Frankenstein’s Refried Beans (SiR VIII) with garam masala

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recipe: garam masala spice mix

The Spice is Right VIII: Frankenstein’s Monster

(I don’t usually condone carving a pumpkin before the afternoon of Hallowe’en but just this once, an exception can be made for this particular occasion.)

cue sound effects

jackolantern in rain ©ejm2006 gif (many thanks to anonymous for the idea) On Hallowe’en night, we like to have dinner prepared before the hordes of costumed children start trooping up the steps in search of candy. And we like to make sure that it will be something that is warming because by the time we dine, we’ll have spent at least an hour on the chilly porch chatting with neighbours, admiring costumes, trying to get rid of any extra candies as the kids start thinning out, and exclaiming over the lack of Unicef boxes.

And once the candy has run out, we blow out the candles in the pumpkins, say hasty goodnights to any neighbours who still have candy and “sorry!! we just ran out” to any kids who have suddenly materialized, turn off the front lights and race inside to have either chili con carne with cornbread or refried beans casserole with cornchips. It’s always very difficult to decide which one we’ll have… they’re both so good.

(click on image for larger view and more photos)
refried beans casserole Because, even though it is me (I??) saying it, I make brilliant chili and brilliant refried beans. I really do. We think they’re the best.

And I have no idea if either are authentic to their origins but we don’t care.

Actually, I do know that the refried beans casserole can’t possibly be authentic because I always add garam masala to the beans.

Yes, you read that right. Garam masala. Not exactly the spice mix one would expect to see on South American and Mexican shelves, eh?

refried beans casserole It adds that certain je ne sais quoi that makes the dish complete. And don’t worry. It does NOT seem Asian flavoured at all…

I adore this dinner on a crisp cold night. Hmmm, maybe we will have refried beans on Hallowe’en night. (click on image for larger view and more photos)

SiR VIII: Frankenstein’s Monster – garam masala (spice blend)

In Indian cooking, garam masala is generally added at the end of cooking. But all bets are off if it is used in quasi Mexican cooking…. We often buy premixed garam masala from our Indian grocer (Kohinoor Foods on Gerrard St. in Toronto). There are several variations on the spice mixture but generally, even though garam masala means ‘hot spice mix’, it is not a particularly hot mixture – it rarely has any chili heat. I just asked the resident expert about the meaning and he says he believes it is called “hot” because it is a spice mix to be added to hot (as in temperature) food.

We have also made our own garam masala:

Garam masala

  • 3 tsp ground cardamom seeds
  • ½ inch cinnamon stick, ground
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground black cumin seeds (aka kala jeera)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin seeds (aka jeera)
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1½ tsp ground black pepper


  1. Put the cloves, cardamom, coriander and cumin seeds onto a tray and dry toast for a few minutes in the toaster. (Be careful not to burn the spices.) When you begin to smell the spices, they are done. Allow to cool.
  2. Add the toasted spices to the rest of the spices and mix together well (use your coffee spice grinder) and store in the dark in an airtight spice jar.

We use garam masala in

For more information on garam masala and individual spices that go into the one we make, please see

For complete details on how to participate in Sir VIII, please go to:

I just heard that we will be seeing zero Unicef boxes this year! We wouldn’t even have been allowed to go out for Hallowe’en if we didn’t have Unicef boxes strung around our necks!

UNICEF Canada has evaluated the programme and has set a goal to reduce expenses and increase funds raised so as to be able to support more children around the world. […] So this year, instead of students collecting change in the UNICEF box on Halloween night, schools and participating children will undertake fundraising activities throughout the month of October.

Read more about how to donate to UNICEF:



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7 responses to “Frankenstein’s Refried Beans (SiR VIII) with garam masala

  1. Danielle

    You know, setting up dinner on Halloween like that seems like a very clever idea. We plan to stay home Tuesday night, too, so maybe we’ll do the same. And garam masala in Mexican food sounds brilliant!

  2. MrsBrown

    On Halloween night, given that we have a boy who continues to go out Halloweening (if you’ll forgive the word), we have to have dinner BEFORE the hordes of children arrive and I like for him to have something warm and nutritious in his stomach before he gets all the candy. Every year, I make Dracula’s Delight (beet) soup along with Witch’s Fingers (baking powder biscuits in long thin pointy rectangles) and cheese bats (cookie cutter on the cheese). When we eat our soup, we try to laugh like Dracula and say things like “I don’t drink … soup.”

  3. ejm Post author

    It does work out quite well, Danielle. I really don’t add that much garam masala – I sometimes wonder if it really makes all that much difference to the finished dish. But I’m afraid to experiment by leaving it out now. :lalala:

    But oooh, I like the idea of the Dracula’s Delight, Mrs Brown! (… especially with the added attraction of being able to do Bela Lugosi impressions!) Are there “finger nails” on the Witches fingers? (almonds? olives?? …I saw this on the food network. When I turned on the TV, there was a closeup of hands kneading beautiful looking bread dough. It turned out to be Martha Stewart making pretzels in the shapes of fingers for a Hallowe’en party. She also added bits of rosemary to make the fingers look hairy. Whatever she used for the fingernails had been dipped in foodcolouring too so the finished pretzels looked particularly lurid.)

    Glad you like the jacko’lantern, CAM. I must admit, I was quite proud of myself.

  4. Jessica

    This dish makes me drool. A month ago I wrote a very homesick post about my need for mexican food. I wish that I were eating what you made right now!! only two more months to go, and then i’ll be in texas for some burrito time!
    lovely idea!

  5. ejm Post author

    It’s dead easy to make, Jessica. You can use whatever hot peppers are available. And if you can’t get corn chips easily where you are, I’m wondering if you couldn’t get hold of some ready-made chapatis (rotis); they’re basically the same as flour tortillas. Then you could roll the casserole contents in warmed chapatis and you won’t have to wait two months til you get back to Texas.

  6. Jenni

    I like the idea of using the garam masala in refried beans! You can also toast the spices in a large pan – I have some pictures of me doing that on my blog: Making Spice Masalas – Garam Masala

    Yes, good idea, Jenni. We’ve used our cast iron pan too for toasting spices and it does work well, doesn’t it? Thank you posting the link to your recipe for garam masala. It’s always nice to see what other people put into their spice mixes. -Elizabeth


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