Winter has arrived and if you’re craving warming foods, you’re not the only one. We’re making batches of aromatic soups and hearty stews. While we’re at the stove we are also finding ways to incorporate spices that will keep us warm with natural health benefits.

Preena Chauhan, co-author of New Indian Basics: 100 Traditional and Modern Recipes from Arvinda’s Family Kitchen cookbook (Appetite Random House) and co-founder of Arvinda’s, a line of premium Indian spice blends, tells us there are many health benefits. Arvinda is her mother and together they’ve gathered a wealth of knowledge and experience. 

“Using spices for good health is rooted in Ayurveda (the Sanskrit word for the science of life), India’s ancient natural system of healing,” said Preena. “In Ayurveda, the approach to wellness is keeping the body at its optimum to prevent illness, especially important during the cold and flu season.”

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They also add a depth of flavour and warmth to hearty winter-warming recipes but did you know they also help raise the body’s temperature and increase metabolism? “Chili pepper especially is known for this,” she explains.  “If you’ve been outside in the cold, a hearty spice-infused main will warm you up from the inside and out.”

Preena also explains that most spices possess health benefits that can boost immunity during the winter season. “Eating curries or an Indian dish is a wonderful way to take benefit from a variety of spices.”

The author recommends five practical and beneficial spices for the winter season:

Black Pepper: Warming and invigorating, the “king of spice” lends much-needed revitalizing during winter, increasing blood circulation and metabolism. This enhances overall vitality, known as prana, one’s life force.

Turmeric: A spice “superstar” possessing legions of health benefits including anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. The curcumin compound in turmeric releases serotonin and dopamine hormones so turmeric is the spice to combat the winter blues.

Cinnamon: Deliciously warming, cinnamon is an anti-inflammatory spice that also lowers blood sugar levels. Its natural sweetness can help reduce overall sugar consumption.

Ginger: Soothing for stomach ailments and helping with efficient digestion, ginger’s “zingy” spicy quality adds warmth to curries, beverages and desserts.

Red Chilies: High in vitamin C, rich in antioxidants, chiles increase metabolism, lending a warming sensation to the body. Choose Kashmiri chili powder for milder heat.

While we devour her words and explore the New Indian Basics cookbook we were provided with this delicious recipe for Caramelized Chai Spiced Bananas to share with our readers. Perfect for your next winter gathering!

Preena Chauhan - Arvinda's - Indian Chef

In fresh produce markets in India, baby bananas are everywhere. Either red or a warm golden yellow (they are different varieties), they are peppered with dark spots because they quickly ripen in heat and are specially merchandized right at the front of market stalls to seduce you with their strong banana aroma.

Some baby bananas are sweeter than their bigger counterparts, but for this recipe, I’ve used the larger variety as the baby ones are not readily available. The jaggery that we use to caramelize the bananas can be sourced from South Asian grocery stores.

Serve these caramelized bananas with a dollop of creamy Decadent Shrikhand (recipe in the cookbook) on the side or a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.

bananas-new indian basics cookbook

Caramelized Chai-Spiced Bananas Recipe

PREP TIME: 10 MINUTES
COOK TIME: 10 MINUTES
YIELD: SERVES 4

Ingredients:

4 ripe bananas, peeled
2 tablespoons raw cashew halves, to garnish
1 tablespoon ghee or salted butter
¼ cup jaggery or brown or maple sugar (see note)
⅓ cup half-and-half cream
1 teaspoon Perfumy Chai Masala (can be found in the cookbook)
½ teaspoon ginger powder
2 tablespoons blueberries, to garnish
2 tablespoons coconut chips or dried desiccated coconut, unsweetened
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped dark chocolate, to garnish
4 fresh mint leaves, to garnish

Directions:

1. Cut the peeled bananas in half and slice lengthwise. Set aside.
2. Heat a large non-stick skillet on medium heat. Add the cashews and gently toast for a couple of minutes or until fragrant. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside as a garnish.
3. In the same large non-stick skillet on medium heat, melt the ghee. Add the jaggery and stir to combine. Stir in the cream and sprinkle in the chai masala and ginger powder. Mix together to create a sauce.
4. Gently add the bananas, coating them with the ghee and jaggery mixture, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until soft.
5. Serve the caramelized bananas as a plated dessert garnished with toasted cashews, blueberries, coconut chips, dark chocolate, and a mint leaf.

NOTE: If using brown or maple sugar instead of jaggery, consider reducing the amount slightly, as the results may be a touch sweeter.

(Note, when making any changes to the diet, readers are encouraged to consult with a physician. This is  in case one of the mentioned spices is not recommended for a person due to their constitution or pre-existing condition)

*recipe and photos printed with permission from Preena Chauhan. Excerpted from New Indian Basics: 100 Traditional and Modern Recipes from Arvinda’s Family Kitchen by Preena Chauhan and Arvinda Chauhan. Copyright © 2022 Preena Chauhan. Cover and book design byAndrew Roberts. Photography by Reena Newman, with photos on pages iii, 10, 18, 28, 129, 209, 255, 272 by Sandy Nicholson.