Monday, July 30, 2012

Tea Sandwiches with Darjeeling Cashew Cream Cheese and Lemony Darjeeling Granita for Cook the Books: "Death By Darjeeling" by Laura Childs

As a child, I wanted to be a detective. A girl detective like Nancy Drew or my favorite, a little more obscure, Trixie Belden, solving mysteries with my friends. As an adult, my dream job is to have a little cafe/tea shop/bookstore of my own. I spent years in the coffee business, but tea is my drink of choice and my passion. I took a six-week tea class a few years ago and loved learning about the different teas, their origins, processing, brewing and tasting. So, I was more than a little jealous of Theodosia Browning, proprietress of the Indigo Tea Shop and budding sleuth, the heroine of "Death By Darjeeling: A Tea Shop Mystery" by Laura Childs. Talk about the perfect combination of my childhood and adult fantasy careers!

"Death By Darjeeling" is the current selection for Cook the Books, the bi-monthly virtual foodie book club hosted by Rachel The Crispy Cook (our host this go-round), Jo of Food Junkie Not Junk Food, and yours truly. I am a fan of the foodie mystery, they are usually a quick read and generally gratify my mystery-solving urges as the perps (good detective word) are usually easily determined. "Death By Darjeeling" is no exception--it is a warm and cozy little mystery about a poisoning (perhaps by the Indigo Tea Shop's tea?), with no big surprises or plot twists, but it pulled me in with the vivid descriptions of the setting, tea, food and characters. Set in Charleston, South Carolina, it managed to transport me there, even though I have never visited--the city is almost its own character in the story. In addition to spunky Thoedosia, we are introduced to her staff and friends, Earl Grey the Dalbrador, and a neighborhood full of quirky characters--even a potential love interest for our heroine. My only complaint--I really didn't need to get attached to yet another book series when my "to-read" stacks are groaning, but I had to get the next book to spend a little more time "steeping" ;-) in the charm of Theodosia's world.

So many things to make between the baked goods and sweets from the tea shop and the savory dishes mentioned. I wanted to cook with tea--specifically the Darjeeling in the title and I picked up a couple of different first flush Darjeelings (Flush refers to the growing season of the tea--for darjeeling it is usually mid-March to May. First Flush Darjeelings are usually lighter in color and more fruity, floral and lively), and some honey made with first flush Darjeeling.

I made two things--the first was good in flavor just not so much in appearance, and the second worked really well in all aspects. My favorite part of an afternoon tea hands down are the little sandwiches. I love the soft, crustless bread, the soft creamy spreads and the delicious fillings. Since I have reduced the bulk of my dairy, I have been playing around with cashew cream--thick, non-dairy cream that can serve in a variety of ways. I thought it would be fun to make a thicker, cream-cheese version, flavor it with some of the Darjeeling and lemon, and use it for some tea sandwiches of salmon and cucumber and cucumber and arugula.

For my second dish, one of the places I like to partake of afternoon tea, serves a small glass of homemade granita or sorbet at the end of the tea service. I decided to make a Darjeeling-flavored granita, spiked with some lemon to contrast with the floral notes.

Together with some (purchased) lemony-coconut cookies and a fresh pot of Darjeeling, it made for a mini afternoon tea,

Darjeeling Cashew Cream Cheese
(Makes about 2 Cups)

4 Tbsp loose Darjeeling tea
2 cups whole raw cashews, rinsed well under cold water
1 Tbsp lemon juice 

Using 4 tablespoons of the loose tea, brew about 6 cups worth and cool down completely. Put the cashews in a large bowl bowl and add half of the cooled tea to cover them. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Drain the cashews and rinse under cold water. Place them in a blender with enough of the remaining tea to just cover them. Add lemon juice and blend on high for several minutes until very smooth. (If you’re not using a professional high-speed blender such as a Vita-Mix, which creates an ultra-smooth cream, strain the cashew cream through a fine-mesh sieve.)

Place cashew cream cheese in a yogurt strainer or fine mesh sieve, cover surface with saran wrap and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours until drained and thickened. Use in place of cream cheese. 


Lemony Darjeeling Granita
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 1 Quart)
4 cups water
1/4 cup loose Darjeeling
2 Tbsp fine sugar
1 Tbsp honey, or to taste (I used Darjeeling honey)
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice

Bring water to just about a boil, remove from heat, add tea, cover and steep about 3 minutes. Add the sugar, honey and lemon juice. Pour mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a container and refrigerate until completely chilled. Put chilled mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.* Remove mixture from ice cream maker and freeze several hours until very firm. 

*Note: If you don't have an ice cream machine or prefer, you can make granita placing the tea mixture into a baking pan and freezing until nearly firm (about 5-6 hours). Remove pan from freezer, put granita into a cold mixing bowl and break up the mixture by beating it with an electric mixer on medium until the granita is broken up and slightly "fluffy". Return granita to pan and spread it out evenly. Re-freeze until solid.

Notes/Results: We'll start with what worked in the Darjeeling Cashew Cream--the bright flavor of the tea and the lemon made this creamy spread perfectly compliment the sandwich fillings. Placing the already thick cream in my yogurt strainer made it the right consistency for a mock cream cheese and it spread well on the bread and was not overpowering in flavor. The downside--it ain't pretty! I wasn't thinking about the color the tea would add. Cashew cream leans to an ever-so-faintly grey color on it's own--coupled with the tea it made for a sickly tan color which was not so appealing. I covered it with salmon and arugula leaves in the two sandwiches so you can't see it in the pictures. I will have to rethink it for future experiments. The Lemony Darjeeling Granita was excellent--again the lemon brightened it and the Darjeeling flavor really came through with brewed tea and flavored honey. Refreshing and good. I chilled some of the leftover tea and made a granita float with it and some mint. Yum! 

Many thanks to Rachel for switching us up with our first foodie mystery for Cook the Books! I am coming in right under the deadline today, so if you have not already posted, you have missed this round, but if you like reading foodie books and cooking from them, join us for August-September. I am hosting and I have picked a personal favorite book of foodie essays, "Home Cooking" by Laurie Colwin. Hope to see you there!


  1. I wouldn't have thought to infuse the tea into the "cream cheese" itself! Love that extra layer of flavor.

  2. Fun post, Deb...and I want to try all of your inspired goodies (belly is rumbling)!  Your tea cup & saucer are just gorgeous, as well.

  3. I loved Trixie Belden! My mother partly blames her for my troubles with maths though, because Trixie made it OK not to be good at maths.

  4. I was most entranced by Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective, myself, but love those culinary mysteries. What a lovely afternoon tea! I love the whole spread.

  5. Perfect looking tea party.    Can I invite myself?    Great recipes and great post.   I am really loving Home Cooking.

  6. I'm with you in wanting to open a tea shoppe/cafe.  And we could serve that lovely granita on hot summer days.

  7.  Thanks Heather! The tea cup was a $5 antique store find--I wanted something more English or Indian-looking than my mostly Asian-style cups, and the saucer/plate was $1 at the thrift store. It's mix-n-match but I thought it had charm and fit the book. ;-)

  8.  Yay Trixie! I felt the same way about math as she did too! ;-)

  9.  Let's do it! ;-) Your island or mine?

  10.  You are more than invited! I am glad you are enjoying Home Cooking too! ;-)

  11.  I read all the Encyclopedia Brown books too Rachel! ;-) Thanks for choosing such a fun book.

  12. Thanks Joanne--the flavor was excellent--jut the color was scary. ;-)


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