Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Halabos na Hipon

The easiest way to cook shrimp (hipon) is halabos-style.  The most basic halabos is simply ginger, salt, water and shrimp!  But I like a few more ingredients and I usually cook my halabos with ginger, garlic, red onions, wansoy, leeks, rice wine, salt and water.  I tried using Sprite once before (suggestion of a friend) but it seemed strange (at least to me) so I stuck to my usual concoction.

This time, however, I tried using Thai fish sauce instead of salt.... and added a couple of dried chili, for hubby's benefit (he loves a bit of a spicy kick!)...

And I always have a dipping sauce on the side...

The recipe:

a lot of sliced ginger (at least 12 thin slices)
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 small onion, sliced
1 stalk leeks, sliced diagonally, white and green parts separated
1 stalk wansoy, roughly chopped
2 or 3 pieces dried chili (whole)
1/2 tablespoon rice wine
1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce
1/2 cup water
1 kilo really fresh, large, whole shrimp, rinsed

Saute the ginger, garlic, onion, leeks (white part only), and wansoy in very hot oil.  (I always use a wok and high heat for this recipe.)  Add the dried chili and stir a few times around the wok.  Add the shrimp and stir fry, tossing every few seconds.  Splash in the rice wine and fish sauce (and keep stirring).  Add the water (I actually use hot water).  Keep tossing and stirring.  When the shrimp turn pink/red (and usually the water has evaporated by then also), transfer the shrimp to a serving plate (keep warm while making the dipping sauce).  Garnish with the green part of the leeks.

In the same pan, saute 4 slices of ginger in a mix of olive oil and sesame oil.  Add a couple of sprigs of wansoy.  Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of oyster sauce.  Immediately add 1/4 cup of water.  Adjust seasonings (as always I add chili because hubby likes it).  And because this is a dipping sauce, I prefer it a bit on the salty side so sometimes I add a bit more soy sauce.  But keep in mind that various brands of soy sauce have varying degrees of saltiness!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Food for the Gods Cookies

I made Date Walnut Rum Truffles and had some dates and walnuts left over.  It was not enough for a batch of Food for the Gods (bars), but it could be good enough for a small batch of cookies. 

I was pressed for time, so I simply adapted the recipe for the famous Original Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies as the base for my "food for the gods" cookies.  But 5 dozen cookies is really too much for us so I halved the recipe.  To make the cookies Christmas-y, I added half a tablespoon of molasses and half a teaspoon of apple pie spice.  The chips were substituted with chopped dates.  I also pressed a walnut piece on top.  In the end, I felt the dough was a bit wet so I added 2 more tablespoons flour.

The resulting recipe:

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/8 cup sugar
3/8 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon molasses

1 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
more walnuts, as topping

Combine dry ingredients together; set aside.

Cream butter with sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the egg; mix well.  Mix in vanilla and molasses.  Stir in dry ingredients.  Fold in chopped dates and chopped walnuts.  Drop by tablespoons on paper-lined cookie sheets.  Bake at 350F about 10 to 12 minutes.  Makes about 30 cookies.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Buko Macapuno Salad

I love buko salad.  Every Christmas, however, I dismiss it from the menu, because as Christmas Day draws nearer, the price of buko goes higher... to the point of being astronomic on Christmas Day itself.  That meant having fruit salad instead.

This morning, however, our friendly neighborhood magbu-buko (coconut vendor, with a rolling cart) came around and offered his wares at 2/3 the usual price (these days, at least).  I was tempted but having decided to go fruit (again) this year, I politely refused.  He wouldn't take no for an answer, and to show me the error of my choice, he opened one and showed me the lovely buko meat that was just perfect for salad.

(Side note here - when we buy buko we always specify - mala-uhog, pang-salad, or pang-gata.  Mala-uhog, or literally "snot-like" or "mucus-like", is from very young coconut.  The meat is gelatinous, like the texture of mucus, and is commonly used in desserts and drinks.  Pang-salad, literally for salad, is, as the name suggests, best for buko salad.  The meat is rather firm but not tough or dry.  Pang-gata simply means for coconut milk/cream.  The meat is from old or matured coconuts and is really tough.  It is so tough that a grating machine is used to grate the meat off the buko shell; it is this grated coconut meat that is used to extract coconut milk or coconut cream.)

Anyway, having seen the pang-salad buko meat, ignoring it was not an option.  Quite suddenly, I was struck with longing for buko salad!  And, while the timing was not ideal (it was still a few days before Christmas), the chance to have buko salad this season was too good to pass up, especially since I had nata de coco in the pantry, as well as some homemade macapuno preserves!!!!!!!

Presenting...  Buko Macapuno Salad! 

This is actually a twist on my personal, traditional buko salad...

