Sunday, May 19, 2013

Masala Chai for Needy People

I've wanted to get back to this space but it's hard to be a foodie when you've lost your sense of taste and smell. 

January started off great. I had awesome things happening in my kitchen: there was a lot of cooking and experimenting going on, a bucket-list of food-related projects I wanted to do this year, a lot of early-morning baking and photography in the soft, lovely light in the playroom just off my kitchen. . . Then the flu struck me down. Followed by repeated, debilitating, episodes of allergic rhinitis. It was almost April before I could shake all of that off and be my normal self again. 

But I still can't smell anything. I get faint whiffs of things at times, but mostly nothing otherwise. My sense of taste is creeping back and food is no longer unappetizing. However, I can only tell that what I'm eating is sweet/salty/sour/hot. I don't get all the other subtle flavors. Not only has it been depressing to eat in this state but it has been that much worse to cook and never know what is really going on with what I've made. I can't always be sure if food is seasoned properly or, quite simply, if it even tastes good. I hold things close to my nose, inhale deeply. Nothing. 

It has been a hazard too:  I've forgotten pots of oats simmering on the stove some mornings while I dashed around doing other chores and only noticed the smoke rising from the kitchen when I (luckily) walked by much later . . . or I badly scorched things in the oven.. I once failed to acknowledge a rotting, rank head of cauliflower in the crisper for several days .. And then there are the things that I missed being able to breathe: the rain, flowers, the baby's skin, fresh bread, chocolate . . Without my sense of smell to rely on, I have been quite lost. 

After struggling with this for a few weeks I reminded myself: cooking is intuitive. I've discovered it's possible to trust my instincts and to rely on visual cues. Most of the time this works in my favor. During this phase I had stopped reading food blogs in addition to abandoning my own - what's the fun in reading about food that you can't truly experience? But I'm warming back up to it all. . . starting by hanging around on Instagram again. . scanning my Google Reader for all the interesting posts I've missed these months . 

And so I start out my mornings with a steaming cup or two of Masala Chai, consumed by the liter during the day, catching up on my reading. 

This isn't really a precise recipe, but it is how I usually make my tea. I play around with it most days, omitting one thing or the other. Never really knowing what this tea *really* tastes like, guessing instead by the zing of ginger on my tongue and the heat of the black peppercorns at the back of my throat. This Masala Chai is wonderful when you have a cold, or a sore throat. A thermos-full prepared by me often does the rounds of my neighborhood each time a friend feels under the weather. 

Masala Chai
(makes 1 cup of tea)

1 clove
3-4 black peppercorns
a few pieces of cinnamon bark
2-3 green cardamoms
a pinch of fennel seeds
2" piece of ginger
evaporated milk

Crush everything together in a mortar and pestle. Bring 1 cup water to a rolling boil and throw the spinces and ginger in. Simmer 2-3 minutes. 

Add 2 tea bags (black tea), tags removed, or cut open two teabags and add the loose tea to the boiling water. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep 3-4 minutes. 

Place back on the stove, uncover, add desired sweetener and evaporated milk. Heat through but don't boil, strain and serve. 


The Squishy Monster said...

Chai is an incredibly beautiful thing...I love its warmth and yours sounds perfect!

Renee said...

So sorry to hear you've been struggling with your health. I hope you are on the path to wellness and will (soon!) regain completely those senses we so take for granted. Good luck! And thanks for sharing your chai recipe - I do love a big mug of the stuff. Take good care.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I love a good, properly made masala chai like this. It can help make any dreary morning better :)

Gemma said...

That shot is just stunning!
Hope you feel better soon! xxx

gemma @

Needful Things said...

Thank you, all!

I Wilkerson said...

My oldest is a huge chai lover--perhaps she should graduate from pre-packaged! I hope your taste and smell recover soon. I have lost mine twice (both times while sucking on zinc lozenges for a cold), and though much briefer, it was horrible.

Needful Things said...

@Inger - Really? from sucking on zinc lozenges? I was told it's a rare side effect of using nasal sprays (which I have used maybe 2 times in the past decade) but otherwise there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why I can't smell anything :( :(

Treat and Trick said...

This is one of my favorite drinks! Thanks for the recipe dear...

Treat and Trick said...

This is one of my favorite drinks! Thanks for the recipe dear...

Coffee and Crumpets said...

I hope you are feeling better! This delicious chai should most definitely help! I love the warming effect it has and really is very beneficial. Thanks for sharing your recipe!


Lail | With A Spin said...

I hope you fee better soon. I don't take tea but I know everyone else in my family will absolutely love this.

Anonymous said...

Hey, sorry to hear about your trouble over the last few months, but glad to see you back! This chai recipe sounds just perfect for awakening the senses.

Needful Things said...

@Nazneen - you're welcome!

@Lail - what, no tea? how do you get through the day? ;-)

@Camille thanks! and yes, masala chai helps - the more cinnamon the better!

Balvinder said...

I am a chai lover and a cup of masala chai is my way to relax with a book or watching TV.

Kiran @ said...

So sorry to hear about your health and I pray you get well soon.

I can't live without my masala chai. It's my way of therapeutic and unwinding after a long long day!

Needful Things said...

@Balvinder, Kiran - yes, it's the best way to relax and unwind after a long day :)

George Tom said...

Buy Loose Leaf Tea, Earl Grey Tea, Royal Masala Chai, Assam Tea offer finest flavor & health benefits


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