Monday, November 29, 2010

Zucchini with Thyme (Courgette with Thyme)

In an effort to feature appetizing vegetable dishes outside the boundaries of the traditional Filipino veggies like “ginisang gulay” a.k.a “pinakbet tagalog”, “abraw” or “inabraw”, “laing” and even “chop suey”, among those already posted here, and to continue the surprising saga of the now popular “beef with broccoli” recipe, I heeded to our group’s request that I cook zucchini. So when we went shopping for our weekly food provisions over the weekend, a medium-sized pretty zucchini is among the new food items that we acquired. We are hoping to transform it into a delectable veggie dish for our Sunday dinner.

Like broccoli, zucchini is a European vegetable now widely available in the fresh harvest section of most Philippine supermarkets. As some of us know, it is now successfully being cultivated and produced in the cool regions on the Philippines like the environs of Baguio City in Benguet and probably Tagaytay City in Cavite. It is a fine–looking and intriguing produce which is akin to a cross breed of the local gourd or “upo” and squash or “kalabasa”. While its skin’s usual deep green color with tiny white spots (there is a golden variety colored yellow or orange) resembles that of the skin of a young squash, its flesh is pretty much like that of a gourd, soft and whitey.

Zucchini as commonly called in North America, Italy, Germany, Australia and the Philippines or courgette as known in the United Kingdom, Greece, New Zealand, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and South Africa, is a popularly cultivated summer squash that can grow big (up to one meter in length) but harvested while still immature at just half the size. While botanically, zucchini is a fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower, it is considered a vegetable in the culinary context. Meaning, it is usually cooked and served as a savory dish or accompaniment rather than consumed raw or fresh.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tinola or Tinolang Manok (Chicken Stewed with Ginger & Green Papaya)

It has been raining hard for several days. The rivers and streams are swollen. The marshes, grasslands and green fields are inundated with water. The surroundings are dripping wet. The forest canopy is shrouded with mist. The air is overwhelmed with cool wind. Thick clouds abound, shielding the warm sunrays from reaching the land. The atmosphere is cooler by about 4 degrees centigrade. Yes, it’s cold in here! …… and we need a piping hot chicken soup. But since we are Filipinos, the last phrase simply means we want some “tinola” or chicken stewed in ginger. For lunch or dinner, it doesn’t matter. Just serve it fast with a rice platter.

Chicken soup is a classic comfort food that is believed to have healing properties for common colds and flu. It is a soup made by boiling and simmering chicken parts and/or bones in water and added with various vegetables and flavorings. It is typically served consisting of a clear broth with small pieces of chicken or vegetables or with noodles or dumplings. The Philippines’ answer to this classic feel-good soup is its “tinolang manok” or simply “tinola”. A soupy chicken stewed dish flavored with ginger and added with green papaya and chili leaves. The rejuvenating flavor of ginger and the slight kick and peppery flavor of chili leaves make Filipino “tinola” an even better chicken soup alternative…… least for me.

The dish, regarded as the Filipino chicken soup, is widely accepted among all sectors of the society because it is quite inexpensive, could well satisfy a rather big family or group of diners and can be quickly and easily prepared. While it is believed to have been first invented in the 1800s using the delectable native chicken and referenced in the famous “Noli Me Tangere” novel of Dr. Jose Rizal, it remains extremely popular today. It has withstood the test of time and is continuously evolving. Exciting variants using pork, edible frog, fish and shellfish are regularly seen. In the Visayan Islands of the southern region of the Philippines, there is a version called “binakol” which uniquely includes flesh of tender coconut and coconut water to the dish.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Maja Blanca (Filipino White Pudding)

The “espasol” post is still hot and here we are giving another delightful Filipino sweet delicacy or “kakanin” recipe again ……… the arguably more popular and truly my personal favorite …….. “Maja Blanca”. This feature is actually in response to an ardent request from our blog-friend Anne who probably wants to serve this sweet and creamy treat to her love ones, specially her kids. And since I don’t want Anne to settle to a second best “maja blanca”, I asked my wife to summon my Auntie who has been excellently preparing the delicacy and regularly serving during our family occasions to share her long-kept secret recipe……forcefully if necessary. :-)

And since my pretty Aunt Mileth love my wife and me dearly, of course she cannot refuse……… not to a favorite (I’m just assuming this…okay?) nephew anyway. :-) Like Luz who recently shared her tasty “espasol”, Aunt Mileth gladly gave away her easy but proven “maja blanca” recipe for this blog…….. for all of us to try……… and quite surely enjoy. Just in time for the holiday season, the most important Filipino affair, when preparing sweet delicacies is part of the tradition.

