OMG The Food : Chai

Good morning everyone,It’s been less than three weeks since I arrived at my second home in Canada from my trip to my other home in India.  I spent the first week battling jet lag, resting, restoring my bedroom after having surrendered it to an awesome future law student while I was away (thanks Pat!).

I haven’t had much of an appetite or time to cook since I’ve been home.  I miss the dhabas and Panjabi food and the pure joy that comes when good friends are gathered around all that marvelous food sharing good times and making amazing memories.  I knew how to cook before I got home to Punjab but I learned a lot more while I was there.  I also lost 19 pounds switching from a reasonably healthy western diet to the vegetarian diet that goes along with my faith but is suitable for most people.  Food is a passion of mine, because it brings families and friends together.  And I want to share it with you.

Don’t be intimidated.  Despite claims to the contrary Indian food, particularly Panjabi food is easy.  Sometimes time consuming and sometimes a little labour intensive but easy.  If you’re a spice lover like I am, you’ll find it’s worth the time.

I also plan to spice up some of our traditional western foods and make others vaishno (vegetarian without egg but with dairy) so that all our friends and family, can enjoy the fusion of east meets west.  I don’t know how well those recipes will go but you’ll find out as I do.  I hope to have a half decent selection of fusion recipes prepared.

Eating an Amritdhari diet (also vaishno) is difficult where I live – where produce selection is sometimes iffy, where dairy comes only from cows and occasionally goats, where spices are available in their dried form generally and the beans and other proteins required to ensure that we have enough protein are generally canned (gross) or practically dessicated but I think it will be a lot of fun to give this a try.  It’s also difficult because food here is more processed, often containing hidden ingredients that you wouldn’t think of – gelatin and rennin for example.

The first recipe I will share is Chai Tea.  Let’s start with the name.  Chai means tea.  So when you say chai tea you are really saying “tea tea”.  Let’s just cut that out and call it Chai.  There are as many recipes for Chai as people who make it and it’s so much fun to find your favourite masala combinations for this milk tea.

Let’s start with the basics.  Chai is made of black tea typically from Assam or you can use any other black tea leaf.  In India, we make it from loose tea and in Canada, I’ve used tea bags.  You just don’t get a lot of selection where I live, what can I say?  Both versions turn out great.  The important thing is that you infuse the flavours with care and don’t rush the chai.

Chai

Ingredients
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 tea bag or 1 level tbsp of loose tea for the pot and 1 for each cup of chai
Flavouring of your choice:
1 crushed green cardamom seed
1 crushed black cardamom seed
1/2″ cinnamon bark
6 – 8 fennel seeds
1/8″ ginger, peeled and crushed

1 star anise
2 – 3 cloves
1/4 tsp Chai Masala spice mix
A pinch of rose petals or small amount of rose water

or any combination of flavours that you like
Sugar or other sweetener, to taste

Method
Add the water together with the spice of your choice, the sugar if you want a sweet tea and the tea to a small pot and bring to a rapid boil.  When the tea base is boiling, add the milk slowly reducing the heat to medium high.  You’ll now have to watch the pot carefully because milk boils over quickly. Bring the mixture back to a slow boil and let it boil for a minute or two before taking it off the heat.  Pour into cups and
enjoy!

Tips
Chai is usually served in small cups with cookies (biscuits), ladoos, fruit or some other sweet.  We had it in the morning before breakfast and again between each meal, whenever a guest showed up or a driver showed up or any time that a snack was appropriate.  It is considered part of local etiquette to offer guests chai an a small variety of sweet things when they visit your home.

If the milk begins to rise up the side of the pot, it’s about to boil over.  Lift the pot off the heat for a second and reduce the heat slightly.

I use a small strainer to prevent to spices from getting into the cups.  Having a big old cardamom pod in your mouth… unpleasant.

If you don’t like the texture of thick chai, just add more water to the pot before you boil it.  We use whole milk or 2% milk but you can also achieve a thinner chai with 1% or skim milk, though frankly that saps
too much of the fun out of life for me.

We prefer our tea without too much sugar in it but more spice but feel free to adjust to your own taste.  Half the fun is figuring out what you enjoy.  You can also get some great chai masala mixtures at Indian markets, though those are much too far away from where I live.

Experiment with the flavours as well – you’ll find fennel is bright, ginger is homey and warm, cinnamon is also warm and great for when it’s cold outside, black cardamom is more bitter than the green, rose petals are flowery and can become overpowering if you use too much.  I’ve been using honey and jaggery (an Indian sugar made from sugar cane) lately as well, a great substitute for those that are trying to avoid sugar, particularly processed white sugars.

Until next time all,
Peace & love,
Himmatpreet

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