Posts Tagged With: chai

Chai! Spiced and Warming Indian Tea (plus some travel snaps of India)

One of my favourite spots for a chai.  Baba Cake, up in Kasar Devi, Himalayas, India

One of my favourite spots for a stonking chai!  Baba Cake, up in Kasar Devi, Himalayas, India

“Chaichaichaichaichaichai!”  A cry you will hear quite often when wandering around India.  In the streets, in the middle of the night on a train, it’s a bit of a theme tune to your day.  Jane has several versions recorded which we like to play and bring a little bit of India into the Beach House (along with some recordings of birds singing in the Himalayas).

This is a steaming beverage that will see you cruise through winter (or if you are heading into summer, makes a great iced tea!) The spices here add magical flavours, highly fragrant and invigorating, along with a whole load of vitamins and minerals that benefit our wintery parts.  Of course, if you are vegan, most street-side chai is off the menu.  We must settle for a black tea, which can be delicious, but all too often turns out to be a Lipton tea bag in some warm-ish water.  This means our homemade chai’s are even more special.

Jane enjoying a chai outside out little cottage up near Nanda Devi, Himalayas, India

Jane enjoying a chai outside out little cottage up near Nanda Devi, Himalayas, India

Chai is something that we dearly love over here in the BHK. We make it when we need a little pick me up and a spicy memory of our beloved sub-continent. Chai fuels India. Along with the occasional chapatti/ idli. Chai is normally drank at chai stalls, where chai wallahs work sometimes 24 hours, supplying tiny cups of very sweet, dark tea (‘chai’ is basically Hindi for ‘tea’). You average chai in India does vary, depending on the quality of the chai wallah. Generally the back bone is cardamom and ginger, but there are many additions like clove, black peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon……the list goes on. It really is more of an elixir of life than a simple beverage. I find this in so much of Indian cuisine, a holistic approach that takes into account many things, not just sensational flavours.

Jane and I at the Taj Mahal earlier in '15

Jane and I at the Taj Mahal earlier in ’15

Here we have a simple chai recipe that we can all make at home. There is also a rich and delicious Almond Rooibos Chai recipe in ‘Peace & Parsnips’. Something we make when we’re taking it easy on caffeine.

Stay warm and cosy this winter.  Drink more chai!

Recipe Note
For a more intense chai, crush the ginger and spices in a pestle and mortar or food processor before hand.

Experiment with the quantity of spices, everyone has their favourite chai and no two chai’s are ever equal!

You don’t need to measure the milk/ water exactly, just use the cups that you will be serving the chai in.

Loose leaf black tea can vary greatly in strength.  The best and most authentic tea to use for chai is from Assam in North East India.  The leaves are normally rolled, meaning they look like tiny black balls and have a rich, malty flavour.  If you are using a lighter tea like Darjeeling or Nilgiri, you may like to add another teaspoon or two for a decent brew.

Chai on the hob.  House filled with those gorgeous aromas.

Chai on the hob. House filled with those gorgeous aromas.

The Bits – For 2 mugs
2 mugs non-dairy milk

1 mug water

8 green cardamom pods (lightly crushed)

4 slices fresh ginger

8 black peppercorns

8 cloves

2 inch cinnamon stick (or 1 teas ground cinnamon)

1 star anise (optional)

1 teas fennel seeds (optional)

3-4 teas black loose-leaf tea (or 3 black tea bags, ripped and contents poured into pan)

 

Do It

In a large saucepan add the water along with the ginger and spices, bring gently to a boil and lower heat, simmer for 5 minutes.

Add your tea, simmer for 2 minutes.   Now for the milk and sweetener of choice, bring back to a gentle boil and serve when the tea has a nice deep colour, pouring through a small sieve.

Chai is a saviour in wintery Wales.

Chai is a one cup saviour in wintery Wales.

Serve

We tend to warm our cups with hot water before pouring in the chai.  Nice to it properly, it is chai after all!

Dad and I in the Imperial Hotel Delhi enjoying very posh chai and those very small sandwiches you tend to get with posh tea.

Dad and I in the Imperial Hotel, Delhi enjoying very posh chai and those very small crust-less sandwiches you tend to get with posh tea.

