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.

A walk on the wild side

“Here, turn right here, this has got to be it”.


We swerve round the corner and bounce along the driveway. “Nice pond, but where’s the big house?” There’s plenty of rolling parkland and a cluster of outbuildings but no grand house to be seen.

There’s also a tall affable looking chap wearing wellies and a big chunky jumper so we slow up and roll down the window. “Here for the food foraging?” he says, “follow the track round between these buildings and you’ll see a group of parked cars and over to the right people on the lawn, that’s were you need to be.” So we drive on as instructed and sure enough there’s about 15 cars and a bunch of people standing about having coffee. I get out and amble over and my husband drives off to a day of peace and quiet.

At last, I’m at Food Safari’s first foraging event at Henham Park in the depths of rural Suffolk.

I get a coffee and Polly (half of the duo that makes up Food Safari) passes me some still warm flapjack (yum! this is a good way to start) then introduces me to the rest of the group – none of whom I’ve met before but some of whom I’ve been chatting to via twitter (yes that’s you @Farctum and @EssexGourmet). Once everyone is here Tim (the tall affable chap in wellies, he’s the other half of Food Safari) tells us the format of the day. We’re going to be foraging for wild foods here on the estate and then also down by the river Blyth (also on estate land) then we’ll be off to The Anchor at Walberswick for a lunch show-casing some of the wild foods.

Tim hands over to Jacky (aka WildFoodie) who’s our foraging expert today. She explains that we are on private land so sadly we can’t entertain any thoughts of popping back sometime to bag some more goodies; well I guess not unless we can get to be new best friends with Hektor who manages the estate, I imagine he’s probably got enough friends already though. Jacky also explains that the weather in Suffolk has been so dry recently that we probably aren’t going to find enough stuff in really good condition for us to take bagfuls home. We are going to have to be content to watch and learn, that’s the nature of foraging, it’s a real luck of the draw thing. Jacky had a scout about yesterday so she’s got lots of examples to show us and she’s been able to collect enough goodies for our meal later.

Then we move on to our first spot, I’m expecting we’re going to have to walk a good distance across the park perhaps into a wooded area, but no, there’s plenty to see only steps away from where we are. Take a look – what can you see that’s edible?

Hmmm looks like a bunch of weeds in a badly tended garden if you ask me…..but hold one we are going to find at least FOUR, yes that’s four, edible goodies in this patch.

Okay so clearly I’m in nappies on the foraging front compared to the likes of Jacky – I can’t see a thing I’d fancy eating. But with Jacky’s expert guidance we learn about ground ivy, cleavers (aka sticky willy – hmmm), nettles, ground elder, burdock and elderflower – blimey that’s six – and I don’t think Jacky was even trying hard….she tells use how to identify each of them through look, feel and even sound and also which bits to pick and even how to pick (clever scissor movement with your fingers for nettle tops). We taste as we go when things are okay to eat raw. Mostly everything we test has a fresh but quite bitter taste but there are differences between them.

Next its time to move on to the river. But before that a few of us think a comfort stop might be good so Polly takes us over to the stable block, which has been converted into a rather lovely looking B&B, and we get to use the facilities there. I also get a quick lesson in the intricacies and long running feuds of the Rous family and learn that the final version of the big grand house was knocked down (some say a fortuitous fire…) in 1953, so that’s why we couldn’t see it. There are plans afoot for a new house to be built.

Anyway down to the river – I would say bank but here the estuary is really wide and flat so it’s more like a gentle slope. The estuary systems in Suffolk and Norfolk are havens for all sorts of things and in particular marsh samphire

If you look really hard you can see the samphire at the front of this picture

I’ve had this before, bought from local farm shops and I love it. We are a little early in the season but we can see the samphire starting to sprout like some kind of mini primeval forest. We get to test the samphire and its wonderfully juicy with a salty tang –I’m looking forward to it being available in the farm shop soon and hoping we get some at lunch. We also find sea purslane which looks a bit like a succulent version of sage although it tastes nothing like sage. Again it’s juicy and salty.

