Earl Grey in Moscow

Fall is here and not a minute too soon. The best of summer is behind us, but there are many beautiful nights ahead. But what to drink? You don’t always want something super-fruity and tropical, but neither is it time for hot buttered rum. (Have you ever tasted that, actually?)

Without the simple syrup, this is a lovely, light cocktail.

Here’s a lovely cocktail for shoulder season. You can make it alcohol-free, too, but the alcohol in this is so subtle, it melds into the other flavours. I used vodka as a blank slate upon which to blend them: you want more of the bergamot, the orange, and the tea leaf against the milk, with the alcohol just barely there.

This is my idea of a White Russian but with tea. I start with a cup of my Iced London Fog recipe, which is basically Earl Grey tea cold-steeped in milk overnight with honey and vanilla. Then I add the vodka (plain is fine, but Grey Goose orange is delightful here), orange liqueur and my special Earl Grey Simple Syrup. I often keep this tea-milk in the fridge, using it as a host for protein powder as often as for vodka.

Make an instant iced Earl Grey Tea Latte with this super-strong
simple syrup.

I say special because unlike most Earl Grey simple syrups, which are made from an infusion of tea leaves that are strained out, this sweet goo is made using microground tea. Tea leaves ground down into a silty, fine-grained powder made for tea lattes. Except here they are suspended (mostly) in sugar syrup. This provides viscosity and texture for a full, smooth mouthfeel, and intensity of flavour moderated by the sweetness.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to soak some loose leaf tea in milk overnight, then just use plain milk. This syrup will bring you up to speed real quick. Simply add an extra spoonful. Just remember that you are ingesting the tea leaves, not drinking an infusion, so while it will hit you a little more slowly, both the caffeine and theanine will arise in your nervous system with greater intensity. In a delightful, blissful, mellow manner. A drop of vanilla wouldn’t hurt, either, since that’s in a London Fog. Or better yet, throw a spent vanilla bean in the syrup when you make it.

The recipe for the Earl Grey Simple Syrup is found here. Five minutes to a fabulously versatile and full-bodied ingredient!

Earl Grey in Moscow

An iced London Fog with vodka and orange liqueur, with a special syrup for extra flavour.
Course Drinks
Cuisine Canadian

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup Iced London fog or plain whole milk (see below)
  • 1 ½ oz. vodka
  • ½ oz. orange liqueur
  • 1-4 tsp. Really, Really Strong Earl Grey Simple Syrup (see below)

Instructions
 

  • Add all ingredients to a cocktails shaker filled with ice. Shake until frothy.
  • Pour over more ice.
  • Garnish with orange of any kind.

Notes

Iced London Fog recipe here
If using Iced London Fog for a base, add 1-2 tsp. Earl Grey simple syrup. 
If using plain milk, add 3-4 tsp. Earl Grey simple syrup, to taste. 
For Really, Really Strong Earl Grey Simple Syrup, go here
Keyword #earlgrey, #earlgreysimplesyrup, #londonfog, #microgroundtea, #teacocktail, #teacocktails

Really, Really Strong Earl Grey Simple Syrup

Hello Darlings. I trust you all know what a simple syrup is, yeah? And with very little imagination, it is easy enough to conceive that an Earl Grey simple syrup might mean the addition of some tea leaves to boiled sugar water, right? So far, so good.

I’ve decided that more is better and have used microground tea in my simple syrup. You’ll get more tea flavour, more caffeine, more texture and mouthful, and more intensity in every possible way. Because who wants weak stuff? We want every ingredient to have an impact, and this certainly does.

Microground tea dissolves very easily in warm liquid, as it was meant to do. It still leaves some residue at the bottom of the cup; it is not clear like a typical tea infusion. It’s more like cocoa powder. (They could be friends!) So you are actually ingesting tea leaf, but in most recipes we’ll make with this syrup, we won’t be using much, just a little FYI for the very caffeine-sensitive among us.

