Ask Peter: Cooking with green tea
I’ve been reading about the health benefits of green tea and I would love to introduce it into my cooking. I’ve seen many rice recipes using green tea, but can you recommend any other interesting ways to incorporate it?
Funnily enough I’ve been thinking a lot about green tea of late, because a shipment of three delicious Zealong teas grown near Hamilton — green, oolong and black — has arrived in London and we’ll soon be putting it on our menu at The Providores. It’s a product New Zealand should be proud of, seeing as it’s the only commercially grown tea from New Zealand, and it picked up a coveted Great Taste Award in the UK recently.
Also, we are selling a very popular matcha doughnut at Crosstown — a business Ico-founded in London that is redefining what doughnuts should be. Our doughnut even managed to get a full page spread in Mens’ Health magazine in the UK due to the fact that matcha (green tea powder) has many health benefits — which clearly must outweigh the deep-fried dough and icing sugar!
Anyway, I’m a sucker for green tea and the more we include it in our diets the better I say. I never pour boiling water on to my green tea, I always turn the kettle off just before it comes to the boil, and I add a tablespoon of cold tap water to the cup first— I find boiling water makes the tea become a little too bitter for my liking.
As for uses other than just drinking it, it is a fairly versatile flavour. Green tea can come in both leaf form (such as Zealong) or as a powder. In Japan I’ve had the most delicious matchacino made from fresh slightly sweetened soy milk frothed up under a steamer with powdered matcha to produce a fabulously emerald Shrek-looking cappuccino.
Based on that experience I’ve since made panna cotta flavoured with green tea —adding it to the barely simmering milk and cream and leaving it to infuse before straining out. If you leaveit in too long it can become a little too bitter. I’ve also made great icecream, adding powdered matcha to the icecream base once it’s cooled — which allows you to add a lot more in order to get a great green colour.
If you only have the leaves, you can, of course, grind them up in a spice mill, or use a mortar and pestle, which mean you can use less than if you were using whole leaves as more flavour will be “steeped” out into your mixture. I find matcha goes really well with vanilla, and also ginger and cinnamon if used in smaller quantities.
If you’re making a smoothie, a good teaspoon of powdered matcha is a good way to have this healthy antioxidant. In savoury food it becomes a little trickier as there tend to be more flavours in a savoury dish than a dessert such as panna cotta or icecream, and to notice the tea you have to add a lot, which can begin to overpower more delicate flavours.
However, it works well with rice and pasta dishes. Because I don’t like to boil green tea, I add it to rice halfway through cooking it. Rinse your rice well and place in a saucepan with the smallest pinch of salt and water — depending on whether you’re using short or long grain rice, the amount of water you’ll need will vary.
Place a lid on the pan and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. After 5 minutes take the lid off and quickly sprinkle the tea (allow 1 tsp powdered tea or 1 Tbsp whole leaves per 250g rice) on top and stir in. Put the lid back on and cook another 5-8 minutes (the rice should just be al dente) then turn the heat off and leave to cool completely.
If adding to a pasta dish — perhaps sliced roast pumpkin mixed with creme fraiche, chopped hazelnuts and pappardelle, or shredded roast chicken mixed with linguine, crumbled feta and coarsely chopped steamed broccoli — sprinkle it in almost at the end, just before you season the dish. Depending on which tea you use, the quantity will vary a little.
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to [email protected] and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.