CHAI TEA

Tea is one of Kenya’s main exports and our farmers especially in the tea growing region of Kericho have been smiling all the way to the bank in the past week.

But did you know there is a difference between tea as we know it and chai?

That preparing great chai is an art and that tea leaves should never be boiled?

Kenyans love their tea and by this I mean our milk,tea leaves and sugar period,that is how most of us  take our  tea.The furthest we may go outside of this   is adding ginger and cinnamon to our tea to spice it up.

It’s very rare that we blend other spices like pepper or cloves  to make this beverage a show stopper.

But wait till you discover Chai Tea,and like me you will get converted,now I take two cups of  it and yet I am a sworn coffee addict.

It’s that good!

I discovered Chai tea thanks to Aarti Party a cooking show on food network.

It was out of this world!you should just let tea leaves   steep and you get the most amazing combination of flavours in the world.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (1-inch) piece cinnamon stick
  • 4 green cardamom pods, smashed
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1/2 star anise
  • 2 quarter-sized coins fresh ginger
  • 2 scant teaspoon black tea leaves (recommended: Taj Mahal) or black tea of choice
  • 2 teaspoons honey, or more to taste
  • Whole milk or half-and-half

Directions

In a medium pan, bring the water, all of the spices and the ginger to a boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat and allow it to steep for 15 minutes.

Bring the mixture back to a boil, then add the tea. Turn the heat off, and allow it to steep for 3 to 5 minutes depending on how strong you like your tea. Stir in the honey and add milk to your liking. Strain it into a bowl or pitcher and serve!

I use  Nature’s Own blend of Tea Masala ,I totally love the warm peppery after taste it leaves in your mouth,a totally great way to start the day or end the day after dinner.

I am almost tempted to go make another cup right now.

There is  a website dedicated to tea preparation www.chai-tea.org,  that is how seriously people take their tea.

Go on now,make yourself a cup and trust me you will be hooked.

1-2-3 OF PORTION CONTROL

A lot of the time when people want to lose weight ,they want to know how much to eat of what.

I have a rule I call the 1-2-3 rule and it is as easy as they come.

Get your dinner plate divide it into two halves, a bottom half and a top half.

The top half is for  the portion of vegetables   you should be eating.

The bottom half has to be divided into two equal quarters.

One quarter is your serving of  meat or any  other protein ,the other is your serving of  carbohydrates.

There you have it,a simple 1-2-3 rule .

Portion Control

SOUR PORRIDGE

One of the exports my grand mother would bring for us when she visited Nairobi was some home-made gruel which is Kenya-speak for fermented porridge made from any of these cereal grains millet,sorghum and maize.

Now fermentation plays a very important role when it comes to some cereal grains that i listed above,it gets rid of some toxins that maybe present in some grains,makes it easier to digest and ….gets rid of bacteria that may otherwise cause diarrhoea .

Our grandmas knew what they were doing .

Crop of millet from www.freepik.com

Seeing that they lacked cold storage facilities like fridges and freezers,sour porridge lasted longer.

Now traditionally my grandma would make it with some of her friend with some special gruel making equipment, but I can get  the same taste using lemons!

I love the sharp taste lemons give it and since i cannot do it like my grandmother,my taste buds aren’t any wiser.

Here is what you need:

6 tablespoons heaped millet flour

1 and a half cups water

2 lemons

1.Start by mixing the 6 tablespoons of  flour in half a cup of water,stir till there are no lumps.

2.Put the one and a half cups in a small saucepan  and bring toa  boil (this method I find quicker).Then using a wooden spoon stir in the pre mixed flour and water mixture stirring till it thickens and begins to bubble.

3.You can adjust the consistency of the porridge by adding water.

4.Let it simmer for 20 minutes to make sure it’s thoroughly cooked.

5.Meanwhile squeezze the juice from 2 lemons and add to simmering porridge.

7.Let it simmer for 5 minutes and remove from heat into serving bowls.

8.Add sugar/honey for taste as desired

Variations:You can add the juice of any citrus fruit from lemons/lime to orange juice,all should be freshly squeezed and without seeds.

 And if you do not like the citrus flavour in your porridge,just go ahead and add milk or cream and you have yourself a hearty and wholesome meal!

GRILLING 6 WAYS

If there are two things that describe Kenyans better than Brand Kenya can its Beer and Nyama Choma.

So much so that you cannot imagine East African Breweries doing a Tusker lager advert(one of our best exports if i may say so) without succulent goat ribs featuring somewhere on that ad.

Now nyama chama is our version of grilled meat and Kenyans love their grilled goat ribs,though on this side we prefer to call them roast.

But technically speaking we grill meat not roast it,roasting is done in the oven,in an enclosed space with an indirect source of heat doing all the cooking.

Now cooking terminologies done with,did you know you can grill anything and everything?

From vegetables to bread to  Tofu,most foods take very well to grilling .