Milled in the same style as matcha, microground tea is a fine powder that is meant to dissolve easily, while delivering flavour and texture.

This super-strong, slightly silty syrup is fabulous in anything cream based. Like cream-cheese frosting, or whipped cream (perhaps an icebox cake with poached apricots?), ice-cream, etc. It was designed for a hot Earl Grey tea latte, but once it’s in syrup form it blends equally well into cold liquid. Which is perfect for my delicious cocktail, an Earl Grey in Moscow. (Recipe coming soon!)

Not pretty, but pretty potent!

This cocktail starts with my Iced London Fog, an Earl Grey tea cold-brewed in milk. Well, why bother with that, when you can get straight to it with the strong syrup? In fact, no need at all. I do like to double down, and I do like the clarity and slight thickness that comes from leaves steeped in milk. This is fine-tuning and layering, but if you don’t keep a jugful of my Iced London Fog in the house in warm weather (which you should), then by all means grab the blunt instrument and have at it. You’ll have a fabulous cocktail either way.

Other uses? A little oomph to some caramel sauce. Drown that syrup with some fresh-squeezed lemon juice in water to make lemonade, or better yet, in some beer to make an Earl Grey shandy. (Not in champagne, though. Too cloudy!) Use it in a custard, or a meringue, or with some freshly squeezed and zested orange for a dressing on fruit salad….

Have fun with it! And let me know what you get up to!

Really, Really Strong Earl Grey Tea Simple Syrup

Simple syrup made with microground tea rather than tea leaves or bags. Potent and with a lovely thick texture.
Cuisine Canadian

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 heaping tbsp microground Earl Grey tea

Instructions
 

  • Bring water and sugar to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the powdered tea, stirring until smooth.
  • Turn off heat and let cool to room temperature.
  • Store in the fridge.

Notes

Feel free to add a spent vanilla bean to the syrup as you make it. Won’t hurt one bit! 
I used Tea Squared’s London Really Foggy Micro-Ground Tea Latte
Keyword #earlgrey, #earlgreysimplesyrup, #microgroundtea, #simplesyrup

Smoky Mustard Triple Onion Potato Salad

Nothing says summer like plain old potato salad with mayo, hardboiled eggs and green onions. Sadly, fewer and fewer people love this old-style summer dish. Vinaigrettes on potatoes are more in vogue, and power to them. A lovely way to add some flavour to a potato salad, and certainly safer than mayonnaise on a sunny day.

For this recipe, I have rudely gone back to my smoky onion pickles, like a mantra that I can’t stop chanting, a recipe I can’t stop spinning. Or a song stuck in your head, that you must get out by singing and driving everyone around you nuts. Except I can’t sing (or so I’ve been told). However, no one ever complains about the smoky onion pickles. Go on and make a batch. Super easy and really worth the effort for their versatility and strong umami hit.

If you don’t want to be bothered, just use the old trick of softening your onions by fine chopping them and adding them to the vinegar as the water is boiling for the potatoes, and add a bit of Lapsang Souching to the vinegar. You can fish it out afterwards, using a teabag or fine chop it and leave it in. Either way, you’ll achieve that lovely smoky, malty flavour without having to do the extra step of making the pickles. I just always have them on hand.

I also have the benefit of always having a selection of Kozlik’s amazing mustards handy, so I doubled down on the smoky flavour with their Sweet & Smokey Mustard.

I quickly brown some shallots or thin sliced onions in simmering oil, (à la Barefoot Contessa style) and then top the whole mess with chives, or green onions, or garlic scapes – whatever is handy.

Now, if instead of the frizzled onions, you wanted to caramelize some instead, and then top your potatoes with some Gruyere or Jura, well, no one would object! Reheat those on the bbq in a cast iron pan or brulée them in the oven and you’re a star. But the point is, these potatoes have plenty of flavour cold and can stand up to anything else just on their own.

