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So much for finishing NaBloPoMo strong. Last night, I started feeling an ache in my chest, and I woke up this morning with a full-blown, throat-searing, nose-plugging cold. Okay, so it’s just a cold. But I feel sorry for myself, unhappy, and weak. But with this post, we will have completed a post a day for a month! So at least there’s that.

My other comfort today has been Greek Mountain Tea, a recent purchase from the Greek Market. What a great discovery that place has been!

The Mountain Tea was dried but still green in its cellophane bag, and only $2.25. After sampling it today, I’m so glad I took it home with me. I thought I’d brew some up today because I read that it’s considered a cure-all in Greece, and Wikipedia claims that it “is traditionally used to fight the common cold, flu and allergies. Other traditional uses are for soothing respiratory problems, aiding digestion, strengthening the immune system, and calming mild anxiety. It is also used to relieve sinus congestion.”

Sounds like just what I need! I brewed it up and added a bit of honey as a sweetener. I was please to discover that the tea isn’t just healthy, but pleasant. It has a a lemony, thymey, chamomile-like aroma, and a mild flavour.

GREEK MOUNTAIN TEA

-a handful of Mountain tea, both leave and stems (1 to 2 tablespoons)
-one cup of boiling water
-honey to taste, if desired

Pour water over tea and allow to steep for about 10 minutes. The tea will have a light yellow/tan colour. I used my french press for this, because the herbs were buoyant and popped up above the level of the water. The french press let me keep them down.

I think I’ve made this clear before, and any of you who know me in the real world are well-aware, but in case you didn’t know, when it comes to food, I’m novelty-seeking to a fault. If there’s something I’ve never heard of on the menu, that’s what I’m going to try. I have a hard time going back to recipes. And if I find out about an ingredient I’ve never used before, I have to try it, preferably as soon as possible. Also, if you can make ice cream with it, I will probably neglect all other life responsibilities in order to own it. Immediately.

Hence the three newest additions to my pantry– masticha (paste), sahlab, and mountain tea.

The sahlab (or salep) I bought is in drink mix form, and the instructions say to mix it with milk, bring it to a boil, then and rose or orange blossom water before “decorating” it with cinnamon and nuts for serving. I think I might make ice cream with it. Surprise.

I bought the mountain tea– which came dried but still green in a cello bag–because I read that it’s Greek grandma’s answer to every ailment, and I thought I’d test it out on my mild cold. That, and I’ve never tried it before.

The lady at the cash register didn’t blink at the sahlab (or salep) and mountain tea, but she did hesitate at the masticha. It is a glass jar with a thick white paste inside it. On the front is a picture of a glass full of water that has a spoon full of white goo resting in it.

The cashier looked up at me and asked “have you every tried this before?” I said no. She said “in Greece, they put a spoonful of it into water.” I said I would try that, and then added that I thought I might try to make ice cream with it. I am obviously obsessed with ice cream. She nodded politely, then told me “It’s a bit… um… goopy.” She’s right, it is… it’s really thick and sticky, almost chewy (which makes sense, as masticĀ  was actually probably the world’s first chewing gum). Anyway, now I have this jar of… goop. And it tastes pretty good, very much like a plant, with a bit of a pinesol flavour (in a good way). We’ll see what’s going to happen with it.

Have you ever heard of mastic or salep, or mountain tea? Have you got any uses for them?

p.s. If you’re in Edmonton, you should check out Hellas Foods on 109 Ave, just off 124 St. They’ve got some great stuff!

Last week I got a package in the mail. It travelled a long way to get to us, all the way from Singapore. My friend Farhan, from the blog Happygrub, found a few things a little while ago that she thought I might like, and thought she’d send them off to me. How sweet and generous is that? She sent Balinese vanilla, a bag of mixed spice (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, star anise… amazing! I can’t wait to try it in a curry.), some pretty mini muffin cups (they’ve already made an appearance here), and tea.

One kind I haven’t tried yet– “Taj Mahal” tea (which I assume is Indian-style, and Farhan advised me to serve with milk). The other I have tried, and immediately started rationing. Two tea bags in and I’m worrying about when I’ll run out! This tea is “teh Prendjak,” an Indonesian tea. It has a mild rose-y flavour and a warm aroma, and what I love is that it has no bitterness to it at all, unlike regular black teas.

