Monday, October 11, 2010

Masala, Marks & Sparks

Masala Chai, or spiced Indian tea, has become quite a novelty beverage. Chai can be found easily in supermarkets, cafés and in tea shops. However, I have noticed that many of these beverages are made with non-traditional ingredients such as syrups, sugars, sweeteners, preservatives and dairy alternatives.

In addition, masala chai does not tend to satisfy the needs of coffee drinkers. For these people, there is another beverage that can be made (with thanks to our Indian friends). This drink is called masala coffee or spiced coffee.

Before I describe the recipe, you will need to understand the basic spices that are used.

Firstly, we have cardamom. These green pods are the seeds of a plant related to ginger. They have a floral, spicy taste and are very aromatic. Cardamom can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.

Note: Do not use black cardamom pods for this recipe. They have an undesirable smoky flavour. 

Next is cinnamon. The spice is commonly used in North American dishes and comes in two forms; whole and powdered. This sweet and heat-creating spice should be used in its powdered form for this recipe.

Lastly, we have cloves. Cloves have a strong flavour element and can be used in its whole or ground form. They have a scent that is reminiscent of the winter holiday season. I would suggest for you to use cloves in their whole form for this recipe.

After spices, I would also suggest the use of a French press coffee maker. This machine is often known as a coffee press or coffee plunger. I love this appliance, because it enables you to control the strength of your coffee by allowing you to adjust the time you leave it to brew. French press coffee makers are rather inexpensive and can be found readily in kitchen stores. However, I do suggest that you purchase one made of glass and not plastic or metal.

Onward to the method. Begin with placing the following ingredients in your coffee press:
- ground coffee
- spices:
     - 2-4 cardamom pods (squeezed or crushed to allow for the inner seeds to be released)
     - a dash of ground cinnamon 
     - 3-5 whole cloves

Other than the three basic spices listed above, additional spices may be added to change the flavour to suit your individual taste. Some suggestions include:
- nutmeg (to provide a soothing effect)
- ginger (for added heat)
- fennel seeds (for a fresh licorice aftertaste)
- saffron (to add a zing)
- black pepper (for a kick)

As you can see below, I opted to add a dash of nutmeg and some freshly cracked black pepper.

Pour hot or boiling water directly into the coffee press and wait for it to brew to the desired strength you prefer.

Press the coffee, so that the coffee grounds and spices are pushed to the bottom and then your masala coffee will be ready to serve!

This type of coffee can be served quite easily with cookies, cakes, biscuits or biscotti. My personal favourite is to serve it with ginger snap biscuits. When you're looking for Ginger Snaps, the best-of-the-best are from Marks & Spencer. Of course, Marks & Spencer no longer exists in Canada. However, I have been able to find these wonderful, sugary and spicy cookies at the following locations:
- Mrs. Bridges British Bakery in Eglinton Square Mall (Eglinton Ave. E. and Victoria Park Ave.)
- Blighty's Tuck Store (Elora, Ontario)

Mmmm. This brew is a spicy delight which is sure to soothe your senses.

Apki Lambi Umar Ke Liye! (Here's to your long life!)

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