Tea isn’t just for drinking – you can do so much more with them. Here are ways to use tea leaves in your recipes
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Nothing says morning better than a hot cup of chai. However, did you know that you could have your chai from morning to night with these tea-tastic recipes? Yes, you read that right. When looked at with an open mind and palate, tea leaves can instantly up your cooking game. Who says tea leaves can only be brewed? So put on your chef's hat and get cooking!

Burmese Tea Leaf Salad

What you need

1/2 cup loose leaf green tea (The Tea Shelf Virgin Green Tea is used in the recipe, however, any green tea could be used. Make sure you opt for one without dyes and bigger leaves)

3 cloves garlic

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2 tbsps finely diced ginger

1/2 shallot

1 tbsps sesame oil

2 tbsps vegetable oil

3 tbsps lemon juice

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2 tbsps white vinegar

2 tbsps fish sauce

1 tsp salt

For the salad

2 handfuls romaine lettuce, sliced

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1/2 cup peanuts, toasted

1/4 cup sesame seeds (scant), toasted

1/4 cup sunflower seeds (scant), toasted

1/4 cup toasted toor dal (or any other lentil of your choice)

4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

Vegetable oil, for frying garlic

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Let's get started

For the dressing

1. Prep your tea leaves at least one day in advance. Place the loose leaves into a medium bowl. Pour boiling water over the leaves and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain and rinse with cool water. Pick through the unfurled leaves and discard any obvious twigs or woody stems.

2. Return to the bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit for at least an hour. Drain again and rinse.

3. Squeeze out the tea leaves to get rid of excess water. Place the leaves into your food processor or blender.

4. Next, add in the garlic, ginger, shallot, sesame oil, vegetable oil, lemon juice, vinegar, fish sauce, and salt.

5. Blend until the mixture is similar to the texture of pesto. You may need to scrape down the sides of your processor a few times.

6. Pour the mixture into a storage container and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.

Tip: The dressing tends to taste best after two to three days of refrigeration.

For the Salad

1. To prepare the salad, start by frying the garlic. Pour about 3/4 cup vegetable oil in a cast iron or a 10-inch frying pan. Next, place the sliced garlic into the cold oil. Turn the heat to medium-low and fry until the garlic turns slightly light brown in colour. Remove with a slotted spatula and transfer to a paper towel to drain.

2. To assemble, mound your lettuce on a serving plate. Pour your crunchy toppings and fried garlic around the lettuce.

3. Place 3 tablespoons of the tea leaves in the centre of the salad.

4. Just before serving, squeeze one lemon wedge over the entire salad and toss all the ingredients together; mix well to coat with the tea leaves.

5. Serve immediately with extra lemon.

Chai Panna Cotta


What you need

3 cardamom pods, bruised

2 cm piece ginger, peeled and grated

2 chai and vanilla tea bags

1/2 cup boiling water

1 litre buttermilk

3/4 cup castor sugar

1/4 tsp cinnamon, ground

1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

1 tbsp gelatin, powdered

1/4 cup pistachio kernels, choppe

1 tbsp orange zest

Let's get started

1. Place the cardamom, ginger and tea bags in a heatproof jug. Add 1/3 cup boiling water. Set aside for 30 minutes and let infuse.

2. Next, strain the mixture into a bowl. Discard the cardamom, ginger and tea bags.

3. Place the buttermilk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and tea mixture in a saucepan over low heat. Cook while stirring continuously for 3 to 4 minutes or until the sugar has completely dissolved and buttermilk is just warmed through. Remove from heat.

4. Place the remaining boiling water in a heatproof bowl. Sprinkle over the gelatine. Whisk to dissolve. Add gelatine mixture to the buttermilk mixture and continue stirring constantly until combined. Pour into eight 200ml-capacity glasses. Refrigerate for around 4 hours or until set.

5. Divide pistachios and orange rind between glasses. Serve.

Vanilla Chai Cheesecake Bars

Ingredients

For the crust:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup all-purpose flour

For the cheesecake batter:

16 ounces cream cheese room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup sour cream (or you can substitute with heavy cream)

3 large eggs

2 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

1 - 1 1/2 tsp chai seasoning or same amount of an open bag of un-brewed chai tea

Let's get started 

For the crust:

1. Line a 9x9" pan (or 8x8) with parchment paper. Next, spray lightly with cooking spray and set aside.

2. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 148°C.

3. In a mixing bowl, stir together the melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and cinnamon. Stir in the flour and mix until thoroughly combined.

4. Bake for around 15 minutes and set aside to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.

5. Change the oven temperature to 162°C.

For the filling:

1. In a mixing bowl, add the cream cheese and sugar and with the help of a handheld mixer, beat until smooth.

2. Add in the remaining ingredients and beat until combined, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl.

3. Pour the filling onto the crust, and then carefully jiggle the pan very slightly to get the filling in a nice even layer.

5. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes or until the filling is set, but soft in the centre. The easiest way to tell if it's done is to insert an instant-read thermometer into the filling about an inch from the sides. It should read about 180 when done.

6. Cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

7. Before serving, sprinkle with a little ground cinnamon powder, if desired.

Chamomile Green Salad Dressing


Ingredients

1/2 cup brewed Chamomile Green Tea

2 tbsp lemon juice

3 tsp balsamic vinegar

1tsp olive oil

1 tsp tahini

1/4 tsp mustard sauce

1/4 tsp honey

Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

1. Whisk together the above mentioned ingredients and serve on top of your favourite greens.

Tip: Unlike other green teas which are steamed, Hojicha from Japan is a roasted green tea with a nutty flavour. The next time you make cookies, grind 2 to 3 spoons of Hojicha Dark Assam Green tea into a fine powder and add it to the flour. This helps add a nice roasted, nutty flavour to your cookies. 


Images: Shutterstock

Recipe courtesy: The Tea Shelf 

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