A bit slow out of the blogging blocks this year – I blame the weather – this cold snap has almost brought me to a standstill. I’m spending way too much time under the covers wearing umpteen unflattering layers and clutching a hot water bottle. I may not have been tapping away furiously yet – maybe I should try, it might warm me up a bit – but I have been tinkering and mulling.
First, I decided we needed a new, 2010-friendly look – what do you think so far? Also, I realised things were getting a little tame around here and a new adrenalin-fuelled direction was required! Something to get the pulse-rate up a notch, a kind of culinary triathlon.
So for the year ahead, out goes the old ‘eat, blog, move on’ routine and in comes a scary new mission. I hereby pledge, to give us all, if nothing else, a good laugh, by attempting to recreate at home every item of street food I sample this year and report back. Before the year’s out I’m determined to try my hand at everything from Golgappe to Shahi Tukra. As always, I’ll be pleading with the experts on the spot to part with their family recipes as well as pleading for help from friends and acquaintances.
Scary? Yes. A voyage of discovery? God, I hope so! Potential for embarrassing faux-pas? Guaranteed. And you know what? I’m up for it. And you know what else? This doesn’t have to be a solo mission – you could come along for the ride…..if we make it to the finishing line, the bubbly (and Chaat!) are on me.
I know for some Indian readers, the words ‘Granny’, ‘sucking’ and ‘eggs’ will now be springing to mind (maybe you all could devote yourselves to the moral support end of things!) but hey – I’m sure there are plenty of others, like me, for whom the intricacies of home made Chole Bhature (actually, I’ve already made this, here), Carrot Halva and Bread Pakora are yet to be discovered.
You’re in? Great – shall we get cracking? Chalo……
Lets go easy, though, we don’t want to fall flat on our faces just yet! I have the makings of a starting-point – with Delhi shrouded in pea-souper fogs, grey, grey skies and temperatures close to freezing, everywhere you look huddled shawl-clad figures are clutching piping-hot tea cups as if their lives depended on it. What about trying to conjure up some of that magic nectar at home?
Chai has the same effect as a good Espresso – strong, sweet, intense, a kickstart, a shot in the arm, sipped scorching hot from dinky little cups or glasses. In Old Delhi the other day there were queues outside many tea stalls: for some skinny souls, the porters and rickshaw-wallahs, it looked like the hot, sweet, spicy brew would be their only sustenance of the day.
At it’s most basic Indian tea is just boiled up milk, water, sugar and tea but the chai-wallahs usually add a little something extra – cardamom, cinnamon, cloves – fresh ginger is particularly warming at this time of year.
I decided to try out my chai-making on our night-watchman. Birendra is a gentle young man unlikely to see off any burglars – he does more sleeping than guarding – but he’s out in all weathers and probably knows a decent cup of chai when he sees one. At the end of the first week, I haven’t had any complaints yet and even my kids have decided it’s a great way to ease out of bed on a freezing cold Delhi morning.
My recipe is based on watching the street chai-wallahs and our housekeeper Anu. I’ve played around with the spices and this is the blend that gave the most profoundly warming effect.
(enough to get 3 kids and a night watchman moving on a freezing cold Delhi morning)
2-3t sugar, maybe more (don’t hold back, you NEED that sugar at this time of year!)
2 green cardamom pods
One 3-inch shard of cinnamon
A few gratings of fresh ginger are nice, too, especially if you have a cough or cold
1 heaped t of tea leaves
Boil the water, sugar and spices for a couple of minutes. Add the tea leaves and boil for another couple of minutes. You could use the ‘Masala Chai’ mix variety available in tea shops but it doesn’t pack quite the same punch as using whole spices. Strain the tea into small cups – the chai-wallahs do this from a great height which gives a nice frothy finish, but I’m not ready for such theatricals first thing in the morning.
Masala Chai: available on every street corner in every town and village in India @ about 2 rupees a cup