Making Masala Chai

Cup of Masala Chai

Stop right there. You might have pinned and attempted enough chai recipes to put you in a chai coma, but this one, this one is the one. Promise. Honed over months while living and working in India, my friend Tom has crafted a spice combination that is authentic with a capital ‘A’. 

I’ve been living in India for around nine months and I’ve had my fair share of chai. Or ‘cha’ as it’s known here in Bengali, Kolkata’s mother tongue…

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Spoon Carving

Spoon Carving

I’ve come a long way.

My first ‘spoon’ sits on the windowsill in our family bathroom because no one has the heart to bin the club-like monstrosity. I’ve now realised the failure of my first attempt was rooted in my over zealousness. My inability to recognise I was using seasoned (and thus concrete-like wood) as opposed to green. I thought I was just bad at it and swiftly gave up.

But not this sunday gone- no no no. I picked up my tools again and was given a hunk of hazel wood that was green and as soft as butter to play with instead.

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Apple Crisps

Collecting organic apples outside Peckham's General StoreOrganic English cox apples from Peckham's General StoreSliced apples ready to slowly bakeBaked apple crisps with cinnamon sugarA snack jar of apple crisps

It’s painfully easy to make apple crisps.

Painfully easy.

Slice your collection of apples as thin as you can go. Lay them on a baking tray and some baking paper and cook them in the oven (gas 3/160 C) for 45 minutes to an hour, turning them at the half way point, and until a good golden brown. Then sprinkle with an unbleached sugar and cinnamon combination (with quantities according to your sweet tooth and love of cinnamon).

That’s it.

According to the snack spectrum* apple crisps are a good one. Sweet enough to hit that spot and they don’t cost a bomb or your health. They’ll be even better for you if you have hand picked your apples or bought organic from somewhere brilliant like the General Store.

*NB. a strictly fictional chart

Autumn Apple Picking

Autumn apple harvesting

I wasn’t quite sure what constituted the grand title of ‘orchard’… till I googled it.

Turns out its ‘a group of fruit or nut tree’s in an enclosed space’, rendering the term orchard a bit more loose and less grandiose than we are first inclined to assume. AND SO, I spent a portion of the weekend picking apples from my friends very own grand spanking- three tree strong- orchard.

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Rose Hip Syrup

Rose hipsGathering rose hipsPreparing rose hips to make a syrupStraining the rose hipsRose hip syrup - best served over breakfast

Rose hips are great. I’ll tell you why.

1. They have more vitamin c in them than you can shake a stick at. In fact, they are said to have 50% more vitamin c in them than oranges.

2. Because of said vitamin c content they could stop you getting scurvy and as much as I’m sure we have all day dreamed about being pirates, scurvy is best avoided.

3. They can help you make a natural itching powder. The hips contain fine hairs which are GREAT for causing irritation to anyone you might well want to.

4. They taste ruddy good; lightly fruity- when made in to a syrup they are a sweet addition to pretty much any breakfast/dessert.

Rose hips are the fruit of our native and common roses, the dog rose and field rose. They can be found easily as the reddish orange hips are scattered across both urban and countryside landscapes in great numbers from now until November-ish.

They are mildly precarious however. They have mega thorns for one so it’s worth wearing gloves and using scissors when gathering them, unless you enjoy foraging wounds. Secondly, inside the hips you will find irritant hairs which need to be removed before you make your syrup.

The first job to getting your rose hip syrup is to cut the hips in half. With this, for every 150g of hips use 250ml of water and put this combo on the hob to boil. Mash them gently as they simmer away- you’ll soon start to smell their unique citrus favour. After simmering the hips for 15 minutes or so, strain the juice through a double layer of muslin twice, cleaning the muslin in between. Put this, what should be orange coloured juice, back on to the hob with 150g of sugar and stir over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and then take off the heat. Once cooled, put this in a sterilised bottle or jar and you have yourself a syrup.

I know this one feels a bit of a labour, but the best things are. This unique sweet flavouring poured over your porridge/muesli/pancakes/panna cotta is a CRACKING use of one of Britain’s best autumn fruits. And I mean, how good is something than can give you a sweet nectar and itching powder?

*Recipe taken from John Wright’s brilliant ‘Hedgerow’ book for River Cottage


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