I enjoy a cup of tea in the morning – and in the afternoon and evening, too. Luckily for me, the UK is a tea-drinking nation and my habit is matched by many here. I’m sure we can agree that there’s not much a good cuppa won’t fix, or at least soothe. Then there’s tea as an ingredient – when added to marinades, butters, glazes and beyond, it has a wondrous capacity to bring herbal, grassy, sweet or earthy notes. So, my fellow tea-drinkers, here are just a few ways to consume (even more) tea.
Grilled manouri with camomile honey, spinach tapenade and smoked almonds (pictured top)
Manouri is a mild yet creamy Greek cheese that’s less savory than halloumi and less sharp than feta. It colors perfectly in a hot pan or on a barbecue and, like most sheep and goat’s cheese, loves being paired with good honey. If you can’t get hold of manouri, use ricotta instead, and skip the frying stage. When buying camomile tea, look for bigger buds and leaves, rather than the finer powder, because these will retain more of their flavor.
Prep 10 minutes
cooking 30 mins
serves 4 as a starter or part of a meze
1 tbsp olive oil
340g manurisliced into 2cm-thick half-moons
½ tsp flaked sea salt
For the chamomile honey
75ml runny honey
2 tbsp olive oil
2 chamomile teabagsbuds removed and crushed to a powder in a mortar (I use Teapigs)
salt and black pepper
1 lemonzest finely grated, to get 1½ tsp, then juiced, to get 2 tsp
For the spinach tapenade
3 tbsp olive oil
300g baby spinach
salt and black pepper
1 spring oniontrimmed and roughly chopped (15g)
2 tsp red wine vinegar
25g pitted green olives (I use nocellara)
2 tbsp smoked almondsroughly chopped
For the camomile honey, put the honey, oil, camomile, an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper in a small pan on a medium-low heat and warm gently for two minutes, to infuse and loosen. Off the heat, stir in the lemon zest, then pour into a bowl and set aside.
For the spinach tapenade, put two tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Add two-thirds of the spinach and fry for 20 minutes, stirring frequently to scrape off any spinach catching on the pan. Add another tablespoon of oil at the 10-minute mark, and keep cooking until all of the moisture has been removed and the spinach is deep green and looks like seaweed.
Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and have ready a bowl of ice-cold water. Ad a tablespoon of salt to the boiling water, blanch the remaining 100g spinach for 15 seconds, then lift out with a slotted spoon and plunge into the ice-cold water to stop it cooking any further. Once cool, remove from the cold water and squeeze to remove any excess liquid.
Put both the blanched and fried spinach in a food processor with the spring onion, vinegar, olives, an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and pulse to a coarse paste. Transfer to a small saucepan and keep warm.
Meanwhile, put a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high heat, then sear the manouri for about 90 seconds on each side, to caramelise and heat through.
To assemble, spread the warm tapenade on a platter (or four individual plates). Put the manouri on top and sprinkle with the flaked sea salt, a good grind of pepper and the lemon juice. Finally, spoon over the camomile honey and the almonds, and serve warm.
Green tea lamb cutlets with crunchy cucumber
The earthy, grassy taste of green tea is wonderful in rubs and marinades. If you marinate overnight, the tannins in the tea tenderize the meat and improve its texture once it’s cooked. Feel free to experiment with other red meat as well as fish, if you like.
Prep 25 mins
marinade 1 hourr or overnight
cooking 15 mins
For the lamb
6 tsp sencha tea leaves, or other loose green tea
1 tbsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp black peppercorns
1½ tsp aleppo chilli, plus ¼ tsp for sprinklers
Flaked sea salt
800g bone-in lamb cutlets (about 10), trimmed of excess fat, if you prefer
70ml olive oil
For the green tea butter
75g unsalted butter
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp sencha tea leaves, or other loose green tea
For the salad
400g Persian or baby cucumbers, cut into 5mm-thick rounds
20g mint leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons)
First make the marinade. Put the tea, spices and one and a quarter teaspoons of salt in a mortar and crush until almost fine. Put the lamb on a tray, rub with one and a half tablespoons of oil, then massage the green tea mix in, coating the cutlets all over. Set aside to marinate at room temperature for at least an hour, or in the fridge overnight.
