Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sometime over the last ten months, I unintentionally acquired the right components to make chai at home. This, while rediscovering a long-lost affection for it after ordering wrong at a coffee shop in town and wanting to make amends (….to the chai gods? Perhaps). To near irrational measures, I’ve also still been thinking about the chai butternut squash soup we had for Christmas. Then, this week, a big and dusty sweet pumpkin was delivered by mail. Now how’s that for some serendipity? Point is, things usually come easier on their own.


1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
6 whole cloves
4  cardamom pods
6 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 1/2 tablespoons raw sugar
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons loose leaf black tea

Add water and spices to a pot and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and let simmer, covered, for 12 minutes. Then add milk and sugar and bring back up to a simmer. Remove from heat and add loose leaf black tea. Cover and allow to steep for a couple of minutes. Strain into tea cups.


Chai Pumpkin Soup
*this is not Millie’s exact recipe, but it’s inspired by hers. We added a chai tea bag, heavy cream, and extra dried cinnamon, ginger, and cloves to that version at the end, which obviously turned out great, and, in comparison to the recipe ahead, was faster and less involved. But since I already had leftover chai from the recipe above, and a danhobak (or sweet pumpkin) that wasn’t getting any younger, I thought I’d try a different approach. And now I’m thinking about two chai squash soups. Life could be worse.

1 danhobak (also known as kabocha squash)
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 white onion, chopped
2 cups water
1 cup chai (from recipe above)

Cut danhobak in half and scoop out seeds. Then cut into wedges. Whisk olive oil with allspice, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and garlic. Pour over squash and rub to coat evenly. Roast for 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees F, turning halfway through, until squash is forkable (that is to say, easily pierced with a fork). Meanwhile, heat enough oil in a large pot to saute the onion until wilted and translucent. Scoop squash flesh from the skin and add it to the pot with onions. Add water. Bring to a simmer and stir, adding salt to taste. Remove from heat to let cool slightly, then blitz until smooth with a blender or food processor. Add back to the pot and pour in the chai. Turn on the heat and bring back to a simmer. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with chopped green onion and dried red pepper flake.