A Cup of Tea, a Bex…
My day is ruled by my cups of tea. I don’t feel really awake until I’ve had one with breakfast – often a bit of a wait, as the morning hound dog constitutional takes precedence – followed by a second while I do my business emails. Lunch time I allow myself the luxury of 1 cup of espresso – the only coffee I drink while at home. This is followed by another cup of tea in the afternoon, one after dinner and a cup of green tea around 9.00 in the evening.
I absolutely adore tea, and it is a bit of an obsession in my life. I love all the different flavours of the different blends – with a strong personal leaning towards Oolong tea – and have developed quite a love for green tea, either hot or cold. I have a number of articles about it on my web site at http://www.aldermanprovidore.com.au/news.html covering the traditions and rituals of tea drinking across many cultures. It also plays an integral part in the sales area of my site with a large range of tea blends, single estate tea, regional teas and tea accessories from the everyday to the more unusual.
To add to this, I collect Chinese blue & white teapots and Japanese tea accessories including bowls, ladels, whisks, cups and other assorted odds and ends associated with the art of tea drinking. I have a number of prized hand-made tea bowls, some being made locally.
As you immerse yourself more and more into the art of tea, you begin to see ways of incorporating smaller rituals into your daily life. These rituals give you a space in which you can slow down, immerse yourself in tea culture and use them as a means to meditation. There is nothing nicer than having a neighbour drop in during the day for a cuppa. It gives me a break in my work day, an opportunity to get outside in some fresh air, and gives me an excuse to get out one of my beautiful tea sets, make a small pot of Chinese Green Gunpowder tea, and go through the rituals of drawing the tea, and pouring it into the tiny cups that are part of traditional tea sets. You can then sit back, relax and chat, constantly refilling the cups. It’s funny how such a small thing can invigorate you for the rest of day.
Tea can also be incorporated into cooking, and the following are a diverse range of recipes using tea in an adventuresome and delicious way. So, pour yourself a cup of tea and decide what you are going to bake tonight.
SMOKY TOMATO SAUCE:
2 tablespoons Chinese or Ceylon tea leaves
2 star anise, crushed
1 strip orange peel
½ teaspoon five-spice powder
6 juniper berries, crushed
2 onions, quartered
2 red capsicums, cut into large pieces
2 red chillies, cut in half (remove seeds if you don’t like too much heat)
3 tablespoons oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
500g tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
125ml barbeque sauce
2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate (Asian stores, or Asian section of supermarket)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon soft brown sugar
Combine all the ingredients for the smoking mix in a bowl. Pour the mix into the centre of a sheet of foil, and fold the edges to prevent spreading. This will form a small container to help with smoking. Place the foil container in the bottom of a dry wok or wide frying pan. Put an open rack or steamer in the wok, making sure it is elevated over the mix.
Place the onion, capsicum and chilli on the rack and cover with a lid or tightly with foil to prevent the smoke from escaping.
Smoke over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. For a very smoky sauce, cook the vegetables for longer, or for less smokiness use less time. Remove the smoking mix container.
Dice the onion, capsicum and chilli quite finely. Heat the oil in the wok and add the garlic and cooked vegetables. Fry over medium heat for three minutes, then add the tomato and cook until pulpy. Add the sauces, tamarind, vinegar and sugar. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20-25 minutes or until the sauce is quite thick. Store in the fridge.
Makes about 1 litre
LADY GREY TEA & HAZELNUT FRIANDS:
Melted butter, to grease
100g (1 cup) hazelnut meal (supermarket, where nuts etc for cooking are kept)
115g self-raising flour
275g icing sugar mixture, sifted
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
1½ tablespoons freshly brewed Lady Grey tea
125g butter, melted, cooled
5 egg whites, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush 6 ½ cup capacity muffin or fiand pans with melted butter to lightly grease.
Combine the hazelnut meal, flour, icing sugar mixture, lemon rind and tea in a medium bowl. Add the butter and egg whites, and stir until just combined.
Spoon the mixture amongst the prepared pans. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden, and a inserted skewer comes out clean. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool, before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.
GREEN TEA SHERBET:
2½ cups water
1 cup sugar
¼ cup green tea
½ cup boiling water
300ml thickened cream
½ cup sour cream
Put the water in a medium heavy-based pan. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Bring to a simmer, and simmer without stirring for 12-15 minutes. Swirl pan occasionally but do not stir. Allow to cool.
Put the tea in a jug and pour in boiling water. Stand for 15 minutes. Strain through a sieve and discard tea leaves. Allow liquid to cool. Put cream in a bowl and beat with electric beaters for 2 minutes. Add sour cream while continuing to beat. Add sugar mixture and tea liquid. Beat until thickened.
