Cooking with Tea

Last year one of the things I got up to when I went blogging AWOL was to attend the Tea Cookery workshop run by Pei of Teanamu. I’ve cooked with tea a little bit over the years using it to smoke duck, chicken, salmon and tomatoes (yes, tomatoes) and also to make a fruit cake that was one of my Grandma’s specialties where the dried fruits are soaked in tea overnight. All have always been delicious and the tea imparts a subtle yet rich flavour to both sweet and savoury dishes, so I was looking forward to learning more about using tea in cooking but not being much of a tea expert I didn’t realise the delights I was in for.

The location is lovely, Pei holds the workshops at his home and while Pei cooks, we watch and take notes, we eat delicious food over a leisurely two – three hours. Being invited into someone’s home to learn about food feels very special, more a meeting of friends than a food workshop. As Pei makes the dishes he explains about each one and we gather round the island worktop to watch and learn.

Pei uses a range of different teas to demonstrate the varying flavours and effects that tea can bring to cooking from the very delicate to the earthy. He stresses that the dishes he has created wouldn’t normally all be served at one meal as that would be considered an over emphasis on tea but there might be one course that contained tea in some form. Tasting the dishes I think that most people would be more than happy to eat a menu such as this and the different dishes with tea as a theme would create a talking point at a dinner, that is probably against all the ideas of balance that eastern philosophy has but in terms of taste to a western palate the dishes work in harmony.

Here’s the dishes we sampled:

Steamed Tofu in a Tuo Cha Konbu Broth

Tempura Vegetables with Shiso Sencha Green Tea Salt

Grilled Salmon with Lapsang Souchong Tea Rub with Matcha Noodles

Matcha Jelly and ding Dong Sorbet with Candied Azuki Beans

As you can see all the dishes were beautifully presented and all tasted amazing. Pei runs similar workshops (the recipes will vary with season) throughout the year. The food I ate and the teas we drank started me on an exploration of tea that is still progressing. I don’t think I had ever realised how different and how delicious tea can be.

With thanks to Pei for inviting me to attend the workshop as his guest.

What I ate last night

I’ve been reading quite a few cookbooks recently that have a seasonal theme to get some new ideas for different winter dishes.  

I’ve been particularly enjoying Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s (HFW) ‘The River Cottage Year‘ (this link is to I’d already tried a couple of the soup recipes and then I spotted the recipe for ‘Smoky cheaty brandade’ (page 49) and I just happened to have some smoked haddock  that I’d been planning to use for kedgeree but thought I’d try the brandade instead.

It was fairly simple to make (about 1 hour total from start to sitting down to eat – and of that time about 20 mins was prep the rest was the dish cooking). I made half the quantity in Hugh’s recipe and 2 of us ate half of it so I now have plenty left which I’m planning to fry up as fish cakes later the week. I guess if you had a really big appetite it wouldn’t go this far but with some braised courgette and greens it made a good size main course which we followed with some cheese.

The recipe goes like this – adapted from Hugh (with my comments in brackets):
(per HFW this serves 4 as a main, 8 as a starter or 12 as a canape – but see my comment above):


500g smoked haddock or cod fillet
whole milk (actually I used semi skimmed and it was fine) – about 400ml
500g mashing potatoes – peeled (floury ones that mash well are king edwards and maris piper)
4 tbsp good olive oil, plus extra
2-3 large garlic cloves
optional  – 1-2 tbsp double cream (I didn’t use this)
black pepper

  • Poach the fish in the milk for about 5 minutes (the milk should just cover the fish and if the fillet is particularly thick it may take a few minutes extra – its ready when the flakes will separate easily – use a sharp knife to test it). Leave the fish in the milk to cool.
  • Boil the potatoes in lightly salted water until tender, drain then mash with a generous knob of butter and some of the poaching milk to get a soft but not sloppy mash.
  • Remove the fish from the milk and flake it off the skin and make sure you pick out any stray bones, discard the skin and bones.
  • Pour the olive oil into a small pan and add the finely chopped garlic, sweat on a very low heat for 2-3 minutes and don’t let the garlic colour.  (I used the full 4 tbsps of olive oil even though I used only half the quantity of fish and potato).
  • Put the fish into a food processor and pulse to a paste whist adding the olive oil/garlic until the fish is the consistency of mash potato – add more oil or the cream or some of the poaching milk to achieve this.
  • Mix the fish and mashed potato together – BUT NOT in the food processor or it will go all gluey – and season with black pepper.
  • Spread in an oven proof dish and bake at gas 5 (190C) for 15-20 mins. (It didn’t go very brown on the top so you might want to crank the oven up for the last few mins or pop it under the grill if this is the effect you are looking for.  I imagine it would be pretty tasty with some grated cheese on top).
  • Serve with toast and/or greens, leek, chicory or other green veg.  (We had greens and courgette – tho I admit the latter is not very seasonal).