Thursday, February 26, 2015

Pinatisang Manok at Malunggay

Chicken and Moringa stewed in Fish Sauce

This is another dish that is reminiscent of my childhood.  It's not one that my mom cooked, rather it was our long-time household help.  She was with our family ever since I could remember, all the way up to past my teen years.  In fact, she was with us until shortly after my dad passed away.

Anyway, this dish was one that she would make, until fish sauce was outlawed by my mom.  Her dish was a simple stew, made of cut up (whole) chicken, and maybe a few chunks of potato.  My version is made with skinless, boneless chicken (sliced into chunks) and malunggay (moringa)!

600 to 700 grams boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/8 cup Thai fish sauce
juice of 1 big or 2 small calamansi
fresh ground peppercorns

2-inch piece of ginger, sliced thinly
1 medium white onion, sliced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
3 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 cup chicken stock or water
handful of malunggay leaves

Marinate the (rinsed and dried) chicken thighs (cut into chunks) with the fish sauce, calamansi juice and peppercorns for about 15 to 30 minutes.

Saute the ginger, onions and garlic.  Add the chicken (reserve marinade, if there's any left).  Stir fry a couple of minutes then add the tomatoes.  Pour in the chicken stock or water and the reserved marinade.  Simmer until the chicken is cooked and the liquid is reduced.  Check the seasonings and adjust if needed.  Throw in the malunggay, cover and turn off the heat.  Serve immediately.

Needless to say, this is a recipe that is alien to me (fish sauce, remember?) but I'm glad to say that cookbooks are really helpful!  I based my recipe in the "Pinatisan" recipe in this book... 


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Welcome the Year of the Goat

It's the year of the goat... ram... sheep... whatever!  I was raised believing the Chinese zodiac is the goat (and I recall the pictures as always being a goat).  But whether goat, ram, or sheep, they are all correct.  How is this so?  Well, simply because the word (in Chinese) is properly 羊 (yang) which means a goat or sheep (ram being the male form) or even antelope (in certain cases), although usually it is just goat or sheep.  How is it differentiated?  Beats me!  All I know (if I remember any of my Chinese lessons!) is that if we want to be specific in referring to a goat, we say "mountain goat", literally 山羊.  For sheep, it is 绵羊, or "cotton sheep"... Yes, it is confusing!

Anyway, as with each turn of the year (lunar or Gregorian), we welcome it with FOOD!  I know there are many traditions regarding what food to serve but truth be told, we are not so traditional, even if we try to keep the "spirit" behind the tradition.

So always present at the dinner table (for birthdays and other occasions) is the long-life misua!  The "superstition" here is that the noodles may not be cut otherwise it is in indication of a life "cut" short.  Hmmm... unfortunately, when I cook I stir a lot and as you can see, the noodles inadvertently get cut!  (I can almost hear my mother's voice, tinged with outrage and horror!)

For hubby, who requested a dish with "round" things... the "round" things signifying coins for prosperity.  To the "round" things, I add the abalone (albeit faux), whose shape is similar to an ingot, which also signify prosperity.  Presenting... Braised (Faux) Abalone Steak with 3 Kinds of (Fresh) Mushrooms -

A "rich" dish... Stewed Pork Leg with Sea Cucumber.  Sea cucumber (which is a childhood favorite of mine) can be expensive and difficult to prepare so it really comes out only on special occasions, but it is totally worth it!  According to the "elders", the sea cucumber symbolizes abundance and perseverance.

And, for the grand finale... Pineapple Tarts!  The Chinese word for pineapple sounds like the word for luck (or good luck) so red pineapple hanging ornaments are considered auspicious and sweets that are made from pineapples are likewise auspicious and said to bring lots of good luck.  In my case, I had originally planned on making pineapple cookies but I could not find my lucky flower cookie cutter so I made tartlets instead.  By the way, my pineapple filling is mostly sweetened with mango!

