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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Urban Foraging with Forage Botanicals

A foragers basket

Not used to the freezing cold weather, when the Romans invaded Britain they took to stuffing their trousers with stinging nettles- the sting’s inflammation caused a heat sensation that soothed winters bite.

That’s one of the brilliant nuggets and insights I had into herbs and our environment while on a foraging walk with Natasha from Forage Botanicals.

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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

Quince Butter

Local produce outside the General Store, Peckham, LondonQuince at the General Store, Peckham, LondonQuinceQuince butter

Apple and pears are the better known relatives of the quince. The quince is like an antiquated and estranged cousin of this familiar fruit family.  A tart cousin at that.

That is until it’s cooked. It’s yellow flesh turns a ruby red that mimics the beetroot ketchup I made, and it’s flavour is a sort of sharp and perfumed one.

The quince I used were as a result of my exploring Peckham and discovering the General Store. Here you’ll find bowls, shelves, crates and baskets of the best kind of proper quality foods. That includes quince, apples and such that locals have traded in with the store. I was pretty glad to stumble upon that place as my Saturday attempt to urban forage fell short when the doors I knocked of apple tree owners were unanswered. The General Store guys also taught me that the soft covering on the quince (that could easily be mistaken for dust) is actually called pubescence and that’s good pub quiz material. I’m not sure of pubescences’ purpose but I am sure it has one- nature is good like that.

For about a kilogram of quince (which made me 2 jars of quince butter) begin by washing off said pubescence before peeling and chopping the fruit and putting it in a blender. Blend the quince till they are finely chopped. Place this mixture in a slow cooker on high and add just shy of a cup of a natural sugar like muscovado or demerara, a tablespoon of cinnamon and a few drops of vanilla essence. Leave this on the go for about 4 hours-ish, stirring if you are home. After that cooker time place the mixture back in the blender and blend till a smooth paste. Chuck it back in the slow cooker for another 4 hours or so and you’ll have a fruit butter with pow. 

Fruit butters are a great jam alternative for what is undeniably jam season. I put my quince butter on some toasted rye and sprinkled some coconut on top but they are also good in porridge or stirred in to your muesli.

I might start a campaign to bring back the quince. It’s a good’un.