Spicing Up Winter
By Shari Mukherjee
This winter I’m prioritizing cozy. I’m living in soft, comfy sweatshirts, pulling on my warmest wool socks and wrapping my chilled fingers around mugs of hot, steaming chai.
Nearly every afternoon, around 4 p.m., either my husband or I grab our beloved “chai pot.” The kids, without fail, pull their stools up to the stovetop. We let them crush the spices, smash the ginger, and measure the tea leaves and milk. My husband watches as they stir and helps them as they make our daily chai.
I grab a handful of biscuits (Indian-style cookies) to share, and we all warm up on these cold-weather days, enjoying our hot chai together.
MY FAMILY’S MASALA CHAI RECIPE
Masala means “spice mix.” You can customize the spices and the amounts to your tastes. This recipe is truly just a guide, inspired by the tea from our favorite roadside chai stalls in India. If you don’t like a certain spice, leave it out. Add what you love. I hope you make the recipe your own and it brings a little warmth, coziness and joy to your winter days, too!
1 ½ cups water
1 ½ cups whole milk
Fresh ginger, about the size of a half-dollar, smashed
5-6 green cardamom pods, smashed (just enough to slightly break the shells)
4-5 whole cloves
1 thumbnail-sized piece of cinnamon (crush a cinnamon stick to get smaller shards)
6 tsp. loose-leaf black tea (we like Brooke Bond Red Label, available locally at Rice and Spice, International Spice and even Walmart or Hy-Vee)
Sugar, to taste
Add water, milk, ginger, cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon and tea leaves into a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir to mix, then bring to a rolling boil, stirring often so that the milk doesn’t scald and the pot doesn’t overflow. Watch closely. If it looks like it’s about to boil over, turn the heat to low and keep stirring.
Allow to steep/boil on medium-high heat for around 10 minutes or until the mixture begins to turn a deep, golden caramel brown (this can take up to 15 minutes). Note: If you cook at a lower temperature, the flavor just does not quite come through as it should—trust me on this.
Once done, strain (using a fine sieve or a tea strainer) into individual mugs and add enough sugar to suit your taste. Serve immediately, preferably with a few biscuits or cookies for dunking. Makes 2-4 servings, depending on serving size