Foodie Fact

Some of you may have Peace & Parsnips and will be well aware of my love of spices.  A large chunk of the beginning of the book relates to spices and their healing properties.   Some of you may have also been reading this here blog for five years or so and be equally as familiar with my spice box and its contents.  I love ’em!

Cinnamon is anti-microbial (kills bad bacteria), lowers GI, excellent source of calcium and fibre plus even the aroma is said to enliven the brain.  Cinnamon is especially warming and when mixed with ginger in a chai becomes a remedy for the onset of colds and flu.

Seeking refreshment in Paharganj, Delhi with the big man (aka Dad)

When you stop for chai, you'll meet some interesting folk.  Bikaner, Rajhastan, India

When you stop for chai, you’ll meet some interesting folk. Bikaner, Rajhastan, India

Categories: Infusions, Recipes, Travel, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Spiced Beach House Chai and the Awesome Power of Cinnamon

 

Beach House Chai in Tamil Nadu

Beach House Chai on Karuna Farm, Tamil Nadu

This is something we quaff every day; with some sitar int he background and little incense waft, we could be back in Tamil Nadu, in our cottage on the hills (we have a thing for cottages on hills!!!!)

The ceremony of chai, the aroma as it bubbles on the stove, makes us both feel so at home. Its up there with the smell of freshly baked bread or sweet peas in the depth of summer.

A simple everyday chai here that adds spice and warmth to your morning cuppa. You may like it milkier, adjust the water to milk ratio as you like.  Namastex

Happy Chai Man, Madurai '14

Happy Chai Man, Madurai ’14

The Bits – 4-6 cups

1.5 ltrs filtered water

500ml almond/ soya milk (unsweetened)

12 green cardamom pods
2 inch piece of fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick (3 inches, broken in two)
2 star anise

4 teas loose leaf tea (assam is best or 4 normal tea bags ripped open)
jaggery or unrefined brown sugar (to taste)

Do It
Grab a large saucepan. Boil the water in a kettle (quicker) or bring to a boil in the sauce pan.

In a pestle and mortar, bash up the cinnamon and star anise, add to the boiling water, then bash up the cardamom and cinnamon, add that to the boiling water. Lower heat to a simmer and cover, leave to infuse for 20 minutes.

Now, bring back to a rolling boil, spoon in the tea. Leave to bubble away for a couple of minutes and then add your milk. Bring back to a boil and sweeten as you prefer. Indians love it very sweet indeed.  Using a sieve (and a ladle is easiest), pour into your favoured receptacle.

Serve

In your finest cups. Smaller cups are better and more authentic, even a small glass will do (generally how its served in a proper Chai stall). Sip and slurp with relish.

 

Foodie Fact – Cinnamon

Surely one of the worlds coolest barks!  Cinnamon is medicine. Powerful agent for healing.  There are two main types of Cinnamon that we can buy, Chinese (known as Cassia) and Ceylon(which is harder to find and supposedly more refined), it is one of the oldest spices we know of and was used by the ancient Egyptians as medicine and also for embalming!  It was considered more precious than gold.  It was even mentioned in Chinese botanical medicine over 4700 years ago.

Containing some truly magical essential oils, cinnamon is a potent anti-inflammatory, anti microbial (cinnamon essential oil can be used as a powerful preservative), flavouring high carb food with cinnamon slows the release of sugars into the blood stream,  helps with type-2 diabetes, it is a very, very, very strong anti-oxidant.  Even smelling the scent of cinnamon has been shown to boost brain activity.   It is also an excellent source of fibre, calcium and manganese.

Cinnamon has long be regarded as a warming spice in Chinese and Indian energy based medicine systems.  This means that is you feel a cold coming on drink plenty of cinnamon, ginger and lemon tea and you’ll be fine!!!

Cinnamon is best bought in stick form, it stores well for an age.  You can then crush it or grind it up freshly ans savour that familiar aroma.  Once crushed, kept it in a sealed container out of natural sunlight.  A fridge is best (this goes for all spices).

Chai's off the menu for me, I hit the Jack Fruit stand instead.  Yum!

Chai’s off the menu for me in India, I hit the Jack Fruit stand instead. Yum!

Or

Or a banana....

 Banana!!!!!