The recipe is likewise as simple and as easy... even if the measurements are estimations...

coconut meat from 5 buko, the pang-salad type
1 large bottle of nata de coco, drained
half a large bottle of macapuno preserves (mine was homemade!)
2 cups cream, mixed with
1 cup macapuno ice cream

Just toss everything together and chill thoroughly before enjoying!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Viennese Mocha Mix

This year I am running late with my Christmas schedule.  Being swamped with work, I completely forgot about my list, gifts and tags!  And I haven't even started with my Noche Buena menu!!!  Of course it didn't help that the oven seems to be asking for a check-up.  (For several years now I gave out baked goodies for Christmas.)  But it turns out that it's a blessing in disguise since I do not have time to bake anyway!  But I still had to figure out what to do about Christmas giveaways.  I needed something that was fast, delicious and personal!

I finally decided to make a mix.  A couple of years ago I experimented with a spiced cocoa mix, with great success.  I was thinking of doing something similar, but more "grown up", with coffee (decaf, of course) and other spices.  Viola!  Viennese Mocha Drink Mix...

with instructions, ready to be sealed...

The recipe is actually a combination of my spiced cocoa mix and the Mochaccino recipe recipe I found in this book...

But I skipped the sugar in the mix, just in case any of the recipients have issues with sugar, they can sweeten their drink as they prefer.

By the way, the mochaccino mix is great!!!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Singaporean-style Congee

Hubby and I recently tried out a Singaporean-style restaurant.  He ordered the laksa while I had the congee.  I was used to the Chinese-style rice porridge but this Singaporean-style was different!  It was yummy, but the texture was definitely not the usual that I'm used to.

How do I describe the texture?  The first thing that struck me that the "thickness" of the congee.  The usual congee that I make (or eat in Chinese restaurants) is a thin, watery gruel.  This congee was thick like oatmeal.  More significant, however, was the grains of rice, which were broken (or smashed?) into tiny bits.  In contrast to the Chinese-style congee where the rice grains are so soft they're quite mushy, this Singaporean-style congee had al-dente bits.  There were no whole grains, of that I was certain, but what bits I could sense in my mouth were definitely firm.  I found the texture to be quite interesting.  And of course, I wanted to try and see if I could recreate the texture.

I asked a friend (who had worked in Singapore for several years) if she had any suggestions.  She did!  The first secret, according to her, is the crispy fried shallots (and the resulting shallot oil).  After that was the so-called congee rice grains, which were broken rice grains instead of the usual whole grains used for steamed rice.  Then there was the liquid to rice grain ratio.  The Chinese version has more liquid per cup of rice, the Singaporean version has lesser liquid, and uses chicken and/or pork stock.

Here's how I made mine (generally following my friend's instructions)...

Prepare the chicken stock beforehand.  Our local supermarket sells (usually) the rib cage, the back part and/or neck parts as soup bones and they're a lot cheaper then other chicken parts.  To make about 6 cups of stock, use 7 to 8 cups of water with 2 pieces of the back part, 3 to 4 ribs or 8 to 10 pieces of neck.  My mom tells me to put everything (an onion, quartered, 1 or 2 whole tomatoes, 1 stalk celery, chopped roughly, and slices of ginger, as well as salt and pepper, to taste, and the chicken, of course) in the stock pot and bring to a boil, skim then simmer at least an hour, preferably 4.  Strain everything and let the stock cool.  There's usually a bit of chicken meat on the bones and I add these to Dexter's food as additional treats).  If there is no time to make homemade stock, feel free to use canned stock or instant stock using bouillon cubes.

Make the crispy fried shallots ahead too.  Place 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sliced shallots in a frying pan.  Pour in enough canola oil to cover the shallots.  Do not crowd the shallots in the pan.  Turn on the heat to medium (at most) and gently fry the shallots (about 4 to 5 minutes, more or less).  If the shallots brown too quickly, turn down the heat a notch or two.  When the shallots are golden brown, strain the shallots and air dry (again, do not crowd the shallots; better to spread the shallots in a single layer).  Reserve the oil where the shallots were fried ("shallot oil") and let it cool.

This next component is optional but since I like conpoy (dried scallops) and dried shitake, I almost always add this to my congees.  Rehydrate (separately) about a tablespoon of conpoy (whole pieces not necessary, bit and pieces are fine) in hot water (the resulting "broth" is quite flavorful so don't throw it away).  Rehydrate dried shitake mushrooms (I used 6 to 7 small pieces) until soft.  Or use 2 to 3 medium pieces and slice into thin strips.  Set aside. 

To make the congee, rinse 1 cup of congee rice grains until the rice washing water runs clear.  Set aside.

