any loyalty to any of them but with that said, I do most of my shopping from Tuskys supermarket because of convenience. They have a branch next to where I board my matatus from town and another one is located just a very short distance from where I live.
How do I roast / toast my whole spices?
Even though I haven’t roasted the spices in the video below, (I forgot this step when shooting the video), I will explain in great detail how to go about it.
Put them on a dry skillet or sufuria and then place it on medium heat. Next, keep turning them frequently to prevent them from burning for between one to two minutes. No more than this. Do not use high heat because they tend to burn very easily.
How do I tell if my spices are roasted / toasted enough?
- They will turn a nice toasty brown colour, or the dark ones will turn an even darker shade.
- They will turn fragrant and emit a very nice aroma.
- Some of the spices will start to pop like mustard and cumin seeds.
Can I toast / roast ground spices?
Yes you can, but you have to keep a really close eye on them. I would also recommend that you use a heavy bottomed skillet for this because it will ensure that the heat is evenly distributed and will not heat up too fast. The flavours will intensify after about thirty seconds; make sure that you remove them from the pan immediately because if left in it they will continue roasting and end up burning.
Once you are done dry roasting your whole pilau spices you could do either of the following.
- Store them in an airtight container and use as they are. There are those people who like using whole spices in their pilau and biryani, but personally, I’m not a fan. The horror of crushing a whole black peppercorn in my mouth is the stuff of nightmares, at least for me. The worst is biting into a whole clove… let me just leave it there.
- Grind them using a pestle and mortar or a coffee grinder. I prefer the coffee grinder.
Here’s my video explaining in detail the spices I use, where I get them up to how I store the pilau masala mix:
Jikoni Magic's Homemade Pilau Masala Mix is a blend of dry roasted whole spices to intensify their aroma, which, are then ground to a coarse powder before being stored in an airtight container.
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 star anise
- ½ tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 12 cardamom pods
- 1/4 Nutmeg
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 Inch Cinnamon sticks
- 2 Bay leaves
- 3 cloves
- 1 tsp Coriander seeds
- 1 tsp Fennel seeds
Dry roast the spices for about 20 seconds so as to intensify the flavor.
Grind them using a coffee grinder. You can also go the pestle and motor way. However, if you do decide to do that, omit the fenugreek seeds as they will not break.
Store in an airtight container.
- Dry roast the whole spices on medium heat to prevent them from burning.
- Always prepare a small batch at a time because once you grind spices they tend to lose their flavour very fast.
- Use cloves and nutmeg spices sparingly because they are very potent and can end up overwhelming the whole blend.
- If using pestle and mortar instead of a spice grinder then do not include fenugreek seeds in the pilau masala because they are very hard and will not break down.