30 June, 2011

Spanish Seafood Stew

I love seafood for several reasons: I love the taste of fish, shellfish, oysters, seaweed. In any way, be it raw, grilled, baked, fried, deep-fried. It's healthy, a very convenient side effect. But most importantly, it cooks fast.
This stew is cooked as fast as it can get. The combination of spices gives it a unique flavor. The seafood in it can be anything from a mix or just squid rings or prawns or mussels. In no time, this dish has become one of my favorites: simple, fast, healthy, delicious. Good enough for any weekday dinner after a long day at work. Bon Appetit!

(adapted slightly from BBC Food)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 bay leaf
salt to taste

200ml vegetable or fish stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 capsicum pepper (red or green), deseeded and thinly sliced
500g/1 lb mixed seafood (e.g. squid rings, peeled prawns, mussels meat) 

1/4 cup white wine

splash of cream (optional)

Serves 2-3
Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onion and fry until softened. Add garlic, turmeric, paprika and chilli flakes and cook for another minute.
Add bay leaf, stock, tomato paste, sliced pepper, seafood mix and white wine. Simmer gently until seafood is cooked, about 5 minutes. Season to taste. Stir in splash of cream (optional).
Serve with rice or rustic bread.
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27 June, 2011

Beer-Seasoned Spelt Quick Bread

I am a runner. A reasonably good one even. I have been running for the past 8 years or so. In races, I am in the faster middle-field, and I have run my first marathon this year (in  just under 4 hours.... sorry guys, had to rub it in again, as I am still so proud of it).

I don't think that there is anything like a shortcut in running (at least not while training - that would be cheating yourself, and otherwise it would be blatantly cheating all other runners). I think running comes easy to me, and I can achieve results with less effort and training than others. When I started running, I was still smoking around 15 cigarettes a day and ran my very first 10k race in under 50 minutes. Rest assured, I stopped smoking a long time ago, and these days I run 10k races in close to 45 minutes when the conditions are ideal. So it surely had an effect.

But there are welcome and convenient shortcuts in other fields, like in cooking. As a German, I love my breads. Although during these 8 years of being away from Germany and its magnificent breads, I ate less and less over the years (as really good ones are simply not available). But deep from in my heart, I'd always dig into good breads whenever they'd be put in front of me.
One of my first posts on this blog was my German-Style Bread, a heavy bread full of seeds and whole grains. I experimented with the spice mix, and concocted a mixture that came as close as possible to my ideal bread. I haven't made this bread for ages. My family (much to my discontent) prefers white baguette breads. They usually don't care much about my German-heritage wholegrain bread experiments.
So I had abandoned my ventures into the field of wholesome breads until I came across a beer-seasoned quick bread. I remember my husband once mentioning beer-flavored breads. As a general rule, whatever he likes, must be good (because he is so picky....).
I assembled all ingredients on the kitchen counter, and it surely feels strange to pull out a can of beer at 9am in the morning. Especially here in Dubai, a Muslim country, with zero-tolerance on the roads.
The effects of adding alcoholic ingredients to cooking are still being discussed. As far as I know it is not 100% certain that all alcohol evaporates after a certain time of cooking or a certain temperature. Although I had some driving to do from in the afternoon, I went for it.

My old bread spice concoctions went straight overboard when that bread turned out just perfectly spiced. It doesn't taste of beer, it is just perfectly spiced. I enjoyed several slices of my bread for lunch, without feeling tipsy afterwards. Please be aware that this is highly unscientific, but I am just telling you because usually one glass of wine can get me pretty close to singing dirty songs.
Enjoy this bread because it's really quick, it's easy to make and it's good with sweet and savory toppings. I love my bean spreads in summer on a slice of bread, topped with some fresh herbs. Filling and refreshing! Good for any BBQs too.

PS: There is arguments whether beer is vegan or not. That's why this bread is categorized "vegetarian". Just in case you wondered :-)

2 cups whole spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoon palm sugar
1 cup beer
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

Yields 1 loaf
Preheat oven to 180C/375F. Lightly grease loaf tin or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and most of the sunflower seeds (keep 1 tablespoon aside). Slowly pour in the beer and mix until just combined. The batter will be thick. Fill into prepared loaf tin and sprinkle remaining sunflower seeds on top. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Let cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Take out and let cool completely on wire racks.
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24 June, 2011

Lemon Sorbet

Homemade lemon sorbet is one of the recipes that surprises me by its simplicity: what, you can make that at home? What, it only needs two ingredients? No ice cream machine needed? I'm in!