SMOKY MUSTARD TRIPLE ONION POTATO SALAD

This potato salad is infused with the flavours of mustrad, onions and smoke for a new summer staple.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American, British, Canadian

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup smoky onions, minced fine Or plain onoin, minced fine
  • 1 cup smoky onion vinaigrette Or plain white wine vinegar, with lapsang souching
  • 2 tbsps onion powder
  • ¼ cup dijon mustard, preferably Kozlick's Sweet & Smoky
  • 1 tbsp salt, fine ground
  • fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 3 lb bag of yellow or red potatoes
  • ½ cup fresh chives
  • 2 shallots (or 1 onion)
  • vegetable oil

Instructions
 

  • Cut potatoes in quarters, then boil in a generous amount of well-salted water.
  • If you are using the smoky onion pickles, fish out the pickles from their vinegar, chop them fine with the tea leaves, and mix them in a bowl with all of the other ingredients.
  • If you are starting from scratch, place 4 tea bags or ¼ cup of lapsang souching in the vinegar. If you want to place the loose tea in a tea filter, you can remove it later. If you like to eat tea leaves, as I do, leave them in, breaking them first into tiny bits. Fine chop the onions and let both the tea and onions sit in the vinegar for at least 15 minutes. Then add the onion powder, salt, pepper and mustard.
  • When the potatoes are just cooked through, drain then. Add the vinaigrette while they are hot.
  • Thinly slice two shallots or one onion in simmering oil. Cook them, watching all the time, until they turn brown and crispy. Quickly drain them on paper towel.
  • Add chives or green onions right before you serve.
Keyword #lapsangsouching, #potatosalad, #smokyonions

Poached Pears in Magnolia-Scented Oolong

Many of us are familiar with jasmine tea, but magnolia flowers are a prized ingredient in Chinese cuisine as well, appearing in recipes for food as well as in scented tea. 

Magnolia is usually associated with spring, with weddings, with feminine beauty and purity, so now is an odd time of year to feature this flower. But in traditional Chinese medicine, magnolia is also associated with respiratory health, as are pears. And pears are definitely a fall fruit, so we’ve got all the reasons we need to go ahead. (Note that I’m not claiming this combination as a health tonic, but I feel we need every little bit of comfort we can contrive these days.)

The real reason I’ve united these two together is that they are both delicate. Stronger flavours easily overwhelm the beauty of a pear. Now, not all pears are beautiful. Supermarket pears can be dreary and uninspiring unless they are local and even then, they are often picked far too soon. But when you do get one in its prime, it is a shame to bury it under a heavier flavour.

I’ve used Murchie’s Magnolia Oolong  for this recipe, although I’ve also made it with David’s Tea’s version, which also has jasmine flowers in it. Could you make this recipe with jasmine tea? Sure, but why not try something new? These flowers are prized for their beauty and scent and are every bit as lovely in teas as jasmine flowers.

For the pears: different types of pears require different cooking times. The first time I made this recipe was with beautiful little Fiorelle pears, but those weren’t available when I went to the store. Determined not to let the memory of the perfect become the enemy of the altogether lovely, I tried with the pears that I did find. 

For poached whole pears, I used mini-NorthBrites, since I had those from a local farmer. And my word were they incredible! Perfect pear flavour! But such tiny pears are cooked through the minute the poaching liquid comes to a boil, and so receive very little infusion. This is not much of a problem, since the reduction imparts the magnolia flavour very well, and the magnificent taste of these precious pears is fully manifest.  

To poach larger pears in what is some very expensive tea, I couldn’t bury whole pears under a ton of liquid. I solved this easily by slicing them in half, poaching them, and allowing them to cool just a little before peeling them and basting them with the still-reducing liquid. Here’s where the variety REALLY makes a difference.

