I invite you to enter the land of spice with me. Learn to use them in your daily cooking to spice up your life, activate your body and breathe new life into dull food.
My ongoing spice addiction started early on relishing foods of my childhood upbringing in a southern indian brahmin household. Why is the distinction of my background important? To acknowledge the rich roots of my recipes. Growing up a tamil girl in the cosmopolitan capital city of Delhi, I tasted the light & subtle flavours of my southern background and also sampled the hearty mixes of northern influences. I hope to share loads of colourful stories in each of my posts.
Fast forward to my move to Canada. As a young woman in a foreign land, I relied heavily on one source for my cooking experiments. An old cooking bible ‘Cook and see’ or samaithu par is a book that many women swear by. While the author Meenakshi Ammal is my culinary goddess & gave me many hours of reading & cooking pleasure, the writing was sometimes cryptic. Written like a master chef, she’d assume you had all the ingredients and suddenly ask for a teaspoon of dried coconut. Imagine my plight, up all night shelling shallots for the first dinner party I was hosting. Where on earth was I going to get this ingredient? I vowed then and there that I would someday make this elegant cooking simple.
Another dinner party this time for a major festival . You probably know, south asians have a lot of festivals. Ostensibly to pray(pooja) to God, tantalizing delicacies are made, and heavy duty socializing happens post-prayer all of course in the name of God. As I prepped for my pooja I didn’t know where I could find white pumpkin(a delicate squash also used in chinese cooking).. my neighbour Vasanthi popped by & suggested Zucchini instead, so was born zucchini buttermilk soup. Another vow was made,to share my age old spice recipes with a modern twist using locally available ingredients as much as possible.. Just so you my dear reader don’t break into a sweat each time you try my recipes.
Finally since I’m such a foodie, my deep fried food addiction shouldn’t come as a surprise! however a high cholesterol count changed all that. I had to completely change my food desires. Food had to be still be delicious, not for me boring dishes found in vegan restaurants that are quite offputting. My food had to seduce, look beautiful and yet be healthy. Spice helped me forget fat. So was born my third vow, to look for food that sustains body and improves health.
Let’s tuck away my 3 promises for now. You are probably thinking by now, I know Indian food, I’ve eaten at Bombay ___(fill in the blanks). But did you know the generic indian food you typically get in restaurants is mostly the frontier variety with simmered cream based gravy to dip in your naan bread. Southern indian brahmin cuisine is also delectable. Wouldn’t you like to know more about the other spice delicacies that you seldom get to sample in restaurants? That’s basically the purpose of my blog sharing delicious, healthy, nourishing & closely guarded home recipes with my Soul of Spice Tips sprinkled over.
Are you ready for my first share. Its quite simple and uses only 1 spice. I dedicate my first post to Royal Saffron, the most expensive of all spices.. Orange Pekoe Tea and ginger are my other 2 minor stars.
Pots n Pans
Saucepan for boiling water
small bowl for soaking saffron threads
1 1/3 cups water
2/3 cup milk (of your choice, I use 2%)
2 tea bags orange pekoe tea( reduce to 1 if you like milder tea)
2 1/2 tsp sugar or to taste 4 threads
saffron soaked in 1 tbsp milk
1/4 tsp fresh ginger crushed(SOS note: When you crush ginger, don’t peel the skin heavily, lots of nutrients just below the skin that you might end up losing. Peel lightly or not at all if you’ve given your ginger root a nice wash.
Boil water, saffron, ginger(if using), milk and sugar together in saucepan. Then add tea bag. Watch stove carefully to let come to a quick second boil in less than a minute depending on the intensity of your stove. Remove from stove. Pour into 2 cups, while using strainer to remove tea bags. Enjoy on this cool almost fall-like day in Toronto!
Benefits-from modern and ancient research –Saffron has a long medicinal history as part of traditional healing; modern research studies hint that the spice has possible cancer-suppressing antioxidant-like properties. Saffron stigmas, and even petals, may be helpful for depression. Early studies show that saffron may protect the eyes from macular degeneration. According to Ayurveda (india’s ancient system of medicine), Saffron increases body fire. Read some of the ancient texts that sing Saffron’s glory in improving health.
Ginger is a heating spice which I’ll tell you about in a future post. SOS note: Ginger can be quite strong so use sparingly at first to let your taste buds get gently accustomed to the flavour. The biggest benefit is how it keeps colds at bay. A friend drinks ginger tea every day & declares she’s never had a single cold all year long!