Categories: Healing foods, Infusions, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Dark Chocolate Masala Chai

Dark Chocolate Chai

Dark Chocolate Masala Chai

This is luxury chai (tea in English).  Packed with chocolate and spice, I can assure you they don’t drink it like this Chandhni Chowk (Delhi)!  But it’s a luxury take on the classic Indian masala chai recipe.

I have been playing around with my masala chai recipe for years and this is the best.  We normally drink it without the chocolate, this is just something for a very special treat.  The recipe works very well by itself.

Masala chai is more a potion, an elixir, than a mere hot beverage.  Add fresh chocolate shavings to the mix and you have something rather special indeed.  I have heard rumours about adventurous folk even adding a glug of brandy or whisky to it, I can imagine that to be quite a thing!

Masala chai basically means mixed spice tea and is normally brewed in the milk, rather than adding milk later.  It normally contains black tea, but we also love it with rooibos (for those not sipping caffeine).  Tea from Assam is best due to its dark orange colour and robust flavour.  Darjeeling tea is best reserved for drinking black or with a touch of milk, after all it is the champagne of teas don’t you know (normally meaning more expensive and well marketed!)

Indians now drink the most amount of tea in the word, chai (tea) is part of Indian everyday life and chai wallah’s (like Starbucks but more low-key and infinitely better) dot every street side around the country.  Thats over 1 billion people hooked on the spicy sweet goodness of chai and its really all down to the Brits.  Tea has always been grown up near Darjeeling and Assam in the wet and wonderful northeast of India, but it was the Brits who began to plant it on an industrial scale and ship it back.  What a meddling lot we were!

Sweetening chai is a must and we like to use jaggery if we can get it or dark sugar.

Star anise, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg……this is truly a magic potion and it tastes pretty darn magic too.  I love this combination of spices and if you can get them all fresh and whole, the chai will be much better for it.  Powders are decent, but a proper chai should be simmering for hours and all of those massive flavours infused.

We have used soya milk here because we like the taste, but any of your favourite milks will be fine.

Traditionally, chai should be taken from small tea cups or even glasses, definitely not big mugs.  Chai is to be slurped and enjoyed, made a fuss of and very much savoured.  The smaller the tea cup the better (almost espresso size), this also has the advantage of prolonging chai time.

Bring on the potion!

The Bits – Makes one large sauce pan full, enough for 8 small cups

Beach House Chai contains:

1 stick of cinnamon

4 star anise

6 green cardamom pods (crushed)

4 cloves

2 heaped teas grated ginger

1 teas all spice

3/4 litre of soya/ almond milk, 1/3 litre water

3 good black tea bags (assam preferable, loose leaf tea is alot better and more traditional)

2 heaped tbs jaggery/ dark brown sugar or sweetener of choice (chai should be served nice and sweet)

1 big handful dark chocolate (grated)

Many other spices can be added including fennel seeds, cumin seeds (very warming), peppercorns, saffron, liquorice or even rose….the list goes on and each area of India has a particular favourite.

Do It

Get the water boiling in a large saucepan, add all the spices and turn down to a rolling simmer, leave for at least 10 minutes for the flavours to infuse (longer is better).

Now add milk, bring to a boil and then add your tea leaves/ tea bags.  Stir in and help the tea infuse.  Bring back to the boil.  Leave until you are happy with your chai shade, deeper is better.  Stir in your sweetener and chocolate.

Taste and adjust sweetness.

Serve

Strain into little cups with plenty of slurps and great conversation.  A biscuit would be nice!

We Love It!

This chocolate masala chai adds a whole new level to the chai experience, its a dessert in a cup and with that amazing mix of spices is the perfect antidote to a grey March day.  Indulge!

Foodie Fact

Black tea is the oxidised leaf of the tea bush, if it wasn’t oxidised it would be green tea (which makes sense!)  Black tea has many health benefits and considerably less caffeine than coffee.  It has a high level of anti-oxidants, it boosts the immune system, helps the heart and even lowers the level of stress hormones.  What a grand cuppa!

Tunes

Making chai in your home, you need some real India rajas to get the spices flowing.  Here is the late and and sorely missed Ravi Shankar playing with his daughter Anoushka:

 

 

Categories: Recipes, Tea | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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