Warming Spices, honeyed milk and magnesium-rich cacao!
My mother always put fresh ginger in our spaghetti "Bolognese"- I know, not your average Italian ratatouille. But my Mum knew a thing or two about making food delicious- the liberal addition of various spices to the classic Indonesian Nasi Goreng and Bami Goreng was aslo part of my regular taste experience growing up in Brunei.
I definitely think this early exposure to such a variety of vibrant flavours fuelled my love for all things spices. Particularly cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and coriander play a regular role in my baking and cooking. Recently I've been experimenting with making delicious hot drinks laced with fragrant spices such as cinnamon, ginger, turmeric and coriander seeds, which I saved from my plants this summer. For me, the heady smell of the combination of these spices evoke the sense of comfort and nourishment.
As the weather is getting colder, the nights are drawing in earlier (and I am getting older!) I notice my need for warm cozy drinks after brisk walks or taking some rest with candles lit as a moment of kindness for myself. Add in a generous portion of good cacao and my neurotransmitters are singing!
The Chai blend of spices originated in India over 5000 years ago with its roots in Ayurvedic traditions. Apparently there is no one recipe and different regions of India each have their own favourite spice blends to make their warming spiced tea with black tea leaves and sweetened milk. I loved reading about the history of Chai here. Although chai in-fact means tea, many of us think of the fragrant spices that can be added to other combinations of hot drinks. Coffee too is delicious with the addition of cardamom and or cinnamon, but my favourite would be a hot mug of cacao.
A chai spice blend is easy to put together and store in a small jar, ready to add and infuse warmed milk before mixing in cacao. Cacao is the raw form of what we know as chocolate, and is rich in minerals such as magnesium, gut-loving plant compounds and a hefty dose of antioxidants. Definitely a beneficial routine to add for both your health and wellbeing.
With our fast-pacing moving world- and my tendency to feel I need to go at the same high speed, the simply act of slowing down to make a delicious hot drink can really help with supporting our nervous system. We don't own a microwave and I prefer to heat milk up in my little milk pan. Easy to do with sprinkling in the spice mixture and watching it simmer and infuse.
Here is my simple combination of spices. You'll need either a coffee bean grinder or a nutri-bullet type appliance that will make quick work of whole spices that you can get creative with.
To make the spice blend:
One whole cinnamon quill
1tblsp cardamom pods
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp dried ginger
1tsp dried fennel seeds
To make the hot chocolate
1 mug of milk/mylk of choice. I prefer half oat/half cows milk
1/3 tsp chai spice blend
1 heaped teaspoon of raw cacao (I love the Irish brand Nuanaturals)
1tsp of honey
In a small pan pour in the milk and add the spice blend to bring to a gentle simmer, then turn off the heat. Mix the cacao with a little hot water in your mug to dissolve the cacao well. Strain the milk into the cacao mixture and sweeten with honey. Sprinkle with some cinnamon or more cacao and sip and enjoy.