09 April 2013

Warm & Delightful Chai Tea

I haven't entered a Starbucks in many years, because I love where I live, and I believe in local economies. And I think their coffee is gross.

Something that wasn't gross, however, was their Chai Tea Lattes. Do they still do those? They made it from a pre-made, boxed syrup that they diluted with steamed milk. It always seemed like calories dipped in chemicals and coated in a heart attack. But dang, did it taste amazing.

I spied a recent post on Bon Appetempt that made a very simple chai tea using only cardamom pods for spice, but I wanted something bolder, bigger, with more spices and complexity.

I bashed up some spices and these were the casualties. The smell knocked me right on the nose and said "yes, you are doing a good job." The sun even came out a little (only a little, this is Scotland, after all) and gifted me with a very pretty light for photos. I could tell I was onto something.

Homemade Chai Tea
Serves 2

1 small cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 green cardamom pods
6-8 whole cloves
3 bags of black tea

Bash all the spices in a mortar & pestle.

Simply toss it all in a teapot. Add boiling water. Go away for 10 minutes.

Then warm up some milk. Pour into your mugs. Don't forget your strainer. Add a little sugar. The end. Amazing.

In other news, my friend Allison has given me a blogger award. An award with strings attached. How could you?! I thought we were friends!! The catch is -- I have to tell you a little more about myself. Actually, I have to tell you SEVEN little more things. So, here we go.

1. I have attended 6 different colleges/universities in my academic pursuits.
2. There are unfinished crochet projects hidden in at least 3 places in our flat.
3. I used to be a somewhat good flautist.
4. I have performed a vivisection on a frog. That's like a dissection, except the frog is still alive.
5. I make all of the cards I give to my boyfriend using Photoshop, because I am a secret design junkie, and I love that man beyond description -- so cards from the store (from someone else's ideas) will never do.
6. I designed and ran my first scientific experiment when I was seven years old. When my dad caught me, I got in trouble. I am a scientist today because I am still intensely curious about the world and how it works.
7. I have a teeny tiny Etsy shop for selling some of my crafty wares, with a terribly similar logo to the one on this blog!

Lastly, well, you all know the blogs I read (there's a list of them on the right-hand sidebar). Here are a few non-foodie blogs that I like.
{Design Blogs}

Evolutionary Psychology (a free academic journal)

20 December 2012

Gifts From Our Kitchen

Well, this year was a big one.

One of the biggest things that happened in 2012? --- My boyfriend and I decided to live together. That's a very big thing. This is our first Christmas together in the home we share, and I'm really excited!

My own family is a continent away - but I have him, and his family, and more people than I could ever imagine I'd have in my life to give Christmas presents to. Many of them, I've never even met before. So, what do you give to people you don't know? FOOD. Give them food! Everybody likes food.

We've decided on three jarred foods to give in Christmas hampers this year. All are tried and tested recipes that we absolutely love. Along with other yummy edibles, like oatcakes, shortbread, and some whisky from our friends at the Benromach Distillery, we have packaged up tons of my Chilli + Apple Jam, and two new recipes as well: an UNBELIEVABLE Caramelised Balsamic Red Onion Chutney, and a completely out-of-this-world Salted Caramel Sauce. With hand-written labels, these make the most adorable, homey, happy gifts!

They're all SO easy to make! If you're struggling for last-minute gifts, put these in your top 3! Particularly the salted caramel sauce, which is pretty quick and hassle-free.

Are you wondering how to make your labels stick like that? It's so easy. Just write them out on paper, brush the back with milk (!!) and let dry. It works just like glue, but comes off easily when you wet them with water. This is a far better method than using glue or stickers, and using a brown recycled-paper envelope really adds to the homespun feel of the jars.

Chilli + Apple Jam
makes 1 jar, plus a little more, depending on your jar size!

4 large-ish apples, any kind will do (I use Bramley or Granny Smith)
6 red chillies (2 de-seeded, chop the rest with seeds & ribs included)
150g (3/4 cup) sugar

Roughly chop up the apples (no need to peel or core) and place in a saucepan with some water.  Simmer gently until the apples are completely cooked through, adding more water if needed.  The water will boil off when you're not looking, and it's ok to add more.  Bear in mind that you're looking for about a cup of liquid in the end.

