Considered by many as a superfood, Rooibos tea is becoming a popular ingredient in food and drink.
To demonstrate its versatility, celeb foodies Kamini Pather (MasterChef SA winner) and Sebastian Newman (well-known pastry chef) will be experimenting with the tea over the next few weeks to add some sparkle to lockdown cooking.
Pather says she’s always been passionate about cooking with local ingredients and often uses fynbos in her dishes.
“Rooibos is unmistakably South African and a versatile herb at that! It gives dishes a warm, earthy tone, while its caramel flavour also complements sweeter treats and desserts.
“Since it’s a base note flavour, the tea enhances an array of flavours from citrus to warm and spicy,” she adds.
To Newman, it’s Rooibos’ natural sweetness that drew him to it.
“When it comes to baking, it complements sweet and nutty flavours really well.
“I love the combination of Rooibos and white chocolate – one of my absolute favourite desserts is a Rooibos Creme Brûlée. The tea’s natural sweetness adds to and enhances the sweetness in dessert rather than overpowering it.”
SA Rooibos Council spokesperson Adele du Toit says that Rooibos is known for its health benefits due to its abundance of antioxidants – but when we think about cooking with it, many just don’t know where to start.
One of the best ways to infuse Rooibos into a dessert is to make a simple Rooibos syrup.
According to Newman, a basic syrup consists of a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water.
“When making a Rooibos syrup, add one cup of sugar to one cup of water, squeeze in juice from half a lemon and add eight Rooibos tea bags to a saucepan. Simmer on low heat until a syrup starts to form.
“Don’t boil, as you want the flavour of the Rooibos to have time to infuse into your syrup. Once cooled, remove the tea bags and store in a jar or glass bottle in the fridge and use as desired.
“This simple Rooibos syrup can be used in creams or brushed over freshly baked vanilla sponge cakes to keep them moist while adding a touch of Rooibos flavour to it.
“It can also be incorporated into breakfasts by stirring it through plain vanilla yoghurt served with muesli and fresh fruit or you could end off your day by adding the syrup to a refreshing homemade lemonade. For cocktail lovers, this syrup works equally well in gin,” says Newman.
Visit the Rooibos Council’s Facebook page to learn how to make Rooibos lamb riblets, spicy Rooibos chicken satay, and Rooibos and fig pavlova.