祝你身體健康, 萬事如意. 恭喜恭喜!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


One item that was recently crossed off my wish list was Thomas Keller and Sebastien Ruxiel's Bouchon Bakery (cookbook).  And the first thing I wanted to make was bouchons!

So guess what was for dessert for Valentine's Day dinner?  Yes, bouchons! 

First I had find bouchon molds, or even timbale molds, both of which did not seem to exist in my part of the world.  A couple of bloggers suggested using mini-muffin pans but I couldn't bring myself to do it (not that desperate enough, I guess).  But then I found a blog that indicated use of Ikea's DRÖMMAR muffin pan (again, thank you friend T!)

The pan's cavities were tall and thin, similar to the shape of a bouchon!  (A bouchon, by the way, based on what I've read, is so named because it is shaped like a cork and the word "bouchon" is French for cork!)

The pan was perfect!

The recipe in the book had both weight and cup measures.  For the first time ever, I decided to go by weight.  It was a bit disconcerting not to be using measuring cups and spoons, but it was ok.  One thing for sure, clean up was way faster!

I loved, loved, loved it!  (And again, this from one who is definitely NOT a fan of chocolate!)  As for the little girl, as the bouchons were baking, she ran downstairs, yelling "Mommy!  I smell something really good!  What is it?  What is it?  Can I eat it?"  And she refused to leave the kitchen (she kept sniffing too!) until she could eat one!  No wonder bouchons are bestsellers!

Take a look inside -

Apparently there are 2 versions of the recipe.  The first (original) one from an earlier cookbook Bouchon, and a "revised" one from the newer Bouchon Bakery cookbook.  It is easy to find the "older" recipe on the internet; the newer version, however, is a bit elusive, although not impossible to find.

In any case, I tried to follow his recipe faithfully...  the changes that I made (not intentionally, for once!) is that I used salted butter (because I did not have the unsalted kind) so I used less salt (just a pinch, instead of 1/8 teaspoon), and I used a super jumbo egg, that weighed 72 grams, instead of the 75 specified in the book.  I substituted 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (my own extract) instead of the vanilla paste.  Valrhona was recommended but I am faithful to Bensdorp (or in its absence, Callebaut).  And lastly, I did not dust the finished product with powdered sugar (again, unintentionally because in a "senior" moment, I just forgot!)  The recipe yielded 9 bouchons using the Ikea pan.

The verdict?  Like I said, I loved it.  So did the little girl and hubby.  The little girl was so impressed that she kept saying that I made the best chocolate in the world (with her cute "ever, ever" expression!)  Hubby was likewise impressed, declaring that it was almost as good as my (best) fudge brownies!

What I adore about it the most?  That it really looks like a bouchon! 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Braised Sea Asparagus and Shiitake Mushrooms

After being away from the weekend market (since December last year!) I finally had a chance (time!) to go back.  Several weeks away and it seemed like a lot had changed!

First, the sad (bad) news.  Our "suki" for bananas is gone.  While we hope (fervently) that her disappearance is temporary, we just don't know.  (In fact, the fruit stalls seemed fewer than I remember.)  Then, while my favorite kakanin stall was still there, it was being run by someone else.  Worse was that they no longer carried my favorite ube suman!  Aaarrggghhh!

Not all news was bad, though, there's good too!  I love that the plant section was bigger, which meant more plants for sale!  And there was a stall selling organic fertilizer!  I was able to find a couple of dayap plants (cuttings, actually), as well as some herbs. 

But I scored that day!  Fresh shiitake mushrooms are pretty expensive but we chanced upon a stall that was selling the last of their stock.  The saleslady said if we bought the whole lot (a little over half a kilo) she'd shave off a third of the selling price.  Of course I took the deal!

For this dish, I used the last of my abalone XO sauce and my last can of sea asparagus.

First, clean about 250 grams of fresh shiitake mushrooms and cut off the stems.  Drain the liquid from the can of sea asparagus.

