What does India sound like? You may be thinking of a cacophony of horns. It’s something you get used to, stop noticing and, over time, miss when it’s gone. The sound of traffic becomes comforting and silence begins to feel … Continue reading
Masala chai, there is nothing like it. It’s thick, aromatic, intoxicatingly sweet and packs a punch. My sister, Sammy, loves really strong tea. She always complains about how weak I make tea in England, so when she was visiting us, I had to take her to meet a chai wallah. I am fond of a “weak” cuppa, but I love strong chai from the roadside now and then.
A chai wallah is someone who makes masala chai for a living, for a couple of rupees a glass (yes, tea in tiny glasses). They can be found almost everywhere; standing over huge cauldrons of bubbling tea they’ve been brewing for hours, pouring it from great highs with long ladles. I think even Sammy was surprised how strong it was!
There is no definitive method to make masala chai. I have tried to make it many ways, and the following way is the one which works for me. If you are looking for a subtle and comforting masala chai, give this one a go…
You will need:
- ½ cup water
- 1 ½ milk
- 2 tsp loose tea leaves
- 2 tsp sugar
- 5 cardamom pods
- 5 cloves
- 1 pinch of freshly grated ginger
- 2 small tea cups
- 1 tea strainer
- Crush the cloves and cardamom with a rolling-pin.
- Pull the cardamom pods apart, releasing the seeds, and the snap the stem of the cloves.
- Add the crushed spices and sugar to the milk and water and simmer for five minutes
- Add the tea leaves and grated ginger and simmer for a further two minutes.
- Turn off the heat and let the chai stand for two minutes, allowing the flavours to permeate.
- Strain and enjoy!
Some people add cinnamon to their chai, but clove and cinnamon taste really similar to me making that earthy warmth too overpowering if combined. Black pepper is another common addition, but fresh ginger makes it peppery enough for my taste. Masala chai from a wallah is great for early mornings and road trips, but I couldn’t handle it everyday. I love my calmer version for daily drinking.
I think it was the third time I flew to India, I was about to step on the plane when the woman checking boarding passes (who worked for Air India) asked if Nagpur was in India. I think she had to check that everyone on the flight had a valid Indian visa if India was their final destination. Nagpur is rarely in the news and I guess it is kind of small. Many people I know have never heard of the place. Seeing as I write about my life in Nagpur, I think it’s about time I dedicated a post to the orange city, so you can become better acquainted.
Nagpur is the geographical center of India, it’s smack bang in the middle, and famous for it’s sweet oranges and extreme summers. The biggest disadvantage of living in Nagpur (in my mind) is the debilitating heat from April to June. Whenever I mention Nagpur to anyone who does know the place, this is what they usually bring up… the sweltering temperatures!
I have heard Nagpur be described as a city sized village on several occasions. I guess there must be a bit of truth to it, McDonald’s hasn’t descended yet, it’s pretty quiet and everyone seems to know each other. The majority of women wear a saree everyday, most people prefer to buy food from the market over the supermarket and foreigners are a rare sight. I assume Nagpur hasn’t changed very much in the last couple of years, which I find charming (and, sometimes frustrating).
There are not many obvious tourist attractions here, but the city is very green, has several lakes and hundreds of beautiful temples to discover. If I wake up early and take a walk, I see ladies drawing rangoli on freshly washed doorsteps, cows being milked and children holding hands as they walk to school. There is a strong feeling of community, the entire city comes out to celebrate festivals together, it feels like everyone gets involved.
Due to the central location of the city, there are people settled here from across India, so there are many cultures, many festivals and many tongues. Most people speak Marathi, even if their roots are in another state. It wasn’t long until I started to recognise the different districts. The British built government building of Civil lines, the artisan workshops of Chitaroli, the bustling market of Birdi and the jungles of Seminary Hills.
If you step out of the city, you are greeted by rural Maharashtra; bullocks pulling ploughs, orange groves and jungles where tigers dwell. Nagpur is also known as the tiger capital of India, there are a couple of beautiful nature reserves close by, where we were lucky enough to see a tiger along with many other beautiful creatures.
This is my home, a small city with a lot of sunshine.
I had some major food aversions when I was pregnant. The smell of roasting cumin seeds or hot ghee pushed me into a gut churning nausea I had never experienced before. I had so many cravings I couldn’t quench; fresh raspberries, halloumi cheese, … Continue reading