Saute 2 to 4 thin slices of ginger in the shallot oil.  Put in about 150 to 200 grams of thinly sliced pork (or use ground pork) and cook until done.  Remove the pork and throw in the rice grains; stir fry several seconds.  Add 6 cups of broth, the rehydrated conpoy and rehydrated sliced shitake.  Cook on low to low-medium about 20 to 30 minutes, or just until the broken grains are al dente.  Garnish the congee with the crispy fried shallots, sliced century eggs and a dash sesame oil.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Prosciutto-wrapped Stuffed Chicken Thighs

Some weeks ago, hubby and I tried out a "new" restaurant.  And I saw bacon-wrapped chicken breasts on the menu. I was intrigued by the picture.  But I was deterred by the humongous layer of fat on the bacon depicted in the picture.  But the idea of chicken wrapped in pork simmered in my mind.  So now I'm trying it out... with prosciutto instead bacon and thighs instead of breasts.  And to make things more interesting, I decided to stuff the thighs with cheese and basil (although the truth is, I just wanted to finish the leftover cheese sticks and fresh basil leaves in the fridge!)

Here's a peek inside...

I started with about 700 grams of bonesless, skinless chicken thighs.  The pack I bought contained about 10 medium-small pieces.  The first thing to do is to trim the thighs (remove excess fat); rinse then drain.  Then pat dry with paper towels.

Meanwhile, cut the cheese sticks into manageable pieces (depending on the size of the chicken thighs) and wrap in a basil leaf.  Use 2 or 3 leaves if the basil leaves are on the small size.  Make enough for all the thighs and set aside for a while.

Place the chicken in between 2 sheets of plastic wrap (or wax paper) and pound until flattened.  Sprinkle a small pinch of fine salt on the meat (but personally, I did not season the chicken anymore because the prosciutto is salty enough and the basil brings a lot of flavor already).  Wrap the mini basil-cheese rolls inside the thighs.

Then wrap the stuffed chicken thighs (carefully!) in prosciutto, making sure that the ends are covered and sealed (otherwise the cheese may "escape").

Shallow fry the chicken pieces about 3 to 5 minutes each side (longer time if the chicken thighs are on the big side).



Sunday, December 7, 2014

Stirfry Beef and Peppers

When I was still a child, the main meal in my parents' house was dinner (served usually around 6:30 in the evening).  It usually consisted of a soup or vegetable dish and a meat or fish dish, and steamed rice, of course.  The meat dish was almost always a stir-fry dish, since it was the easiest and fastest type of dish.  And it would be ready in less than an hour.  That was considered fast enough, considering food preparation (in those days there was no such convenience like sliced meats or vegetables).

This dish is an example of such "fast" food in those days.

These days, however, this dish is even faster!  It is ready to eat in 30 minutes.  Talk about fast food!

The secret is buying pre-sliced beef, and pre-sliced vegetables, if available.  I used super thin slices of rib-eye.  I sliced the peppers myself since I didn't find pre-sliced ones.  Still, since I did the slicing while the beef was marinating, there was no time "wasted". 

400 grams super thinly sliced rib-eye beef
2 tablespoons soy sauce
a dash shaoxing rice wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 large yellow bell pepper, julienned
1 large green bell pepper, julienned
cornstarch slurry

Marinate the beef in the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil and black pepper for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Towards the end of the marinating time, heat oil in a frying pan until very hot.  Throw in the julienned peppers (as well as a pinch of salt) and stir fry a couple of minutes until half done.  Remove from the pan and let the oil heat up again.  Then throw in the beef and stir fry.

Add back the peppers.  If the mixture is too dry, add 2 to 4 tablespoons of water or stock.  Adjust the seasonings according to personal taste and thicken with cornstarch slurry.  Serve hot over steamed rice.

Dinner in (almost) a flash!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Special Pandesal

Pandesal is usually a lean bread, with simple ingredients like flour, yeast, salt, sugar, water.  But when it's special, it means that the pandesal contains eggs, butter, milk...

This recipe was given to me a while back but it took some time before I tried it out.  And it's pretty good, actually.

Here's the recipe:

1.  Mix together:  1 cup lukewarm water, 1/4 cup oil or melted, cooled butter, 2 slightly beaten eggs.

2.  Mix together (dry ingredients):  1 tablespoon instant yeast, 3 tablespoon powdered milk, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon table salt and 4 1/2 cups bread flour. 

3.  Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. 

4.  Knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is tacky but not wet. 

5.  Gather the dough into a ball.  Place it in a greased bowl and cover with a towel.  Let it rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.  (I was told that if I wanted soft pandesal, let it rise until tripled, or about an hour and a half.)

6.  Dump the dough onto a floured surface and deflate.  Halve the ball and stretch each half into a log about 12 to 14 inches in length.  Cut each log diagonally into 12 pieces.  Roll each piece in bread crumbs and place on greased baking trays.  Let rise about 40 minutes to an hour.

7.  Bake in a preheated 375F oven for about 18 to 25 minutes.