Grill marks add some pizzazz to foods and not only is it healthy its tasty too.

1.Vegetables

Everything from tomatoes,onions,egg plants(aubergines),even lettuce can be grilled.

And what use are grilled veggies you may ask?with just some simple vinaigrette vegetables are taken from glam to fab!

2.Bread

Yes you can grill bread too.

Just  brush it with olive oil,rub a clove of garlic onto the hot bread and you have garlic bread.

Great accompaniment for soups as well as for making panninis or sandwiches.

Grilled Pineapples
Photo courtesy of www.kitchenproject.com

Pineapples,bananas,mangoes can ll be slightly grilled for extra sweetness because the heat caramelizes the sugar in the fruit and yum yum yum.

They can also be served with a side serving of either plain yoghurt or some whipped cream and you can hit the gym later.

4.Heathier alternative to frying

As an alternative to frying or boiling root vegetables like potatoes,sweet potatoes,plantains or bananas,grilling is a great way to get some extra flavour into these foods.

5.Oven

A grill can also be used as a sort of  oven,just wrap whatever food you want cooked and fish is especially good for this with some foil,even banana leaves will do and you have yourself a great meal with just the use of a charcoal stove/jiko and a grill mesh.

6.Mini pizza’s

Thiscan also be cokked on a grill,with just tomatoes,mince meat(already cooked),some cheese you can be enjoying one of Italy’s best exports right in your own backyard.

Bon appetit!

ALL HAIL MEN WHO CAN COOK!

My grandfather Nelson Muyaweru(may his soul rest in peace) was a man of many firsts,born in 1913,he could drive,whip up a great meal ,took care of my mum and siblings even taught my mum how to cook .

And i totally loved him!

Before the term equality was even coined my grandfather lived it in everything he did.

My dad too cooked and he could make the best beef stew this side of the equator, hands down.

And some of my favourite celebrity chefs are men too,Bobby Chinn,Bobby Flay,Duff Goldman,Guy Fieri..the list is endless.

There is something about a man who can cook and that should probably be added next to the requirements of an ideal man-TDHC(Tall,Dark,Handsome and  Cooks).

Cooking is an art,an expression of the love you have for the food and for the people you are preparing it for,otherwise why cook?

I am therefore seeking for recipes from men who read this post,some of their best tried and true recipes.And i am going to publish one of them on my blog.

So let’s get cooking…. and women all hail the men who can whip you a good meal.

WHY READING FOOD LABELS COULD SAVE YOUR CHILD’S LIFE.

We all know what the Kenya Bureau of Standards does ,which is not ensuring  unsafe and harmful food substances do not get  to the consumer.Remember the illegal alcohol drinks laced with methanol that by passed all the stringent measures put in place by the standards body,yes that is how efficient we are.

In 2007 there was an article published in the Daily Telegraph that linked eating sausages with an increased risk for cancer.Reason for this was that an ingredient added to sausage meat and burger meat posed a risk to humans,the article can be found here.

Between January and July of tha year,the paper had published articles highlighting the dangers of food additives and preservatives especially for children and the risks it exposed them to.

Now in Kenya with food safety not being a major concern for the standards body and with the country lacking a strong consumer awareness movement,we as individuals and parents need to take the health and safety of our children into our hands.

We need to be more keen and informed in the choices we make especially in regards to processed foods.

Some of the ingredients used in processed foods have a wide range of effects especially on children and they may range from hyperactivity,lower IQ to putting children at risk of cancer.

Some countries in Europe are already calling for the banning of some of these food preservatives and ingredients , companies like Nestle are already working on using  naturally occurring flavourings and colorings.

In addition Europe’s food safety body EFSA carries out continuous risk assessment and evaluation of risks along the food chain and communicates the same to consumers.

In Kenya that is what we lack,that is why it is very important to arm ourselves with knowledge and information that will enable us make more informed choices .

Some of the ingredients you need to look out for are listed below and are from an article in The Daily Telegraph that equated their effect to that of leaded petrol.

Artificial flavorings to avoid,sourced from the Daily Telegraph of the UK

CLEANING UP MY PANTRY,ARE YOU?

Kenya is  seeing an unprecedented rise in the number of lifestyle diseases with everything from the number of cancer cases,diabetes and high blood pressure on the rse.Alot of it has been blamed on the way we have changed our eating habits and now have more processed foods in our diets than ever before.

Unofficial estimates put the number of people being diagnosed with cancer at 82,000.Grim fgures if i may say so myself.

We seem to think that with increased affluence anything out of a can or box is good enough,forgetting that the best food is always the one that is fresh.

I have therefore gone through the list of items in my kitchen pantry and  am getting rid of a few things that though they form a staple of Kenyan kitchens aren’t that good for you.

The first item to go was Royco,there are a lot of things that are packed into this green plastic can that is coded as flavorings and that aren’t too good for your body or your children’s.