“Maja blanca” is a soft, gelatinous and creamy traditional Filipino white pudding made from coconut milk, evaporated milk, cornstarch or corn flour (or rice flour), refined sugar and sometimes added with grated sweet corn or as much easier, out-of-the-can cream-style sweet corn. The ingredients are simply combined together and slowly cook over moderate heat until the mixture thickens to a creamy consistency enough to firm up in moulds as it cools down or chills. The pudding is usually topped with toasted grated coconut or better yet with the fragrant “latik” or curdled coconut cream.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Beef with Broccoli in Oyster Sauce

When thinking of a dish composed chiefly of meat and vegetable, a stir-fried beef flavored with oyster sauce will always come to one’s mind. For some reason, beef and oyster sauce easily create a pleasant combination of flavors which works very well with many kinds of vegetables especially those belonging to the families of cauliflower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprout as well as gourd like bitter melon. So when a friend requested that we cook broccoli for a change, in our regular list of weekly veggies actually, I immediately thought of beef broccoli. Sounds pretty delicious right!

Broccoli is a plant of the Kale family “Brassicaceae”. The plant has large lovely flower heads stunningly arranged in a tree-like fashion on branches sprouting from a thick stalk. The edible flower head is usually green in color and attached to an also edible stalk. The mass of flower heads is surrounded by leaves. Broccoli is a cool season annual crop most closely resembles cauliflower, a different cultivar group belonging to the same species. It is believed to have evolved from wild cabbage plant that grew on the continent of Europe.

Apart from tasting real good and quite an attractive ingredient, broccoli is a very important vegetable because it is highly nutritious. It offers many health benefits - enough reasons for us to regularly include it into our family’s everyday meal. It is an excellent source of vitamins C, K & A and dietary fiber; and a good source of selenium. In fact, a single serving of the vegetable could provide more than 30 mg of Vitamin C. It also has high levels of carotenoids, particularly rich in lutein and a provider of beta-carotene. Amazingly, it also contains multiple nutrients and chemical compounds with potent anti-cancer, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Espasol a la Luz (Sweet Rice Flour Cake or Pudding)

Reel and Grill is blessed. Blessed with really wonderful friends who are willing to unselfishly disclose some of their most kept secret recipes and food preparation techniques ……… all in the name of friendship……… and the noble cause of sharing kitchen knowledge. So that everybody, most especially you dear friends, followers and readers of this humble blog, can enjoy the food creations they personally concocted……… perfected ………… over years of untiring preparation. After all, we as food lovers should all champion the essence and beauty of keeping amazing recipes flowing and made available for all who lives the same passion.

Like the rest of foodies who have generously contributed recipes here, Madame Luz, in celebration of her birthday, is sharing her famous, among friends and relatives alike, homemade “espasol” recipe. Hurray! I am extremely excited about this as “espasol” is one of my childhood favorite Filipino sweet delicacy or “kakanin” which I haven’t had in quite a long time. I know many of you; especially those Filipinos working and living abroad would share the same feeling of enthusiasm. For Luz will be our salvation to be able to prepare the uniquely sweet and delectable “espasol” on our own.

“Espasol” is a soft and chewy Filipino rice pudding or cake which originated from the province of Laguna (Philippines). It is typically cylindrical in shape, although also served in squares, diamonds and other flat fun figures. It is made from sweet rice flour cooked in coconut milk and sweetened coconut strips or other flavorful fruits like jack fruit, etc. It is quite sticky but dusted with toasted sweet rice flour to make it easily manageable. It is eaten as a satisfying snack or “merienda” in between meals or as a flavorsome dessert after a meal. It is a popular give away or “pasalubong” item, especially during the Christmas season of giving.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chicken Caldereta or Kalderetang Manok (Chicken Stewed in Tomato Sauce)

As mentioned several times, “kalderetang baka” or beef stew as called by Filipinos in the West, recently divulged to me as the same dish sometimes referred to as “bakareta” in some parts of the Philippines, is among the signature dishes of this website. Quite evidently, I have prepared and posted the dish twice, here and here. In addition, a similarly popular variant, “kalderetang kambing” or goat meat “caldereta” was also prepared and featured here not too long ago. Simply, it goes without saying that we (me and my colleagues) love “kaldereta” dish so much that like “pork adobo a la Dong”, it has been a regular fare in our weekly menu.

