A little green tea

Herbal TeaI was reading about recipes using fresh, home grown herbs when I decided to try my own herbal tea. I’m having a lazy, restful Sunday and after the past two month of hectic life, I’m determined to enjoy it.

First step was to google ideas for combinations of herbs to try. My little balcony herb garden has the basics: mint, thyme, basil, parsley and a chilli plant. After reading about others’ experiences with fresh herbs, I decided to try a mixture of fresh mint and basil with fennel seeds.

Step one was to cut the mint & basil, break down the fennel seeds a little with a mortar and pestle, rip up the leaves to release the flavours, then steep in boiling water for around 5-10 minutes.

On a trip to Thailand a few years ago, I was taken by this lovely tea infuser-cup-and-lid set which is perfect for trying my own teas. I do love pretty things, so what is more perfect than a pretty, hand-painted tea cup just for me?

The tea verdict? Surprisingly pleasant and very refreshing.

I have not been a big fan of either green tea or herbal tea bags, so I’m very pleased that I enjoyed this combination. Whilst reading up about home made herbal teas, I found that apparently the best teas are made from three types of ingredients – something green, some herb and something floral. One of my basil plants is going to flower soon so I think I should try harvesting those flowers and drying them, ready for another herbal tea experiment.

The last step in this process was, of course, to put my feet up and enjoy my fragrant brew.

And I did need to put my feet up on this cushion… last night I attended a  “hen’s night”  – for the uninitiated, that is the last wild “girls’ night out” before a bride’s impending nuptials –  so this little cupcake was suffering from a little fatigue and very sore feet after a night of laughter and dancing with a great group of girls.

Here’s to lazy Sundays and home made herbal teas (and girls’ nights)! Home made herbal tea

Chin chin, chai…

Today is a stay in day for me. Apart from a walk up to the shop, but otherwise a rest day. We’ve had some good rides this week, a couple of wines out at the bar last night (since it was Friday) and a nice sleep in today.

Some dark grey clouds have blown in, in readiness for the rain that is forecast tonight and all day tomorrow. I feel a little tiny bit of a cold coming on, so today I made myself a nice pot of chai tea.

I love my chai tea. Preferably with soy milk, but that’s just my personal taste.

Here in France I’ve had a hard time finding a good, prepared chai tea mix, or tea bags. Back in Australia, I know I can get chai teabags in a few brands, including Twinings who’s come in a  black package – but do you think they can be found here? No, not at all. The Twinings black package here is for Scottish tea. As I’ve found with most things Asian, it is hard to find the good stuff here.

I have searched high and low for any brand, and have found that chai green tea is sometimes available – but I don’t particularly the taste of green tea. I like my chai made with black tea. Additionally, the two that I did find (and now have to remember where, because I can’t find them again) seemed to have more ginger in that what I am used to from Australia. The only solution then, is to make my own.

At first this does seem like a bit of messing about. But now that I’m sitting here sipping my beautiful fragrant, hot, sweet chai, it has been worth spending about 1/2 an hour in the kitchen.

Luckily for me, because TC loves to cook so much, I had all the spices I needed on hand. However, some were pre-ground where I really should have used whole seeds or pods (cardamom), but no matter, I still got the flavour I wanted.  Here is what I came up with for my chai tea…

Take some of the following:

  • whole star anise
  • cloves
  • cinnamon stick
  • black peppercorns
  • sliced fresh ginger
  • cardamom seeds (or whole pods, split open)
  • a bay leaf

Afterwards, you will need:

  • black tea leaves (or tea bags)
  • honey
  • milk of choice (if you want vegan, use soy, almond, rice, etc)
Chai tea 3  Chai tea 2

Add all of the spices & the bay leaf to water & boil for 5 minutes Chai tea 1

Remove from heat and steep for 10 minutes. Then add black tea leaves and bring back to boil, simmer for 5 minutes.  Then add honey and soy milk & heat through for a few minutes Chai tea 5

Strain into cups or mugs and enjoy… Chai tea 6

If you are going to have a go at this, play around with the quantities that you prefer. I like mine with less ginger & star anise (I only used 1 star anise and about 6 very thin slices of ginger), more cinnamon and cloves (I used a whole cinnamon stick and about 6 cloves). I started with about 3 cups of water, and about 1/2 a cup of soy milk, and in the end it yielded 1 and 1/2 large mugs.  Chai tea 4

Little things…

Parisien biscuit stamps TC and I gave each other small, novelty type gifts this year for two reasons – we didn’t want to spend too much money just because its “Christmas” and we also have to bear in mind how much stuff we are able to take back to Australia later next year (definitely not enough).

A couple of my gifts particularly made me smile. Just simple little things – a biscuit making set which includes recipes for traditional Parisien biscuits, sweet and savoury, complete with stamps to ensure they look the part,  a mini cupcake recipe book (shaped like a cupcake), and a lovely mug covered in colourful cats so that I can sit back with a nice cup of tea or a chocolat chaud and enjoy  the fruits of my forthcoming bake-fest. Bliss!

What did you get that made you smile this Christmas?   Cupcake recipe book Pussycat mug