Pour mixture into a loaf tin. Freeze for 1-2 hours or until firm around edges. Return to mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer until smooth. Return to freezer for a further 1-2 hours, then beat again. Return to tin, then cover with plastic wrap before freezing for several hours or until firm.
Remove sherbet from freezer and stand in the fridge for 5 minutes. Serve scoops of the sherbet in teacups.
DATE, GINGER & ORANGE LOAF:
4 tablespoons orange pekoe tea leaves
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup water
peeled rind and juice 1 orange
100g chopped glace ginger
½ cup fat-free plain yoghurt
1½ cups self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon mixed spice
Preheat oven to 180°C. Put tea in a square of muslin (or a fine infuser) and tie with string. Grease and line a 17.5cm x 8.5cm loaf tin with baking paper. Put dates in a saucepan with water, rind, muslin bag (or infuser) and juice. Stir over a medium heat. Simmer for 10 minutes or until dates are soft and half the liquid has been absorbed. Allow to cool. Remove muslin bag and rind, and discard. Stir date mixture with a wooden spoon to form a soft mixture. Stir in ginger.
Whisk eggwhites until soft peaks form. Add yoghurt and date mixture. Stir until combined. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Make a well in the centre. Add date mixture and fold in gently until just combined, being careful not to overbeat. Spoon into prepared tin. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until cooked through when tested with a skewer.
LEMON & EARL GREY BISCUITS:
250g butter, chopped
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
2 egg yolks
2½ cups plain flour, sifted
2 teaspoons ground Earl Grey tea leaves ( grind in a mortar & pestle, or a coffee grinder)
2 tablespoons cooled strong Earl Grey tea
extra flour, for dusting
EARL GREY CREAM
125g butter, chopped
2 tablespoons cooled strong Earl Grey tea
1½ cups icing sugar mixture, sifted
Preheat oven to 180°C. Line 2 oven trays with baking paper. Put butter, icing sugar and rind in a small bowl. Beat with electric beaters until soft and creamy. Add yolks one at a time, beating between each yolk.
Transfer to a large bowl and stir in sifted flour, tea leaves and the cooled tea until the mixture forms a soft dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly dusted surface and knead gently until the mixture comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Roll dough between 2 sheets baking paper until the dough is 5mm thick. Use a 7cm round cutter to cut out rounds. Put rounds onto prepared trays. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool on the trays for 10 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool.
To make Earl Grey cream; Beat the butter and cooled tea in the small bowl of an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Add the icing sugar gradually while continuing to beat until the mixture forms a soft icing. Spread one side of each biscuit with the Earl Grey cream and sandwich together. Allow to set.
Makes about 20
GREEN TEA PUNCH:
Put 4 rounded teaspoons of Bancha or Houjicha in a warmed pot and add 1 litre water that has been boiled and allowed to cool slightly. Leave to infuse for 102 minutes, then strain into a jug. While the tea is still hot add 1-2 tablespoons brandy or rum, and 2 tablespoons of honey, to taste. Serve in tall glasses or cups, and add a slice of orange or lemon.
NB Use any green tea if the Japanese varieties are not available.
VANILLA ICED GREEN TEA:
Brew 4 rounded teaspoons Sencha in 1 litre of hot water and allow to infuse for 1-2 minutes. Strain into a jug and add 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1 tablespoon honey. Stir well and chill. To serve, use a wine glass for each person and place a scoop of vanilla ice cream in each glass. Pour over the chilled green tea.
175g caster sugar
freshly sqeezed juice and strips of rind from 2 lemons
2 tablespoons Earl Grey tea leaves
Put the water, sugar, lemon juice and rind into a saucepan, bring to the boil and allow to cool 3-4 minutes. Add the tea leaves, take the pan off the heat, cover and leave until cold.
Strain the tea into a freezer-proof bowl or box, cover and place in the freezer until half frozen. Whisk the eggwhite until stiff then fold into the mixture. Freeze again until solid.
Arrange in glass dessert dished and garnish with a single mint leaf, and a few raspberries or strawberries.
TEA MARINADE FOR CHICKEN:
1 teaspoon Gyokuro leaves ( nor good quality Sencha)
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
2-3 tablespoons sunflower oil
Mix all the ingredients together. Add the chicken in chunks or strips and spoon the marinade over. Cover and chill in the fridge for up to 10 hours. Life the chicken out of the marinade and remove the bits of tea and garlic. Strain the marinade into a bowl. Grill or stir-fry the chicken, brushing from time to time with the strained marinade.
Serve with salad or as a sandwich filling.