Chai Syrup

 

Pepper

I am marginally obsessed with chai syrup. I put it in milk, on porridge, or just drink it neat (cue blush-faced emoji). There is a brand made by a company in Bath called Henny and Joe’s, which was pretty life-changing for me. I first discovered it at my local Sunday market, and, to add to the tantalising excitement of my love affair with this stuff, they weren’t always there every week, meaning that some weeks I was left bereft. So given the unreliability of access to my next fix, I decided that the only thing to do was have a bash at making some myself.

Spices

Recipes seem to include a vast variety of spices, some with star anise, some ginger, some cloves. However, I decided to just make it up as I go along (as per usual), which involved the prominence of the things I love – vanilla and ginger – and the omission of those I don’t – cloves and star anise. Cloves I have a particular aversion to, as they are apparently a home remedy for toothache, so since childhood I have associated the taste with acute dental pain. Recipes vary between using honey and sugar, I used both –  some honey that my Mum bought back from Greece, along with muscovado sugar (my insatiable sweet tooth being the culprit that resulted in the aforementioned trips to the dentist).

In pan

This syrup is less aniseed-y than some would like, so feel free to add a few cloves or a star anise if that’s what floats your boat. I also used loose leaf tea flavoured with chocolate, as that was the only one I had, but any loose leaf tea (or a normal tea-bag) will work fine. Keep tasting it as you go along, and adjust the levels of spices to taste. For me it’s that magical balance between sweet from the honey and cinnamon, and spicy from the pepper or star anise that makes this syrup so addictive. I imagine the syrup would keep in a sealed jar in the fridge for a few weeks, but it’ll never lasts that long if I’ve got anything to do with it.

In glass

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Fresh Pasta

pasta

I frequently like to play a game with myself along the lines of desert-island discs called desert-island meals. Disregarding all notions of nutrition/what would help you survive on said island, fresh pasta would have to be on the list (along with pesto, chocolate mousse, and some sort of salad to keep Mum happy). Realistically, it would be the last thing I would want to eat if being marooned on an island did actually happen. Not to mention the unlikelihood of having a convenient pasta maker to hand. But, logistics aside, it really is something that I would be happy to eat until the end of my days.

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Fresh pasta is a different thing entirely from dried pasta. Yes, it is a bit of an effort to make – the mixing, kneading, resting, rolling takes time – but I’m always convinced that it’s worth it in the end. A pasta maker is pretty much a necessity to get the dough thin enough – I tried it once with just a rolling pin, and it was disappointingly thick and chewy. You need reinforcements in the form of willing volunteers to help coax the pasta through the rollers. I had three helpers to hold the ever-lengthening sheet of dough. If you are Italian, maybe you can do it single-handedly, but this would be quite a feat.

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I sometimes serve the pasta with homemade pesto, but it really doesn’t need much embellishment. This time I went for parmesan, olive oil, salt, pepper and a few basil leaves. A green salad was meant to be an accompaniment, but having got so involved with making the pasta I completely forgot about it, so we had a salad course afterwards.

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