Fun Stuff As I researched out saffron, I discovered that saffron is extracted from the crocus flower. Which would be familiar to those who live in Persia(modern Iran) or the province of Kashmir in India or the colder climates of North America.
Hope you enjoyed this simple yet delectable post. I’d love to hear how your cuppa tea went. Write to me with your comments on how you liked this post and what else you’d like to learn to make. Next time my friend & co-author Pauline Lee will create a pairing for Saffron Tea. Watch out for the next post.
27 Comments Add yours
A great start, Charu! My recipe references have always been “Samaithu Paar” books which I continue to treasure. Only the long braid and Jasmine flowers are missing from your picture here:)) Looking forward to more!
Thanks a ton Jayashree. Absolutely treasure her books, tattered & torn I still read through them when in doubt or need reassurance on recipe authenticity!! glad you like the pix which my mom took last week !!
Thanks for reading & for commenting 🙂
Hey Charu, You go girl – North American Meenakshi Amma :). Love the commentaries- an added kick to the ginger tea and the hyper links takes it to a whole new level. looking forward to the next post ! Cheers !
thanks for the lofty comparison Kala! glad you like the hyperlinks-I really liked the one on saffron in ayurvedic texts! Ruefully though, I’m new at this & didn;t realize spice automatically linked to the SpiceGirls 🙂
Hey Charu. This is great. I too love spice and I have a daughter who is very into nutrition and aspires to veganism (she eats a little chicken once or twice a week). She too will love this. I especially like the personal stories/history you share as well as the benefits and fun stuff.
Now, stupid question time from a social media Neanderthal … how do I subscribe to your blog?
Thanks Kathy, I think you and your daughter will find a lot to use here. My food is lightly sauted, steamed, and maybe roasted. there are lot of gluten free recipes too in traditional southern indian cooking as wheat is mostly grown in the northern belt. I put up a side bar for folks to signup. let me know if that works.. I’m new at this too & need to find a way to reduce the # of pix on my post 🙂
Thank for this recipe, I’ve been making my own version without the saffron for quite a while and look forward to trying this.
thanks! let me know how it comes out..
I will try this with my daughter soon. I am a real fan of chai too. Is chai part of Brahmin cooking?
let me know how it goes. –even though there are tea & coffee plantations in the south, filter coffee is the more preferred morning beverage. Chai or Chaya is sipped more as an afternoon time tea..
Superb start Charu. Look forward to more delicacies !
thanks a lot Raji for your words of encouragement.. hope you find the recipes helpful..
I’ve always made ginger tea but your choice of saffron is what makes it different. Thanks for the tip Charu, loved it.
Thanks Suna.. Saffron is special & not an everyday tea in India 🙂 but its nice to make it as a treat when you have that special guest…
My mom spent time with me this weekend! I made her Saffron Ginger Tea for two ;). Sitting on my deck enjoying the warm afternoon sun, taking in the beauty of my flowers and bonding with my dear mother. This tea added that special touch of comfort to a perfect day. My mother has gone home with some of my Saffron threads for her to make tea for herself when she gets home. I know she will think of our time together when she sips her tea! Thank you for your recipe! Great job on your blog, keep them coming!
thanks Alison for trying it out! glad you & your mom were able to relax together. Nothing like a good cup of tea to bring friends and families together… can’t wait to hear her experience in making it. I’ll post another tea recipe soon since I know you like to try different types of tea..
Thank you Charu to share this part of indian culture, i use a lot spice and i feel very indian for many raisons especialy for indian food. So i will visit your blog very often to learn more …
Merci Severine, I’ll share lots more recipes, In fact I have so many but not enough time to write ! let me know if you have any special requests..
Thank you Charu. I will try this
thanks Urmila.. nice to hear from you.. let me know how you make out.
Awesome blog, Charu !! Brings back memories of back home. It’s friday afternoon and I am going to try the saffron-ginger tea. BTW, ‘Samaithu Paar’ by Meenakshi Ammal is my gospel on south indian food, besides my mom’s recipes, of course ! Way to go, girl !
thanks Vasu.. do try the saffron ginger tea & let me know how you liked it.. I’d love to hear your about your mom’s recipes, if you’re able to share any -maybe we can post them too!
Indeed a delectable post! I enjoyed exploring your blog. Looking forward to your future posts! Thank you for visiting my blog! 😀 Fae.
Fae, thanks so much for liking my posts. I’m touched.. I loved your blog and your spirit & hope to read more about you in the coming days 🙂