One thing that didn’t make it into the package (Farhan said the post office said it wasn’t allowed) was a tin of cardamom milk. But the cardamom milk is still a gift, because the idea is one I’ve never encountered before. Farhan tells me it’s possible to make at home and that the tinned stuff is just a shortcut. So I’m going to give it a try this week, combined with strong tea and condensed milk, which is how she drinks it. Seriously. This is why we write this blog. Without this venue, I might never have heard of cardamom milk, and I certainly never would have met my friend from Singapore. I love the package, don’t get me wrong, but the ideas are just as much a treasure. That’s what I love about happygrub. Almost every post, Farhan mentions something I’ve never heard of before. I’ve got a whole library of things to discover thanks to her: prata, sugee cake, rempeyek, etc. etc. etc….

Thanks so much, happygrub! I can’t wait to send you a housewarming gift in return!

photo by Tony Lynch

Hanne and I having built up our reputations as cooks sometimes pays off! Or we’ve at least convinced some people that we know enough about food that they humour us by asking us to make stuff for them. And sometimes they pay for the expensive ingredients, which is, in case you were wondering, the payoff.

Buy this book

My brother purchased himself a tin of matcha for 30 bucks. 30 bucks! His request was green tea ice cream. We used David Lebovitz‘s recipe, word for word. It worked perfectly and you can find it HERE. If you are one of the people out there that we’ve convinced to buy an ice cream machine and it’s since been relegated to your never-used single-use appliance cupboard, then buy this book and get your freezer bowl back in the freezer.

photo by Tony Lynch

This turned out to be the best green tea ice cream I’ve ever had. Or made. Or Hanne made. Or whatever. My brother, when my Mom asked him if it was the best green tea ice cream he’s had said, “yeah, it’s good.” Maybe it was the victim of extortion talking (30 bucks!!?!). Let it be known that when he tried making green tea ice cream himself, he used brewed green tea. Brewed tea! So the lesson here is not to damn cooks with blogs with faint praise or their small world of readers will find out that you suck and that when you worked in a kitchen and dropped a knife you tried catching it by the blade. Anyway, thanks for the photos, little brother!

Also, to the chocolate bacon sorbet skeptics: Lebovitz has a candied bacon ice cream, so we’re either not the only ones who know what we’re talking about or who are disgusting.

Did you think we were gone? We’re still here, though it seems that we’re barely eating and barely keeping up with life as we anticipate some big changes that all of a sudden are sitting there like mountains, just feet away. Oops.

Anyway, I’m breaking the silence to tell you about Arfi and her interesting blog HomemadeS. After having so much fun browsing through someone’s back recipes with last month’s Taste and Create, hosted by For the Love of Food, I couldn’t wait to play again. This month I got to browse through an exotic (to me, anyway) collection of recipes. Arfi posts a lot of Indonesian recipes, and I can’t wait to go through her archive and do some more cooking. Bubur Injit, Sambar Telur Manis, and Empal Panggang are on my must-try list now, but I have to admit that I settled on slightly less adventurous choices. I couldn’t resist making two things: corn fritters and ginger tea.

The corn fritters were lovely. Arfi brought exciting flavour to a nice simple base of corn, flour, and egg with the addition of crispy fried shallots, feta, and celery leaves. Yum! I can’t wait to make them again. The only change I made to her recipe was the addition of some buttermilk, which I added because I found the mixture a bit too dry to work with. I liked the tangy flavour it added, and I thought it went well with the creamy feta. We ate the fritters alongside tomato soup.

After finding the corn fritter recipe, I did some more digging and found a recipe for ginger tea concentrate. Again, nice and simple with a great result. I mixed the concentrate with straight lemon juice and diluted it with water in a one-to-one ratio. I loved the combo of lemony sour, spicy ginger, and sweet palm sugar. I just wish it were summer, so I could appreciate it from a sun-dappled picnic table in a park somewhere. Thanks so much, Arfi!

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