High on chai and other spicy goodness with Aman Dosanj
WORDS Gail Johnson X PHOTOGRAPHY Lia Crowe
Aman Dosanj loves good food—meaning food that’s fresh, flavourful, sustainable, seasonal and local, grown or raised by farmers she knows by name. However, there are some ingredients that the Kelowna-based chef and slow-food champion sources from beyond BC’s borders, and those are spices.
Aman is the founder of the Paisley Notebook, which hosts inventive pop-up dinners at farms, wineries, orchards and unconventional locations throughout the Okanagan Valley. With cooler weather coming (meaning physically distanced events will entail more strategizing to hold indoors as opposed to out) and the pandemic driving more people to stay home to cook, she is turning her attention to her line of spice blends, Edible Adventures by the Paisley Notebook.
The self-taught chef imports non-GMO spices from India. She roasts and grinds them for her small-batch blends, recipes for which she developed herself. As her mom taught her, “your food is only as good as your spices.” And her mother should know: the family used to operate a farm-to-table contemporary Indian restaurant called Pappadoms in Kelowna, having moved to the area from Southampton, England in 2008.
There’s more to Edible Adventures than the blends’ fragrances and flavours. Through the products, Aman also wants to help decolonize Indian spices and change people’s perceptions of Indian food. Take jars of “curry powder” you find at your nearest chain grocery store, for example.
“People think that curry powder is an Indian thing, when it’s in fact a British thing,” Aman says. “The English colonized India for the spice trade. It’s way too yellow. You shouldn’t ever taste the turmeric—there’s way too much.
“I want to make Indian spices less intimidating and more fun,” she adds.
To that end, Aman has created several different types of blends, which she encourages people to cook with alongside local foods sourced from farmers markets or small producers.
Adhai Spice, with fennel, coriander, cumin and a smidge of chili, goes well with West Coast seafood, roasted vegetables and sautéed mushrooms.
Rooted in nobility, Royal Spice consists of expensive goods, like black and green cardamom, star anise, mace and peppercorns. Add it to burger mince or to steak.
Malabar is a sweet-and-savoury blend inspired by Kerala, a southwestern state on the Arabian Sea. Ingredients such as star anise, cinnamon and fennel make it a good match for veggies, chicken, pork and fish.
Edible Adventures also has Chai Baking Spice. It’s meant to be sprinkled into baked goods or atop fruit and yogurt and can be used in syrups for creative cocktails.
The spice blends can be ordered via the Paisley Notebook website or through Vancouver venues such as Como Taperia, Legends Haul and Broadway Wine Shop. One per cent of sales is directed to anti-racism organizations.
Aman shares suggestions for how to cook with the various blends on her website but avoids being prescriptive. Her “recipes” are not lists with strict measurements but rather doodles with loose guidelines, the hope being that people will get the hang of different tastes and combinations by experimenting. She also encourages people to bring the spices camping or on outdoor adventures with them to lift so-so food to the next level.
“Whatever is in your kitchen or camp kit, you can transform it,” Aman says. “Keep on tasting and tweaking and tasting again. I don’t want to give people all the answers; I want to get them cooking.
“Use your instinct,” she says. “Use your palate to try to figure out what to do. There are no rules as long as it’s delicious.”
On the following page are two recipes certain to spice up the season.
Chai-Spiced Sticky Toffee Pudding
By Aman Dosanj
200 g Medjool dates (pitted)
2 fair-trade black tea bags (steeping in 200 ml hot water)
50 g BC unsalted butter (room temperature)
75 g golden sugar
75 g muscovado brown sugar
2 organic or free-range BC eggs
170 g Anita’s Organic All-Purpose Flour (sifted + more for the pan after greasing)
½ tsp aluminum-free baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp The Paisley Notebook’s Chai Baking Spice
A pinch of West Coast sea salt
125 g BC butter (cubed)
100 g sugar (50 g golden and 50 g brown)
150 ml D Dutchmen Dairy Whipping Cream
Pre-heat your oven to 350 F. Boil hot water, and let steep with tea bags for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the dates to a blender, pouring in the tea, minus the tea bags, on top. Leave for 8 to 10 minutes to soften up, and then coarsely blend—it’ll become thick and fudge-y with little gooey bits.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until pale. Crack in one egg at a time, whisking well in between. Sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and fold in. Add in the puréed date mix. Sprinkle in the Chai Baking Spice and a pinch of salt. Pour into a greased, oven-proof pan and bake for approximately 40 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.
For the sauce: In a medium-to-large-sized pan, add the sugars and cubed butter. Let the sugars dissolve on medium heat. Carefully bubble until golden brown, making sure it doesn’t burn. Add the cream and swirl—the cream will bubble up, so be careful. Cook until thick and a lush caramel colour.
To serve: Divide the re-heated pudding. Pour over the heated toffee sauce. Serve with a local ice cream or gelato of your choice. Garnish with toasted Okanagan nuts (optional) and mint leaves.
High on Chai
By Harry Dosanj
2 oz Wiseacre Farm Distillery gin
1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ oz The Paisley Notebook Chai Baking Spice Simple Syrup (heat ½ cup organic cane sugar with ½ cup water and ½ tsp The Paisley Notebook’s Chai Baking Spice in a pot until dissolved, leave to cool and keep in the fridge until needed)
3 bar spoons apple maple butter (add one peeled and sliced organic BC apple to a blender with a drizzle of Sugar Moon maple syrup and blend until smooth)
In a cocktail shaker, add the gin, lemon juice, chai simple syrup and apple butter with a lot of ice. Shake well until cold. Strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. To garnish, sprinkle with The Paisley Notebook’s Chai Baking Spice for a touch more aromatics.