Ube, Ube, More Ube!

Who knows if ube is uniquely or exclusively a Filipino food.  What I do know is that it has traditionally been considered as Filipino.  And we grew up with it!  Ube jam, ube cake, simple boiled ube with melted butter… ube ice cream… ube kakanin… there are even ube dishes that are savory!

More importantly, I don’t know anyone (consider though that my world is small!) who does not like ube!  I do know that most of my friends love it… and they love it even more when I make ube cake.

This particular one, however, is not the usual ube chiffon cake that I make.  For friend J’s birthday, I decided to go for a heavier cake – an ube pound cake, filled with ube halaya, and garnished with ube rossettes topped with macapuno balls.

It was a big hit and everybody loved it!

 

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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!!!

 

 

Spicy Tuyo Linguini

When I was young, tuyo was preserved by being salted and then dried under the sun.  We would dip it in vinegar with chopped garlic and use it as viand for rice, especially in the morning.

It was good eats, except that to cook it, it was fried and the smell it exuded was… let’s just say the whole neighborhood definitely knew someone was eating tuyo.

Since then I’ve learned that the English name for tuyo is herring.  And these days, it is available as gourmet food, preserved in olive oil.  It was ready straight from the bottle, which I definitely liked!  No more telling smell!!!

Recently though, I discovered that the gourmet bottled tuyo could be made into gourmet pasta!  And it was so easy!

I first saw the recipe by Jamie Oliver (which is easy enough as it is) and I actually made it his way once before, using the dried tuyo.  But a friend told me of an easier way!

Basically, 1 bottle of tuyo in olive oil is good for 500grams of spaghetti.  Saute garlic in some olive oil; then throw in some chopped tomatoes, a handful of chopped .  Dump the contents of the whole bottle into the pan and when heated through, add the cooked pasta.

Squeeze some lemon juice over the top just before serving!

Maruya

Maruya is our local term for banana fritters.  It was a favorite snack all throughout my childhood… my late father also loved it, so we had it pretty often.

The problem?  The recipe is unwritten and largely by estimation.  And while I’ve made maruya before, it was not exactly what we had as kids.

As luck would have it, I found a recipe for banana fritters in my mom’s files.  And I tried it the first opportunity I had.

And it was… PERFECT!

It was soft in the middle and crunchy/crispy on the edges!

PERFECT!  EXACTLY LIKE THE MARUYA OF MY CHILDHOOD!!!

(If there’s any change that I made, it was to use turbinado sugar flavored with real vanilla, instead of white granulated sugar.)

(Sigh…)

Saging at Yema

I recently made cupcakes with caramel and frosted with caramel buttercream. It is superb combination that is universally liked. But an idea popped into my head after baking a yema-topped cake (joining the bandwagon of yema cakes that have sprouted in many malls!) for a friend…

I wondered what would happen if I frosted my banana cupcakes with yema? Hmmmm…

Yema, after all, is a close relative of caramel… Yema, in the traditional sense is a candy made from egg yolks, milk and sugar (and the “secret” ingredient that is dayap!).

So, what is yema anyway?  According to pepper.ph –

Yema is Spanish for “egg yolk,” and is most likely a reference either to its golden-yellow appearance or to its composition (traditionally a batter of egg yolks, lime peel, and sugar). Intensely rich and similar in texture to the French crème brûlée, it is sometimes made more decadent by the addition of a thin, crisp coating of caramelized sugar. Wrapped in squares of colorful cellophane, yema can be purchased everywhere, from sari-sari stores, roadside stalls, to street vendors outside churches, as well as a few select groceries and bakeries.

Anyway, I experimented with using yema as base for the frosting.  As a safety net, I also frosted some with caramel buttercream and truffle frosting… and was quite amazed at the result! Everybody preferred the yema-banana combination over everything else!

Wow!

Ube Bread Knots

There used to be a bakery about 3 blocks away from my childhood home where we would go and buy freshly baked bread from.  Our favorite was obviously the pandesal, followed closely by the so-called Spanish Bread.  Not so popular with my brothers but immensely liked by me was the Pan de Ube (Purple Yam Bread).  It was basically a “bun” sandwich which was filled with ube paste.  Now, whether the ube filing is the real thing or not was never an issue (before, that is).

Lately though, I have been “feeling” that the ube filling is not real at all, but just some sweet, purple-colored paste pretending to be ube.  Thus began my journey to make my own ube bread.  I started a couple of years back using straight method dough for bread but lately my go-to recipe is the no-knead recipe by Jeff Hertzbery and Zoe Francois!

As for the ube filling (halaya), store bought is fine (as long as you know they use genuine products) or make your own!

(First of all, ube is not taro, or sweet potato!)

1 kilo ube, steamed or boiled, then mashed
1 cup butter
1 cup condensed milk
1 cup thin coconut milk
1/2 cup thick coconut cream
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt the butter;  Add the condensed milk, coconut milk and coconut cream.  Stir to mix.  Add the sugar and vanilla; mix.  Add the mashed ube and cook, over low heat, until thick, about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring constantly.  Take care not to burn the mixture!

(Note – purple food color may be added to enhance the color of the halaya, since the purple pigment of the ube varies greatly.  When the inherent color of the ube is insufficient, the end product is likely to be gray in color and will look unappetizing.)

Let the mixture cool before storing in the fridge.