Discussing what to cook the other night, Dong, a colleague and at the same time my “inaanak”, brilliantly suggested I try preparing the usual savory, luscious and moderately spicy “caldereta” using chicken meat in lieu of beef. I immediately welcome the idea which I thought, could well serve as our group’s alternative recipe, for the predominantly chicken dishes (about 60% of our main meals) that we regularly have. Therefore, my version of “kalderetang manok” or chicken sautéed in garlic, lots of onions and spices then stewed in tomato sauce and added with liver spread and cheese was conceived.

Early on, I have a good feeling about the chicken being cooked into “caldereta”. For one, my brother in law on several occasions told me stories about the poor man’s version of the dish that they sometimes cook in the project site using just the cheap chicken feet as the meat. He swears it is so good that they usually ran out of rice during the meal. Well, I find that not really amusing after all. One attributes of a good “caldereta” is the sauce and if you attained a very flavorful sauce, then diners will really consume lots and lots of rice. And if using just the lowly chicken feet could work, then using choice cuts is bound to do even better.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sinanglay or Ginataang Isda (Fish Cooked in Coconut Milk)

The Bicol region in the Philippines is home to many rich, creamy and ultra spicy vegetable, seafood and meat dishes. Often, they are cooked in thick coconut milk sometimes referred to as coconut cream. They are usually spiked with an abundance of chilies and other spices popular and widely used in the region. One such appetizing “Bicolano” dish which has successfully penetrated into the mainstream of standard Filipino cuisine and which I have already featured here is “laing” or dried (sometimes wilted) taro leaves (“dahon ng gabi”) cooked in coconut milk. A very spicy vegetable recipe made creamy with lots of coconut milk and flavorful with fresh or dried fish or some meat.

I have every intension to post here more of stimulating dishes from the said southern Luzon region. While I have posted a dish called “isda adobo sa gata” which is basically fish cooked in coconut milk, let me feature now its counterpart from the Bicol region, the “sinanglay” or whole fish stuffed with a mixture of some vegetable, chilies and spices then boiled in pure coconut milk. Basically, the dish is also fish cooked in coconut milk only done in a quite different but very interesting method.

For Filipinos living in a country like Sri Lanka where the use of chilies in its cuisine is quite prevalent, there is no way not to think of “Bicolano” dishes back home to refer to or compare with. As we all know, most dishes from the said Bicol region are also heavily laden with chilies to a point where the level of spiciness proved to be unbearable to some, specially the uninitiated. While over the years, many Filipino outside of Bicol have learned to enjoy such very hot dishes like “bicol express” (which I have cooked several times but not yet posted here) and “laing” as mentioned above, some remain to be unable to handle the food, most especially the former which is predominantly made from fresh chilies.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ginataang Kalabaw (Carabeef Cooked in Coconut Milk)

After the successful “ginataang manok” by Lalaine, I thought of cooking another “ginataan” (cooked in coconut milk) meat dish which I once prepared long time ago. My last encounter with the dish is when I ate it at a popular “turo-turo” or roadside eatery somewhere along the thickly vegetated and forested highway in the beautiful province of Laguna in the Philippines. I am referring to the quite exotic dish called “ginataang kalabaw” which translates to carabeef cooked in coconut milk in English.

“Kalabaw” is the Filipino name for the Philippine water buffalo called Carabao (“Bubalus bubalis carabanesis”), a domesticated sub-species of the common water buffalo or domestic Asian water buffalo (“Bubalus bubalis”). Carabao is a large bovine animal indigenous to Southeast Asia and found in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, other parts of Southeast Asia and interestingly, Guam where they were exported from the Philippines in the late 17th century during the Spanish colonization of the island.

The carabao is generally considered by most Filipinos to be the national animal although not officially supported by a law or decrees, which is required to be recognized as a national symbol. It has have been domesticated in the Philippines as far back as pre-Hispanic times and is often used by farmers to plow the fields and as a means of transportation. It is one of the most important animals of the country, especially in agriculture. Just like cow, it is also a good source of nutritious milk and may be slaughtered for its meat and hide.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pork Adobo a la Dong (Adobong Baboy ni Dong)

After sampling the distinct tastes of various international cuisines like the American pure-beef hamburger, the French creamy “chicken liver pate” and the Chinese yummy “shaomai or siomai” dumpling and after having indulged in some select Filipino sweet treats like egg pie and “kamote que”, then I could say we are once again ready for another round of the all-time favorite Filipino dish………… yes you’re right, we are speaking of the relentless “adobo”. Please bear with us on this. Our week will not be complete without enjoying the dish at least once……… or maybe twice. :-)

