Monday, 30 December 2013

lavender green tea plum wine cocktail (serve hot or cold)

A cool lavender green tea plum wine, served on the rocks.

We're closing in on the end of another year and the beginning of a new one, yet again, and this means an alcoholic beverage recipe to mark the occasion, of course! In previous years, I've made ginger-lime-cider shandy, raspberry cucumber cocktail slushy, and spiked lemon-jasmine-banana smoothie.

This year, it's a very light and gentle plum wine cocktail, one that can be served hot or cold, so it doesn't matter whether you're in the Northern or Southern hemisphere - this is a drink for all seasons.

The inspiration for this drink stems from my trips to Japanese restaurants, where I've occasionally seen plum wine and green tea combinations, or ocha-wari, on the menu. For some reason I've never gotten around to ordering it, so I have no idea how my invention compares, but I will certainly treat myself next time I see ocha-wari on a drinks list. In the name of research, you understand.

This is a very flexible recipe, where you should feel free to adjust the amounts to your liking. Would you like tea with a hint of wine, or wine with a hint of tea? It's totally up to you.

Lavender green tea plum wine cocktail, served warm.

lavender green tea plum wine cocktail

First step - make the lavender green tea:

1 cup freshly boiled hot water
1 heaped teaspoon dried lavender buds (x2 if using fresh lavender), or a lavender tea bag
1 heaped teaspoon loose leaf green tea, or a green tea bag (a floral or herb infused one is lovely, e.g. jasmine green tea, or pomegranate green tea)
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Pour the boiling-hot water over lavender, and let it steep, covered, for 5 - 7 minutes. Then add in the green tea, and let it all steep together for 2 - 3 minutes. Strain to remove the buds and leaves. Add lemon juice. Use immediately for a warm cocktail, otherwise let it cool down completely, or chill in the fridge, for a cool cocktail. I would say that this will make up to 4 cocktails, at most, so multiply the recipe if you're planning on plentiful drinks.

Final step - make the lavender green tea plum wine cocktail:

lavender green tea
plum wine
ice cubes (optional)
sake (optional)

For a warm cocktail, combine freshly brewed hot tea, plum wine, and also, optionally, a splash or more of sake.

For a cool cocktail, combine chilled tea, plum wine, a few ice cubes, and also, optionally, a splash or more of sake.

I used a simple ratio of 1 part tea and 1 part wine for a fairly balanced flavour profile - about 1/4 cup of each, to create a small serving. You may use that as a guide, or find your own way!

P.S. I just thought of something. A bit of lychee syrup, or a fresh lychee garnish, would be an amazing addition! I've got to try that next time.

Drink up!

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Thursday, 19 December 2013

matcha green tea shortbread with raspberry sugar

Green tea shortbread with raspberry sugar.

Season's greetings! It seems that it has become a bit of a blog tradition for me to put up a colourful recipe at the end of each year to match the celebratory Christmas atmosphere. (Click here and here for the creations from the last two Decembers.)

This year is no exception. Behold, my happy, glorious green tea cookies, made in a shortbread style, with lashings of matcha powder and raspberry sugar for that festive appearance.

Did I also mention that they are delicious? The earthy, mellow bitterness of matcha, the sweet crunch of sugar on top with just a hint of salt, the buttery texture that crumbles and melts in the mouth. I made this green tea shortbread a few months ago, for a friend's party, and I was so filled with joy when I got not one, not two, but three expressions of interest for the recipe, even from those who don't normally bake. To these lovely people I apologise, as I have only now posted this recipe, after finally trying it again to make sure it works properly. Better late than never, eh?

Naturally colourful green tea cookies for Christmas! Or anytime, really.

For the green tea / matcha shortbread:

210g flour (1.5 cups)
8g matcha / green tea powder (5 teaspoons)
pinch of salt
150g salted butter (5 oz)
55g icing sugar / confectioner's sugar / powdered sugar (1/2 cup)
1 egg yolk

For the raspberry sugar topping (optional):

1 egg white, beaten (you'll use much less than this, save the rest to make something else)
raspberry sugar, or raw sugar stained with raspberry juice
fancy flavoured salt or fleur de sel, if you have it

- - -

Mix flour, matcha and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Vigorously beat butter and sugar together till they combine and take on a lighter, fluffier appearance. (If, like me, you take the manual approach and beat it by hand with a wooden spoon, feel free to sing "Beat It" for additional entertainment.) Add egg yolk, and gently beat again until mixed together.

