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a January 1st, 2014

  1. Spice Up Your Life – Masala Chai

    January 1, 2014 by sarah

    Here is my first new project for 2014; 40 spices in 40 recipes in two years. This was inspired by the spices seen (and smelt) in Morocco; the lines of market stalls piled high with multi-coloured powders, roots and barks, the pungent spiciness tickling the nose. If you have ever seen inside my ‘flavour additive’ cupboard you will know that spices and the like feature frequently in my cooking. But in this series of blogs I want to take my use of spices to new places so each recipe will highlight one spice, though the recipe may contain other spices and flavour additives the ‘main’ spice will be the predominant flavour. Also, I want to discover new spices and unusual ways of using familiar ones, so look out for traditionally sweet spices in savoury dishes and visa versa.

    What is it about spices? Any flavour additive (a term of my invention) turns a basic dish into something extra-ordinary, something special. Think of the sensations of eating a warmly spiced curry; the burning feeling in the mouth that is exciting and somewhat shocking, dangerous even. But then subtleties of a delicately spiced Christmas biscuit or the richness of vanilla in ice cream.

    So first we need to know what we are using i.e. what is a spice? Well it turns out not to be an easy question to answer. The fountain of all knowledge that is Wikipedia (wink, wink – they like to think they are the bible but some of the information is flawed so take it with a pinch of salt) says a spice is ‘a dried seed, fruit, root, bark or vegetable substance primarily used for flavouring, colouring or preserving food’. So a dried part of a plant other than the leaves because the leaves are herbs. Ok, I think I’ve got it. But what about fresh spices like ginger root or garlic, they don’t HAVE to be dried do they? If they aren’t spices (or herbs) then what are they in a culinary sense? Ginger can be fresh or dried but both forms taste and act differently. Looks from a whiz around the internet that things like ginger, garlic, horseradish and capers are considered vegetable or flavourings rather than spices. Ok, we will stick to dried forms then.

    So we come to our first recipe. I am not going to call this one of the official recipes of the project, because as the name implies, it contains several different spices and not one over-riding flavour. This recipe is adapted from a packet of ‘Chocolate Chai’ I bought in a Whittards shop and had been languishing in the back of the cupboard for a year until I made a pot a few weeks ago and discovered how delicious it was. The bought version was based on coco kernels which look and taste exactly like coco nibs (available from health food shops) so feel free to substitute them for the black tea. It made a fantastic mildly spicy and faintly chocolaty drink.


    Masala Chai

    You can add or substitute in really any spice you like, typically things like coriander, fennel, black pepper, star anise.
    3 cups loose black tea (about 100g)
    36 green cardamon
    1 teaspoon pink pepper corns
    2 teaspoons cloves
    4″ piece of cinnamon broken into small shards
    8 pieces of candied stem ginger in sugar, finely cut up
    Mix all the ingredients together and then store in a kilner jar or other similar jars for gift giving. I bought some empty tea bags with drawstrings which can be filled and then used like regular tea bags.
    Brewing Instructions
    tea for one
    200ml of water
    100ml of milk (preferrably whole milk)
    1 tablespoon of Chai Mix placed into a tea bag
    Sugar or honey to tasteBring the water to a boil and add the teabag. Turn off the heat and let steep for about 5 minutes. Add the milk, turn on the flame and reheat until hot. Remove from heat, discard teabag, sweeten to taste, enjoy!

  2. Happy New Year

    January 1, 2014 by sarah

    Happy New Year to you all! Thank you for finding and following my blog as I find my feet with this new experience over this first year. And here’s to finding out new things together over the year and years to come.













    I feel 2013 has been a good year for me. I think it is because I have had to be much more focused this year, but in being more focused I have also achieved a lot more than just pottering around life, switching from this to that as the mood took me. I think the restlessness inside me has quietened for now as it has purpose. I am much more busy than I have been for years because of the study for the certificate course I am doing. I knew before I started it would be hard getting my now ten years older brain back into its learning gear for proper studying, which I hadn’t done since finishing vet school. I have to admit that in the summer the pressure nearly got too much for me but luckily I got a lifeline (a half day off a week to commit entirely to studying) and help (thank you Anne-Marie) and took stock of my life before it was too late. When I was young I really thought that excelling in my career was the best way to be happy, that it would somehow make me into a “successful adult.” But now I’m not so sure. I get so much pleasure from the other things in my life, and from having the time to cook and make things. I’m starting to really believe that it’s those things that make me feel successful because the only real success is true happiness. I also realise how lucky I am to have my husband to support me, though sometimes I wish the support could transpire into more practical help such as cooking and cleaning but we can work on that.

    This year I have gained a whole lot of new knowledge and conglomerated knowledge I already had but was fragmented. It has also been good to focus my cooking and baking for new aims, namely for posting on this blog and entering the local show. And to have a weight lifted in finally finishing a long abandoned craft project, the scrapbook of our holiday in 2005. And as usual, as one project is finished, the hole is filled with at least half a dozen new ones. At least I am never going to run out of ideas to blog about and I am never going to be bored. Only boring people get bored!

    This year has also involved a change of mindset. Primarily realising that I am changeable; I can mold me to be more effective, more useful, more focused.













    I am looking forward and planning for the year ahead.  I have two new projects lined up for this blog so look out for them over the next few days. I am so excited about them and I hope you will be too. My brain is over flowing with ideas, currently hastily scribbled in my notebook so now I need to form them into fully fledged ideas that can take flight (oh, that was a bit poetic).

    As always for this time of year, we make New Year resolutions to revel and delight in the prospect of a new day, a fresh start, one more try at life. So my resolution is to promise to make the best of any moment I have, any situation I am in and with any friends I am with. Life would be boring if it stayed the same, lets change it for the better, one day at a time.

    Sarah xxx