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Tuesday 20 September 2011

Chai, the spiced drink of life!

At L's wedding, I got to wear a Lengha!
The Back Story
About a decade ago a dear friend of mine went to live in Africa and has since found her permanent home there with her now young family.  However, whenever we have a chance to see one another it is always over a cup of chai (aka tea).  The last time she returned home she brought me a new variation on spiced chai called Shaax.  Shaax is the African version and is made with canned evaporated milk instead of fresh (try keeping milk cold in some of the hottest places on the planet!) 

I was sixteen when I tried my first sip of Masala Chai ('masala' means spiced, while 'chai' means tea in many cultures).  I was at an Indian restaurant in the city where I live and they brought out this little pot with whole spices floating around in the steaming milky liquid.  I was in love at first taste and have never tired of making  this incredibly warming and delicious tea for myself and anyone who needs a chat and a chai.   

FYI: I always know the chai is ready when I boil it over all over the stove!  May I recommend keeping a close watch on yours until you get the hang of it or until you accept your fate as I have.... I will share both recipes so you can decide for yourself which you prefer.  I use a stove top glass tea pot with a built in strainer at home, but it was a long time before I was given this ingenious pot so I will write the recipe with instructions regardless of
the tools you have.

A quick word to my sweet friend:  Sweet L, I miss you!  How does the time go by so fast and how did our families grow so much?  I cannot wait till you meet my girl, she and Sophia are going to love each other! I think of you often and look forward to our next cherished cup of chai together.  I lift you and your family up and love you dearly.  Please hug your daughter for me, and your husband, and yourself and the new life growing inside of you.  All my love, Katie

Masala Chai
As with every spiced dish, once you read this, the recipe is yours to do with as you wish, so experiment and enjoy!  The recipe for Shaax is linked here on My Recipes.

1 x 3" piece cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
8 whole cloves
8 whole green cardamom, lightly crushed
6 whole black peppercorns
4 slices fresh ginger
2 cups water
2 Tbsp loose black tea or 4 x tea bags (Darjeeling is preferred)
2 cups milk
1-2 Tbsp Sugar or more to taste (sugar is traditional and helps bring out the complexity of the spices)
1 tsp vanilla

1.  In a stovetop tea pot, medium saucepan or tea kettle combine the dry spices, ginger and water.  Bring to a boil.  Add the tea and continue cooking for 1 minute.

2.  Reduce the heat, add the milk and simmer on low for 10 minutes in order for the spices to infuse and the tea to get good and strong.

3.  Remove from heat, stir in sugar and vanilla and if using a glass kettle, serve.  If using a saucepan use a small strainer to carefully lift the larger spices out of the pot and them pour the whole mixture into a tea pot with a built in strainer small enough to catch the remaining spices (don't worry if you don't have the right tea pot, the tea I was served when I fell in love with this drink always had spices floating around). If using a tea kettle, place a small strainer over each cup as you serve the tea in order to catch the spices as they pour out (be prepared for a little spilling).

4.  Gather sweet friends or neighbours and enjoy one anothers company over a cup of chai!

Note:  You can also turn this recipe into a spice syrup you can then just stir into hot milk when you feel like it.  To adjust the recipe, just omit the milk and all but 1/2 cup of water and increase the sugar to 2 Tbsp. Cook to dissolve sugar, strain, chill and keep in a squeeze bottle for easy access.  You will likely use about 2 Tbsp of syrup for a nice big cup or a small pot of masala chai.

1 comment:

  1. Sent via email, L couldn't post it on the web since everything was in Arabic!

    To my beautiful chai making and sipping friend, Katie! What a delight to be introduced to your lovely blog today--my husband stumbled upon it through facebook and said "i think you would really enjoy reading this" and I sure have. I felt tears of sadness and joy come to my eyes as I read your entry today. Sadness because of the hundreds of miles between us, but joy because of our treasured friendship. I love you and miss you so much. Thank you so much for everything you wrote. It was like I was sitting next to you sipping chai and chatting with you once again. I've also enjoyed reading more of your journey and somehow the distance seems a little less as I read and look at your pictures. (Sophia giggled as she watched Tricia slide down the slide) Thank you for sharing your heart and these precious chapters of your life. You are such a blessing and a fantastic mother. I can't wait for our little girls to meet and have a chai party together. It's one of Sophia's favourite activities--whether inside, in the bath or on a mat under the late African afternoon sun--chai time is anytime. Wish you and Tricia could join us--but until that special day, please know that you are missed, loved and lifted up too! Lots of hugs for you and your hubby and your precious girl, Tricia. Always under the same sun, moon, and stars,
    Your chai sipping friend,