I have been part of a series of dinner parties and it was my turn to host a few days back (read about it here). I was the fourth one out of five. So imagine the pressure to top the other three dinner parties that had set the bar very high.

Sorbet is a popular palate cleanser between courses of a big meal. I thought, it would add a nice surprise touch to my menu that we had to submit in advance.

I experimented a bit with the proportions. My first batch turned out too sweet, the second one turned out to bitter (at that batch I was still adding lemon zest to the mixture). The recipe below turned out just perfect. Not too sweet, not too lemony, not too watery. A lovely refreshing lemon sorbet that's good enough to be served at dinner parties. And surely a welcome cooling anyday dessert for hot summer days.

1 cup water
3/4 cup palm sugar
3/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed

Serves 6-8
Make a simple syrup by heating sugar and water in a suacepan over medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.
Stir in lemon juice. Chill the mixture in the fridge until thoroughly cooled.
Pour the lemon mixture into a shallow bowl or pan. Freeze until almost solid. Take out of the freezer, and thoroughly stir it with a fork. Put back into freezer and freeze until solid.
Scoop out the frozen mixture and place it into a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Transfer sorbet to airtight container and return to freezer until ready to serve.
Scoop into serving bowls. Garnish with fresh mint leaves. Serve immediately.
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22 June, 2011

Summer Favorites 2011

Summer is the time of the year, when I prefer to spend little time in the kitchen near a hot oven. When choosing this summers' favorites I realized that my preferred meals have to be quick, light and refreshing with little cooking involved. Here they are in alphabetical order:

3 Grain Breakfast with 3 Fresh Fruit: This nutritious no-cook breakfast just needs a little effort the night before. You'll have a delicious bowl full of nutritious freshness the next morning.

Gazpacho (Cold Vegetable Soup): A staple in our house at in summer. Perfect to make in advance, and best eaten cold from the fridge. It's basically raw pureed vegetables. It couldn't possibly get any more nutritious. A good starter or light meal for lunch or dinner.

German Cheesecake: If there is one cake that has to be eaten really cold, then it is German Cheesecake. I love it in summer as it is much lighter and fluffier than the traditional cheesecake. Refreshing, but yet a proper dessert.

Guacamole: I love dips and spreads, and guacamole is one of my all-time favorites. Whipped up in no time, raw and simply good for you. That's why I love it inch-thick on my crackers.

Herbed Chickpea Pancakes: a quick and gluten-free meal, that is quick to make and will fill you up with energy. Refreshing with herbed yogurt.

Iced Cucumber Yogurt Soup: a refreshing and light soup, no cooking involved. A cool alternative for lunch or dinner on hot summer days.

Salted Lupini Beans: to be honest, I haven't made these for ages, but I am soaking a batch right now, as we speak. It takes a little (Ok...a few days) time until they are ready to eat. But then they are just THE perfect healthy summer nibble. (Note to myself: need to take better pictures of them, once the batch is ready).

Summer Light Potato Salad: what's summer without potato salad. Her is my take on a healthy version. With raw veggies, home-cooked legumes and green leaves, and a yogurt-based dressing.
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20 June, 2011

Sticky Date Pudding

- Reason: "This is not a healthy dessert!"
- Health-conscious foodie: "But is has no refined sugar in it!"
- Reason: " But a ton of dates."
- Health-conscious foodie: "But at least it's a natural sweetener."
- Reason: "Yeah, a ton of it."
- Health-conscious foodie: "But its pretty low in fat with just a 1/4 cup....."
- Reason: "But it's butter."
- ... silence...
- Reason: "and two eggs".
- ... silence....
- Reason: "Baaaaaad!"
- Health-conscious foodie: "But perhaps still better than a slice of Black Forest Cake or a Donut???"
- ... ...
Hey, it's a treat and a nice one. Here in Dubai, the world's centre of date production, I had my first Sticky Date Pudding only a few weeks back, baked by an Australian (thanks, Sarah The Hedonista, for getting me addicted to them and having above conversation in my head every time I eat one).

At least I got the refined sugar cut out by adding more dates to the batter. And I still love to drown my pudding in sweeter-than-hell date sauce. To be honest, after that it doesn't really make such a big difference, if you add a scoop of vanilla ice cream too. Enjoy! This is one of the yummiest desserts I have had in a long time!

slightly adapted from The Hedonista

1 1/2 cups (270g) dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon baking soda
300ml water
1/4 cup (60g) butter, chopped

2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole wheat or whole spelt flour

Serves 6-8
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease mini doughnut or muffin tin, or a regular 20cm baking tin.

