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Tea leaves: steep, soak, smoke or sautee

In the Middle East, tea is all about being social, in Japan it is ceremonious, in India it is valued for its Ayurvedic health qualities and in China, historically, it was medicinal.

While most of us think of tea as a beverage, it also has a centuries-old history of being used in cooking. One notable use is tea leaf eggs made for the Chinese New Year. Hard-boiled eggs are lightly cracked all over and then boiled in tea. The result is a marbled colour on the egg after the shell is peeled.

Tea flavours can be imparted in many ways. Smoking food with tea leaves is popular. Add the leaves to the bottom of a wok or other large pan that is very hot. Put the food to be smoked on a rack in the pan and put the lid on. Watch the heat so as not to burn the leaves, but keep them smoking.

After 15 minutes, turn off the heat and cool to room temperature. Use the freshest tea so the best flavour is achieved.

Tea can also be steeped and after cooling is used in adding flavour to baked goods, ice creams, custards, soup stocks or turkey brines.

Tea leaves can also be sauteed in butter to release flavour.

Any type of tea — black, green or herbal — can be used as a flavouring ingredient. It is best to steep the tea first to avoid over boiling, which will release more tannins and result in bitterness. Brew black teas for four to five minutes and green teas for two to three minutes.

Herbal teas have no tannins so the longer they are steeped the stronger the flavour.

For a strong flavour with black and green teas, use more leaves.

Chai Madeleines with honey

Earl Grey tea with its undertones of bergamot is also a good choice.

  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter plus additional for moulds 75 mL
  • 2 tbsp. loose tea or tea from two tea bags 30 mL
  • 3/4 c. all purpose flour 175 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder 2 mL
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 c. sugar 75 mL
  • 2 tbsp. honey 30 mL
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract 10 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon peel 2 mL

Line a small sieve with two layers of damp cheesecloth and set sieve over small bowl. Melt butter in saucepan over low heat. Mix in tea. Let stand 10 minutes, then pour into sieve. Twist cheesecloth tightly around tea mixture, releasing tea-flavoured butter into the bowl.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl until thick, about four minutes.

Add honey, vanilla and lemon peel. Beat one minute longer. Gently fold in dry ingredients, then tea-flavoured butter.
Press plastic wrap onto surface of batter. Chill batter at least three hours and up to one day.
Position rack in centre of oven and preheat to 400 F (200 C). Brush 12 three x two-inch (7.6 x 5 cm) madeleine moulds with butter. Dust with flour. Tap out excess.
Place pan on baking sheet. Drop one scant tablespoon (15 mL) of batter into each mould. The batter will spread while baking, filling moulds completely.
Bake madeleines until golden and toothpick inserted into centre comes out clean, about 10 minutes.
Sharply rap pan on work surface to loosen, then turn out onto rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Adapted from Bon Appetit.

Matcha green tea cream cheese cookies

Michelle Zimmer is a farmers market vendor in Saskatoon under the name of Wild Serendipity Foods. She is a professional engineer but now follows her passion for cooking. She loves this recipe because the cookies remain soft.

  • 1 c. butter 250 mL
  • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened 85 g
  • 1 c. sugar 250 mL
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 5 mL
  • finely shredded zest of half a lemon
  • 2 1/2 c. all purpose flour 625 mL
  • 1 tbsp. matcha green tea powder 15 mL
  • edible gold powder,
  • plus a little vodka or water to brush on (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).
Cream butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar, egg yolk, vanilla and lemon zest and beat until very smooth.
Stir the flour and matcha together in a bowl until the matcha is evenly distributed without lumps. Add this to the butter mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.
Flatten the dough into two discs, wrap in kitchen cling wrap and chill until firm.
Roll out each disk until about 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick, being sure to flour the work surface and rolling pin.
Sprinkle with more flour if the pin is sticking to the dough or cover it with cling wrap to roll. Cut out in desired shapes.
Bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom.
For a little holiday sparkle, place a small amount of gold powder, about 1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) in a small bowl. Add roughly the same amount of vodka or water and stir with the brush.
Lightly spatter or brush the cookies with this mixture and allow to dry.

Lapsong souchong roasted pork ribs

Lapsong Souchong is a black tea that has been smoked over a smouldering pine fire. As a result it has a smoky flavour.

  • 3 tbsp. sweet paprika 45 mL
  • 1 tbsp. lapsong souchong tea, ground to a powder 15 mL
  • 3 tbsp. brown sugar 45 mL
  • 1 tbsp. black pepper 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. garlic salt 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. onion salt 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano 5 mL
  • 2 racks St. Louis style pork ribs

Place all ingredients in a bowl and use a whisk to mix them together.
Remove ribs from refrigerator at least 30 minutes before roasting. Prepare the ribs by removing the silver skin, the tough membrane that is on the bone side of the rack of ribs. Cut each into two equal pieces.
Coat both sides of the ribs liberally with the dry rub, then wrap ribs in plastic and refrigerate for at least eight hours and up to 24 hours.
Lightly oil the bottom of a roasting pan.
Place the ribs in a single layer and cover with foil so they are completely sealed.
Bake at 300 F (150 C) for about three hours or until tender. Turn ribs once or twice.
Cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into individual ribs. Serve with barbecue sauce, if desired.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at Contact:


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