Posts Tagged With: tea

CCC Intinery Update

I’ve not been very adventurous in the kitchen the last couple of weeks. The first week it was intentional, my big pasta bake from my last post, was meant to see me through my week of early shifts and it did. Then I was able to make a surprise visit to my parents for the weekend, and this week while I’ve been on annual leave it has, honestly been mostly too hot to cook anything complicated. I made myself a nice giant couscous and beetroot salad – with sprouting broccoli and baby sweet corn alongside the essential feta cheese – and some tasty beetroot hummus to use up the rest of the beetroot, and those lurking flat breads.

I was thinking about what I could make for the coming week – perhaps a stir-fry? – and I wasn’t feeling inspired, so I decided to look to my cupboards for inspiration and remembered that I had actually documented what was in there so I looked up my list and updated with some new acquisitions. While I was off work I’d given my kitchen a good tidy out, re-organised some cupboards and sorted out some better storage solutions. It seemed a waste to just throw that empty box that the Christmas crackers – the kind you have with cheese, not the kind you pull – came in, it’s a good sturdy plastic box, so now it’s keeping all the less usual dried ingredients I’ve picked up lately for one recipe or another and haven’t got round to trying. (There’s two different kinds of flour, both loose and pre-made polenta, split yellow peas, pinto beans and randomly a bag of caster sugar – spot who intended to bake lots this week before the heatwave hit…) Hopefully having them all in one place will encourage me to actually use them up!

First up we have a can of jackfruit, I dug up a recipe for a bean chilli with jackfruit, because a) I love chilli and lately my chilli has felt a bit uninspired so that seemed a good option for trying out a new ingredient and b) that’s an ideal bulk cook meal for the week ahead. Also, lately I seem to have lost the ability to leave the supermarket without at least one can of some variety of beans or another and this recipe uses several different kinds.

At some point I found a flat-bread recipe that called for corn flour – in the American sense of maize flour, rather than in the UK sense of the starchy stuff you use to thicken sauces – and went to the effort of tracking it down. The recipe book in question had a bunch of recipes that used it so it seemed a good plan at the time. However the recipe book has long been back at the library – and for obvious reasons I can’t get it back out – and most other recipes that I would expect to use it, give substitutions for the sensible reason that it’s actually a weirdly specialist ingredient here, I eventually tracked it down a health food shop, I guess because it’s gluten free? Anyway, eventually I’ve tracked down a tortilla recipe that at least uses some maize flour so that seems a fun accompaniment to my chilli.

That’ll still leave quite a lot of maize flour, so I had the bright idea of making cornbread or at least cornbread muffins, but all the UK recipes I’ve come across seem to use polenta rather than maize flour – and frankly a lot of chefs seem to treat the two as interchangeable, heck the BBC Food website, usually my ally in these matters, offers ‘maize’ recipes that use both polenta and cornmeal interchangeably. I am a terribly confused penguin.

(More importantly, if you’re a vegetarian and therefore don’t put bacon in your cornbread, what do you put in…? Spring onions maybe?)

Finally, given how nice the weather has been lately, it seems like a good time to take another run at making Bubble Tea. After the success of my tapioca pudding, I feel like I have a better grasp of how long to cook my pearls for now, so I have a more realistic view of the time investment required.

I’ve got a few more ideas lurking about, but I think that’s quite adventurous enough for one week…

Categories: being veggie, challenges, covid cookup | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latte Explorations

It wouldn’t be nanoblomo on this blog, if I didn’t squeeze in a wee entry on hot beverages. Last year, when the annual, parental cry of Christmas present hits went up, I dredged up the idea that I’d like a milk steamer. I’d gotten slightly obsessed with coffee lattes – the only kind of coffee I actually enjoy – over the last few years and had recently discovered the odd sub category of tea lattes, especially the ones that shouldn’t really work. (I know from unfortunate experience that milk in green tea is vile, so why on Earth is a matcha latte so darn good?) Being able to make my own seemed a good way to save myself both time and money of a morning. I got myself a little insulated mug – its got owls on, its very cute – picked out a little milk frother – try to find a non industrial milk steamer outside of a coffee machine proved to be an exercise in banging my head off a wall – and bookmarked a whole bunch of recipes for my favourite odd tea lattes and planned to beat the January blues with them.

Of course, life happened in January and I didn’t have a commute to need to make lattes for, so my careful plans fell by the wayside. Other than a couple of uninspiring attempts at better hot chocolate my milk frother has been gathering dust in my cupboard. However, November has arrived, with driving rain and gloomy grey skies, and in the aftermath of a grinding cold, my commute has been in dire need of a cheer up. So I decided to break out the milk frother and bring myself some much need seasonal cheer.

