Cooking with tea

You can use fancy teas to create elegant French dishes.

tea 311 (photo credit: Carrie Solomon)
tea 311
(photo credit: Carrie Solomon)
Everyone loves tea. In many cultures it is more popular than coffee. It appears that next to water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world.
Tea plants are native to East and South Asia, and although there are ancient tales of tea drinking, no one is sure of its exact origins. The first recorded drinking of tea was in China, with the earliest records dating back to the 10th century BCE.
Tea was imported to Europe during the Portuguese expansion in the 16th century, at which time it was called “chá.”
Le Palais des Thés, an elegant French tea store chain, was founded by François- Xavier Delmas in 1987, and last year a branch was opened on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street by Charles Peguine.
As you walk into the store, you enter a realm of sights and scents that transport you to exotic, faraway parts of the world. Offering more than 200 kinds of tea, the emporium also has a wide range of handmade Japanese and Chinese tea accessories, the ideal gifts for tea lovers. The team of professionals who work in the store are only too happy to advise and help clients choose from a wide selection of teas from China.
Tea can be used not only as a beverage but also to flavor and enrich dishes. The following recipes, inspired by the different aromas of the teas, were created by Sylvain Sendra, chef at the Itinéraires restaurant in Paris, in association with Carine Baudry, director of L’Ecole du Thé at Le Palais des Thés in Paris.
The recipes require some work – this is French cooking, after all – but the results are well worth the effort. Voila!
Accompany this dish with the tea used in the recipe (Sencha Ariake), which has a smooth texture that echoes the texture of the raw salmon. The pronounced iodine notes enhance the marine flavors of the salmon, softened by the sugar and zesty notes. Or serve with a Darjeeling, such as like the Puttabong DJ 36 first flush 2011. These black Indian teas come from the first plucking of the year. The young leaves have highly concentrated levels of tannins and aromas.
It is important to prepare the tea correctly (water temperature and infusion time) for the best results. Due to their strength, these teas can quickly develop too much astringency and bitterness. The floral, fresh fruit, citrus and vegetal notes of the tea will add a lovely richness to the dish. They will bring out the aromas of the candied peel and the fruity notes of the red onion and will make the salmon very smooth.
✔ 400 gr. high-quality salmon fillets✔ Juice of 2 limes ✔ Juice of 2 lemons ✔ 2 Tbsp. olive oil ✔ 100 gr. cream ✔ 1 red onion, finely chopped ✔ 50 gr. sugar ✔ 1 cucumber, diced ✔ 35 gr. Sencha Ariake Japanese green tea ✔ 2-3 radishes, sliced thinly ✔ a handful of coriander leaves for garnish
Cut the salmon into 0.5-cm cubes. Cut the cucumber into 0.5-cm. cubes. Add salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar to the salmon, along with the red onion, the cucumber, the juice of a lime and a lemon, and olive oil, and leave to marinate in the refrigerator.
Prepare the candied lemon peel. Remove the lemon and lime zest and cut into julienne
Place in a pan and fill with cold water so the peel is just covered. Bring to the boil, then discard this first lot of water to remove the bitterness of the citrus. Fill the pan with water again, add the sugar and simmer until the liquid has evaporated (around 35-40 minutes). The peel should be transparent.
To prepare the green tea emulsion: Bring cream to the boil, remove from heat, add the tea and cover. Leave to infuse for 1 minute. Taste, infuse for longer if you want a more intense flavor. Strain and boil again. Add salt and pepper, and process in a blender to obtain a light mousse.
To serve: Arrange salmon tartare on 4 to 6 plates or in glasses with the candied peel and slices of radish. Add 1-2 Tbsp, of the tea emulsion to each plate just before serving. Garnish with radish and coriander.
Serve with the same tea for a perfect pairing.
The tea’s fruity, floral, with honey and vanilla notes that will soften and sweeten the intense cocoa flavor of the tart.
For the pastry:
✔ 125 gr. butter cut into pieces ✔ 100 gr. icing sugar ✔ 250 gr. flour, sifted ✔ 1 egg ✔ 20 gr. cocoa powder ✔ Pinch of salt
For the ganache filling: ✔ 100 gr. Grand Wu Long Top Fancy tea ✔ 300 gr. single cream ✔ 100 gr. semi-skimmed milk ✔ 300 gr. 70% dark chocolate in pieces ✔ 2 leaves of gelatine
To prepare pastry: Cream the butter and icing sugar; add the egg, then the flour, cocoa powder and salt; blend well to obtain a soft, smooth dough. Chill for 1 to 2 hours in the refrigerator.
To prepare the ganache: Bring the cream and milk to the boil. Remove from heat and infuse the tea in it: either 30 gr. of tea for 4 minutes or 100 gr. of tea for just under 1 minute. Strain, then add the chocolate pieces. Whisk and add 2 leaves of gelatine that have been soaking in cold water.
Chef’s tip: For a lighter ganache, add two egg whites whisked to peaks when the mixture is almost cool.
Line a tart tin with the pastry and cover with baking parchment. Fill with rice, dried lentils or beans to prevent the pastry from rising. Bake blind on the bottom shelf of the oven for 15 minutes at 160°to 180°C. Remove from the oven. Remove the dried beans and baking parchment.
Fill with the ganache and return to oven with the heat turned off for 5 minutes. Remove and leave to cool at room temperature. ■
Charles Peguine also organizes tea workshops in Hebrew, English, French and soon in Russian. Le Palais des Thés, 131 Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv (03) 522-1317, Sunday – Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.