No Sugar Added. Delicious Summer Coolers – Hibiscus and Anise Cold Brew Tea

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As the summer progresses, appetite and cravings that we associate with the colder months vanishes. The requirements of the body change, from seeking warmth we all look for ways to cool off from the scorching sun. Whether we are out and about or are spending all our time in air-conditioning, our bodies are dehydrated and we naturally crave cold sweet liquids. While sherbets are great and am a big fan of a good rose sherbet, we all seek options which do not have added refined sugar.

Such cooling drinks use the natural sugars already existing in the fruit which takes away the need to add refined sugar.

So what I have for you are two summer cooler recipes which are very easy to make, will be liked by adults and children alike and are also a great base for cocktails.
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Hibiscus and Anise Cold Brew Tea

Hibiscus Flower Tea, is a joyous experience on its own. First the colour, liquid ruby red, with a sheen giving you the perception of liquid crystal. Aroma, very floral and one can almost be sure that the waft tells you that it will be deliciously tart and that it is. Floral and Tarty in flavour. And last but not the least, packed full of anti oxidants. It’s great on its own.

Now let’s talk about the other ingredient, anise. Sauff, as it is popularly called in India. I picked up some from a proper spice market in the interiors of Rajasthan. An experience that was memorable, because even if anyone was taken to that market blindfolded, they would know we were dealing with anise/ aniseed. A tea made with anise, is also an aromatic play on the senses. Fills the house with the fragrance, leaves behind a pretty green liquid, and is definitely flavourful with a sweet aftertaste.

So the work to be done is simple. Make the two teas, Anise and Hibiscus and let is cool down. If you are serving children, they might want it to be a little sweeter and for that you can add Honey or Maple Syrup or Agave. Do not add any powered sugar. That will make the tea cloudy and less appealing to the eye. And who wants to spoil the real spectacle of mixing two clear green and red liquids as per taste.

So whenever I make this tea, I like to make it a little DIY, serve cold iced glasses, with two unusual carafes (hoarded over the years from my collection of ever breaking glassware), one with chilled Hibiscus Tea and another with chilled Anise/ Aniseed Tea, and then allow the everyone to blend their own, adds to the drama and makes serving more interesting.
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Ingredients:

Anise/ Aniseed Tea
3-4 tsp anise/aniseed (choose the thicker ones, they are sweeter)
4 cups water

Hibiscus Tea
1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers( might seem a lot but these take up a lot of volume)
4 cups water

1. Make the Anise/ Aniseed Tea. Boil the water in a heavy bottomed pan
2. Once the water starts to boil, add the anise/aniseed.
3. Boil the tea on medium flame for 5-7 minutes or till the colour of the water is green and you can smell the aroma everywhere.
4. Strain and cool
5. Make the Hibiscus Tea. Boil the water in a heavy bottomed pan. You can also use a kettle.
6. Once the water has come to boil, add the hibiscus flowers and let it steep
7. After 5-7 minutes, the petals will steel and sink to the bottom.
8. Strain and cool
9. To serve, fill glasses with ice cubes. Mix the two teas in equal proportion. 10. The colour of the hibiscus tea will take over, but you can taste a refreshing cool beverage with the floral tartness of Hibiscus, rounded off by the sweet aromas of anise/ aniseed.

Dairy free, fuss free, one bowl carrot and orange cake

(dairy free if you can stop yourself from slathering dollops of butter or cheese)
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I called up my vegetables and greens provider to ask him what carrots does he have. And he merrily told me all three. In india, the most popular ones are Black (deep maroon, darker than beetroot), the red ones and the usual yellow to orange ones. Colours galore in my kitchen and off course I told everyone I spoke to that day that am making carrot cake tomorrow. And strangely everyone told me ‘oh I love carrot cake’

This means that it is indeed a very popular cake. Come to think of it, most cafes and bakeries of any stature have this on their menu and mostly its a tower of cake with cream cheese layers. Not for me. I love carrot cake, but without all this fuss.

Without the walnuts and dry fruits seeped into it. Without all the extra cheese. Because a carrot cake is supposed to be simple. Carrot cake.

This recipe is a simple cake which can be mixed in a bowl. And baked . The end result is a loaf which can be used two ways. Like a stale bread, toasted and buttered. Or if you really want some cheese, then a mascarpone whipped with cream with a dash of orange zest and enough cointreau.
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Ingredients:
290 gms all-purpose flour
2 pinches table or fine sea salt
2 tsp baking powder (aluminum-free)
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
120 gms sunflower oil
145 gms dark brown sugar
3 l small organic eggs
235 ml strange juice fresh or otherwise
1 tsp vanilla extract
255 gms grated carrots

To make it better
1 slab good organic butter

Or

200 ml full cream
200gms mascarpone cheese
30ml cointreau
1 tested orange
1 handful toasted walnuts for prettiness
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1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a loaf tin (9×5-inch loaf pan). Keep this ready.
2. Grate the carrots and set aside. This will be folded into the cake mix in the end.
3. Add the eggs one at a time to the oil and orange juice mixture. Use a balloon whisk.
4. Throw in every thing else into this liquid and ensure all flour is blended in. Fold in the carrot in the end
5. Pour into the ready loaf tin and bake for about an hour. Ensure the cake is cooked through before you take it out of the oven.
6. Allow to cool and stash it away for 24 hours
7. This cake tastes best 18-24 hours old.
8. Serve toasted with butter
9. Or whip the cream, mascarpone, orange zest and cointreau and pour over the loaf. Top with the walnuts and slice away.
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April is the cruelest month – some Sangria often helps

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April. For the northern hemisphere, it is spring. For us nearer to the equator, the demise of this month is start of cruel summer. Afternoons become an avalanche of heat and are meant to stay in, awaiting the sundown. And before you get really caught in this rigmarole to stay indoors, to escape the heat, just call some friends over and throw a sundowner.

