"Warm Your Cockles" Whisky Chai Sour with Spicy Paneer Skewers and Mango Dipping Sauce

Off to India we go this week with chai and paneer on the menu as we explore week 2 of our travel inspired cockatil and canape recipe with Postcards Home

So I'm hoping your cheeks are still rosy from our visit to Morocco last week and you are ready for week 2 of our taste of Christmas from around the world with Postcards Home. 1 week nearer to Christmas and my search for wrapping paper that is £8 for two metres or so see through you can see the actual present through it continues. Any ideas send them my way!! Due to mammoth bathroom renovation (it's not mammoth but seems it as my patient and grafting husband is doing it all himself when he's not a work), there simply isn't the space for a Christmas tree, what with all the grout and hammers about. Our lovely hand made wreath will more than suffice. At least the days of flushing the loo with a bucket are behind us. Only hope I can find room for the obligatory wrapping and wine evening I have planned for myself. Bliss.

This year, I have bought all my presents from independent retailers, like the beautifully colourful and small but perfectly formed Postcards Home (all the beautiful homeware you see in these images can be bought from there). There is something that makes me all warm inside knowing that someone maybe in their garage or sitting room has received an email and glee has lit up on their face (hey, maybe they've done a little dance too) as they receive that order. They can craft, curate and creatively channel their energy into sending a bit of something they care deeply about to others. Taking pleasure in the things that really matter. This, my friends, is what life is all about.

So we leave the heady cardamon scented souks of Morocco with all the haggling hustle and bustle behind us, as this week we head to India for some cocktails and canapes. These are impressive yet doable and pack the flavour punch to wow the discerning Christmas party guest. India is a place very close to my heart (and we in fact went to visit Lucy from Postcards Home while we were there), so it feels only right that one of our Santa-like stop off should be here.

Chai means 'tea' in India and is as central to their culture as it has become in ours. On our travels to India last year, it was the first thing that was thrust into our hands as we entered hotels and guest houses. A bit different from a cup of the old builders this tea is served in much smaller cups. Made with a strong black tea base, such as Assam, it is blended lovingly with spices such as ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg and cloves and enough sugar to buzz you right through the day, Like how we serve tea though, it is completely down to individual taste and different homes serve different spice blends and amounts of sugar. The deep tones of chai complement bourbon super well which is why it makes a whiskey sour so very well indeed. Chai. Is. The. Taste. Of. Christmas.

"What goes well with chai?" I hear you cry - well paneer of course. Duh. Well spiced paneer to be exact.  Panner is a protein packed cheese that can be cooked and doesn't melt. Almost like a cross between tofu and feta, The tikka inspired dry spice and finish to these little flavour punching pokers goes wonderfully with the whisky sour and slathered in mango dipping sauce, there really is no such thing as three's a crowd.

"Warm Your Cockles" Whisky Chai Sour

50ml Jack Daniels

25ml lemon juice

75ml Chai syrup

1 egg white

Ice

Cinnamon stick and star anise to garnish. Don't eat these. They taste like wood.

For the Chai Syrup: 

200g granulated sugar

6 Chai teabags (these are readily available in the supermarket) or heaped teaspoons of loose Masala Chai.

240ml water

  • Bring the water to the boil and let the teabags or tea seep for 5 mins. Like a giant cup of tea. Remove the bags and stir the sugar until it dissolves. Keep in an air tight container

For the Paneer Skewers 

Makes about 20

For the marinade

300ml plain yogurt

4 cloves garlic

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp garam masala

Juice of 1 lemon

Glug of olive oil

2 tsp cumin

Thumb sized piece ginger grated

For the skewers:

2 packs paneer (600g) - you get this from the cheese section in the supermarket

Small cocktail sticks or bamboo skewers (soak in water for 15 mins before use)

2 red onions cut into 1cm cubed chunks

2 red peppers cut into 1cm cubed chunks

2 green peppers cut into 1 cm cubed chunks

  • Chop up the paneer to 1 cm cubed chunks. Mix all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and add the paneer. Cover in cling film and put in the fridge for half an hour.
  • Skewer up by threading the veg and panner alternatively on the skewers.
  • Heat a frying pan to a medium to high heat, once hot put a few skewers on at a time turning as each side begins to char. I did this with my fingers but do use tongs if the wooden skewers get too hot. Be carful!
  • Serve with the Mango Dipping Sauce below.

For the Mango Dipping Sauce:

250ml plain yogurt

3 tsp mango chutney

1 tsp cumin

A few pinches of cayenne pepper to taste

Squeeze lemmon juice

Fresh mango to garnish cut into small cubes. (I grant you a massive faff cutting one of these up for a garnish but the fruity fresh hit you get when you hook one on a paneer skewer is delicious.

Salt and pepper to season

  • Put all in ingredients in a bowl and mix together. Add the cayenne pepper last and to taste - it gets spicy quickly. Put in a small dish alongside the paneer skewers. Garnish with small mango cubes on top to serve

Embroidered Scarf (used as tablecloth) £34

Green and Silver Christmas Stocking £25

Enamel Orange Plate from £10.50

All available from Postcards Home