Place chopped dates in bowl , sprinkle baking soda over them. Then pour over boiling water. Stir in chopped butter and let stand for 15 minutes. In a food processor, blend the mixture until creamy.

Combine eggs and vanilla extract and beat lightly. Combine with date mixture.

Place flour into a medium bowl. Add date egg mixture. Stir until combined. Pour batter into prepared tin. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes (if in mini doughnut tin), 25-30 minutes (if in regular muffin tins), 35 to 40 minutes (if in regular round baking tin), or until tester comes out clean.

Best served warm with date sauce and vanilla ice cream.
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17 June, 2011

Spinach-Filled Chickpea Crepes

You eat with your eyes first?  I also love to eat with my hands: I am happy with raw fruit, veggie sticks and dips, granola bars, handy pieces of cake, and messy BBQs. I don't mind getting my hands dirty when eating. It's another sensation to actually touch the food that you are about to eat.

In Dubai, there is a whole-in-the wall- fish restaurant near a fishing village, right on the beach. It's basically just a porta-cabin with a kitchen inside. They serve the catch of the day (in all sizes), marinated and shallow-fried. There is no menu, no phone number. Wobbly, old plastic tables and chairs will be put up in the sandy patch in front of the porta-cabin as guests arrive. You choose your fish from the tub where the marinated, uncooked ones are being kept. Additionally, there is flat bread and some curry sauce. The cooked fish is being brought on large trays, plus a pile of plates and a roll of paper kitchen towels. That's all. No cutlery. A true experience, as everyone around the table is tucking into the same fish, pulling off lovely pieces of the freshest fish possible, cooked to perfection, in a no-fuss way.

These spinach-filled crepes are finger food too. They were inspired (pretty much by the picture and the lovely presentation) by a recipe from Citron Et Vanille.
I changed the filling as I only had spinach on hand. The bitter green leaves work beautifully with the sweet onions. The roasted almonds add some crunchy texture. The crepes themselves have this lovely flavor of chickpeas. I am addicted to it. Folding it into little filled pockets make it a perfect finger food. A light lunch, healthy through and through. Bon appetit!

3/4 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup red or brown rice flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg
1/2 tablespoon olive oil (plus more for greasing the pan)
1/3 cup rice milk (or other non-dairy/gluten-free milk)

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 bunches of spinach, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons whole almonds

Yields 4-6 crepes
In a bowl, combine flours and salt. In a separate bowl whisk the egg. Stir in olive oil and milk. Combine egg mixture with flour mixture. Add water in small amounts until the batter is runny. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. 
In a dry pan, roast the almonds for 5 minutes over low heat. Let cool, then finely chop. Set aside.

In a pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Fry the onions, until softened. Add garlic. Keep frying until onions start to to brown. Add spinach and cook until just wilted. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Heat a lightly greased non-stick pan over medium heat. Pour some of the batter,  move the pan around immediately to ensure even spreading  in thin layer. Flip over when bottom side is cooked, about 2 minutes. Then cook for another minute. Transfer crepe to a plate. Place 1-2 tablespoons of the spinach filling on one quarter of the crepe. Sprinkle with chopped almonds. Fold over the crepe horizontally and vertically, so you'll get a triangle and the the spinach will sit in a pocket. Repeat with remaining batter and filling.

Sprinkle each crepe triangle with freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately.
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13 June, 2011

Raw Lemon Cashew Cheesecake

Are friendships worth to put at stake for a piece of cake? Well, this is what I did. After I made this raw lemon cheesecake for the first time, I was so blown away by its flavors and textures, that I big-mouthedly promised sample pieces to neighbors and friends. They never reached their destination. Apart from one piece that I gave my husband to try, I had the whole cake by myself. It keeps very well in the fridge for a week.
I still hesitate to call this a healthy cake. It's simply too good to be true. It's too delicious. But let's get down to the facts: It's vegan, gluten-free and grain-free. And it is made with natural raw ingredients only. It might have a little bit too much of everything, but it is without a doubt nutritious. The ingredients list is so incredibly simple. You might, in fact, have all of them in your pantry and could start making this cake right away. Perfect in the summer months, as the oven is not needed to make it. A piece of this cake with a drizzle of raspberry coulis (Ok ... this one is not as healthy and includes some stove top action), and you'll be nutritiously and deliciously in heaven.
I hope, my friends and neighbors will forgive me. I will spend the rest of the day finding a suitable excuse. Or instead, just make another cake.

