a journal of tea-inspired foods and recipes
I’m into the slow cooker lately. What’s better than a one-pot meal that basically cooks itself? Plus, a Sunday slow cooker meal yields lots of leftovers for creative weeknight meals. This slow cooker dish was inspired by a few of my favorite things:
Food Books: I just finished reading The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais. I loved this beautiful book about an Indian boy who finds his passion for cooking in France. The main character, Hassan, was always stirring garam masala into his daily cups of tea. It got me thinking about using both garam masala and brewed tea in some kind of tea foodie dish.
Spices: I work for a spice company creating and testing recipes using all kinds of seasonings. Savory Spice Shop’s garam masala is one of my favorite curry-inspired seasonings. Theirs is a blend of coriander, black pepper, charnushka (black onion seed), cumin, black and green cardamom, mace, cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaves. Rich, pungent, and slightly sweet, garam masala adds a unique flavor to both savory and sweet dishes. I use it here to generously season the pork.
Tea: Using brewed tea in place of broth is one of the easiest ways to start incorporating tea into your favorite recipes. Inspired by the garam masala tea idea, I used tea instead of broth as a liquid base to keep the slow cooked pork moist. To keep in line with the Indian direction this dish was heading, I used a Darjeeling tea shipped to me straight from India. Golden Tips Tea sent me several of their freshest samples of Darjeeling, Assam, and Nilgiri teas. (Which, by the way, arrived in an authentic, hand stitched and wax sealed package that totally played up to my tea geekery.) The 2014 Giddapahar Muscatel Darjeeling Black Tea Second Flush just made sense for this dish. It has a sweet nose, beautiful fruit notes, and a rich, rounded flavor that I felt could stand up to the salty pork and pungent spice.
Root Beer: A last minute addition that also just made sense here, I used Backyard Soda Co.’s root beer syrup for sweetly spiced flavor. Root beer is one of my favorite flavors they make. The warm spices in the syrup complemented the garam masala and it served as the sweetener essential for both tenderizing and seasoning the pork.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did. It will be a fun one to explore with different tea and spice combinations down the road. Yunnan with Chinese five spice? Assam with Chai spices? Nilgiri and Madras curry? So many adventurous options!
Happy cooking and sipping!
P.S. Many thanks to Golden Tips Tea for sending me samples of their gorgeous teas (fresh from India!) to play around with in my Tea Foodie kitchen.
Makes about 6 servings
1 tablespoon Darjeeling tea leaves (I used Giddapahar Muscatel Darjeeling Black Tea Second Flush from Golden Tips Tea)
1¼ cups just boiled water
2 tablespoons garam masala
2 tablespoons kosher salt
3 to 4 pounds boneless pork butt (or shoulder), trimmed
1 red onion, halved and sliced
2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup Backyard Soda Co. root beer syrup (or 1 can root beer or ½ cup brown sugar)
salt and pepper for seasoning
1. Steep tea in boiled water for 5 minutes. Strain and discard tea leaves, reserving brewed tea. Meanwhile, mix garam masala and salt together in a small bowl. Rub entire pork butt with all of the spice-salt mixture.
2. Line the bottom of the slow cooker bowl with the onions and garlic. Pour in brewed tea. Nestle the seasoned pork in the center and pour the root beer syrup (or root beer) over the pork. (Note: If using brown sugar, rub onto the pork butt along with spice-salt mixture.) Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Use a large spoon or baster to pour the cooking juices over the pork every couple of hours.3. Transfer pork to a large, wide bowl; it should be so tender that it’s falling apart. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to transfer onions to a separate bowl and set aside. Pour remaining liquid into a medium saucepan and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until it thickens slightly. Meanwhile, use two forks to pull the pork apart into thick strands; discard any fatty pieces.
4. Once sauce has thickened a bit, drizzle it over the shredded pork until pork is well coated but not swimming in sauce. Fold in reserved onions. Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired. Serve warm with naan, pita, or flat bread and a side of veggies.