Childhood Favorite…

For some reason, this dish made lots of appearances on our table when I was growing up.  I’ve tried to recreate this dish many times but I was always too lazy to dice the pork, instead using ground pork.  It seemed to never taste the same as my favorite childhood dish.

This time however, I took the time and effort and dice everything.  Wow, it transported me right back to my younger days.  Who knew that the cut of pork mattered?  Perhaps this was what my mother meant when she nagged me endlessly to NOT be lazy!???

Ensaymada atsaka Cheese Roll

I started baking when I was ten.  But I never made bread because bread-baking is/was my mom’s arena, and truthfully I thought it was tedious to make homemade bread when it was readily available in the supermarket (and my mom made bread at least once a week!).  But when my mom stopped baking (presumably due to old age), I suddenly developed the desire to bake bread!  So I decided to just go for it!  That was in 2011.

So I’ve been baking bread since then.  So far, so good… except that I have not been successful in making ensaymada!  Actually I did get a good result once – with a no-knead formula, but I wanted to try the ensaymada recipe of my mom…

The ensaymada that is available these days is not the same as the ensaymada of my childhood.  The one that I grew up with is basically a soft bread rolled in a snail-like fashion with margarine (Star) and sugar on top.  The ones that are popular now are pale, airy, pillow-y, and less bread-y… and super duper cheesy!  These days, I like the “modern” ensaymada better even if I still yearn for the old-style once in a while.

So, anyway, this recipe is one of many from my mom’s recipe collection (I still don’t have her permission to share her recipes) and it looks pretty good.  I used half the dough to make cheese rolls and the other half into ube ensaymada.

Thank goodness for stand mixers!  I swear I would not have kneaded this dough successfully!!!  The dough was rather “wet” and even after about 12 minutes of kneading by stand mixer, it was still soft and pliant… but it passed the “window” test.

The cheese rolls were first to be baked.  It turned out much browner than I wanted.  But they were soft, pillowy, although the cheese stick inside melted!  I guess I have to find cheese that does not melt…

The ensaymada were better since I covered them with foil while baking.  Everyone declared the ube ensaymada the winner… except for the kid, who lobbied for the cheese roll.  For her, it was better than the ensaymada (and she proved it by eating half of the cheese breads!

I can proudly say now that I have succeeded!!!  Now on to the next recipe in her collection!

Cashew Brittle Brownies

My first homemade cookie (and still my all-time favorite) is the peanut butter cookie.  But from the time I was 14, I was known for my brownies.

The recipe for the brownies is one that I cannot share because it is not mine alone – my mom and I tried and tested and tweaked until we were both satisfied, so it is special.  Which is not to say that I have not messed with the recipe…

So, this Cashew Brittle Brownie is such an attempt.  🙂

Anyway, on our last trip up north, I bought some cashew brittle (as I always do when we go up north) and before the whole container is finished, I got some and crushed them coarsely and sprinkled the brittle bits on top.

(you could use your favorite brownie recipe and sprinkle your preferred nut brittle bits on top…)

The brownies are fantastic!

I am not that much of a brownie fan but I could not help myself with these – I stuffed myself silly!  I should have5  just one or two but I actually ate 4 or 5 (or maybe even 6, to tell the truth)

Now I want to make more!  But where can I get cashew brittle here???

PS- hubby brought some brownies to a gathering.  He said they were a big hit!    He said that someone else brought brownies from a well known patisserie and at the end of the night, mine were all gone but the brownies from the patisserie were still sitting on the table!  (I felt extremely flattered!!!!!)

Mocha Roll

Today is an extraordinary day… two of my childhood best buds came over for lunch – that’s not unusual at all.  What is special today, however, is the fact that I am NOT cooking!!!!!  It is one of those rare times when someone volunteered to cook for me!!!!!!!  And I really, really appreciate it!

Of course I could not be “ungrateful” and contribute nothing to the feast, so I took the opportunity to bake a cake roll with my “new” electric oven…

Since I had a lot of time, I cooked custard for the filling too… and while I was at it, I experimented with a different buttercream – a more stable one, as suggested by a friend of mine.  These days, because of the heat and humidity, my buttercream always, always melt!  So I wanted to see if her secret (not so secret anymore I guess) technique would work wonders for me!