1 cup raw whole almonds
3/4 cup dried dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1/4 cup desiccated coconut flakes
1 tablespoon water (or as needed)

1 1/2 cups raw cashew nuts
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup agave syrup or raw honey (not vegan), or  maple syrup (not raw)

adapted from Food Network

1/2 cup palm sugar
1/2 cup water

2 cups raspberries (fresh or frozen)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

Serves 8
Soak the cashew nuts in cold water for 4 hours. Rinse and drain. Set aside.

For the crust, combine whole almonds, dried dates and coconut flakes in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped and crumbly. It should stick together when pressed between two fingers. Add a tablespoon of water if it doesn't stick and blend again. Repeat if necessary. Make sure the dough doesn't get too wet.
With your fingers, press the crust mixture into bottom and sides of a cake pan with removable bottom. Make sure it is evenly covered. Set aside.

Combine drained cashews with lemon juice, coconut oil and syrup in the food processor and blend until it becomes smooth and creamy. Transfer mixture onto the crust in the cake pan. Spread evenly and smooth the top.

Put the cake in the freezer for 1-2 hours, or until firm. Remove from freezer, and cut into slices while still frozen. Then keep in refrigerator for 1 hour to defrost or 20 minutes on counter top before serving.
Serve with fresh berries and a drizzle of raspberry coulis.

Raspberry Coulis

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Pour the syrup into a container and refrigerate until completely cold, about 45 minutes. The syrup can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

For the coulis: Bring the raspberries, syrup, and lemon juice to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan over low heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the berries are very soft, about 8 minutes.
Sprinkle the cornstarch over 2 teaspoons cold water and stir to dissolve. Pour into the simmering raspberry mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes.

Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl; discard the seeds. Cool completely, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Freeze any leftover coulis in a plastic container for up to 1 month.

Becoming Raw: The Essential Guide to Raw Vegan Diets   Ani's Raw Food Essentials: Recipes and Techniques for Mastering the Art of Live Food   Going Raw: Everything You Need to Start Your Own Raw Food Diet and Lifestyle Revolution at Home
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10 June, 2011

Mango Arugula Salad with Orange Ginger Dressing

It's mango season here in the region. The groceries are full of the most delicious mangoes: big, ripe, heavenly-sweet, melt-in-your-mouth mangoes! My kids happily take them as alternative to chocolate or sweets that they pester me for at mid-afternoon.
While my whole family likes to eat the mangoes just by themselves, I love a combination of sweet, salty, bitter and other flavors. This Mango Arugula Salad is one of those concoctions: sweet mango, bitter arugula, salty feta, fruity-sour dried cranberries and nutty almonds take me to heaven.This salad is whipped up in no time. A perfect lunch for me (that I don't have to share :-)!

1 ripe mango, diced
2 cups arugula leaves, loosely packed
2 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled or finely diced
2 tablespoons dried cranberries, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons slivered almonds

1/2 orange, juice of
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
pinch of chili flakes

Serves 2
In a dry pan, toast the slivered almonds for a couple of minutes, until lightly browned. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients. Stir well. Set aide.

Wash and dry the arugula leaves. In a salad bowl, combine arugula and diced mango. Pour over the dressing and stir until coated. Sprinkle over with feta cheese, cranberries and roasted slivered almonds. Ready to serve.

The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs  The Flavor Thesaurus: A Compendium of Pairings, Recipes and Ideas for the Creative Cook  Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking

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07 June, 2011

Nutty Green Pasta Salad

Do you have dishes that you don't like because you had too many bad versions of it during your childhood? In my case,  pasta salads fall into this category. Pasta overcooked, drowned in some mayonnaise-based dressing and badly or not seasoned at all. This is what comes to my mind, when I think of pasta salads. My experience with pasta salads is vast, as they are a staple at German summer BBQs (competing with mayonnaise-drowned, under-seasoned potato salads).

As a result, whenever I saw pasta salads on a menu, I was immediately looking for other things that would tickle my fancy Until I came across this Nutty Green Pasta Salad. I must admit, I have had some sort of carb craving in the last few days (which I partly satisfied with bad carbs...  I am not only eating the stuff that I am posting here... just to make that clear). But I was particularly craving a pasta salad. So I paged through my cookbooks, and found this overtly simple, but utterly delicious pasta salad in a German cookbook, written by Tim M√§lzer (the German equivalent to British Jamie Oliver).

