Rogan Josh is one of my favorite comfort foods. For years, I made it with Penzeys Rogan Josh blend, which I like very much. Then I got the bright idea to start mixing my own blends, for three reasons: First, it frees up space in my spice cabinet for a wider variety of single-ingredient jars. Second, I don’t use the blends often enough to finish a jar before it gets a bit stale, so everything is fresher when I make it myself. And last, but not least, it’s fun! Now, if I were genuinely trying to be authentic, I would buy only whole spices and toast and grind them myself. That’s really fresh! But I don’t, because spoons. Much of the time, I just don’t have the energy. Every step I can eliminate helps. And if I’m frequently using ground spices but sometimes using whole, then I’d have to stock both, and I just don’t have room for that. So it’s a compromise I can live with.
The exceptions are black pepper and saffron. Both lose freshness pretty fast once ground but take minimal effort to grind. So I only buy the whole threads of saffron and use the same pepper grinder I keep on the table for the rare occasion when something needs a little boost.
I don’t have a particularly scientific method for trying to reproduce spice blends. Well, when I say it’s not particularly scientific, I mean it’s not scientific at all. I start with a list of the ingredients in the blend, opening all the jars on my counter. Then I take a good whiff of the blend and try to identify which ingredients are dominant. Much jar-sniffing ensues. If my nose gets confused, I smell my coffee beans to clear out the previous smells. I start mixing in a little prep bowl, sniffing and taking notes as I go. With most blends, I end up having to cook a dish several (many) times before I’m satisfied, but sometimes I get lucky on the first try! This recipe makes enough for about one to one and a half pounds (454 to 650 g) of lamb.
Homemade Rogan Josh Seasoning
1 tablespoon paprika
1¼ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
¾ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper for mild heat (add another ⅛-¼ teaspoon for more kick)
scant ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
scant ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
scant ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
pinch saffron (about 20-25 threads)
1.) Measure out the first eleven ingredients (paprika through salt.)
2.) Grind the saffron with mortar and pestle. Add to the other ingredients and mix well.
3.) When the time comes to add liquid to your recipe, use some of it to get every last speck of the ground saffron from the mortar.