To make the bread, roll out a piece of dough and spread some ube halaya.  Roll it up into a long strip and fold into a knot.  Bake at 375*F for about 15 minutes (longer for bigger pieces),

 

 

 

Filipino-style Cheese Cupcake

Even before knowing about (American/Western) cupcakes, we were happily eating cheese cupcakes (we are the ones with cheese ice cream too!).  When I was a young girl, all the neighborhood bakeries had their own version of cheese cupcakes.  Some were crumbly, extremely cheesy, sweet, heavy… there were all kinds of it.  My personal favorite was the soft kind with a lot of cheese flavor and cheese strips on top.

I tried many recipes for cheese cupcake and got a myriad of results – crumbly, heavy, sweet… none were as cheesy as I would like.  I later discovered, when someone revealed a trade “secret”, that commercial bakeries used cheese flavoring (either a concentrate liquid or powder) to enhance the cheesy flavor.  Well, I don’t know where to get cheese flavoring, then again, I preferred to achieve flavor naturally.  I was able to do by using parmesan… not the “real” stuff but the prepared and already grated ones readily available in the supermarkets.

1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter-margarine blend
6 tablespoons sugar
1 cup condensed milk
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup quick-melt cheese, shredded
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Mix the dry ingredients together, then set aside.

Beat butter and sugar together. Add the condensed milk.

Add half the flour mixture and mix. Add the evaporated milk and mix. Add the remaining flour and mix. Fold in the grated Parmesan. Fold in half the quick-melt and cheddar cheeses.

Scoop batter into paper-lined muffin cups. Bake in a preheated 350*F oven for 15 minures. Take the pan out and quickly sprinkle the rest of the cheeses on top of the cupcakes. Return to the oven and bake further, about 10 to 15 minutes. Take care not to over-bake.

E’s Baking Day, Pandesal…

E has been baking up a storm – of loaves!

But this time around he wanted to learn how to make pandesal.  Of course I was more than willing to oblige.

Pandesal is bread that we grew up with.  Back then it seemed that all the neighborhoods had a panaderia that churned out freshly baked pandesal throughout the day.  In our neighborhood, it was about 3 blocks away.  It was open 24 hours everyday and during the school year, we would buy pandesal at 5 o’clock in the mornng.  But when school was out, we would take our dogs for a walk around the neighborhood at midnight and head to the bakery!  Aside from pandesal, I would buy Spanish bread and ensaymada!

Pandesal, literally, means salted bread.  It is ironic, though, because pandesal is actually a bit sweet.

I couldn’t find a no-knead recipe for pandesal so I improvised by using the basic no-knead recipe I’ve using but I added sugar!  I also substituted part of the water with an egg.

It was a success!  At least for my half of the dough… as pandesal I mean…

When E realized that making the pandesal was more complicated than he thought, he decided that his half of the dough would be baked as a boule!

He did say that he found it a bit weird because it tasted like pandesal but did not look like it!

Anyway, going back to the recipe, it is basically the no knead bread from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” with sugar added and egg substituted for part of the liquid.  I halved the recipe, which makes about 20 to 24 pieces.  The beauty of it is, first of all, no knead!  Secondly, I can simply bake enough pandesal each day and store the dough in the fridge for the following days.

1-1/3 cups water
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon melted shortening
7g instant yeast
1 teaspoon fine salt
3-1/4 cups bread flour
6 tablespoons brown sugar
breadcrumbs

Mix everything together in a large container with a vent in the cover.  Leave the container at room temp for about 2 to 3 hours, until the dough rises and the top is flattened.  Store in the fridge overnight.

The following day, take out 1/3 or 1/2 of the dough with floured hands (cut with scissors).  Roll out and form a long cylinder.  Roll in breadcrumbs.  Slice the log into 8 or 12 pieces.  Arrange on a baking sheet that is oiled and sprinkled with breadcrumbs.  Leave to rise for about 30 to 60 minutes.  Meanwhile preheat oven to 400F.  Bake pandesal about 10 minutes.  To make sure bread is done, inner temperature should register 195F when tested with an instant thermometer.

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ginataang Mais at Sago

Coconut is abundant in our country. No wonder we have many dishes that use it – be it savory or sweet.  And as main dish, side dish or dessert, coconut-based dishes are a big favorite of mine!

An example of a dessert dish that is an absolute favorite is Ginataang Mais – literally corn cooked in coconut.  But this is a bit of a misnomer because sticky rice, or sweet glutinous rice is also a part of the dish.  In my case, though I veer from the mainstream and add sago – tapioca if I am not mistaken.  This sweet dessert contains all my favorites – coconut, sticky rice, corn, and sago!

My cast of characters –

4 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup muscovado, or to taste
1/2 cup sticky rice (sweet glutinous rice)
1-1/2 cups shredded corn, preferably fresh from white sticky corn
1 cup thick coconut cream
1/2 to 1 cup sago (tapioca)

Mix coconut milk and sugar together in a thick-bottomed saucepan.  Heat on medium fire.  Add the sticky rice.  When the mixture boils, stir the mixture so the rice does not stick to the bottom.  Reduce the heat to low-medium, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Cook about 15 to 20 minutes then add the corn kernels.  Cook until the rice is done (don’t overdo it through), add the coconut cream and sago.  Let simmer a few minutes.  Adjust sweetness, if desired.  Serve hot.

Enjoy!