By Shawny Ross
When I was a little girl, I used to watch my grandmother in her farm kitchen cook all day long for the hardworking men on the farm. An adventurous cook she was not. A grandma and teacher, she was. I learned many of the fundamentals of cooking from her, as she allowed me to watch and participate in the kitchen however I wished.
I guess I am still that same little girl learning and playing in the kitchen. I am very well-known at home for never following a recipe. I have heard countless times Prince Edward Island's Chef Michael Smith admonish “make it your own.”
For the first 20 years of my life, I lived as a fully-sighted individual; for the last 23 years of my life, I have lived with vision loss. Once, drawing was my creative outlet, but now I find myself with a blank canvas in the kitchen. In the last few years, I have enjoyed a new medium to experiment with, and that is Lady Baker’s loose leaf teas.
I have always been a tea drinker, starting with the pot on the wood stove in Grandma's farm kitchen. For the 10 years that I have lived on Prince Edward Island, I have been a fan of Lady Baker’s Tea. Never did I think there could be anything more to tea than the ceremony of brewing and drinking the satisfying hot beverage. But I began researching the many dimensions of the Camellia Sinensis plant and found it an intriguing subject! The whole idea of using tea in savoury ways of course, caught my attention. That got the wheels spinning in my head! How could I take all those wonderful varieties and flavours of tea and make them consumable in a way that wasn't solely drinking from a cup?
The tea I use most often in my everyday cooking is Lady Baker's own blend called Russian Caravan. If you desire a complex, smoky flavour in one of your dishes, this is the go-to tea for you! I use it in everything from baked beans, to marinades and sauces. Many of the dishes I make call for liquid smoke but I find its flavour quite distasteful and artificial. One day in the kitchen, with no Liquid Smoke on hand, it dawned on me that the leaves from the jar of Russian Caravan could become a liquid smoke… and so started my experimentation in the kitchen with tea!
The next time you look into your tea cupboard think outside the tea box. What else could you do with those well-crafted leaves of tea? Could you infuse the flavour of a particular tea into your next custard or truffle base? Could you infuse your favourite olive oil in the next salad dressing? Could you steep a flavoured tea and use it instead of water called for in a recipe? How about flavouring your next soup base? The opportuni-teas are endless!
To help you on your culinary journey with tea, here is a quick and easy Fajita Marinade. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does.
¼ cup Lime Juice
1/3 cup steeped Russian Caravan (brew 1tsp. per cup water for 5 minutes)
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
4 Cloves Garlic; crushed
2 tsp. Soya Sauce*
½ tsp. Cayenne Pepper (or less)
1 tsp. Dried Cumin; ground
1 tsp. Dried Coriander; ground
½ tsp. Black Pepper; ground
Meat of choice
*To make the recipe entirely gluten-free, Braggs can be substituted for soya sauce.
- Mix together all of the above ingredients.
- Place desired meat in the resealable bag (or any dish or container with a lid), add the marinade, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight, turning or mixing occasionally.
- Grill or broil meat to desired taste, basting occasionally with marinade.
So, whether it's Matcha in cookies, Vanilla Almond Rooibos in Poached Pears, or Chocolate Mint in your next ice cream sauce, don't hesitate! Give tea a chance! Merry Christmas from the Ross household!