Add the flour mix. Start off kneading it with the wooden spoon, but eventually move on to using your hands. It'll be quite a moist dough. Lovingly roll the dough into cylinders / logs of about 3.5cm (1.4 inch) diameter. Due to the fragility of the dough, I made 4 logs, as smaller logs are less likely to break.

Carefully wrap the dough logs with plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Once the dough has done its time, retrieve from the freezer. Slice the logs into rounds of about 0.6cm (1/4 inch) thickness, and place on a tray lined with baking paper or foil.

Pre-heat the oven to 140°C / 285°F fan-forced (160°C / 320°F conventional).

If you would like to decorate your cookies as I have, brush the surface with a thin layer of egg white. Then scatter each piece of shortbread with just a few grains of fancy salt, if using (I allocated 3 - 5 grains of vanilla salt for each piece), and then a more generous sprinkling of raspberry sugar, or whatever pretty sugar you want to use. I bought my raspberry sugar, but you could perhaps try making your own, by rubbing a bit of raspberry juice through some sugar.

Place the tray of shortbread into the oven and let it bake for 16 - 18 minutes.

Remove from oven, allow the shortbread to cool, and enjoy! Also, merry Christmas! :)

Note - matcha (green tea powder) can vary in their potency. I've found that with a strong matcha, 6-7 grams / 4 teaspoons can be sufficient for this recipe, while a weak one will require 9-10 grams / 6 teaspoons. Therefore, unless you're already very familiar with your matcha and how much to use in recipes, I suggest trying this shortbread recipe with the recommended 8 grams / 5 teaspoons to start with, and with subsequent batches you can fine-tune your ideal amount.

A close-up cross-section shot of the green tea matcha shortbread cookie.

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Friday, 13 December 2013

a christmas pudding received, and a cranberry port spritzer recipe (to use up the stuff you don't want to drink straight)

Christmas comes early with a mini hamper containing Itha's traditional pudding + a brandy butterscotch dessert sauce.

Last week I received a complimentary treat in the mail, a little gift box containing a traditional Christmas plum pudding, and a bottle of brandy butterscotch sauce by Itha's Puddings & Gourmet Foods.

Truth be told, Itha Sanders, founder of Itha's Puddings, is a marketer's dream. An 80-year-old grandmother who has been hand-making her gourmet Christmas puddings for over 50 years (but only started selling them in 2010), using a traditional "cooked in the cloth" recipe inherited from her grandmother. How wonderfully old-school can you get?

This is what the pudding exterior looks like, with a dark, glistening pudding skin.

Itha's pudding, after unwrapping.

And this is how the pudding interior looks like - rich, moist, and heavy with fruit.

Cross-section of Itha's pudding.

In short, this is a quality pudding I could happily eat at home, or bring to a Christmas party. The only main downside has to do with dietary needs or preferences. The pudding and the dessert sauce I received are not preservative-free, and the sauce is also not vegetarian or vegan-friendly due to the presence of gelatine. If you can get past that, though, Itha's products are worth trying. I've tried the pudding both hot and cold, and enjoyed it both ways - it just really depends on the weather, and what I feel like at the time. The brandy butterscotch was beautifully smooth and luxurious, too. Together, they make a decadent combination. It's also a very sweet treat, as expected, so personally I enjoy my slice with a herbal tea to balance things out a bit. Yes, I know the usual pairing is to have Christmas pudding with ports and liqueurs, but I guess I'm a tame one.

A slice of traditional pudding with brandy butterscotch sauce.


But, wait, there's more! Here's a wine spritzer recipe which does happen to work nicely with port wines, and also, potentially, other reds, especially in the form of dessert wines or fortified wines. Going the spritzer route means that it's lighter, being diluted with soda; and cooler, with the addition of ice cubes. It's a hot Christmas and New Year's in Australia, so a cold, sparkling drink can be very welcome, indeed.

I created this recipe because a while ago, Simon bought a bottle of tawny port which was, quite frankly, rather unimpressive. I even remember asking him to re-consider the purchase at the time, because I had a feeling it wasn't going to be good, but did he listen? NO. So now we have this wine that neither of us really want to drink, with the choice to either bin it... or re-purpose it.