Image of food with additives from www.telegraph.co.uk

Instead I have bought a spice rack that includes everything from Oregano ,cummin seeds,fennel,cloves and black pepper and  am using more  ginger and garlic,my kitchen now wafts with smell that would make any connoisseur of Italian or Indian food proud.

 Trust me if you incorporate herbs and spices into the preparation of your meals,your family will never ask to eat out again.The smells wafting from the kitchen will be enough to have everyone at the table before the food is even ready.

Next was the flavored brand of drinking chocolate that was recently introduced into the market.

Soda is no longer welcome in my house anymore,I can make my own juice.

The bottles of ketchup and tomato sauce have to go to,making tomato sauce s easy i am going to be making my own sauce from now own.

The additives and preservatives  added to most of these every day items to enhance their flavour or increase their shelf life have been shown to result in long-term effects that may range from mild reactions like rashes and some have even been suspected of causing cancer.

From now on before you eat anything out of a can or bottle,read the label of ingredients,does it contain anything you do not recognize?then put it back on the shelf and get something that later in life your family will thank your for.

 Are you getting rid of anything unhealthy from your pantry too?

Here is an article by the Daily Telegraph in the UK calling for Banning of Food Additives

“BEETIFUL” BEETROOT

Beetroot for sale in a market

Have you ever seen this red root vegetable at the grocery section at the supermarket and either ignored,scorned it or wondered what the hell you were going to do with it at home?

You are not alone.

This root vegetable is rich in Vitamin A,C B1and B6 and some essential minerals .

Vitamin A is great for your eyes,immune system for a healthy skin and hair,Vitamin B1 goes towards building a healthy nervous system and Vitamin B6 is needed for cell growth.

Not many people know the wonderful properties of the beetroot or the amazing ways it can be used in food preparation.Here are some ways I use it in my kitchen.

1.Added to salads.

You know the same way we add grated carrots to cole slaw and other salads,add grated beetroot or cube it and add to your favourite salad.It adds color taking your salads to a whole new kaleidoscopic level not to mention the added nutritional value you are pumping into your body.

2.Eaten raw.

Yes just like carrots or tomatoes you can eat beetroot raw.

3.In juices.

Blend it with your favourite fresh fruit juice whether pineapple,mango  or orange juice.

Just remember that if you are going to keep it out for long add something acidic like lime or lemon juice to prevent it from oxidation which changes its color.

Its is also great as a juice on its own

4.In smoothies

Add it to your favourite fruit smoothie as a color enhancer and as a natural sweetener .

5.Cooked

Though i prefer the taste of raw beetroot they can also be cooked and added to soups and stews.

And there you have gre to start adding the beetroot  to your “must have” vegetable list.

A lot of people underestimate the power of the beetroot and here are five fun facts about the beetroot that show you shouldnt,courtesy of www.lovebeetroot.co.uk

1.Taken as a juice it’s a natural cure for a hangover.

2.Its nature’s answer to Viagra,see you don’t need those little pills.

3.Eating beetroot nullify’s  garlic breath.

4.Boiling beetroot in water and then massaging the water into your scalp is a cure for dandruff

5.Apparently it can be used as a hair dye too!

Have you used beetroot in your kitchen,share some interesting ways you have eaten this beetiful vegetable.

Head over to the fun facts page here to read more.

THE ONE VEGETABLE I DO NOT LIKE…OKRA

Okra intimidates me and I do not like it at all.

This is a vegetable that has defied my culinary skills .

Image from wikimedia.org

Its furry texture and then the gooey substance it secretes once it sliced,then when i tried to cook it….i vowed never to lay my knife on it ever again or subject my saucepans to this insufferable vegetable ever.

If you know of a good Okra recipe or are a whizz at turning this vegetable into a delicacy please help.

SUGAR BY ANY OTHER NAME IS STILL SUGAR

If you ever read food labels you may have come across ingredients with interesting names like sucrose,fructose,glucose,lactose,saccharine,maltose,corn syrup,sorbitol,mannitol,barley malt extract,molasses or corn syrup.

All these are different names given to sugar.

But did  you know that sugar occurs naturally in some of the foods we take in, that our body after breaking down all the food we have taken in is absorbed in our bodies as a simple form of sugar-glucose?

Sugar found naturally in foods like fruits and vegetables  is usually fine,it is the “added sugar” that is found in most commercially produced foods that is usually detrimental to your health .

Foods that have sugar added to them include everything from soda,biscuits,cereal ,candy,cake to tomato sauce,ketchup,salad dressings even peanut butter.

If you are interested in cutting back on your sugars,then you may need to be checking  your food labels and start cutting back on foods that contain sugar in high amounts.

Added sugars not only contribute to weight gain as they provide “empty calories” but they have also been seen to put one at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes,dental decay,obesity and put one at increased risk of heart disease.

So next time you are reading your food labels and see sugar in any of its forms  listed among the first few ingredients you may want to think twice before putting it in your shopping trolley .