Marbled Tea Eggs, pretty tasty

Since Easter is rolling around the corner, now’s the time to take advantage of the crates of eggs stacked at the market, and get ready for the big holiday weekend.

Beyond colorful dyed eggs, here’s a creative and tasty variation for beautifying hard cooked eggs. In China, marbled tea eggs have been around for centuries. The concept is quite simple.  Simmer a flavorful marinade of soy, oolong tea, cinnamon, star anise, and perhaps a bit of orange.  Our marinade incorporates the heavy smokiness of lapsang souchong tea, but any oolong will do. Using the back of a spoon, crack the shells of hard cooked eggs into a series of spider webs, then soak them in the marinade.

The original marble tea eggs in China were simmered in a marinade for quite a while, then left to soak even longer. These days less tough and stinky eggs can be crafted with a brief simmer in the soy blend, then refrigerated in the marinade for a mere day or two.

Half the fun is the final egg peel unveiling the outcome of this process. It is always a surprise, perfected by practice. The soy marinade saturates via the egg cracks, artfully coloring and flavoring the eggs. For darker marbling and more pronounced flavor, allow a couple of days.  Pretty and tasty.

Marbled Tea Eggs

Ingredients
6-12 hard cooked eggs with shells intact, chilled (see below)
Marinade
1/2 cup soy sauce (I use a deep, rich mushroom soy sauce found at Asian markets)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups water, divided (more for the pot)
2 Lapsang souchong tea bags, oolong or other black tea
2 star anise, broken up
1 cinnamon stick
2 – 3” x ½” strips peel from mandarin or other thin skinned orange

Instructions

  1. Gently crack shells of hard cooked eggs all over with the back of a spoon to create webbing. Do not tap too hard.
  2. Prepare marinade
    Pour 1 cup boiling water over the tea bags and steep for 5-10 minutes.
    In a pan that will hold up the number of eggs in one layer, heat the soy sauce, salt, sugar to dissolve the salt and sugar. Add the brewed tea, additional 1 cup water, cinnamon stick, star anise, orange peel, and simmer gently 10-15 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
  3. Marbleize the eggs
    Gently lower the cracked hard cooked eggs in a single layer into the heated marinade and add enough water to barely cover the eggs and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool in liquid (about 1 hour).
  4. Marinade the eggs
    Store the eggs and marinade in a covered container in the refrigerator, discarding cinnamon and other seasonings. Let marinate in refrigerator at least overnight. For darker marbling and more pronounced flavor allow up to 2 days.  Peel the eggs and serve. Yield: 6-12.
    Note: reserve the marinade; it can be re-used.

Beware of the Easter Bunny: Carrots for Breakfast!!

I’ve always been partial to carrots.  They are a happy vegetable, they like getting along with others.

Carrots’ inherent sweetness means we can cut down on sugar if using them in a sweet setting. Since they have plenty of fiber and bulk, they can assist in thickening, as with many soups. They are an ideal addition in curries and dishes with complex sweet/savory components.

Carrot cake is a favorite of many, but it’s notoriously high fat content can be a major deterrent. We know carrots are rich in fiber, beta carotene, Vitamins A, K and C, as well as potassium, iron and other minerals. So why ruin a good thing?

Carrot Chai Muffins
Carrot Chai Muffins

Here’s a solution with built-in advantages.  To emphasize their healthy attributes, our miniature carrot cakes cut back considerably on the oil factor when we substitute yogurt instead. Friendly chai spices of cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon jump in and extend an undercurrent of warm richness.

Although these muffins require nothing more, in the spirit of carrot cake, we have replaced the traditional cream cheese-butter based frosting with a lighter version.  Instead, Neufchatel cheese stands in—the tasty low-fat cream cheese alternative—whipped until light with zingy marmalade, since orange is another natural carrot companion.

Enjoy these sweet cakes anytime of the day:  warm from the oven, slathered with Marmalade Cream, or cooled and finished with a decorative swirl on top. Good luck keeping these from the Easter bunny!

Carrot Chai Muffins

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1-½ teaspoon chai spice, or ½ teaspoon each cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup plain yogurt, regular or low-fat
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup finely shredded carrots
Marmalade Cream
1 cup cream cheese, or low-fat Neuchatel cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons marmalade

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Line 12 cup muffin pan with liners.
  2. In a large bowl, thoroughly combine flour through salt and whisk to remove any lumps. Add the raisins and toss to coat with flour.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg briefly, then incorporate the oil. Whisk in the yogurt and vanilla; when combined, stir in the finely grated carrots.
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and gently blend in the egg-carrot mixture. Don’t overmix.
  5. Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full.  Bake 18-20 minutes, until a pick inserted comes out clean. Cool on rack 5-10 minutes and remove from pan.
  6. For the Marmalade Cream: With a fork, beat the cream cheese to lighten.  Stir in the marmalade to taste. Cover and chill until needed. Swirl a dollop on top of cooled muffins or serve it separately.  Yield: 12 muffins