Basically, to stabilize my buttercream, she said, I had to use a bit of Crisco (butter flavored) with the butter.  To be honest, when I heard this, I was hesitant because I have always felt an unpleasant mouth-feel when using Crisco.  But my friend said that I could use about 1 tablespoon of Crisco for every half cup of butter and it would not be noticeable at all!  So, what the hey, it was a day for experimenting…

Well, guess what?  it worked!  and I did not notice any weird mouthfeel at all!!!!

 

Seafood Congee

I actually made this dish twice, this week!!!

The first time was on Monday.  Hubby announced, at around 5pm, that a couple of his friends were coming over IN AN HOUR (!) and asked me to prepare something…

But there was nothing!!! there were frozen meat in the freezer but it would not even thaw in time!!!

Long story short, I took out one of the two frozen ocean crabs in the freezer and made congee with it, adding squid balls and some frozen shrimp to the mix, as well as century eggs and hard boiled eggs!

It was a hit!

So much so that I made another batch and sent it to my mom and to my father-in-law!

The recipe (using my magic cooker) –

Rinse about 1/2 cup of rice then place it in the inner pot.  Add about 4 to 5 cups of broth or water.  Place 1 medium to large-sized crab (cleaned and chopped) inside, as well as ginger slices and a whole onion (peeled).  Boil for 15 minutes then put the pot in the magic cooker chamber.

After 90 minutes or so, take out the inner pot and bring to a soft boil on the stove.  Add shrimps, chopped squid/octopus or whatever seafood you like to add.  Season to taste.  Stir until all ingredients are cooked and congee is thick and creamy.  Garnish with chopped green onions or leeks.  Serve with hard-boiled eggs.

(The second batch of congee for my mom and F-I-L were made with crab, shrimps, octopus, squid balls and abalone mushrooms.)

 

 

I AM A FILIPINO ADOBO

When I have time to waste, I always go to the bookstore and browse the cookbook section.  It was in one of those moments that I found a cookbook that I could not resist buying.  It was rather expensive, I admit, but after flipping through the pages, I just had to add it to my collection.

The first time I saw the book, it was the digital version.  With the limited browsing facility of Amazon, it did not interest me at all – there are, after all, MANY MANY cookbooks on Philippine food (both local and international) and most of my recipes were given to me by word-of-mouth.  I honestly did not need another one!

But curiosity got the better of me and with the permission of the bookstore personnel, I unwrapped the book and took a deeper look.  And, I swear, there is something about the smell of the pages, as well as the feel of the paper, that has a stronger appeal than the digital version!  In a matter of seconds, I made the decision to fork over the cash!

What I love about this cookbook is that the recipes are very close to what I have been taught (by word-of-mouth) by my mom, our faithful helper (who was with us since I was a child until after I finished schooling (at age 25!), and other elders.  Another thing that I really liked was that the food titles were in Filipino, with an English subtitle.  I’ve seen Filipino cookbooks (by Filipino authors no less!) who write their recipes with English translations, with the original Filipino title relegated to a sub-title, and I felt offended!

Sigh.

Anyway, the first recipe I tried in the book is the Adobong Manok at Baboy (Classic Adobo).  Why?  Well, because it is almost (almost!) the exact recipe my mom dictated to me a couple of decades ago!

While I have several recipes of adobo, depending on who taught me, this is the easiest to remember so I never wrote that recipe down.  All I have to remember is … ONE.

1 cup white vinegar (Datu Puti was what we had), 1 cup soy sauce (the Chinese favorite with the bird logo), 1 whole head of garlic, 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns, 1 large bay leaf, 1 kilo of chicken and/or pork, and 1 heaping spoon of guava jelly (though this was optional).  The only other ingredient without a specific measure is the water – basically add enough water to cover everything.  That’s it.

The major difference is that in my mom’s version, there is no marinating the meat.  Just put everything in a pot (kaserola) and simmer until the meat is soft and tender (depending on the pork cubes, it could be anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour).  That’s it.

Oh, there is another difference… we usually add hard boiled eggs midway!

Yum. Yum. Yum!!!

 

 

Pizza Night!!!

The kid can be a picky eater, but when it’s pizza time… all she wants is CHEESE!

She will (and does!) pick all other ingredients and put them aside!

Soooo….

Because I was feeling a bit lazy and because the kid kept asking for it, we had pizza night.  For her… cheese pizza.  For me… Hawaiian!

