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KUALA LUMPUR, June 28 — After a long and stressful week, there’s nothing better than relaxing at home during the weekend. One weekend ritual that always calms me down is making a bowl of matcha from scratch.
Matcha, or green tea powder, is made from green tea leaves that have been dried and then ground to a fine powder. Its earthy and somewhat bittersweet flavours are not uncommon these days in cafés — from green tea cheesecakes to green tea lattes to go.
Yet brewing a bowl of true matcha is a more Zen-like experience, encouraging mindfulness and slowing things down. Fresh matcha is a must as the green tea powder can get oxidised.
I used to get my matcha from Ippodo Tea Co. in Kyoto, but a more convenient and equally high-quality option is the award-winning Marukyu-Koyamaen matcha from Matcha Hero Kyoto at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur.
I begin my matcha ritual by boiling hot water. After reaching boiling point, the water is then allowed to cool to the desired temperature, about 70-80°C. Meanwhile, I sift the matcha into a dry, pre-warmed bowl as the fine powder tends to clump up over time. Using a fine-meshed strainer to sift the matcha prevents any unsightly lumps in the final brew.
Next I pour in the hot water. I whisk the matcha mixture with a chasen tea whisk using a vigorous back-and-forth motion. When sufficiently aired, the matcha brew will develop a fine layer of creamy foam. I finish by making a final circle of the chasen before lifting it from the centre of the bowl.
There’s no time like the present to bring the bowl to my lips and take my first sip, then the second, and then I’m done.
Of course, before long, the weekend is over and the work week begins anew. No time for relaxing matcha brewing rituals. To pamper myself with some memory of the matcha’s healing prowess, I often make some matcha panna cotta to keep chilled in the refrigerator.
Every time I need a hit of Zen during the week, I simply grab a glass of this verdant matcha panna cotta and dig in. It’s serenity in every spoonful.
MATCHA PANNA COTTA WITH BLUEBERRIES
Originating from the northern Italian region of Piedmont, panna cotta means “cooked cream” in the local tongue. Basically sweetened cream that has been thickened with gelatine, this Italian dessert has found legions of fans around the world for its creamy yet not too jelly-like texture. (Imagine tau foo fa made with cow’s milk instead of soy milk.)
Panna cotta’s light, mainly vanilla-and-milk centric flavours pair very well with the slightly earthy Japanese matcha. This is a health-boosting dessert as the antioxidants in green tea help fight free radicals while the polyphenols present enhance brain functions.
The addition of tart and slightly sweet blueberries add another hit of antioxidants to this dessert. Studies have found blueberries to be very good for improving memory too.
Vanilla, grown in Mexico, Madagascar and South America, is the second most expensive spice in the world (after saffron) yet these blackened seed pods are well worth their price for their flavour. Imagine a delicate, floral, and almost spicy fragrance.
Coupled with high quality matcha, your vanilla-scented matcha panna cotta will have a subtle perfume that will leave your dinner guests wondering whether to eat it or wear it!
2 sheets gelatine
250ml full-cream milk
250ml whipping cream
3 tablespoons unsweetened matcha (green tea powder)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 vanilla bean
350g whole milk yoghurt
125g fresh blueberries
Mint leaves, for garnishing (optional)
Soak the sheets of gelatine in half of the milk inside a large bowl. Let it soak for at least 20 minutes until completely softened.
Meanwhile add the remaining milk, whipping cream, matcha, sugar, and seeds scraped directly from the vanilla bean into a pot. Allow the mixture to simmer over a medium heat, making sure to whisk continuously. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove the pot from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the ingredients to steep.
Pour the cooled matcha-milk mixture into a bowl, using a fine-mesh strainer to remove any unsightly lumps. Next add the gelatine-milk mixture and yoghurt. Stir to combine and set aside.
Add a few blueberries to each of 6 small glass containers. Pour the matcha-gelatine-milk mixture into each glass, leaving some space at the top. Chill in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours until set. Garnish with mint leaves when serving.
Serves 6 people.