Allow the mixture to cool completely, then strain out solids using a mesh strainer or cheesecloth. At this point you should have about 1 cup of liquid.  ***

Place juice in saucepan with minced chillies and sugar.  Heat over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves.  Crank up the heat to high and boil away until it starts to turn jammy.  Test a few drops on a chilled plate to see if the jam has firmed up enough. Bottle and you're done!

Caramelised Balsamic Red Onion Chutney
from Fraser Doherty at The Guardian and the SuperJam Cookbook.
makes 4-6 jars

8 red onions
1 red chilli
2 bay leaves
25ml olive oil
200g brown sugar
150ml balsamic vinegar
150ml red wine vinegar

Cut your onions and chilli into short, thin slices and put them into a pan with the bay leaves and oil. Cook gently over a low heat for about 20 minutes.

Once the onions are dark and sticky, add the sugar and the vinegars and simmer for 30 minutes or so, until the chutney is thick and dark.

Pour the chutney into hot, sterilised jars and let it cool. Ideally, you should leave it for a month or more before you eat it, to mature in flavour.

Salted Caramel Sauce with Fleur de Sel
from Lick My Spoon
makes 1.5 cups

1 cup sugar
85g (6T) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup single cream
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (use Fleur de Sel if you're feeling fancy!)

Heat sugar and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir to help the sugar dissolve, but stop stirring when the sugar comes to a boil. Swirl if you like - basically you don't want to disturb the mixture while it's caramelising.

When the liquid sugar hits a dark amber color, add all the butter to the pan. The mixture will foam up and thicken. Whisk until the butter has melted. Once the butter has melted, remove from heat and add the cream. The mixture will foam up again - keep whisking and get those lumps out. Add the salt and whisk some more - you should have a very smooth, silky sauce with no lumps or salty grains left visible. Whisk and whisk some more, especially if you're using a coarse sea salt like fleur de sel or maldon. The sauce will thicken as it cools, so don't worry if you think it's too thin at this point.

Pour into sterilised glass jars, and you're done! The sauce may separate a little - just advise recipients to give it a stir before using.

03 July 2012

Keshke Salad - Wheat, Courgette and Walnuts

I just love middle-eastern food. It seems kind of weird to be saying that as a formerly-Midwestern farm girl who grew up on corn and potatoes and cows (usually our own). But I feel as though it's a remarkably well-rounded diet, where whole grains and legumes play key roles, and meat features much less heavily than in western diets.

Bf and I are on a bit of a health kick lately, and I'm trying to make meals for us that are less oily, buttery, carby, cheesy. Maybe coming home with a 5kg sack of dried chickpeas, and another of cracked bulgur wheat, was not what he had in mind. But when he asks me to health-it-up in the kitchen, well, this is what he gets. Instead of rice or potatoes, we'll have this - which pulls carb-duty while being much higher in protein (whole grains, broad beans, walnuts) and vitamins (pretty much everything in there). The unrefined grains will keep us fuller for longer, too, so we are less prone to snacking.

This salad is really tasty, simple, and the textures really work lovely together - a crunch of toasted walnut, slightly bitter, is met with a fresh green broad bean, and pulled together with just a touch of creaminess from the yogurt. Gorgeous. This isn't the first time I've made it, and it certainly won't be the last!

Keshke Salad
adapted from Taste of Beirut

1/2 cup of cracked wheat (bulgur wheat)
a handful of fava beans (broad beans) - I used frozen
1 small courgette (zucchini), diced
some chopped chives (I used dried, for shame!)
one big spoonful of full-fat greek yogurt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
sea salt to taste
juice of half a lemon
handful chopped walnuts, toasted

Wheat: place in a glass bowl and pour over plenty of boiling water. Cover with a towel and let sit 15-30 minutes until soft. Drain in a seive and return to bowl.

Fava: boil in water for 1-2 minutes, drain and run cold water over. When cooled, peel the beans by nicking the end with your fingernails, and squeeze the other end of the bean to pop it out of its thick skin. Add these to the bowl of wheat.

Courgette: dice and saute in olive oil over medium-high heat. Let it get brown, but be careful to not overcook it. Soggy is no good! Add this to the bowl.

Toast the chopped walnuts in the same pan and add these, along with remaining ingredients. Give it a good toss and check your seasoning.

Eat it up! Will serve 2 as a side dish, or 1 hungry girl for a solo, one-bowl lunch.

[I forgot to add chopped parsley and tahini to the dish, which the original recipe includes. I have them both in my fridge, and I'm gutted that I forgot about them - I will definitely include them next time!]