Both red and yellow Anjous cook very quickly and become slightly grainy. The texture is like that of tinned pears, so not unfamiliar, and still tasty. Certainly, the red ones offer a lovely hue. But a Bosc pear poaches into a lovely firm, smooth texture, and can be cooked just before it’s ripe. It requires a longer cooking time, which allows for greater absorption of the magnolia flavour, and the result is a delight. 

This recipe is not quite vegan, because it calls for honey, but agave syrup would be an acceptably mild substitute. 

When poaching pears, you can peel them first, or poach and then peel. The peels slip off easily if you blanch them and then shock them in ice water, but we don’t wish to dilute our poaching liquid. You can poach them, then peel them while still warm, and thus make a smoother surface. I’m far too impatient for such careful measures, though, so my pears were a little rough on the surface. I don’t care, but if you do, proceed accordingly. Make ahead, store for a few days, or enjoy the same day.

Magnolia Oolong Poached Pears

Pears are poached in a glorious magnolia scented oolong and drenched in a magnolia-pear-honey reduction for a simple, delicate, unexpected dessert.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Course Dessert
Cuisine Canadian

Ingredients
  

  • ½  cup magnolia oolong loose leaf tea
  • 4 cups water
  • 6 Bosc pears
  • 1 cup pear juice
  • ½  cup honey

Instructions
 

  • Bring water to a boil. Let cool to 85°C (185°F) and add tea. Let sit for 3 minutes, then remove tea leaves and set aside.
  • Peel pears, then slice pears in half, coring with a melon baller. Place pears in tea, bring tea to a boil. Turn heat down to medium and simmer for 2 minutes, or until a knife goes in easily.
  • Remove pears with a slotted spoon to a drying rack.
  • Bring tea back to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Reduce by half, then add in pear juice and honey, and continue reduce to 1 cup.
  • Remove pears to a dish, middle facing down. Brush occasionally with reducing liquid. When it is reduced to one cup, baste the pears again.
  • Drizzle the remaining rediuction over the pears. Serve right away, or store for another day.

Notes

Use reserved tea leaves to make tea to serve alongside the pears. Fine quality oolong can be re-steeped at least a half a dozen times. 
To make the tea again, heat filtered water to 85°C (185°F) and pour over tea leaves. Always bring the water to the tea, not the other way around. Steep for 3-4 minutes, then strain into teapot. (For a first steeping, try 2 -3 minutes.) Do not leave the tea in the water too long—it will become too bitter. 
Jasmine tea would be lovely in this recipe. A white tea is often too delicate to impart much flavour, so I’d recommend a jasmine oolong or green tea, but experiment as you please. The cost of the tea will likely guide any decisions. 
Try this recipe with a chai blend, or Earl Grey, or blackcurrant tea with blackcurrant juice or syrup instead of honey and juice. 
You could also make pears sous vide with a few tea leaves and some honey – omit the juice, as the pears will create their own juices as they cook. Sealed in a vacuum-packed bag, sous vide pears can be prepared a week in advance.
Keyword #magnoliaoolong, #oolong, #pearseason, #poachedpears
White Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares with Genmaicha

White Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares with Genmaicha

Try this: make a nice cup of genmaicha (80°C for 3 minutes). Take a sip. Savour the toasty, nutty, savoury delight of this popular Japanese tea. Now close your eyes and—don’t think about it—take a piece of white chocolate and take a nibble. Take another sip.

By now you’re sure I’m insane. I get it. Do it anyway.

I was in a chocolate and tea pairing class at the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada (THAC) when I was asked to do the same thing by our instructor, the THAC president, Shabnam Weber. I was giving the pairing a nervous side-eye, quite sure that this was very wrong, somehow. But I was here to learn, and Shabnam had yet to steer me in the wrong direction. What could I do? I tried it. It was fantastic.

This unlikely duo, when taken together, was very strongly reminiscent of Rice Krispie Squares. The puffed rice in the tea, the waxy sweetness of the white chocolate, and the familiar briny undertone of the toasty green tea all united to make a funky little flavour-mishmash. Like a Jelly Belly recipe where you combine two lemon and one coconut to replicate the taste of a lemon meringue pie. But weirder.

