Taste: Chatting Over Chai

chai-tea[Image: Courtesy of Leela Cyd]“For me, food is important, but really it’s the company I share it with that makes get-togethers so meaningful,” says Leela Cyd on her decision to write Food With Friends: The Art of Simple Gatherings (Clarkson Potter, 2016). “The book reflects my cooking and visual values—the dishes and drinks are easy to prepare, artful on the eyes and designed for spontaneous hangouts.”

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Inspired by the photographer and food blogger’s travels across the globe, the 86 recipes are divided into categories such as Potlucks & Picnics, Desserts and Teatime. Cue this Spice Blend Chai, a spin on the warm masala (spice mix) tea enjoyed across the Indian subcontinent. “Chai is the life force of India—it’s the country’s social connector,” she explains. This combo steeps several warming spices that aid digestion, but Cyd recommends getting creative with seasonal twists. “You could add tangerine peel, rose petal and vanilla pod in winter; a pinch of saffron and star anise in spring; shaved turmeric and chamomile in summer; and red peppercorns, cacao nibs and bay leaves in fall,” she suggests.

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Spa owners can prepare the tea blend ahead of time, keeping it warm on the stove, then serve it with milk, plus date sugar or honey on the side.

food-with-friends-book-coverSpice Blend Chai Recipe 

Yields 3/4 cup dry chai mix (enough for 12 cups of tea)

1/4 cup whole cardamom pods

1 tsp. whole cloves

1 tsp. black peppercorns

6 cinnamon sticks

1/3 cup black tea leaves (preferably of a lesser quality tea)

1 Tbsp. finely diced candied ginger

In a mortar, grind the cardamom, cloves, peppercorns and cinnamon sticks with a pestle until roughly ground and fragrant. (A spice grinder can be substituted for the mortar and pestle.) Stir in tea leaves and candied ginger. For each serving of chai, combine 1 tablespoon tea mixture, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup milk in a saucepan. Heat liquid to almost boiling, then reduce heat and let simmer for four minutes. (For a less robust flavor, simmer for two to three minutes.) Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into warmed teacups.

–by Marina Kay

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