Tuesday 3 October 2017

Rose tea ice

The palate cleanser is a ritual of ours. We always serve something slushy between mains and dessert. In truth I have no idea why. I'm sure someone (probably a Frenchman) has concocted a justification but it's evades me now. Something dainty and chilled consumed with a teeny-tiny spoon does seem to help the stomach contract - probably just a placebo, but a pleasant one.

It began with Pineapple and lime ice. Then came the much more complex Green Tea Ice with hints of citrus and bourbon. Occasionally it's a tangy orange sorbet. This one was a result of our 2017 Indian trip. It's also the easiest. If you can make a cup of sweet tea, you can make this... if you can get hold of the brew. 'Everyday ingredients made differently' is our mantra, well this is rose tea. It ain't everyday unless you live in the mist-fall* Mountains of Kerala. It's doubtless available via Amazon but that rather spoils my attempt at mystique.

This was purchased in bulk (six tins) at the Munnar Tea Museum. It has working machinery (and not enough safety guards for my liking) walking you through tea from bush to dryers to rollers to bag.

Rose tea is a traditional digestif so it seemed like a good choice for a palate cleanser. It also contains antioxidants like quercetin and ellagic acid. Anyone? It has a good blend of aroma and mouth drying tannins. However, I wanted more rose flavour so I also added some dried petals. These are available from Indian supermarkets or online. The colour you see is entirely natural too.

The Munnar Tea Museum
Floral-ity in cooking must be approached with considerable caution. It's a short walk through the nose garden of delicate lavender, rose or violet to Nan's knicker drawer, or worse, a tumble into the under sink area of detergents and air freshners. For that reason, I avoided rose-water. I wanted neither Turkish Delight nor medicinal pastilles. The rose here is all natural, in petal form.

Full disclosure, this does not appeal to some. Even in this frozen form I've had guests tell me it's too perfumed. But that's the exact reason others like it.

One surprising thing I learned about tea bushes is they are in fact very old and very small trees; bonsai, if you like. They only want the new tips so it's easier to keep the plants dwarf. Every one of the millions of trees are carefully hand trimmed. On the landscape this looks magnificent. Mile after mile of deep green, corduroy hills; tea thickets interspersed with tall, lean, silver grey Eucalyptus for shade.

*Mist-fall? Before my copy checker chides me (hello Ming), here's the evidence. I walked out of our plantation hotel early one morning to see this, cascading down the Western Ghats.

Rose Tea Ice
Makes 2 litres

In a large jug or bowl, add 40g of rose tea to two litres of just boiled water. Don't add more than this. Your tea will be bitter. Stir in 500g of caster sugar. Keep stirring to dissolve. Taste. you might want more sugar. Remember freezing reduces our perception of sweetness. Add a big handful (such precision) of dried rose petals and stir. Cover with clingfilm and leave for an hour. No more, don't want stewed tea.

Strain the tea through a sieve into a clip-lock plastic box. Chill in the fridge and then freeze overnight. Shake vigorously every few hours to encourage those crystals. The sugar will prevent it freezing block solid.

To serve, scrape with a fork into small glasses.

Tea picking in Kerala. I believe this is destined for Tetley.

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