Seep some favourite fruit in alcohol and spices over night. Keep good bottles of wine chilling in the fridge and just top the jug of sangria with a soda of choice and conversation will be flowing and memorable moments will come to life under air conditioned, fairy light lit roofs.

Below is the recipe of the classic red wine sangria

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Red Wine Sangria
1 apple (cut in small cubes as neatly as possible)
1 plum (cut in small cubes as neatly as possible)
3-4 star anise
250 ml Dark Rum/ Brandy ( I used Old Monk Rum – who said the are for winters only)
1 cup clear apple juice
1 bottle red wine of choice
350 ml soda water

  1. Soak the apples, plums and star anise in rum and apple juice. Keep this in the fridge and let it seep overnight.
  2. Just before serving, top the jar with the red wine and soda. (Keep every thing chilled)
  3. Clink Glasses and watch the girls get chatty

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P.S.
Watch
Mad Men – I am watching this talked about series and in the middle of season 3. Like the whole world i am trying to decipher the man. A treat to the eyes for all the women out there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCPawawb1Ck
Movie – Late Spring – Yasujiro Ozu https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQMQnHyUwJM

Listen
April Come She Will – Simon and Garfunkel – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYD-DIggB2k
It Might as Well be Spring – Frank Sinatra/ Nina Simone – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9NVeieLZ60
The First Days of Spring – Noah and the Whale – https://vimeo.com/7799870

Read
Blog – http://www.hintofvanillablog.com – Just this blog transports you into food coma.
Book – A MAN CALLED OVE – by Fredrik Backman http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18774964-a-man-called-ove
Poem –  Numbness is never felt.

The Waste Land – T.S.Elliot

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

There ain’t no such thing as too much fruit

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Banana Fruit Cake

I have forever had the 5 O’Clock hunger. PM of course! Always. Whether as a child when this was around the evening play time or now when its time to slow down in the day over a cup of tea or coffee.

Most of the times I reach for the usual almonds, fruits, rice crisps, chips, the works. but there are times when I crave Cake. For me though its never, ever, very very rarely about the creamed cakes. Its usually about a flavourful tea cake. Barely sweet and usually resounding with the season’s fruit.

And top among the list of loves is the banana bread. Almost fool proof and always perfuming the house with the most splendid aroma of cinnamon, banana and vanilla. Sometimes an added touch of coconut.

The more stale it goes, the crumblier it gets. I think I could say that its different in flavour when sliced through warm straight out of the oven, different if had cold with warm coffee or milk, very different when slightly toasted through with a dollop of butter as morning breakfast, great as a post work out energy slab (of cake of course, why else do we work out, to eventually indulge ourselves).

So here is the version that I make and it is basically to reduce all guilt, the flour is blended with whole wheat flour, the sugar is packed brown and very less making the most of the natural sweetness of the bananas. For this specific time I also made some cherry compote to go with it, probably because i wanted to just try out my new cherry pitter, or for want of a tart contrast the cake. If you have the cherry compote left over, use it on toast, pancakes, crepes etc. I finished mine on the cheese board, served with some crackers and Camembert.

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Banana Bread:

125 gms butter
150 gms dark brown sugar (if you like yours sweeter make that 200gms)
2 eggs
6 mashed bananas
100 gms all purpose flour
155 gms whole wheat flour (atta)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Vanilla extract
100 ml thinned yoghurt (whisk a little water, about 20ml to 80ml yogurt)
150 gms dry coconut powder (optional)

Cherry Compote:

250 gms pitted cherries
50 gms sugar
1 lime (zest and juice)

  • Mash bananas. Thats simple, peal and use a fork to break the bananas. Line a 3 inch deep 10X3 inch loaf tin with parchment paper. and preheat the oven at 180 degrees centigrade.
  • The wet ingredients first. Cream the butter and sugar, which is about a 2 minute whisk job. Add in the eggs one at a time and whisk again. Add the vanilla extract and the thinned yoghurt and whisk again.
  • The dry ingredients. Run everything through a sieve. Both the flours, the baking powder and the baking soda along with the cinnamon.
  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Do not whisk too much but ensure that you combine thoroughly. As we have added yoghurt to the cake batter, it will immediately activate the baking powder and backing soda. So we will have to work quickly without over working the mixture. Use a spatula and pour the mixture in the lined loaf tin.
  • If you are using the coconut powder then sprinkle it on the top after you have evened the cake mix in the tin with the spatula. This coconut forms a heady aromatic flavourful crust on to of the cake.
  • Bake for 45 to 50 minutes in a 180 degree centigrade oven. Ensure it is cooked through by checking if a knife passes through the cake and comes out clean with no ingredients sticking to it.

Enjoy the smells wafting in the house and take out your favourite tea and china for the afternoon treat if you will. And while you are at it

  • Macerate the cherry. Add the sugar to the cherries and let it sit for an hour or so.
  • Gently cook. In a heavy bottomed pan, tumble the sugared cherries. Add zest of the lime. Simmer. Cover. And allow the fruit to release its juices and bubble away. Cook for about 10 minutes or so and then add the juice of 1 lime and let it simmer for 2 more minutes. Turn off the heat but continue stirring till the pot starts to cool down. The compote is ready.

Once the cake is done. Let it rest and cool off slightly. Thats the toughest part though but don’t loose patience, you don’t want to break the cake so wait for 15 minutes.

Serve. There are many ways. But best thing, serve warm with butter and the cherry compote. Coconut cream works well too.

Enjoy!

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