Monday, November 25, 2013

Yes Chef: Green Tea Chicken and Veggie Soup.

This is a very typical soup other than the addition of tea. Really, there is nothing to this. It’s quick and easy. Just grab some veggies, a protein, and heat them in some tea-infused water. I just used what I happened to have in my fridge at the moment.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups of water 
  • 4 tablespoons of Sencha green tea
  • 1 cup frozen shelled edamame 
  • 3 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 red radishes, sliced
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 2 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, shredded 
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Chili pepper flakes to taste
  • Black pepper to taste

My chosen veggies!


Sliced and ready to go!


Green tea and a side of chicken.

Process:

  • Infuse the green tea in the water for about 15 – 20 minutes. Can’t remember how to brew Sencha? Check out my Sensational Sencha post. However, there is no need to worry about water temperature or brew time in this case. We’re cooking here!  I just used a large teapot with a built-in filter.
  • Pour the infused tea and chicken stock into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer.
  • Add all the veggies, salt, and both peppers, and cook for about five minutes.
  • Add the shredded chicken breasts and heat for a couple of minutes. 

Tea infusion.


Time to get cookin'!


Enjoy with some bread!


The final product.  Yum!

Cooking Tips: 
  • Place the chicken breasts in a pan with a few inches of water just enough to cover the portions. Poach for 20 minutes. Allow chicken to cool-down and then shred with your fingers or use a couple of forks. 
  • To save time, use some leftover roasted chicken instead which is what I did. It’s a great way to use up leftovers and create a completely new meal.  Woo-hoo!

Options: 
  • Use another green tea instead of Sencha or use green tea bags. 
  • Any veggie will do. Feel free to use green peas, red or green cabbage, celery, another type of mushroom, along with any combination of the veggies listed in this recipe. 
  • Try another protein like shrimp, turkey, and even tofu. 
  • Add soba noodles, brown rice, or rotini pasta for some carbs. 

I think the broth is the best part! It almost tastes like a miso soup and you can really detect the tea. It was soothing and perfect to cozy up to on a cold day.



Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Tea Spot: I had High Tea with Donald Trump!

Okay, “The Donald” did not show-up! I think he would make a very interesting conversation over tea, no? Give me all his trade secrets on real estate investments while we munch on overpriced finger sandwiches and sip tea. Occasionally he would shoot me a stern look and point an accusatory finger at me when he's giving me the lowdown on something very conniving while I think up of ways on how to remove that rug off his thick skull! (Back to Earth now!)  For high tea this month, a group of us headed to Stock Restaurant Bar & Lounge located at The Trump International Hotel & Tower

Christmas in the Lobby!


Stock Logo


Apparently Stock does not normally do high tea events. Our organizer-extraordinaire, Lisa, pulled a few strings, and so we became their guinea pigs. Our table was set-up as a conference style square, in a poorly lit room with a great view of the city. The menu was fantastic with an abundant selection. It was a departure from what you normally get at high tea which I thought was a refreshing change!

Scones and Croissants


It consisted of the following:
  • Roasted Portobello and goat cheese wraps with charred peppers, arugula, and cured lemon aioli 
  • Smoked salmon on bagels with cream cheese, capers, and sliced red onions 
  • Roasted turkey breast with avocado, asiago cheese, spinach, and honey mustard 
  • Peppered roast beef, Canadian cheddar, and caramelized onions 
  • An assortment of fruit-filled scones along with cream cheese and preserves 
  • An assortment of fruit-filled turnovers 
  • Plain, flaky, buttery croissants 
  • Chocolate and buttercream mini-cupcakes with chocolate decorations 
  • Powered-chocolate and coconut-crunch truffles

Smoked Salmon

For tea, I opted for the Vanilla Orchard Yunnan Black Tea by Forté. This is loose-leaf tea provided in pyramidal tea bags. I wrote about these bags in a previous post, The Accidental Teabagger! It's a divine black tea with Madagascar vanilla and hints of coconut. I loved it mainly because I'm a huge coconut freak! However, I did expect that a place with Trump’s name on it to offer actual loose-leaf tea properly prepared with all the gadgets that go along with a high tea. Forté is great though, so not an issue!


Norm, a fellow globetrotter and tea lover!


Forté Tea

As great as the food spread was, the event had its hiccups. I thought the sandwiches were way too thick! They are supposed to be finger sandwiches, not manwiches! As well, they were very stale. The longer they remained on their trays, the drier they got. After a while they were so rock-hard that you could easily use them as paperweights. One of my table companions even joked that they could be used as “weapons”! Even the bagels used for the salmon were thick, and really, you don't want all that bread for something so light and delicate like smoked salmon.

Turkey manwich weapon!

The mushroom wraps were delicious, but again, a smaller portion would have sufficed. The scones were not bad, but I found them too crumbly. They broke too easily with your fingers, and to pair it with Philadelphia brick style, cream cheese, made it even worse! Not good. Stick with the clotted-cream, please! The desserts were good. Not too sweet and a perfect bite-sized portion.

Yummy Mini-cupcakes!


Even yummier truffles!


The service could have been better. The staff was great, but the logistics was terrible. There didn't seem to be enough of each food item for everyone at the tables. One side of the room didn't receive any cupcakes and additional scones were offered at the end of the whole sitting. Trays were being moved around from place to place so that each person could get their share. It would have been better if more platters were used and distributed evenly across the tables, that way no one would have to stretch over others to take something or scream over each other to pass something over.

