If you don’t already know the spice company, Seasoned Pioneers, let me introduce you. Based in Liverpool and run by two innovative guys, Mark Steene and Matt Webster, it strives and succeeds to provide the freshest spices, roasted and blended on site and sealed in small airtight packages capturing the aromas and flavours of the different culinary cultures around the world. I have ordered from Seasoned Pioneers for years and particularly love their range of dried chillies and their various spice blends, such as Moroccan ras el hanout with rose petals, Ethiopian berbere, Middle Eastern baharat, Japanese shichimi togarashi and the characterful Indian chaat masala.
With the pungent aroma of kala namak (black rock salt from north India), the sour notes of amchoor (dried green mango powder), and the warming flavour of roasted cumin, chaat masala is a delightful hot and sour spice. It keeps raising its head on the Kitchen Café Curry Club, the spice-driven show on BBC Radio Scotland that I co-present with the lovely Sumayya Usmani who is regarded as the voice of Pakistani cuisine. It is not surprising that it crops up a lot when Sumayya is cooking as it has become a ubiquitous flavouring in Pakistan but its roots are in India, particularly in vegetarian dishes, which is where I tend to use it. In Hindi, the word ‘chaat’ refers to special vegetarian snack food with a hot-sour seasoning and chaat masala is the blend of spices that provides those particular flavour notes. As it is such a versatile spice blend it has been adopted by Muslims throughout India and Pakistan and used to enhance almost any kind of dish – tossed into savoury fruit and vegetable salads and snacks, sprinkled into rice and lentils, and rubbed over meat and fish kebabs.
If you want to make your own chaat masala at home, you can use the following recipe to get kick-started – the individual ingredients are all available from Seasoned Pioneers as is the versatile spice blend itself.
4 tsp roasted cumin seeds, ground
1-2 tblsp amchoor
2-3 tsp cayenne pepper/chilli powder
1 tsp black pepper, ground
1 tsp black salt, ground (kala namak – strong smelling rock salt in N. India)
1 tsp salt
Simply combine all of the ingredients and store in an airtight container.