Sea Purslane

And finally we head off to The Anchor pub at Walberswick with our appetites suitable whetted. But before we get to tuck into lunch we take a quick look at the pub’s allotment where Jacky tells us about poppy leaves (nice and sweet and almost pea like in flavour), hops shoots, dead nettles and chickweed (plus other assorted things you might just throw away but can actually eat!).

At last it really is time for food. We wander over to the beautifully refurbished stable block and are served with glasses of refreshing elderflower scented beer from Lowestoft whilst nibbling on fresh asparagus, tempura hop shoots and absolutely wonderful chickpea and samphire mini pancakes. These are so divine we are nearly knocking each other out of the way to get our hands on them; I’m definitely going to be trying to recreate them at home.



Mark then guides us into the stable block itself where a huge long table awaits us and a further three courses of food with matched beers. Mark is an absolute mine of information about the beers and clearly likes to surprise his guests with things such as a Gueuze he describes as having aromas of sweaty horse saddle and horse piss – great! Hektor and I try to tell him that we are not especially familiar with either of these but to no avail. Food wise every thing was delicious but dishes and flavours that particularly stood out were the chicken of the woods in the risotto, 

The chicken of the woods is the pinky/orange bits

a very meaty mushroom that might make some vegetarians shudder, the semi pickled carrots in the salad, the elderflower panacotta

and finally my favourite local cheese, Buxlow Wonmil. It makes a change to have lovely food paired with beers rather than wines and is something I might try myself. Of the beers I think my favourite was the Frambozen although the Gueuze was much nicer than Mark’s description would lead you to expect; its kind of nicely tangy and refreshing, a bit like liquid sourdough.   

Its time for everyone to head their separate ways, full of new knowledge, exceptional food and plenty of beers. I have a glass of Benedictine for the road (fortunately my husband is collecting me) and we waddle off clutching our information packs, happy foragers that we now are. 

You can find out more about Food Safari’s days out in Suffolk on their website, arrange gift vouchers for loved ones or simply book a treat for yourself. I’m hoping to try another one of their days soon.

To view the menu and other information about The Anchor at Walberswick click here. Go on treat yourself to some great food and beer.



I’ve been adopted!

By Karen, and she’s in Harve, Montana! Go on, go check the map like I had to.

Now lets get a few things straight here I don’t mean I’ve been orphaned all this time and finally found someone to adopt me at the fine old age of, well lets just leave my age out of this shall we….

I mean that as a relative ‘newbie’ to the world of food blogging I’m taking part in Kirsten’s (over at Dine and Dish) Adopt-a-Blogger initiative. I found Kirsten when I first started swirling round the foodie blogosphere and landed at Tinned Tomatoes where I spotted the ‘I’ve adopted’ badge. Now ‘Blogging for Dummies’ tells you to get to know your fellow bloggers and to take part in blogging events and the Adopt-a-Blogger seemed like the ticket. I get to have someone older and wiser (in blogging terms) to call upon for three months with my questions etc, probably get new traffic and the adoptor gets the joy of guiding someone through some of the maze of the blogsphere. Great.


After Kirsten has matched us all up we get to meet online and start to chat, it’s kind of like a latter day version of pen pals. To take part we’ve promised to introduce each other to our respective worlds and at the end of three months to blog about what we’ve each learned. I’ve already been badgering Karen with lots of questions and tweaking my blog to incorporate some of her tips.

Anyway without further ado here is Karen (of Karen Cooks), as cross examined by me, in her own words:

GSD: Tell me a little bit about yourself, where you live and what you do when not food blogging?

K: I live in the U.S.  I lived in the Southern California and Arizona deserts for 42 years prior to moving to Havre, Montana last summer.  When I’m not food blogging, I’m cooking!  I like to garden and also do mosaics.

GSD: Why did you want to join ‘Adopt-a-blogger’ and what do you think being an adoptor will be like?

K: I thought I might have something to offer a new food blogger… there are so many things to figure out and hints and suggestions that one might not know about.

GSD:  How long have you been food blogging, what made you want to start and do you have any other blogs?

K: I started my food blog in August 2008.  I was reading another food blog and thought “I can do that!”  So, I did!

GSD:  Tell me about the Eagle webcam.

