Don’t you just adore food posts that start with..”So as legend has it… “
You know that you’re going to be in for a real treat and hopefully they have attached a kicking recipe to draw you along into the story even further. Well that’s my cue to start the story of Bridget’s Ultimate Masala Chai Recipe. I guarantee a bit of humour peppered with a touch of history and a great twist at the end!
So as legend has it, masala chai was invented over 9000 years ago by a very ingenious King in an Indian court as a herbal tonic based on the Ayurvedic principals of medicine. It was said to be used as a cleanser and have the ability to cure minor aliments. The concoction that was brewed some 9000 years ago consisted mainly of spices and is a wee bit different from the masala chai that we are familiar with today.
With the setup and popularity of tea plantations by the British in India from the 1830’s, black tea became an inclusion in masala chai along with milk and a sweetner, and the masala chai- masala meaning spice and chai meaning tea in Hindi- is a distant cousin to the early version based solely on spices.
Today masala chai is as popular in India as drinking coffee is in the United States and has just as many, if not more everyday rituals and traditions attached to it. Chai is served at home, where everyone has there own special way of preparing it or you can find it being sold by chai street vendors or chai wallah’s as they are called, in most public places in India.
My journey to Chai has been a long and winding one, with many unfortunate bumps in the road where I’ve tried various attempts of someones masala chai including some of my own less inspiring ones. With the help of my man about the house, the enlightened one, who has spent many months traveling in and out of India sampling many cups of delicious masala chai, I set about trialing and sampling a brew that I could be proud of.
The fruits of my labour consist of spices, milk, tea and a sweetener. For the record, your milk *should* be full cream, though skim could be substituted- soy milk is a no go here people as the flavours just don’t work that well together, and your spices need to be as fresh as possible.
How do you know your spices are fresh? If they have been in your cupboard for 12months, they are not fresh. If you stick your nose in the freshly opened jar and stale air rather than sweet spice invades your nostrils, they are not fresh. If this is the case you need to track down a reputable spice seller in your local community. A master ” spice wallah” who has a good trade so that the spices are getting turned over regularly. And only buy spices in small quantities so that they are used up before they are given a chance to become lacking in aromatic quality!That is after all why we use spices in food, to “aromatise” and enhance the flavor of the dish, stale spices just don’t cut the mustard!
Bridget’s Ultimate Masala Chai Recipe
Makes enough for 4 cups
Once you have determined that your spices are fresh.. see above.. you can begin by dry roasting the following spices in a small roasting dish in a hot oven at 220C for 10 minutes.
4 cinnamon quills
8 cardamon pods- lightly crushed so that the pods are open
6 black peppercorns- lightly crushed
1 tsp of ground ginger
Remove the spices from the oven and place into a heavy bottomed saucepan along with 1200mls of full cream milk, 2 heaped tblsp of brown sugar and 2 bags of Dilmahs fiery Ceylon chai tea. Now before you start having heart palpitations that you cant get hold of or don’t know what Dilmahs fiery Ceylon chai tea is.. this is brand specific commercially produced black tea with spices which is a nice way to add the black tea to your chai as it’s already grounded in some fairly decent flavors. Any black tea will suffice- with traditions leaning towards Ceylon or Assam tea leaves. Loose leaf tea is fine, and if you do- add 2 heaped Tablespoons.
Cover the liquid with a paper cartouche which is a circle of greaseproof papper that is placed directly on top of the liquid to prevent a skin from forming. Heat the chai slowly on a medium heat for 45 minutes to fully infuse the flavours.
Remove from the heat and dispose of the paper cartouche,strain the liquid into warm cups and and serve immediately.
Satisfying for both body and soul!