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Saturday, 12 June 2010

Garam garam chai... time to warm up with masala chai

A warming hot cup of chai  (pronounced "cha" in Fiji) is more than the sum of the spices that make up this aromatically enticing brew.  For me it was always an expression of love and honoured our heritage.  Guests were always served a pot of masala chai brewed from scratch, it would be almost insulting to serve "english tea" unless it was specifically requested. Due to its richness it is not for everyone so there are always requests for "just english tea" or "pani la cha" (literally "water tea", as opposed to milk tea).  The inclusion of lots of ginger meant that my mother would brew and serve accompanied by oodles of lectures to keep warm, stay in bed and drink chai.

There is no magic recipe and nowadays you can find plenty of high quality ready-made mixes on the market that involve simply adding boiling water.  To follow is our "comfort cha", the one that even even my husband craves on cold days. It involves no grinding and everything is "brewed" in the saucepan.

Masala Cha

Using a 1.5 ltr saucepan

4 -6 cups of water
Fresh ginger root (about 50mm in length if not more!)
Cardomom pods (ground will do) - cracked open
Cinnamon quill broken into 2 or 3 pces (cassia bark will do but is slightly bitter in taste so reduce quantity)
3 whole cloves (to taste)
Grind of black pepper
Loose leaf tea - good quality dry leaf tea. Nothing fancy required, even the poor make brilliant masala chai!
Sweetened condensed milk or milk (entirely to taste)
Honey to sweeten (don't boil it - in accordance with ayurvedic teaching) if not using condensed milk

You can add a little bit of ready-made masala spice (available at indian grocers) but this combination goes down well enough.

Heat the water in a saucepan and as it is heating add the dry spices - cardomom, cinnamon, cloves and a few grinds of pepper. Grate the fresh ginger (if the ginger is young/soft skinned peeling it can be a waste of time, just scrub clean) into the saucepan.  Bring to the boil. The water will change colour and the aroma of spices & ginger will tell you when you can add the tea leaves.  About 4 teaspoons of tea will be enough and the boiling water will quickly start to colour.  Too much will make the tea bitter as the tannin takes over.  As the colour comes up add the milk.  Sweetened condensed milk is commonly used in South East Asia and is a bit of a treat for obvious reasons - around 1/4 cup will be enough to sweeten and make a milky brew. Add slowly and stop before it looks too milky.  Condensed milk doesn't seem to have the intense sweetness it used to so it shouldn't be too sweet to drink.  Plain milk you will find you will add closer to 1/2 cup if not more to get the right consistency and creaminess.  If you are using soy milk bear in mind the nuttiness in the flavour as well as the creaminess - you'll be adding a lot less.  Sweeten with honey if desired.

Then serve piping hot and enjoy - maybe even watch a bollywood movie or 'Slumdog Millionaire' to get in the mood. We did. 

And remember to kiss the cook!

I ended up watching the final scene of "Slumdog Millionaire" with an aching heart and tears, like I do every time.  Here's to those who never lose hope! xox

"Garam garam chai" literally means "hot hot tea"  - in temperature and flavour!

Posted via web from Radhika's posterous

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Hey thanks!