I chose to take on the challenge of giving it a new lease of life, and this cranberry port spritzer was born. If you, too, have a similarly regrettable purchase, this recipe may just rescue it. No guarantees, but it did make our wine more drinkable, and even enjoyable.

cranberry port wine spritzer
(makes 1 serve)

1/3 cup port wine (or other red wine, especially one that is a fortified wine or dessert wine)
1/3 cup cranberry juice drink
1/3 cup soda water / sparkling mineral water / carbonated water
3 ice cubes

Pour port wine, cranberry juice and then soda water into a glass. Top with ice cubes. You may adjust the ratio of the different liquids according to your taste. If you're feeling fancy, quickly bruise some fresh mint or basil leaves by pressing, rubbing and pinching them between your fingers, then add them to the mix as well.

Note: This can be a vegetarian/vegan recipe, but you'll have to use a vegetarian/vegan wine - many wines are clarified using animal products.

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Saturday, 7 December 2013

overdosa, fitzroy pop-up (+ other locations)

OverDosa pop-up in Fitzroy.

It doesn't get more Fitzroy than this. A pop up Indian shack selling vegan, gluten-free dosas and drinks, installed in an open-air-garage type space, next to a vintage bike store.

(P.S. Not all menu items are vegan - after all, I'm sure the rose lassi and the dill curd chutney had delicious dairy in them.)

The cutely named Overdosa (50 Rose St, Fitzroy + other locations) is such a place, and when I was hunting for an affordable dinner one night with Simon, it was what we found. I think I first heard about it via Cindy and Michael's post here, then I forgot about it, but stumbled upon it again during a hungry Googling session.

We were the only ones there at about 7 o' clock in the evening. They are currently open in this Fitzroy location on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am till sunset - and in summer, that usually happens around 8pm. (Check their Facebook page for up-to-date announcements of where they'll be, and when. Latest update is that they'll be doing weekends in Rose Street until March 2014.) The guys were playing foosball before they noticed us, and I momentarily wondered if I'd walked onto the hippie version of a Friends set. It's an incredibly laid-back place with such a relaxing vibe, I love it.

The OverDosa guys at work.

We plonked ourselves down on a colourful sofa, and started sipping away at our drinks. Simon chose a bottled mango drink labelled Maaza. It was sweet, like a nectar.

Maaza mango juice drink ($3).

I chose a rose lassi, which was delightfully creamy and tangy, though sadly the serving was a tad small. (Update: Tried cafe lassi on our second visit, still a petite serve but, as with last time, still delectable - coffee and yoghurt is an interesting combination.)

OverDosa rose lassi ($4).

The lentil poppers are crunchy on the outside, and fluffy inside. These were a little on the salty side for me so I just had a couple, but Simon loved the fragrant, savoury morsels, and he just kept dippin' them into the chutneys and poppin' them into his mouth. (Update: On our second visit, the lentil poppers were seasoned just to my liking - happy days!!)

OverDosa lentil poppers ($5).

The first dosa to arrive at our table was the spicy tamarind pumpkin. It was a perfect golden crisp, and pretty tasty, though not super spicy - if that's what you want, dig into the chilli chutney for more heat. We didn't feel like we really needed the chilli, though, because the dosa already had very warm flavours, which had us more inclined to pair it with the cooler chutneys, like the coconut one you see in this plate.

OverDosa spicy tamarind pumpkin dosa ($9), carrot salad, hot chilli chutney, and coconut chutney.

This dosa, the smoky eggplant with peas, quickly won our hearts. It was fabulously moreish; I'm a sucker for a good smokiness and this had it in spades. Again we felt this went better with the cooler chutneys, like the mint and coriander, and the curd and dill.

OverDosa smoky eggplant and pea dosa ($9), carrot salad, curd and dill, coriander and mint chutney.

I'm interested in coming by again for this smoky eggplant dosa, and I'd also like to try the classic potato masala which we didn't get the first time. (Update: Have now tried it, very nice too, but the eggplant one remains my favourite.) We didn't see any special menu items on that day, but a stalk of their Facebook page reveals that these in past have included flavours such as cauliflower, capsicum, coconut and cashew korma, or chai-cumin chickpea masala, both of which sound incredible, so bring 'em on!

Overdosa on Urbanspoon

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