Like in the past, today’s version of “adobo” is interesting and equally motivating. It is shared by another engineer with strong fascination in cooking…….. Dong, one of my kitchen-talented “inaanak” (wedding godson) regarded as the certified “adobo” expert in our group here in Sri Lanka. He has excellently cooked the dish probably more than any viand he knows combined all together. Statistically, that means many times in a week. But of course it has not yet come to a point of overwhelming for it comprises many variations like using several types of meat such as chicken, pork and even liver and gizzard or combination thereof and doing it in different styles like saucy, oily or dry (“iga”).

Dong’s first meat recipe in this humble blog is his version of the common pork “adobo”. Therefore, unlike in the last three variations namely “adobong puti”, “adobong Batangas” and “adobong manok sa dilaw”, where soy sauce or “toyo” is not among the ingredients, the Chinese condiment will now again assume a major role in this dish preparation. Expect the color to be intense like the usual “adobo” as oppose to the most recent one where it is uniquely pale or whitish. One distinctive characteristics of Dong’s “adobo” is its non-use of the earthy bay leaves. Dong is not much a fan of herbs and intentionally avoids using bay leaf in his cookery, particularly in “adobo”.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Kamote Que or Camote Que (Deep Fried Sweet Potato with Caramelized Sugar)

As a variation to the traditional Filipino snack or “merienda” or “kakanin” called “banana que” (referred to as “sundot saging” in the Province of Batangas, Philippines and other nearby Provinces), “kamote que” (can this be called “sundot kamote”?) was conceived. It is basically a snack or dessert dish made from slices or as recently being prepared, large sticks, of sweet potato deep fried in oil with sugar until pieces are coated with caramelized sugar.

Like, “banana que” and “turon”, “kamote que” is also a popular Filipino comfort food widely patronized by the masses and even by some socialites. A relatively healthy and cheap snack meal widely available in many places where there are gathering or congregation of people like markets, schools, townships, churches, supermarkets, transportation terminals, major road junctions, government offices and many more.

The name “kamote que” was also probably coined by the common people due to the way it is served; skewered in bamboo sticks like “banana que” and of course barbeque. Recent preparation however has deviated from the usual skewered type. Now, the sweet potatoes are cut in large sticks or strips instead of just sliced and after cooking are served in small paper or plastic bags and not impaled with the familiar bamboo sticks.

While I still call this as “kamote que” we will be preparing the large sticks version. I find them a lot easier to eat and more appealing to serve. The nice coating of caramelized sugar is also better distributed around the smaller and more uniform sweet potato pieces. But you can prepare it as you like……. it will be the same sweet and yummy “kamote que” at the end after all.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hamburger with Cheese - 100% Beef (Cheeseburger)

Due to its widespread popularity and worldwide proliferation, hamburger can be considered as an indication of inflation. Seriously! The hamburgers we have been enjoying from the many fast-food restaurants have considerably evolved into smaller sizes over the years, sort of suffering from a serious condition of dwarfism. This, I believe is due to the effect of the world inflation. Knowing it is a good business decision to stick to the current retail price as much as possible, the only way to go for burger companies to counter the continuously rising prices of ingredients and increasing costs of production is to wittingly but very silently reduce the serving sizes.

Praying the consumers will not really notice the physical changes and blindly think that they are eating the same portion originally served many years back. But of course we eventually become aware of. We may not necessarily complain but somehow deep inside we know.

On top of the reduction in size, the quality of beef patties is also probably being thwarted to incorporate cheaper extenders and the likes to cope up with the increasing price of beef. We have notice the slightly diminishing quality of the beef patties over the years as well. What used to be a 100% beef hamburger can no longer be expected from our favorite burger fast-foods now. But this negative food evolution is something we should understand. As I said above, this is brought about by the world inflation and the company’s decision to suspend increasing prices as much as possible. It is happening not only to hamburgers but to almost all commodities, food or otherwise.

But we, as consumers have the power to choose. With the many restaurants or food outlets available around, offering their versions of the delicious hamburgers, then we can select the ones giving the best worth for our money. We can still continue our pursuit for that 100% pure beef hamburgers. Not just as a commercial ad label but a true selection parameter. And if still we cannot find satisfaction, then we can always make our own and be sure that it is really a 100% beef hamburger.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Creamy Chicken Liver Pâté

We are in sandwich-eating mood and we scour our fridge for the available spread that we could use. We have both our all-time favorites’ chicken sandwich and tuna sandwich spreads, several types of sweet jam, some margarine and butter as well as slices of Cheddar, processed and Gouda cheeses. But none of them excites our palates this time. We have been regularly eating them and our taste buds are probably somewhat tired and wanting something different. Not necessarily new, but at least something we have not eaten in a long time.

