29 December 2008

Cardamom, Take Me Away

I've been reading a few books lately that take place in Kashmir, and descriptions of a local green tea, brewed with spices and nuts, keep enticing me.

I'd never heard of kahva, or Kashmiri tea, before, but I found a simple recipe for it in Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian cookbook, which I've been slowly working my way through for years now.

Even if the closest you've gotten to Kashmir is wearing a soft, warm sweater and lying on a rug listening to Led Zepplin, just the first sniff into a cup of this gently spiced tea will transport you.


In a medium-sized pot, combine 4 cups water with 12 cardamom pods, lightly crushed, 4 teaspoons blanched slivered almonds and 4 teaspoons sugar. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 3 minutes. Add 4 teaspoons Kashmiri green or gunpowder tea, stir, and cover again for 2 minutes. Strain into glasses and serve hot.

You can add a pinch of saffron or cinnamon to the tea too, if you like, both of which are regional variations. And though these rosewater-pistachio cookies aren't a traditional accompaniment, I don't think anyone will mind eating them alongside.

Pistachio Rosewater Cookies
Makes: about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons rice or soy milk
4 teaspoons rosewater
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped

1. Heat oven to 350°. In medium-sized bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, rice milk, rosewater, vanilla, lime zest and juice. Add cornstarch and whisk until dissolved.

2. Mix in flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon until well combined. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes, or overnight.

3. Roll dough into balls about 2 teaspoons in size and dip tops into chopped pistachios. Place on ungreased baking sheets, nut-side up, and flatten slightly with two fingers.

4. Bake for 13-15 minutes; remove from oven and let sit on sheets 5 minutes. Remove to rack to cool completely.

They're even vegan (another recipe from the amusing Veganomicon cookbook), so you can pretend they're healthy. I know I need at least a brief respite from all the delicious butter and salt I've had over the past week.

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