As soon as I had this glorious strange combination, I knew I had to persuade others to try it. Make it into a dessert, even. But what dessert? Rice Krispie Squares, of course: White Chocolate Crispy Rice Squares with Genmaicha.

If you’re still reluctant to follow me down this path, I understand completely. My taste-testers all had strong, unmistakable reactions. People either loved it or hated it. No middle ground. Fortunately for me, the fans outnumbered the unenlightened by a ratio of 9 to 1. It’s a divisive little dessert, favouring the bold and all lovers of matcha ice cream.

Speaking of matcha: this dessert would be so much easier to make if you used matcha. And if you already love the combination of white chocolate and matcha, why on earth wouldn’t you just use that? It would mean simply stirring in some powder rather than infusing cream with loose leaf tea, then straining it. You could do that.

But this pairing is special, and it works in a uniquely synergistic manner. Try it. It’s weird. It’s wonderful. It’s a one-of-a-kind delight. Worth every bit of your effort and trust in me, in the uniqueness of this tea, and in your own sense of adventure.

These pretty little delicacies would be wonderful cut into tiny cubes and served as part of an afternoon tea platter. You could make it a fusion menu, à là Shangrila (they do matcha cupcakes with black sesame, is that not also a daring leap of culinary imagination?), or serve them as dessert when you order in sushi or noodles. Or just to nibble whenever you have a cup of green tea. Genmaicha, of course.

Tasting is believing. Adventure awaits!

White Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares with Genmaicha

This unusual pairing of ingredients—sweet white chocolate and genmaicha—is the surpise hit on the afternoon tea menu. Tasting is believing.
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American, Canadian

Equipment

  • 8” X 8” X 4” square pan
  • fine sieve
  • Parchment paper.

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup loose leaf genmaicha, or 4 tea bags
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 cups fine quality white chocolate chips like Ghirardelli, Lindt or Callebaut
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 7 cups Rice Krispie cereal

Instructions
 

  • Butter the pan and line with parchment paper.
  • Heat cream to 80°C or °176 F. Pour in your genmaicha, give it a gentle stir, and let sit for three minutes. The tea leaves will swell up and look as if they have absorbed all the cream. Don’t worry—they haven’t. 
  • Pour cream into a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl. Strain out the cream, pressing the tea leaves with the back of a spoon, or your hands. You should end up with about 1 ½ cups of tea-infused cream.
  • In the larger pot, place ½ cup of tea-infused cream with the butter over low heat. Add in 1 cup white chocolate chips, keeping the heat low and stirring all the while until smooth. Add marshmallows and do the same. Don’t let this mixture burn or curdle—slowly but surely does it.
  • Stir in cereal, folding slowing and gently until it is all evenly coated. 
  • Press the cereal mixture into the pan gently. Don’t press it too hard or you’ll have heavy, dense squares. Pop it in the fridge to firm up if you have room, otherwise the countertop will do just fine.
  • Pour the remaining 1 cup of tea-infused cream back into the smaller pot and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat. Add in the remaining 3 cups of white chocolate chips. Let sit for 5 minutes. 
  • Place the pot back on low heat and stir gently until white chocolate chips are melted. Stir together until smooth and let sit until room temperature. 
  • Remove the pan from the fridge. Spread ganache evenly over the squares, smoothing with a spatula until the whole surface is covered. Do NOT rush and pour while too warm or it will melt into your squares. 
  • Decorate the top with some scattered white chocolate chips and genmaicha. Return to the fridge to firm up. Serve at room temperature. 