The ingredients list could not be more simple: pasta, a variety of nuts and arugula. The latter I grew in my garden over the winter here in Dubai. Today I picked the very last leaves that managed to resist the 44C/111F that we had this afternoon. I Stuck the salad in the fridge for a couple of hours, did some work and pulled out the most refreshing pasta salad out for my lunch. This salad could become a staple in my house. I love the crunch of the nuts in combination with the al dente pasta. The arugula adds some bitterness to it, which again goes well with the sweet earthiness of the nuts. A no-guilt pasta salad for any carb craving stages in your life, or the BBQ next weekend.

250g/8oz uncooked wholesome pasta shapes (farfalle, rotini, etc.)

2 cups arugula leaves, washed and dried

2 tablespoon almonds
2 tablespoons hazelnuts
2 tablespoons walnuts
2 tablespoons pistachios

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons yogurt
2 tablespoons walnut oil (or olive oil)
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 4
Cook pasta according to instructions.

In the meantime, wash and dry arugula laves.
Place nuts in a dry pan, and roast for 4-5 minutes on low heat, tossing them a few times to avoid burning. Take off the heat, let cool, then roughly chop. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients. Season with salt and pepper according to taste.

Drain the pasta when cooked. Transfer to serving bowl. Stir in arugula leaves and dressing. Top with roasted chopped nuts. Once the salad has cooled completely, cover and keep in the fridge until serving.

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04 June, 2011

Herbed Chickpea and Sesame Crackers

Yet another recipe with chickpea flour. I am crazy about this stuff. I posted a similar chickpea cracker recipe before, but this one deserves an extra post.
Do you know hummus? Its main ingredients are chickpeas and sesame paste. I don't know why it didn't strike me earlier to combine these ingredients in the cracker too. So here we are: chickpea crackers with sesame seeds. Lots of sesame seeds. Black and white ones. The crackers go beautifully with the hummus. We eat both by the kilo these days. A light, vegan and gluten -free snack, yet filling. Bon appetit.

1 cup chickpea flour (besan)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped

1 teaspoon olive or sesame oil
1/4 cup water

Yields about 20 (depending on size)
Preheat oven to 175C/375F.

In a large bowl, sift together chickpea flour, salt, sesame seeds and thyme. Stir in oil, then ad the water. Knead until it becomes a supple dough. Add little more flour if too wet, or little more water if too dry. Form dough into a disc.
Between two sheets of parchment paper, roll out the dough evenly and as thin as possible, to 1/8 inch thickness (or less if you can). Remove top baking sheet. With a knife or cookie cutter, cut the dough into desired shapes. Poke each cracker with a fork to prevent puffing. Transfer onto baking sheet (with bottom parchment paper).
Bake for 15-18 minutes or until edges turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool. Break crackers at pre-cut edges. Serve immediately or keep in open bowl (they tend to un-crisp in airtight containers).
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02 June, 2011

Orange Cinnamon Iced Tea

When I was 8 years old, my family and I lived in China (near Shanghai) for two years due to my dad's work. Truly one of the craziest experiences of my life til date. My age is no secret, so this was almost 30 years ago. I have far more and intensive memories of colors, smells, pictures, adventures of those two years than any two years afterwards.
One of the things that I learned from the Chinese is that one should drink hot drinks in the heat. By raising the body temperature temporarily while having a hot drink, the body will work to cool itself down ( e.g sweating), and that's the goal, right? They would have hot green tea or just steaming hot water int he summer heat. On the other hand, when you drink cold stuff, your body will work to raise your body temperature. It makes sense, though I find it hard at times to have hot tea while I am already melting in the Dubai summer heat.
I have been experimenting with all sorts of hot and cold herbal teas lately. Although I was just telling you to drink something hot in the heat, I will post a cold tea recipe today.
I usually drink plain water throughout the day. But sometimes I need something with flavor. As I am not a big fan of juices (to sugary, too thick, little nutritional value), I have been keeping a jug of homemade iced tea in the fridge recently. This tea is flavored with cinnamon and orange, two strong flavors that make this tea taste full and round, so it doesn't need much sugar/honey. A good thirst-quencher at any time of the day.

5 cups water
1 cup orange juice
1 orange, zest of
1 cinnamon stick
2 teabags of black or Rooibos tea

1-2 tablespoons honey, or to taste
orange slices for decoration
cinnamon stick
ice cubes
Combine water, orange juice, zest, cinnamon stick and teabags in a pan. Bring to boil, then take off the heat. Stir in honey, then let allow to cool. Strain the liquid and transfer to a jug. Keep in refrigerator until completely cold.
Serve in a jug with slices of orange, a stick of cinnamon and ice cubes.
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