Monday, September 26, 2016

Masala Chai: Memories of India, and a Recipe

Masala Chai in the afternoon.

    We are firm believers in siesta, that marvelous time every afternoon where everyone takes a break, retreats to their rooms, and is quiet for a while. I haven't quite convinced the kids, yet, that it's a privilege and a blessing, and they often go with a bit of complaining, but this doesn't deter me. I'm a better mama for having a little quiet in the afternoon, and it follows that everyone is happier that way!  I usually make myself a cup of tea, sit down, and relax for at least part of this time. 

    Years ago I spent several months in India and Nepal where I enjoyed numerous cups of spicy tea sold by "chai wallas", street vendors squatting over steaming pots of sweet, spicy, milk tea. I remember  watching these alchemists as they squatted next to a kerosine burner, toss in handfuls of spices, creamy fresh milk, spoons overflowing with sugar, and little grains of black tea into an old worn pot. A fragrant cloud of steam would rise into the cold morning, luring me nearer. For just a few rupees, the chai walla would ladle the tea into a glass, or, in some places, a small terra cotta cup. Those were my favorite, as they were "disposable", and meant to be smashed on the ground when you were done! 

    Every week I get fresh milk from a friend who has a cow. It's become my Monday tradition to brew up a big pot of chai and keep it in a jar in my fridge. There is nothing like chai made from scratch, with fresh milk, whole spices, and robust black tea. A few people recently asked for my recipe, so I thought I'd share it here. I've adapted it to my tastes from one I found in Indian Home Cooking: A Fresh Introduction to Indian Food. Masala chai is made many ways, and this is my version. You you can easily adapt it to your tastes by changing the amount of spices, sweetener, and ratio of milk to water, or using a milk substitute. I like mine spicy, milky, and not too sweet. 

I crush whole cardamom pods, cloves, and peppercorns in a small mortar and pestle or grind them in a spice grinder. They don't need to be very fine, just broken up enough to release more of the delicious flavor! 

I break two cinnamon sticks into a couple pieces and thinly slice or roughly chop a good chunk of ginger. 

You could use any black tea, but this is what I use. It's what I remember using in India to make chai, and this is the only time I've found it in this form in the US. This happens to be a company that is local to me and I can buy it in bulk at the natural food store, but you can order it from their website or use loose black tea or tea bags. 

Mmmmm.... it smells so good!

Strain out all those delicious spices.

Add milk. It's beautiful. Sweeten to your taste, and enjoy! 

Masala Chai

Adjust the amount of spices to your taste. I use the greater amount because I like it spicy! 

18-22 Whole Green Cardamom Pods
12-15 Black Peppercorns
14-8 Whole Cloves
2 Cinnamon Sticks
2-3" Ginger Root
½ t. Ground Cinnamon (optional)

3 T Chai Patti Assam or Loose Black Tea or 5-6 Bags Black Tea

2 ½ C Water
4 C. Milk
2-3 T Honey or Sweetener of your choice

    Crush cardamom, peppercorns, and cloves in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder until they are well broken up but not too fine. Break cinnamon sticks into a couple pieces. Thinly slice or roughly chop ginger root. Add all the spices, including the ground cinnamon, if using, and the water, to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then take off the heat, add tea, and cover. Let steep for 15 minutes. Strain through a fine strainer, then pour back into the pot. Add milk and sweetener to taste. Heat it back up and enjoy! I keep any extra in a jar in the fridge so I can enjoy it throughout the week. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Poppy Dresses

    When I was barely pregnant with our second baby, I was telling my niece how the heart was already beating, and only the size of a poppy seed. She said "oh, we should call the baby Poppy!" That became her "womb" nickname, and when our beautiful little girl was born, it only seemed right to add it into her name. So even though it's a middle name, it stuck, and so seven eleven years later she is our Poppy Joy Girl. I've made her a dress with Poppy fabric every year, and here they are all together in one place. (You can click on the pictures to see them bigger.)

Eleven - She still loves pink and purple.
Ten! Fun and bright, just like my girl!

Nine- Something a little more grown up looking.

Eight. I loved the colors and bold prints on this one. 

Seven- I ordered the fabric on Etsy and only one of the prints- the really big one- had poppies on it! I couldn't tell the scale of the fabric online so there are actually only a few poppies on the dress. It also came out way shorter than I thought it would but I like it. I'm glad we're in a warm climate at the moment and she's able to get a little more wear out of it. 

Six- I used an Asian inspired pattern from Modkid and fabric I found on Etsy for this one. I love it, and love the way my girl looks in it!

The Five-Year Dress in all it's Poppy splendour! I had ordered the main fabric online and planned to pick a bright green contrast for the trim. But my girl went to the fabric store with me and wouldn't hear of green defiling her pink dress; so here it is in all it's Poppy Pinkness! 

Here is her fourth birthday dress, made with Amy Butler fabrics; I think this is my favorite one so far.

The Third Birthday. You can't see the details on this one very well. The little red flowers are poppies. (Daddy was trying to capture the girl, not so much the dress!) If you look here there is one picture of her where you can see the full length a little better.

The Second Birthday. I wanted to make a classic "little girl" style dress while she was still little. She wore this one for a long time.

The First Birthday. I saw this batik fabric first online, then purchased it in a local quilting shop. I love how it brings out the blue in her eyes. (She got those from her Daddy!) There were yellow bloomers underneath.

So there you have it, the first five eleven, of hopefully many, Poppy dresses. I don't sew for her as much as I'd like to, so I've really enjoyed doing these special dresses for her special days.