Notes

Do NOT pour hot ganache on warm squares – it will sink in instead of sitting on top, drenching your squares into a soupy mess. Let everything cool right down.
For brewing the tea: I’ve put in the precise measurements because if your cream is too hot, the tea will be excessively bitter. Don’t worry if the cream seems a tad bitter when it’s done steeping, however. The sweetness of the marshmallows and white chocolate will counteract it.
You can use your hands and/or a cheesecloth to help wring every bit of cream from the tea leaves (if it’s not too hot, of course). You’ll bring the cream to a boil again and kill the germs. Mostly.
Use fresh cereal and marshmallows and good quality tea. The best ingredients make the best desserts.
If you use tea bags instead of loose leaf, you’ll need 4-6, depending on how strong you’d like the tea flavour to be. Keep in mind the white chocolate and marshmallows will dampen the tea’s astringency quite a bit, so don’t be afraid to brew it strong. You will need less cream for the recipe. Keep to ½ cup in the squares, adding any extra to the ganache, which requires less precision for measurements.
If you use unsalted butter, add in a pinch of salt to your cream, butter and chocolate mixture. If not, omit.
Matcha White Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares: Omit genmaicha and add 1 tsp. matcha to the cream for the squares, and 1 ½ tsp. to the cream for the ganache. Adjust the amount of matcha to taste.
Vanilla White Chocolate Rice Krispie Squares: Omit the green tea. Add 1 tsp. vanilla extract to cream for the squares, and 1 tbsp. to the cream for the ganache.
Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Squares: I don’t have a recipe for that, but you know who does? Chelsea’s Messy Apron. Crazy good. With chocolate on top.
Keyword #brewcrew, Afternoon tea, Cooking with tea, Genmaicha, Rice Krispie Squares, White chocolate

Smoky Summer Slaw

I posted my smoky tea pickles on Instagram last week, with the suggestion that you can eat the tea leaves along with the pickled onions. Naturally, the vinegar takes on that smoked flavour as well, making it the perfect base for your vinaigrette.

The smoky dressing adds depth and complexity to a very simple, refreshing salad. Throw together some Napa cabbage, cucumber and brightly coloured carrots, and you’ve got a healthy side that tastes more indulgent than it actually is. This so-called slaw is vegan, but everyone in my family asked me if it had bacon in it!

The pickles are covered with clinging tea leaves, which are perfectly edible – tasty, even!

Don’t underestimate the power of smoke to transform a dish. Where it is easy to achieve that charcoal flavour over a grill or use a smoking gun on solids, that is rather impossible on salad or liquid, so the lapsing-infused vinegar becomes liquid gold. You’ll see.

I have used Napa cabbage here, but Savoy would be nice as well. Fresh bean sprouts would be right at home here, if you have them. I used cucumber and carrots because that’s what I always have in the fridge, but thinly sliced bell peppers would be perfect, too. If you have some mint in your garden, that would not hurt one bit. Chives or green onions would work, too.

Smoky Summer Slaw

  • 1/2 head of Napa cabbage
  • whole English cucumber
  • 4 carrots
  • 1 cup smoky tea-pickled onions
  • 1/2 cup rice wine or smoky tea-pickle vinegar
  • 1/2 light vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce

Thin slice the cabbage, dice the cucumber and grate the carrots or slice them into matchsticks. Throw them all into a large salad bowl. Dice pickled onion with whatever tea leaves are clinging to them and throw them on top.

Mix together smoky vinegar, oil and soy sauce. Stir together and toss with salad. If you want, take a large forkful of tea leaves and stir them into the rest of the slaw.

Coleslaw often is better for resting, but with this simple salad you can throw it together last minute. It’s fine to make ahead as well, for a couple of hours. Pair nicely with grilled meats and chicken.

Top it with green onions if you have them. I had furiyake so I used that.

This one simple ingredient is truly a more powerful taste enhancer than you might think, so take the time (15 minutes) to make yourself some smoky pickles and then enjoy using them to make this kick-ass summer slaw or try them in a quesadilla or chopped salad. You’ll find they add an umami element that you wouldn’t think possible in a salad without cheese or buttermilk or bacon bits. Surprise and delight your (vegan) friends!