A while ago, I came across a tub of the instant matcha sachets – on one of those, end of line shelves in the supermarket – and made grand plans to have a go at making my own matcha lattes. (They can be rather hit or miss, either divine or a little…dusty, depending on which barista you get in the coffee shop.) I had delightful plans for comparing and contrasting between those made with the ground matcha and different kinds of green tea bags. Would a Tokyo Fog turn out to be more my thing? What would you call the same thing made with Jasmine tea? (A Beijing Fog? Given the air pollution issues in that city that doesn’t sound entirely appetising.) Yet, once again, I didn’t get around to actually doing anything about my exciting plans until gloomy mid-winter came to call. I’ve been glorying in a seasonal special at my favourite tea shop called a Matcha Maker, which is essentially a white hot chocolate matcha mash-up. It’s utterly heavenly, so once I master the straight forward matcha latte, I need to perfect that one. Though first I’ll have to figure just how they make it!

This week I have, for reasons that don’t need explored at this juncture, been working on perfecting my London Fog. I’m not entirely sure what it is about a well-made London Fog, but there’s something deeply comforting about drinking it. Somehow it brings out the best of the Earl Grey, that deep aromatic flavour and almost floral scent. I suppose in certain ways its my ideal form of tea drinking. My preference when it comes to standard tea is strong with lots of milk (several of my colleagues just leave the bag in for me when they make my tea – as does the lass in my favoured tea shop when she makes me a London Fog) and when you make a London Fog you make the Earl Grey into a highly concentrated brew which you then top up with a decent serving of hot frothy milk. It’s hot, soothing, flavoursome and just a little sweet. Perfection.

Categories: challenges, feeling philisophical, kitchen gadgetry, nablopomo | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Returning to an Old Friend

Many years ago, when I was first exploring the world of tea, I decided that I wanted to become the kind of person who drank green tea and set about exploring the world of green teas.

(I like to say that my twenties were all about working out who I wanted to be and figuring out how to achieve that, whereas my thirties have been about becoming and being that person.)

One of the problems of being known among your friends, relations and acquaintances as someone who likes green tea is that you get given a lot of green tea. By given a lot of green tea, I don’t mean that people see an unusual green tea somewhere and buy it for you as a present, or keep a box in their cupboard for when you visit – a few people do, in fact do this, and it’s lovely and much appreciated – but rather that you become designated drop of point for spare green tea. There was a while in the late 00s where green tea became the trendy health drink of choice. I’m not sure how or why, but lots of diets and general health improvement articles and advice seemed to involve drinking gallons of green tea. For a while it seemed as though everyone was trying to cut down on their caffeine and trading in their afternoon coffee or tea for a cup of the green stuff. I’m sure some of them found a deeply satisfying replacement or supplement to their hot beverage repertoire.

Now, for most people whose entire experience with tea drinking involves teabags of the kind purveyed by Tetley, PG Tips or Typhoo, served with milk and/or sugar, changing over to green tea requires a bit of getting used to. I would go so far as to call it an acquired taste. There are a lot of terrible green teas out there, that are, to me, the equivalent of those cheap generic tea bags that my dad calls ‘floor sweepings’ tea. Even with decent green tea, its fairly easy to make a terrible cup of tea with them, its very easy to make weak insipid tea and even easier to leave the bag in too long and end up with bitter stewed tea. Which should actually not be a surprise to the average tea drinker, as while most people who drink tea will claim a cup of tea is a cup of tea, given the option they will evince surprisingly specific requirements for their cuppa. (I’m a strong tea with lots of milk kind of person – leave the bag in if you’re not sure – or neart le torr bainne gorm at work.) Learning how other people take their tea is a gesture of friendship and affection. But rarely do people consider this when they try green tea. Therefore the fad for green tea mostly led to those people having a box of green tea lurking in their cupboard, for months, with half a dozen tea bags out of it and then gifting them to me when they discovered that I actually liked the stuff.

For years I never had to buy the stuff, just keeping on top of the forsaken boxes of tea kept me in more green tea than I could face. To the point that I was completely scunnered of the stuff. I had some beautiful Jasmine tea that I’d picked up at one of the Chinese supermarkets in Glasgow and I couldn’t face it. For years. Even when I liked green tea, it wasn’t an everyday drink. It was something I had to be in the mood for, something I drank after some excellent Asian cuisine or as an accompaniment to a good book. I’ve spent most of the last five years refusing green tea anywhere that wasn’t a Japanese restaurant – for some reason, even the complimentary cups they do at Wagamama’s are reliably great – and exploring other teas. I’ve discovered lots of teas I love along the way, but every time I came across some nice looking green tea, I’d feel wistful that I knew I wouldn’t enjoy it the way I once had and so would pass it over.

A few months ago, I was visiting my parents and discovered a small stash of Jasmine tea bags. Out of curiosity I made a cup and a beautiful aroma rose out of the cup, it was a truly gorgeous cup of tea. I gathered up the remaining bags and rationed them out over the following months. Slowly, carefully I’ve been experimenting with green teas again. Mostly Jasmine teas, but with more generic green teas, a flavoured green tea here, an iced tea there, the surprisingly pleasing matcha latte when I’m in the mood. (Why are matcha lattes so good? I’ve accidentally put milk in green tea on several occasions and its vile. It shouldn’t work – and admittedly depending where you get them, it sometimes doesn’t – but somehow, a good matcha latte is divine.) At work the other day, I unearthed a box of green tea, which a Malaysian colleague had brought back for the office from a recent holiday to Korea. It is one of the mildest, loveliest green teas I’ve ever drunk. The box is massive and now lives on my desk, because I’m the only one who drinks it. It’s amazing. I’ve rediscovered my love of green tea.

