Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Green Giant

The matcha powder was in its small tin on the uppermost shelf of the kitchen cabinet. It seemed to regally hold sway over the rest of my teas. Or at least it seemed that way to me as I scanned my tea collection one morning. Sencha, the everyday workhorse, stolid in the knowledge of its utility, was getting depleted steadily, day by day. Likewise, Keemun, could predictably count on the brevity of its existence on my shelf. But matcha, the lordly matcha, more often than not, sat with forlorn dignity, waiting for its turn at usefulness.

Could it be that I have been just a little intimidated by matcha? Perhaps its hallowed role as the star in the chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony) for the last several centuries has imbued it with a mystique that has deterred me from thinking about it as an everyday tea. Scooping the powder, lightly letting it fall into the water, and then whisking it, I have often felt the pull of ceremonial tradition.

It was then high time for me to remove matcha from its sacrosanct nook and bring it down a few notches: it would be just another ingredient in a recipe for an eggy custard.

I whisked together the melange of eggs, milk, and sugar as the matcha powder swirled about the bowl, streaking the mixture with a mesmerizingly green hue.

I inhaled the comfortingly familiar aroma -reminiscent of spoonful after spoonful of an eggy flan from childhood. The first taste had barely a hint of matcha despite the startlingly brilliant greenness of the custard. That intimation of the matcha flavor lent a piquant note to the soft custardy background. Between bites of pillowy softness, I sipped the floral Ancient Snow Sprout, a honey-sweet Chinese green tea.

Recipe for Matcha Custard (Adapted from Vegetarian Times, Issue: January 1, 2005)
Serves 4

1 cup of skim milk or low-fat milk
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
2 large eggs, well-beaten
1 heaping tsp. of matcha powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Heat milk and sugar in saucepan over low heat for about 5-7 minutes -until sugar dissolves.
3. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, vanilla, and matcha powder in a bowl. Pour this mixture into the milk-sugar mixture and stir well.
4. Pour the combined mixtures into 4 small ramekins and place these bowls into a large baking pan, filled partially with hot water.
5. Bake for about 30-35 minutes - closer to 35 minutes if using skim milk as the custard will take longer to set.
6. Remove from heat, garnish with berries, and serve either warm or chilled.

1 comment:

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