Thursday, 16 August 2012

A Cup of Chai

When we were in India last Summer we drank Chai Masala, or spiced tea, several times a day.  On our return to Brunei I had several attempts at making it and always intended to blog about it.  But it just didn't happen.

Roadside Chai-Wallah in Udaipur.

Fast forward a year, and we find ourselves back in the UK with India a distant memory...  until we visited the Great Dorset Chilli Festival 2 weeks ago.  Feeling in need of refreshment we popped into Mr Tea's tea tent and when I spied Chai on the drinks list I had to try it.

On taking the first sip I was instantly transported back to Rajasthan.  It wasn't quite up to the standards of the Chai-Wallah - for a start it was made with a powdered mix - but the heady scent of cardamom was so evocative I left the festival absolutely determined to make this again at home - and NOT forget about it this time!

So over the last week or so I've been brewing myself a mug of Chai most mornings.  I doubt its authenticity, I feel sure that 'real' chai should have rather more ingredients, more spices, but I find it delicious and comforting.  As I type this I have a vague recollection of adding a piece of fresh ginger to the pan when I made this in Brunei...  I should try that again.  We're currently using some lovely Ceylon tea, in leaf-form, given to me by a Sri Lankan pupil at my Brunei school, but it works equally well with a regular teabag.

Cardamom Chai Masala

In a small pan, put:

1/2 mug of milk
1/2 mug of water
1 teabag, or 1 teaspoon of tea-leaves
4 or 5 cardamom pods, crushed with the back of a spoon
sugar - to taste (I use 1/2 a teaspoon)

Heat gently until boiling, stirring or whisking regularly, then strain into your mug.

And what better accompaniment to this than a square of locally-made  fudge, bought at the Chilli Festival.  Perfect!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Cherry Batter Pudding

Rob went back to work this week for the first time since Ted was born.  It's been fantastic to have him at home for so long, but it's time for me to start functioning again.  At this point 48 hours ago I was beginning to think that I would never ever be able to do things like write for my poor neglected blog, or not until Ted had gone to school at least!  He was feeding furiously and grizzling loudly if I dared to let him out of my arms, and it was as much as I could do to get us both out of bed and dressed.  In fact practically all I could do for most of the day was watch the Olympics on television, babe in my arms.

But today things are calmer.  Ted is sleeping and I am starting to feel like I might actually be able to get things done.  I've started thinking about planning meals and writing shopping lists... but I think it's probably still too soon to think about housework, don't you?!

And so it's back to the blog.  Whilst I haven't managed to cook anything much recently, I have managed to produce the occasional cake and pudding for various visitors, including one pudding that I feel that I need to make again very soon, just for us.  I say 'us', but maybe I really mean ME - I could eat an entire dish of this on my own without a second thought.  For me, it's the perfect pud - comforting, warming, egg-custardy and full of one of my favourite fruits, cherries.  Above all it's incredibly simple, and made even more so when you use a jar of ready pitted cherries.  I found these ones in Lidl, and now always make sure I have a jar in the house in order to make this dish:

Incidentally, for the breastfeeding mother, the juice from the cherries makes for a very convincing-looking red wine substitute if you strain it into a glass!

I think this pud is probably the English version of the French Clafoutis, although this has more of a custard texture than a batter, despite its name.  But whatever you call it, I call it my current favourite pudding - highly recommended!

Cherry Batter Pudding - From the Dairy Book of Family Cookery

3 level tbsp flour
pinch of salt
3 eggs, beaten
5 level tbsp caster sugar
450ml milk
15ml rum (optional - I didn't use this)
50g butter
675g black cherries, stoned and washed (or 1 jar of pitted cherries, strained, from Lidl!)

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl then blend in the eggs.  Add 3 tbsp of the sugar.

Stir the milk into the egg mixture, and the rum if using.  (NB the original recipe says the heat the milk until lukewarm before doing this, but I have never bothered).

Butter a shallow dish, put in the cherries, pour in the batter and dot with the remaining butter.

Bake in the oven at 220C (425F) for 25-30 mins (although I usually find that I have to give it an extra 10 minutes to make sure it's set in the middle), sprinkle with the remaining sugar and serve warm.