All across India you will find regional spice blends (known as masalas). Vers masala hails from Kashmir and is commonly made and stored in small round cakes or tablets. Depending on the recipe (and the volume you are making), you can add either a small piece of Vers masala or a whole cake; usually towards the end of the cooking.
The mixture can be made in a food processor, blender, spice grinder or mortar and pestle, and is then heated before cooling and shaping into flattened discs. The spice cakes can be dried under a hot sun or in a very low oven.
Kashmiri Vers Masala Spice Cakes
- 100 g (3½ oz) fresh garlic, peeled
- 100 g (3½ oz) shallots, peeled and chopped
- 50 ml (1¾ fl oz /3 tablespoons) rapeseed (canola) oil
- 200 g (7 oz /2 cups) kashmiri chilli powder
- 100 g (3½ oz /1 cup) ground ginger
- 100 g (3½ oz /1 cup) ground fennel
- 15 g (½ oz /2 tablespoons) ground turmeric
- 10 g (½ oz /1½ tablespoons) black cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- seeds of 5 black cardamom pods, crushed
- seeds of 10 green cardamom pods, crushed
- 250 ml (8½ fl oz /1 cup) water
Place the garlic and chopped shallots in a blender or pestle and mortar and blitz or grind to a fine paste.
Heat the oil in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Once hot, remove from the heat and let cool before adding the rest of the ingredients. Mix with gloved hands until well incorporated, kneading the mixture like a dough.
Divide into 10 balls, then flatten them. Traditionally, these would be dried in the sun until there is no moisture left, but you can place them on a baking sheet and dehydrate them in a low oven for 2 hours.
Store in an airtight container to use when needed. It will keep for up to a month.
When using in the dishes, add about 1–2 teaspoons, or as directed in the recipe.
Check out this delicious Kokur Yakhni (Chicken in Yoghurt and Saffron Gravy) for a recipe using vers masala.
Made the recipe? Let us know how you got on in the comments.
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Kavey Eats received a review copy of this book from publishers Hardie Grant. This recipe is published with permission. Book photography by Matt Russell and Poras Chaudhary.