K:  I found the Eagle webcam during my many travels around the internet.  The webcam is in West Virginia and poised on a nest built by Bald Eagles.  Here we can get a glimpse of a three eaglets, now almost 2 months old and their daily routine. It’s been fascinating to watch them grow!  I think they are beautiful birds. 

GSD:  How would you describe your style of cooking and who do you normally cook for?

K:  Most of the time I cook just for me and my gardener, aka husband, although I love to cook for company.  I love to read cookbooks for inspiration on making my own dishes.  I guess my style of cooking would be ‘see it and make it with changes to suit our tastes’.

GSD: I can see some interesting items on your freezer list in the ‘Roasted Grape Tomato, Spinach and Asiago Pasta’ post, tell me about the regional dishes, specialities of ingredients you enjoy?

K: We are hunters and fishers, so we eat a lot of game.  Cooking wild game at times can be challenging as the meat may tend to be tough.  I’m always on the lookout for different wild game recipes.  

GSD: What are your Top 5 dishes/foods and what, if anything, makes you go ‘urgggh, no thanks’?

K: I’m definitely not a picky eater, but there are a few things that I’ll pass on.  One of them is menudo, a Mexican soup-type dish made with tripe and hominy.  I’ve tried tofu  several different ways, but just don’t care for it.  Other than that I guess I’ll pretty much eat anything!  LOL

GSD:  Who are your favourite cook book authors/cook books?

K: I really don’t have a favorite.  I love to read cookbooks but have stopped buying them.  There are just so many good recipes on the internet.

GSD:  What’s your couldn’t live without kitchen gadget? 

K:  This is a hard question.  After thinking about it, I couldn’t live without my silicone spatulas.  I use them for everything!  And of course my Kitchen Aid stand mixer!

So please go check out Karen’s blog yourself for lots of good stuff including the latest Montana snow (on 13 May!).




Err, hello, um, what’s all this #livelocal thing??? 

I’d seen a bit of twittering about this (hence the # tag – used in twitter to make searching easier) and wondered what it was so I headed over to Becca’s blog to find out more. Here I saw that Becca was about to spend the next 7 days (she’s started today I think) trying to only eat foods that had been grown with 100 mile radius of where she lives in Sydney, Australia.

Interesting challenge I thought and then also spotted that it was a wider initiative to get people to undertake projects and habit changes that were locally focused,such as cycling to work. 

Hmmm wonder if I can join in and what I could do. A few tweets later and I’m signed up at LiveLocal as the first UK participant (woo hoo I’m a global first – yes quite!). Then to thinking about a plan. I like Becca’s local eating idea and I already try to buy local food but its pretty easy to realise that you can do much more and that also you might have to make some sacrifices along the way.

I decide to investigate where a 100 mile radius allows me to source food from using this map tool and find that as well as a the whole of the South East and much of the Midlands, Calais and Boulogne are within 100 miles! I’m not quite sure that northern France can be called eating locally when I live in East London. So I think again, I want to do something that starts to shift my eating habits to local and decide on the following: 

  • my cupboards and freezer are stuffed full of things that have been lurking for sometime, so first part of the challenge is to start munching through these. I’ve already probably burnt a giant carbon footprint acquiring them so I really should get on with making use of them.
  • dried and frozen foods aren’t going to cut it for a whole week though are they so anything extra I need has to either come from my herb garden or be sourced from an area bounded by the Thames to the south, the east coast of England, a line up from the western edge of the M25 and a line cutting across from Norwich. I’m guessing this about the same area as 100 mile circle (or less) but seems to make more sense as to the direction I should look for food stuff.
  • I’m only to walk, cycle or take the Tube/bus to the shops but I can incorporate shopping into an existing car trip.
  • I’m going to think about everything I eat or drink and wonder about its provenance and whether I can change how I buy it. I know right now I’m not going to give up coffee so am I buying the most ethical I can and I am supporting a local roasters.


It seems easy on the face of it but I think it’s going to be quite hard, but I’m enjoying thinking about how to be more local in my choices. I’ll be blogging about how I’m getting on so come back to find out more. Wish me luck!