The best pizza crust recipe (for me) is the Olive Oil Dough from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in 5 minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  But I halve the recipe since I don’t have a container that’s big enough.

1-3/4 cups lukewarm water
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 tablespoon Himalayan pink salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3-3/4 cups bread flour

Just stir everything together and then leave it at room temperature for a couple of hours.  Then stick it in the fridge overnight.  The next day, pinch off some dough and roll out as thin (or thick) as you like.  We like ours super-thin, about 9-1/2 inches in diameter.  (Then again, an off-the-shelf frozen pizza crust works just as well, too.)

Put some fresh diced tomatoes (or by all means use the ones from a can, just remember to drain them… or go ahead and spread on some ready made pizza sauce, that’s fine too!) then pile on the cheese!  In our case we already had cheddar, parmesan, and toast cheese so we just had to get some mozzarella (I saw an all-in-one pack of shredded pizza cheese and was so tempted to buy it; and I’m sure I would have if we didn’t already have other cheeses at home!)

Anyway, bake the pizza at the highest setting (as possible – ours was about 475*F) of the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes… then enjoy!!!

(for the Hawaiian just put sliced ham and pineapple chunks!)

 

 

 

Bola Bola Soup

Bola is our word for “ball”, so literally, bola bola is 2 balls.  But what it really means is any kind of “meat” balls… so it could refer to meat, fish, chicken, beef, squid, mushroom, etc.

The bola bola that I knew consisted of 2 kinds – the fried one and the processed one that was usually floating in chicken soup!  It was a bowl of comfort!

The simplest kind is the one with fish or chicken stock and fish balls, with chopped spring onions as garnish.  The more elaborate ones have shredded chicken, noodles, pechay, sometimes even mushrooms, and several kinds of balls.

The first thing I always do is boil chicken breast with onions, salt and ginger ti make the stock.  The stock is strained of impurities and the chicken is shredded and put back into the stock.  The stock then is reboiled and the balls are added.  When the balls float to the top, it is time to put in the pechay (wombok).  The soup is ready!

To take it one step further, the soup can be ladled into a bowl with parboiled egg noodles to make noodle soup!

 

Congee? Lugaw? Arroz Caldo?

When I was a kid, we regularly had congee… on most Sundays we had lunch at a Chinese dimsum restaurant and the main meal was either noodles or congee.  My favorite was Lean Pork and Century Egg Congee, sans the fresh egg!

Sadly that restaurant no longer exists.  But my favorite congee variant is pretty common and can be found virtually in any Chinese dimsum restaurant!

At the same time, we had lugaw too.  As I knew it, lugaw is a plain, no flavor, thick but at the same time watery rice that was usually served to me when I was not feeling well.  Needless to say, I do not have nice memories of lugaw!

And then, there is arroz caldo… rice gruel that is savory and deliciously seasoned – with ginger strips, chicken or beef tripe, spring onions, fried garlic!

What’s the difference?  Darned if I know!!!! all of them are rice porridge/gruel dishes.  As far as I am concerned, lugaw is straight-up rice and water and nothing else… great for calming an upset stomach or relieving a headache…

As for congee and/or arroz caldo, I feel they are the same just with different flavor profiles.

In any case, we all know that the secret is to keep stirring the pot, otherwise the rice sticks to the bottom and the dish would be ruined.

But I am too lazy to stand by the stove and stir, so I make mine in my magic cooker (thermal cooker)… which I truly believe is the easiest way to make congee.  It does, however, take a certain amount of time, so I always begin the night before.

8 cups chicken stock
1/2 to 3/4 cup rice

1 large thumb of ginger
1 small onion, whole, skin peeled off and ends sliced off
spring onions, sliced finely

800 grams chicken, cleaned, chopped into serving pieces
50 grams fresh enoki mushrooms
50 grams fresh shiitake mushrooms

salt and pepper, to taste
sesame oil, to taste
toasted garlic or fried garlic

How easy is this recipe?  Well, it is as easy as dumping everything (not including the condiments – salt, pepper, sesame oil, garlic) in the inner pot and letting it boil for 15 minutes before putting the inner pot into the magic cooker and letting it sit overnight.

The next morning, I just reheat the pot (the pot looks very much undone when it is first opened but a few minutes on the stove and the magic is seen!), give the dish several stirs and the congee is done.  What is left is to season, garnish and serve the dish!