Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tea in the Afternoon

Our traditional Wednesday evening knitties has recently been changed to afternoon, so it seemed very appropriate to bring Sri Lankan tea to our first afternoon fete. Here is the story behind that:

Sunanda is my daughter's mother-in-law. She looks saintly it's because she is! When more than five dozen members of the large, international extended family visited Sri Lanka a few years ago, she spent about 20 hours of every day in her kitchen, making the most amazing meals.

Almost everything is from scratch, and the ingredients usually come from the local outdoor market or their yard, where everything - from mangoes, jack-fruit, papayas, coconuts, herbs and even black pepper and coffee - grows in abundance. She grows and dries all of the ingredients to make her own curry powder, and it can clean out your sinuses like you wouldn't believe. Every day, pounds of garlic are mashed in a huge granite mortar with a heavy 3' long wooden pole. We frequently woke up in the morning to this rhythmic thudding noise, and -- upon wandering into the kitchen -- discovered that she had mugs of milk tea waiting for us. Here is her recipe:

1. First, rinse a 1.5 or 2 qt. brewing pot (she used an old enamel coffee pot) and fill with hot water. Let it sit while you put a kettle on to boil.

2. When the kettle boils, dump out the hot water that's sitting in the brewing pot and put in at least 3 heaping tablespoons of loose tea* (You want it STRONG!), then pour in at least a quart of boiling water, maybe even five or six cups, depending on your preferences and the number of thirsty people that are waiting. Cover the pot and let it steep for several minutes.

3. In the meantime, put the following into your teapot:

3 tablespoons of sugar

3 tablespoons of malt powder

5 tablespoons of "full-fat" milk powder ( can only find non-fat in the US)

4. After the tea has steeped a bit, pour the tea into the pot, through a strainer, stirring as you go. The powdered ingredients should dissolve completely, and you are ready to go! Better put another kettle on, however, because people always want more. Often, Sunanda would add more boiling water to the spent tealeaves, to eke out just a bit more.

*of course Sri Lankan (Ceylon) tea is best, but any good, black loose-leaf tea will work

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