Then saute some ginger and white onions.  Add about half a tablespoon of XO sauce and stir fry until fragrant.  Add the mushrooms; splash with a dash of rice wine.  Add a tablespoon each of light soy sauce and oyster sauce (remember that different brands have different levels of flavor) and stir fry.  The mushrooms should give up a little liquid, but if not, add water a bit at a time.  When the mushrooms are almost done, throw in the sea asparagus.  Keep stirring and check seasonings.  Lastly, thicken the dish with cornstarch slurry.  Just before serving, splash a little toasted sesame oil.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Steamed Eggs with Fresh Kidney Scallops

Sometime ago, B's Lola found fresh scallops (still in their shells!) from the nearby wet market.  It was the first time I saw kidney-shaped scallops, still in their shells!  Lola claims that this kind of scallops were more tender (and more delicious) that the usual (frozen) "Chinese" scallops that we would buy at the specialty seafood store,

Hubby requested a non-fried dish, so we agreed on steamed eggs.

We removed the scallops from their shells, as well as the roe, and cleaned them.  Then we used the scallops and the roe in a steamed egg dish.  We added straw mushrooms and some ebiko...

To make the soft kind of steamed eggs, a strainer is a necessity to achieve the smooth and silky texture.  This tip was given to me by B's Lola.  And, it is true!  I noticed that when I was lazy and did not strain the mixture, the top would have "craters" and there would be bubble holes inside the "custard". 

Anyway, our standard "recipe" is to mix 4 jumbo eggs with 1-1/2 cups of filtered water (sometimes broth, if we had some), and a dash of light soya sauce.  The mixture is strained and poured into a shallow Pyrex dish.  The roe and sliced straw mushrooms (we used canned straw mushrooms) were scattered into the egg mixture.  Steam the dish over simmering water (not on high heat or boiling water) for about 15 to 20 minutes, then place the scallops (decoratively) on top of the almost solid steamed eggs.  Steam another 5 to 10 minutes (depending on the size of the scallops) and just before serving, top the scallops with a dollop of ebiko.  Finish with a dash of sesame oil!  Garnish with slices of green leeks, if desired.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Strawberry Vanilla Bundt Cake

which the little girl re-christened as "Crown of Strawberries Cake"... (note that she was the one who requested a strawberry cake!)

The cake is really a lemon pound cake, using a whole vanilla pod and fresh strawberries, baked in a half bundt pan.  It's topped with Vanilla-Bourbon Sauce and Strawberry-Vanilla Syrup, then garnished with fresh whole strawberries.

The whole process starts with butter, lemon sugar and caviar from a vanilla pod.

It ends with diced, fresh strawberries folded in...

The recipe should have baked in an 8 to 10-cup (regular) Bundt pan but I wanted to try out my new half-Bundt silicone pan.  I got a cake, 2 cupcakes and a dozen "half" cupcakes (using a muffin-top pan).  The non-stick silicone pan made unmolding the cake a breeze!

Here's a small "half" cupcake topped with Vanilla-Bourbon Sauce.  See the lovely flecks of vanilla?

Here's the cake topped with Vanilla-Bourbon Sauce.

And, here's how it looks inside!

Happy Birthday, A-te J!

Until next year...

Monday, February 2, 2015

Spinach and 4-Cheese Pastry

I'm liking frozen puff pastry!!!  A lot!!!  (Especially since my pie crust making skills are virtually non-existent!)  So now I have a list of projects using it!  Here's one...

For this project, I placed a square piece of puff pastry in a mini-pie plate.  I filled the center with wilted spinach and 3 kinds of grated cheese (mozarella, cheddar and parmesan), then I place a piece of quick-melt sandwich cheese on top before bringing the corners in the middle (and leaving slits as part of the design).  Brush the top with egg wash.  The pastry baked in a preheated 400F oven for about 20 minutes or so.  I knew it was done when the kitchen was filled with a glorious smell!

Hubby was bowled over!  He thought I finally got it (pie crust, that is) until I told him I "cheated" with puff pastry.  His reply?  It's not cheating, it's a short cut!

I love this short cut!