Cooking with tea workshop
Having a cuppa is an integral part of British life, so most people have tea in their kitchen – but have you thought of using it as an ingredient? Skye Gyngell shows delicious. mag’s Sharon Campbell how to cook with tea.
Indian tea is most commonly drunk in Britain – think your classic cup of builder’s – while flavouring and smoking foods with tea is common in China where light green or white tea is used; an ancient tradition that is slowly becoming more prevalent in the UK.
Despite being an adventurous cook, I must admit cooking with tea has never been something I had thought about, until I headed to Skye Gyngell’s Cooking with Tea workshop at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, Surrey.
The workshop was held in one of the beautiful greenhouses and began with an informative introduction by Jennifer Wood, founder of the
. She described the best way to brew green tea, as well as introducing the various teas we would taste. These would accompany the three-course tasting menu Skye and her team had prepared; all dishes were soaked, smoked or infused with either Chinese or Indian teas.
Skye, the famed head chef at Petersham Nurseries, talked us through the tasting menu, describing how she cooked the dishes and giving advice on how we could recreate them at home.
First was an Asian-style dish of tea-smoked quail on carrot and cucumber (pictured, top) with a light sweet and sour sauce. The quail, smoked with a mix of Lapsang, Earl Grey and Gunpowder tea, was smoky and moist but also sticky – almost like it had been finished off on a barbecue. To accompany it was a taster of Pouchong; a light, refreshing green tea which complemented, but did not overshadow, the delicate quail.
Cheese and tea-soaked prunes
Next to be served was a cheese plate of Brillat Savarin, Ossau and Tipico, with tea-soaked Agen prunes. The prunes were soaked in warm tea – a mixture of English Breakfast and Earl Grey – and chilled for two weeks. The result was truly fantastic when paired with the carefully chosen cheeses; all began with a fairly mellow flavour that then strengthened with the rich prunes. An authentic jasmine pearl tea accompanied it. Jennifer explained that many so-called jasmine teas are artificially scented with perfume; we were lucky enough to taste the real thing – silver needle white tea, rolled by hand and infused with jasmine blossom over several days. The result was a beautifully fragrant tea that captured the scent of the jasmine without overwhelming the taste of the silver needle.
To finish, we had a sorbet with Earl Grey and English Breakfast tea: it was simply made by making a pot of sweet tea and putting it through an ice cream maker. The result was sweet and very creamy (despite not having any dairy in it), with a strong but pleasant taste of black tea. A smoky Puerh was served alongside the dish, which was not to everyone’s liking because of its strong earthy flavour.
Skye in action
Overall, although this was a tasting and talk rather than hands-on cooking, it was a fantastic introduction to not only cooking with tea, but to Chinese tea as a whole. It was also a great opportunity to get cooking tips and food ideas from Skye Gyngell – she was very approachable and more than happy to give tips and suggest alternatives to the dishes she had created to enable us to recreate them at home. Her enthusiasm and passion for the ingredients she used was infectious.
Whereas tea used to be my daily morning pick-me-up and nothing else, it is now an exciting ingredient that can add a new dimension to a variety of dishes.
This was the first food-related workshop at Petersham Nurseries, with more planned over the coming months.
To find out when the next tea tasting workshop is visit the