But I’ll be keeping that to myself most places, in fact lets just keep it between ourselves, because we’re about due for another cycle of ‘green tea is good for you’ and if people find out I’ll start to receive boxes of unloved green tea once more. And I’d really like, to just keep on, enjoying my green tea.

Categories: feeling philisophical | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Mugs of Seasonal Cheer

Here’s a thing. I’m not a massive fan of xmas. Don’t get me wrong, I love an excuse to buy and make things for my friends and family and also to generally eat, drink and be merry. But the day itself has no particular religious or emotional significance to me – if the choice is working Xmas or New Year there’s no doubt what my choice would always be.

However, the thing I do love about the whole idealised winter stuff that comes along with the Xmas obsession is the sudden onslaught of amazing hot drinks. When Winter arrives I like to be cosy, fluffy jumpers and fluffier socks, thick tights and winter boots, earmuffs, mittens and giant scarfs. Coming in from the cold to a big steaming mug of hot chocolate? Bliss!

Christmas for coffee shops means seasonal drinks, special blends, extra cream, unusual syrups and silly names. I have a couple of friends who are obsessed with Christmas and I enforce the rule with them that the season hasn’t begun until the red cups appear– if I have to deal with all this seasonal silliness I want a Gingerbread Latte or a Black-forest hot chocolate in hand to get me through. But beyond the usual suspects there are a myriad of hot drinks from smaller places that are no less charming or warming. The indie coffee shops in Stirling to a good line in spiced winter warmers (spiced winter apple at the bottom of the hill, mulled spice chai tea at the top) served in odd shaped mugs that only come out at this time of year.

And of course you can always make your own hot drinks at home, to your own exact specifications, whether that means extra syrup, less cream or whether or not your mulled wine is actually alcoholic. Personally, I have a marked preference for homemade blackcurrant wine – though the kind that I like, that will forever be the true taste of Christmas, is not remotely alcoholic and arguably has never seen an actual blackcurrant. Instead it is made from a strange syrup called yuleade, that, as far as I know, can be purchased only from the co-op and even then probably only in Scotland, combined with hot water and a frankly obscene amount of sugar and should rightfully be served in really tiny glasses. I made some myself a couple of winters ago and the sugar high I got from drinking an entire mug in one go – so decadent!! – explained just why the glasses I was given as a child were so very, very small.

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Tea Musings

I came to tea drinking later in life than most, despite coming from a family of tea drinkers – my gran in particular would feed you tea until you burst if you were too polite to tell her to stop.

Over the last few years I’ve developed a thing for loose leaf teas, culminating in my getting a tea pot – with filter – for my birthday a couple of years ago. Until I had a teapot of my own, I’d never really understood the whole tea-making-drinking as ritual thing, with steepings and timings and the rest. I had plenty of experience of the ‘tea as cure-all’ thing, though honestly even then there’s only one friend of mine who defaults to feeding me tea when I’m distressed and she makes the best tea in the world as far as I’m concerned – only from her will I always take a cuppa unquestioningly whenever offered. (Oddly enough she’s the only other person I know who owns a teapot – who owned one when we were students! – even if she makes it with tea bags and milk) But here I am as an adult, discovering the process of tea making as meditation. Of time spent in contemplation of the process, focused but unfocused, forgetting the rest of the world and its stresses and strains, to take a little time for oneself. Soothing and necessary. Time to rest and unwind, refocus on the things that matter.

I’m drinking Yunnan tea today, out of a little set of mini-tins of Chinese teas I got as a present. (Proper, curling dried leaves, that look like plant when they’ve been brewing for a while, none of this dust nonsense you get some places. Leaves you could read a fortune in if you were so inclined.) It’s rather pleasant.

One of the most useful craft projects I’ve ever undertaken was to make myself a tea cosy. Years ago, I came across a book of tea cosy patterns, a delightful blend of kitsch and charming, and fully expected it to spend its life much admired and un-used. With the arrival of my own teapot, the necessity of a tea cosy became apparent. It was fine if I made a pot of tea to share, but if I was making tea just for me, by the time I went for a second cup it was cold. Also, frankly, I didn’t particularly like any of the cosies in my mum’s collection and so it was make my own or be mildly irritated every time I made a pot of tea. My tea cosy is blue. Well, actually, its turquoise cable-work with a dark blue – with sparkles – trim at the top and bottom. Largely because the turquoise was left over from another project and I feared I might run out and the dark blue is an almost perfect match for the teapot. It looks cute and quaint wrapped in its cosy, and more importantly, the cosy keeps the tea at perfect drinking temperature for me. So I can spend an afternoon working away – on college work, crafting, writing articles or just curled up with a good book – and never need to move further than to reach over and pour another cup of tea.

Categories: feeling philisophical | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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