Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I have loved chai lattes ever since the mega coffee chains that you see on every street corner made them mainstream. Having said that, the syrupy sweet, not too spicy lukewarm chai lattes that you find in those types of shops could use some improvement.
My version may not be authentic, I have not consulted an Indian cook or even a cookbook. I just played around with spices, toasting them gently and then infusing them in roiboos tea and sweet milk. I have really made this to suit my taste, so feel free to adjust the spices as you like. JS finds my version a little heavy on the spice (just the way I like it!).
Please don't be intimidated by the list of ingredients, they are all easily accessible and you can omit the ones you don't have or don't like. I find that all these spices are used very frequently in my house.
This spicy, creamy and not too sweet chai has now got me thinking about incorporating these tastes into an ice cream or gelato since I now have an ice cream maker!! Imagine the spiciness in a cold ice cream with just a hint of sweetness....I'll work on that this summer!

My Un-Authentic Roiboos Chai

6 cups water
3-4 cinnamon sticks
5 cloves
8 cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2-1 tsp black peppercorns
1 big piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into large chunks
1 star anise or 1 tsp anise
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp loose vanilla roiboos (or plain roiboos, or if you insist, plain black tea)
1 cup whole milk

Toast all the spices except the ginger and the bay leaf over medium heat in a dry frying pan. When they become fragrant, after about 4 or 5 minutes, remove from heat and transfer them to a mortar and pestle. Gently crush them with the pestle until they are broken up, you don't have to grind them to a powder.
Put all the spices, including the ginger and bay leaf, into a pot with the water and the sugar. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to medium, cover the pot and simmer for about 30 minutes. Turn the heat off, then add the tea and cover to infuse for about 5 minutes.
Strain the liquid through a mesh strainer into another pot* then add the milk, add more or less to your taste. Put the chai back over medium heat for about 5 minutes to warm the milk.
Pour into mugs and enjoy!

*at this point, if you are not going to use all the chai, pour some of it into a pitcher, allow to cool then keep in the fridge for a few days. When you want a cup, just add some milk and heat it on the stove until warm.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My Birthday and a bowl of happiness!

This morning, after opening presents in bed, lovely dresses and a top and a jacket from my French family, I turned on the radio. The CBC morning show host was interviewing a guy from Gimli who has extended his carrot harvest into the long, cold Manitoba winter! All he does is cover his carrots with thick foam before the ground freezes and it actually insulates them enough that they don't freeze! He can only harvest about 2 or 3 times in the winter because every time he opens the sealed up foam the ground gets a little colder until eventually it does freeze. This story is so unbelievable to Manitobans, who woke up to -31 (not including the wind chill!) this morning. This kind of out of the box thinking could actually be used farther north where the produce is prohibitively expensive due to shipping costs and the growing season is extremely short.
Coincidentally, I decided yesterday to make a Carrot Orange and Ginger soup. It was delicious and looks so happy and full of vitamins in this very long and very cold winter! I needed a pick me up, and this soup fit the bill perfectly. 
Tomorrow the high is -8, so we are getting a bit of relief from the cold spell. Spring is around the corner and I know I'm not the only one with spring fever at this time of year. Just the thought of fresh asparagus and tiny carrots pulled from the earth are enough to make me swoon. But for now, I am just going to content myself with a brightly coloured bowl of vitamins!

Carrot Orange Ginger Soup or Happiness in a Bowl

2 pounds or just under 1 kg of Organic Carrots
1 small to medium sized onion, or half a large one, roughly diced
1 piece of fresh ginger about the size of a big fat thumb, peeled and grated
1 orange, zested and juiced
salt and pepper
a bit of olive oil

Peel your carrots if they are old and need it, if they are fresh just give them a scrub. Cut the ends off and chop them into large chunks. Don't worry about what they look like, they are going to get pureed in the end.
Saute the onions over medium heat in enough olive oil to coat your soup pot. When the onions are softened, add the carrots, grated ginger and orange zest and juice. Pour in enough water to just cover the carrots. Add a good pinch of salt and some freshly grated pepper. Bring the soup to the boil, then lower heat slightly but continue a very slow boil for about 30 minutes or until you can easily pierce a carrot with a fork. They should be very soft.
Have a large bowl and a ladle ready, then transfer the soup into the blender in batches and puree until smooth. Put the soup back in the pot and taste. If the soup is to thick, add a bit of water. Adjust salt and pepper. Serve with a sprig of parsley and a drizzle of good olive oil and some crusty toasted bread rubbed with garlic and olive oil and sprinkled with coarse sea salt. Eat and be happy!