Meanwhile, make the green tea butter. Put the butter, oil, tea and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan and melt over medium heat for three to five minutes, until gently bubbling. Set aside to infuse for 10 minutes. Put the butter back on the heat if it needs to be melted again, then pass through a fine sieve set over a bowl. Press down on the tea leaves to extract as much butter as possible, then discard the tea leaves. Return the strained butter to the pan and set aside.
To make the salad, mix the cucumber with a quarter-teaspoon of salt and put in a sieve set over a medium bowl for about 30 minutes. When ready to serve, discard the liquid, then mix the strained cucumber in a bowl with the mint, oil, lemon juice and a quarter-teaspoon of salt.
Put one and a half tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan set over a medium-high heat and, once hot, add five of the chops and cook for three minutes on each side, or until nicely browned. (Cook for more or less time depending on your preference.) Transfer to a tray to rest, wipe the pan clean and repeat with the remaining oil and cutlets.
Once the meat has rested, arrange the lamb on a platter, reheat the butter and drizzle over. Sprinkle the remaining quarter-teaspoon of aleppo chilli and a quarter-teaspoon of salt on top, and serve hot with the cucumber salad alongside.
Rooibos-glazed fritters with aniseed
The star here is the spiced rooibos syrup, which you’ll want to drizzle on everything from ice-cream and yogurt to your morning porridge. Get ahead by making the syrup up to three days before. The fritters are best eaten warm, soon after you make them. If you can’t find aniseed, cardamom and fennel seeds make very good replacements.
Prep 15 mins
Rest 1 hourr
cooking 25 mins
For the beater
¾ tsp fast-action yeast
1½ tbsp caster sugar
95g plain flour
20g fine semolina
1½ tsp olive oil
½ tsp flaked sea salt
500ml sunflower oil, for frying
¾ tsp aniseedlightly crushed in a mortar
For the syrup
3 tea bag rooibos
1 tbsp runny honey
1 orange3 finely shaved strips of peel removed, then juiced, to get 45ml
1 lemon3 finely shaved strips of peel removed, then juiced, to get 1 tsp
130g caster sugar
20g gingerpeeled and sliced thinly
First, make the batter. Put the yeast, sugar, flour, semolina, oil, 100ml lukewarm water and salt in a medium bowl, then whisk with a fork until you have a smooth batter. Cover with reusable kitchen wrap and put in a warm spot for an hour or more, until very bubbly and doubled in size.
Meanwhile, make the syrup. Put the teabags, honey, orange juice, the orange and lemon peel, sugar, ginger, 250ml water and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt in a small saucepan and set it over a medium-high heat. Cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mix has the consistency of a thin syrup. Off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and leave to cool and thicken slightly. Once cool, remove and discard the teabags and ginger, making sure to squeeze them of any syrup. Transfer the syrup to a large bowl and set aside.
To fry the fritters, put the sunflower oil in a medium high-sided saute pan on a medium-high heat. Stir the batter to deflate the mixture – you will have a thick batter that forms thick strands. Using a small ice-cream scoop or two small spoons, drop six to eight 1½cm to 2cm-diameter balls of the batter into the hot oil: they’ll sink immediately, then rise and puff up as they cook. Fry for two to three minutes, flipping them over halfway, so they brown evenly, then use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked fritters to a tray lined with absorbent paper. Repeat with the remaining batter – you should end up with about 24 fritters.
Once all the fritters are cooked, put them in the syrup bowl and stir gently to coat. Pile up the fritters in a large, shallow serving bowl, spoon over a tablespoon of the remaining syrup and sprinkle over the aniseed and flaked sea salt. Pour any extra syrup into a small serving bowl and serve alongside, for dipping.