Something that originated as an English-breakfast item —- tea & coffee -is now a part of global cuisine.——– COFFEE, for one, has long been a part of the world of desserts. If you dig into a rich brownie or a sinful chocolate cake ——– most likely, the secret ingredient used in the recipe would be coffee. On the other hand, TEA has a more savoury association with food. As Mumbai-based chef Rajesh D’Silva, puts it, “Using the humble tea leaf as an ingredient is not new — think of the Japanese OCHAZUKE (tea soup) that uses green tea as a broth or the Irish favourite, BARM BRACK (yeasted bread with added sultanas and raisins and served with butter) that uses black tea instead of other baking liquids.” What’s new is, how more and more cuisines worldwide are willing to experiment with the exotic flavours and earthy aromas these beverages impart to any ordinary dish.
The flavour imparted by the beverage is rather mild : therefore, one may not notice it immediately. But given time to savour it, the essence reflects conspicuously. Beyond that, these brews often serve as meat tenderises or simply as broth to poach vegetables. Says celebrity chef Vikas Khanna, “Just like wine, both tea and coffee tend to blend in with other elements in the dish, adding an intricate, fresh nuance to your ordinary meal. In addition, they also retain many of their essential vitamins and antioxidants, which make them a healthy choice.”
Discovering new flavours and inventing new techniques is an ever-evolving art form. As Delhi-based chef Diwas Wadhera says, “It’s alright to make a few mistakes before you hit the right chord with your palate. Unless you experiment with ingredients as different as chalk and cheese, and examine the upshot, you will never know if they work or not.”
(1) TEA-SMOKED CHICKEN : —- 1tbsp peppercorns; 1 chicken (whole with skin on); 2 and a half tsp coarse salt; 10gm loose tea; 2tbsp brown sugar; 2tbsp Asian sesame oil.—–METHOD ; — Toast peppercorns in a small skillet for five minutes, shaking pan to avoid burning. Let them cool down, and then crush them with a spice grinder and grind in the salt. Rub peppercorn mixture on the inside and outside of the chicken and place it (breast side up) in a large steamer set over boiling water. Cook for 25mins or until chicken is just cooked. Meanwhile, prepare the wok for smoking —- cover the inside of wok and the lid with aluminium foil. Add tea and brown sugar to wok and combine. Place a rack inside, and put the chicken on it, breast side up. Place covered wok over high heat and cook chicken for about 6mins. Flip chicken and smoke for another 6mins. remove chicken from heat and let it sit, covered, for 15mins. Brush chicken lightly with oil. Slice and serve.
(2) COFFEE RISOTTO : —- 30gm Arborio rice; 50gm mushroom; 1tbsp Olive oil; 1tbsp chopped garlic; 150ml Robusta or filter coffee liquor; 20ml fresh cream; 1tbsp butter; 20gm Parmesan cheese; salt and black pepper to taste. ——- METHOD : —– Heat Olive oil in a non-stick pan, sauté chopped garlic and mushrooms for a while, then add Arborio rice to it. Add the coffee stock and cook it gently, till the rice turns tender. Once the rice is cooked, add cream, butter and Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle some coarse black pepper and garlic shavings on top and serve hot in a deep dish.