As always, hanging out with friends for interesting conversation and laughter is what makes the whole experience most pleasurable. I would definitely head back to Stock if they make tea events a regular part of their service and only if they've worked out all the kinks to proper tea servicing. Otherwise, Mr. Trump, you're fired!


Norm and his thoughts on the 20% tip!




Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tea and an e-book!

Recently, a fellow Tea Sommelier, Carol, held a casual noontime party to launch her new e-book on cooking with tea. This e-book focuses on the use of teas that people typically already have and drink at home such as Earl Grey and Assam. The gathering was held at Organic Boutique, a gourmet food store.  Unfortunately, this shop does not have a website.

The food samples were a feast for the eyes and stomach! It included the following:

  • Lentil, Pepper, and Anise Spread with smoked tea
  • Vegetable and Lamb Dumplings with semi-oxidized Yunnan Tea 
  • Lavender Earl Grey Truffles 
  • Earl Grey Orange Sunrise Cocktail
  • Assam Lychee Cocktail


Creamy Lentil Spread

Earl Grey Orange Sunrise Cocktail

Lavender Earl Grey Truffles

The dumplings had a nice spicy kick to them. The lentil spread was smooth and creamy with a sweet pepper base. The truffles were rich and delectable. Not too sweet and you could really detect the tea and lavender. The cocktails were very refreshing and something that could really be enjoyed during summer backyard parties.

Carol does quite a few of these pop-up tea events held at different venues from bookstores to art studios which I think is awesome! If you’re interested in her tea e-book or learning more about her events, check out her tea website, The Love Of Tea.

Looking forward to the next event!



Thursday, November 7, 2013

My Cuppa: Sensational Sencha!

One of my favourite teas is Sencha. This is a green tea most popular in Japan which accounts for 80% of the tea produced there. I love the aroma of Sencha, which is sweet and grassy. Something you would not normally think of for tea.

Harvesting tea leaves for Sencha usually occurs around April or May. Once plucked, the leaves are steamed in order to prevent them from oxidizing. This also gives the leaves their bright, green colour, and strong, sweet aroma. How long the leaves are steamed will depend on the manufacturer. A light steaming will result in a stronger aroma and lighter, pale green liquor, whereas a longer steaming will result in a lighter aroma, but deeper green liquor. Following the steaming process, the leaves are cooled-down to room temperature. Then, they are pressed and even exposed to hot air to remove some moisture. The leaves then go through a mechanical process of rolling and twisting. Additional drying may also be applied to reduce moisture. This rolling and drying process might occur a few times until Sencha’s characteristic appearance of thin grass-like needles is achieved. After a final drying, the leaves are sorted, weighed, and ready for distribution.


Dry Sencha

To prepare Sencha, use a small vessel with a capacity of about 250 ml of water. A Japanese teapot called a kyusu is most appropriate, but if you're like me and don't have this fine tool, use any small teapot you have. I have tiny glass teapot with a built-in filter that works perfectly well for me, but it is best to pour the tea leaves directly into the teapot to provide sufficient room and allow better expansion of the leaves. A sieve can then be used to separate the leaves when pouring the liquor into cups though the spout may become clogged with the leaves. 

Kyusu


My mini-teapot


For optimal flavour and aroma of Sencha, I usually follow the steps below which are pretty much what you’ll find online: 

1.   Bring water to a full boil. This will be approximately 90-100 degrees Celsius.

2.   Pour some of the boiled water into your vessel and drain. This will warm up the teapot.

3.   Pour some of the boiled water into your tea cups and drain. This will warm up the cups.

4.   Allow the water to cool down to 70-80 degrees Celsius. This is a good temperature for Sencha.

5.   Scoop about 2 tablespoons of Sencha into your teapot.

Scooped Sencha

6.   Pour the now cooled water over the leaves. Amount of water should be about 250 ml.

7.   Infuse for about 1 - 1 ½ minutes. No longer than 2 minutes as this will result in a bitter brew.

Infusion

8.   Pour a little tea into your cups alternating from one another until each cup is full. If you have 3 cups to fill, start with 1, 2, 3, then 3, 2, 1, and starting with cup 1 again until all cups are full. This will provide even distribution of flavour and strength. You don't want to leave any water behind otherwise the tea remaining will continue to brew. If you have a filter like I do, none of this is an issue. Just remove the filter and pour away.

Filter removal


Tea pouring

9.   Your tea is ready for drinking.  Woo-hoo!

Sencha goodness

10.   Don't discard the leaves yet! You can do additional infusions. You may need to brew it longer with each new infusion or use a higher temperature of water along with a shorter brew time until all flavour and aroma have disappeared. In my experience, 4 infusions work out well with this amount of tea.

Infused leaves

The aroma and flavour is wonderful! Sencha has a grassy aroma. Seaweed, spinach, and rapini are other scents I get. Everyone has their own unique senses though, and so you may detect entirely different aromas. The liquor is a golden, pale green. It’s a fairly clear tea, but you may get some specks of the leaves poured out as well, and that’s okay! The taste is a fine balance of natural sweetness and astringency. I do get flavours of spinach or broccoli. I always joke about how I’d love the take the leaves and sauté them with garlic, olive oil, and butter! Yum!

I love Vimeo, which is a video sharing site. During my tea research, I found a beautiful film on handmade Sencha. The video is about 7 minutes long, but worth watching. Credits are within the movie. Make yourself a pot of Sencha, sit back and enjoy the video!



video
Handmade Sencha