Then I remembered I have half a kilo of chicken liver which I wanted to prepare into chicken liver pâté ……… and the excitement started to build-up. For most Filipinos who grew up with the country’s popular liver spread (Reno Brand) in their everyday sandwiches, especially with “pandesal” or Filipino bread roll, liver pâté is an expensive but sufficient alternative when living abroad.

In general, pâté is a mixture of ground meat and fat or butter blended into a spreadable paste. Common additions include vegetables, herbs, spices, wine and cream. In French or Belgian cuisine, pâté may be baked in a crust as pie or loaf or baked in a terrine or other mold or earthenware. The most famous pâté is probably “pâté de foie gras”, made from the fattened livers of geese, the tastiest liver for me.

In the European countries of Netherlands, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Sweden and Austria, some liver pâtés are shaped as a soft, often spreadable sausage, called “leverworst” in Dutch or “Leberwurst” in German. In the United States these are sometimes referred to as "liverwurst", a combination of English and German. Some “liverwurst” can be sliced and used as sandwich filler while others are spreadable, like the type popular in the UK and my father’s favorite. Yes, he keeps a good stock of a certain “liverwurst” product in his room. :-)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Beef Siomai or Shaomai a la Jhala (Beef and Vegetable Dumpling)

Now among the most popular light meal or snack meal in malls and supermarkets in the Philippines, “siomai” has been causing quite a stir in the Philippine food scene. With the proliferation of mall kiosks and roadside stores selling freshly steamed and sometimes fried “siomai” at a very affordable prices, the family can now fully enjoy the delicious Chinese dumpling any day of the week without losing a big chunk of the already tight budget. It is a welcome reprieve for mothers who have kids and hubby, who love the tasty dumpling so much, but do not have the required time to regularly prepare one.

“Siomai” as called in the Philippines is a traditional Chinese dumpling also known as “shaomai”, “shumai”, “siu mai”, “shui mei” and “siew mai” among its many name variants. While originally, there were two regional varieties in China, the Cantonese and the Jiangnan versions, its introduction and wide acceptance in many parts of the world like the Philippines and other South East Asian nations, inevitably resulted to the evolution of many varieties, methods of preparation and using different ingredients.

I have been preparing ‘siomai”, a standard dish of the Chinese dim sum tradition, for many years now but regularly using pork (though sometimes with shrimp) as the main ingredient. It is a constant hit among my friends, colleagues and guests. Due to personal satisfaction, a colleague, Jhala, wittingly prepared a variant using minced beef in lieu of the usual ground pork. It came out quite successful so sharing the recipe here for interested readers to try is such a noble deed which we should take advantage of.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Egg Pie or Filipino Custard Pie

For an ordinary Filipino snack or “meryenda”, especially in the provinces, freshly baked goodies from the many neighborhood bakeries are probably the most easy to acquire and serve to your family and love ones. They are truly tasty, available daily, have many choices and reasonably priced. Come “meryenda” time or during coffee break, all you have to do is to visit the bakery closest to your residence, make your pick and you will be equipped with really fragrant, fresh from the oven and utterly delicious snack in a short period of time.

Among these easy baked “meryenda” of the Philippines is the sweet and luscious egg pie. A Filipino custard pie made from eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, lemon essence and sometimes butter. While egg pie is probably an authentic Filipino baked goodie, its delightful taste has a very close resemblance with that of the Portuguese and/or Chinese egg tart extremely popular in Macau and the common or plain custard pie of North America.

It has been quite a long time since I last made this exciting snack and dessert dish. I thought of making this again so that I can share it with you, especially with Filipinos living abroad whom at certain point in their life living in a foreign land will surely reconnect with the memories of their childhood and inevitably experienced cravings for the typical Filipino “panaderia” or bakery products, like “pandesal” (Filipino bread roll), “ensaymada” (sweet bread topped with cheese and sugar), Spanish bread (sweet bread with sugar and margarine filling), “pan de coco” (sweet bread with coconut filling), “mamon” (a chiffon cake type of soft bread), and of course the delicious egg pie. Yes, it always happens to me.


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