Friday, 19 September 2008

Cooking with Lapsang Souchong and Earl Grey

A while ago I posted about some Lapsang Souchong that I’d bought and found a bit difficult to drink, but that I intended to use it in some cooking (see the original post here). Shortly after that my husband and I tried out the Black Bean Soft Tacos (one of the recipes I found which uses Lapsang) but I kept forgetting to mention it here. We did take some photos, but unfortunately they turned out a bit blurry and rubbish, so I won’t post them (I do wish I had more skills of a photographer).

Anyway, we made the tacos and I really quite enjoyed them. They were extremely easy and quick to make (almost always a bonus in my book) and the pineapple salsa that accompanied them was delightful – really fresh and zesty. The recipe called for canned black beans, but as I had some dried ones at home I soaked and cooked them the regular way, then followed the recipe, which involved making up a strong brew of Lapsang Souchong and cooking – well, heating/steeping really I suppose - the beans in that.

This resulted in a lovely subtle smoky flavour to the beans – it wasn’t overpowering at all. I wouldn’t have minded if it had been a bit stronger, either – if you happen to have some chipotles (dried smoked jalapenos) lying around, as my husband naturally does (!), you could chuck one of those in there as well to add a bit of extra smoke and spice.

The recipe was very low in fat because the beans were just cooked in water – I think it would also work quite well though if you cooked the onion (and chipotle) with some olive oil and maybe some garlic as well to make the flavours a little stronger before you add the beans and the tea. Overall I thought it was great and I intend to make it again and experiment with it a bit.

A while ago when we had a bunch of people over for dinner, we made Nigella Lawson’s recipe for tea-soaked prunes, which she recommends serving with either custard or crème brulee (urgh), but which we served with ice cream and amaretti biscuits. The recipe for these prunes comes from Nigella’s book How to Eat, and involves turning some strong Earl Grey tea into a syrup with orange peel, spices, brown sugar and marsala, then steeping the prunes in it for a couple of days (or more). It is very simple, and absolutely delicious, whether as a dessert or for breakfast (I had some for both, I confess).

Because of the strong flavours mixed with it, I found it a little hard to detect the presence of the Earl Grey per se (a Twinings’ loose leaf from the supermarket, though the recipe itself called for teabags – shame, Nigella!). Consequently I am interested to try a recipe which my husband found in a slow-food book (whose name I can’t recall), which involves sticking the prunes in a jar, adding a couple of Earl Grey tea bags and a couple of strips of lemon zest, and pouring boiling water over to cover. Then you seal it and let it sit for a couple of weeks. I think that this method would let the flavour of the tea shine through a bit more. All I need is a decent jar to try making it in…

Also speaking of Earl Grey, earlier in the week I had a pot in conjunction with a piece of a particularly nice chocolate cake that I made – now Earl Grey and chocolate is a really good combination, I highly recommend it, indeed.

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