Garam masala lamb shoulder. Karen Martini GARAM MASALA recipes for Epicure and Good Food. Photographed by Marina Oliphant. Styling by Andrea Geisler. Photographed April 13, 2013.

Garam masala lamb shoulder. Photo: Marina Oliphant

Garam masala is one of those pantry staples that's easy to take for granted. Like any spice mix or paste, some versions are better than others, and the one you make yourself is always the best.

Garam masala

The roasted spices will perfume the house while you're making this, from the woody and rich notes of cinnamon and mace to the distinctive citrus floral top notes of green cardamom, making it impossible to put it in the pantry without giving it a trial run.

4 fresh bay leaves

3 cinnamon sticks

25g coriander seeds

25g cumin seeds

25g green cardamom pods

5g (1 tbsp) fennel seeds

10g (4 tsp) black peppercorns

10g (2 tbsp) cloves

2 star anise

4 blades mace (the whole flakes)

2 tbsp dried rose petals (optional, just if you have some to hand)

1. Add all the ingredients to a frying pan and dry roast over medium heat for about four minutes while shaking the pan. Toast the spices so they become fragrant, but don't let them burn.

2. Let the spices cool and then grind in a coffee or spice grinder until a fine powder. Store in an airtight container or jar.

Makes Small jar

Slow-baked lamb shoulder with garam masala

This method of cooking lamb is divine, producing full-flavoured, unctuous meat that takes on the fragrant spices. Serve simply with spiced potatoes or lentils and a little rice.

5 cloves garlic, finely grated

12cm piece ginger, finely grated

2 tbsp salt flakes, plus extra

1 lemon, zest and juice

3 tbsp garam masala

5 tbsp plain yoghurt

About 2.5kg whole lamb shoulder, bone in

80ml extra virgin olive oil

3 brown onions, sliced in rings

To serve

1 bunch coriander, picked

4 limes

500ml sheep's milk yoghurt or other yoghurt, hung in a cheesecloth to drain and thicken

1. Combine the garlic, ginger, salt, lemon juice and zest, garam masala and yoghurt.

2. Make incisions all over both sides of the lamb with a sharp knife and massage the yoghurt mix over it. Cover and marinate in the fridge overnight.

3. The next day, remove the shoulder from the fridge and place in a baking dish with the fat-side up. Allow to sit at room temperature for an hour. Preheat the oven to 150C fan-forced or 170C conventional.

4. While the lamb sits, in a large frying pan over medium heat add the oil and fry the onions until golden brown. Season. Set half aside for garnish, scatter the rest over the lamb.

5. Add 450ml of water to the baking tray, cover the whole tray tightly with baking paper and foil and cook for four hours.

6. Check the lamb - it should be meltingly tender. Remove the foil and paper, sprinkle over the remaining onions and cook for a further 30 minutes at 170C to brown and crisp up.

7. Strain off the juices in the tray, skim off any fat and serve with the meat. Garnish with coriander leaves and lime wedges, with the drained yoghurt on the side.

Drink Soft, unoaked red such as grenache

Serves 6

Crab samosas

These are slightly more luxurious and delicate than typical samosas, though the portions are generous. Roll out the dough thinly to ensure light and crisp pastry.

Dough

200g plain flour

1½ tbsp fine semolina

½ tsp saltz

1½ tbsp vegetable or olive oil

Filling

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp white mustard seeds

¼ cup frozen peas

2 green chillies, finely chopped

3 tsp garam masala

½ tsp turmeric powder

2 large potatoes, boiled, peeled and roughly diced

150g cooked crab meat

2 handfuls coriander leaves, picked

4cm piece ginger, finely grated

2 tsp amchur (mango powder, from Indian and Asian grocers)

Salt flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

Oil for deep-frying

Raita

250g plain yoghurt

1 lemon, peeled, segmented and chopped

1 lime, peeled, segmented and chopped

1 bunch coriander, chopped very fine

2 tsp castor sugar

2 tsp salt flakes

1. For the raita, combine all the ingredients and chill.

2. For the dough, add the flour, semolina and salt to a bowl, then combine.

3. Add the oil and mix through with your fingers to a crumb-like texture. Make a well, add 140ml of warm water and mix to form a dough. Work until all the ingredients are incorporated and the bowl is clean of flour.

4. Tip on to a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes or until the dough is smooth and silky. If the dough is sticky, dust lightly with flour. Wrap in cling film and rest on the bench for 20 minutes while you make the filling.

5. For the filling, in a frying pan add the oil, mustard seeds and peas, then cook for two minutes. Add the chillies, garam masala and turmeric, cooking until fragrant. Take off the heat and fold in the potato, crab, coriander, ginger and mango powder. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

6. Heat oil in a saucepan or deep fryer to 170C.

7. Divide the dough into six even balls and, one at a time, roll out on a floured bench into circles about 2 millimetres thick. Cut in half. Rub a little water along the straight edge of one of the semicircles. Form into a cone by sealing one half of the straight edge with the other half. Support the open end of the cone over your thumb and index finger, much like you hold a piping bag to fill it. Spoon in some filling, leaving about 2 centimetres free at the top, then wet the open edges and stretch to seal shut. This end becomes the bottom of the samosa.

8. Fry as you go - the pastry is delicate - for four to five minutes or until golden brown. Serve with raita and a chutney.

Drink Pilsner