Adobo, My Way

For Independence Day, this dish is perfect.  After all, it is national dish of the Philippines (well, not officially…). Seriously, I don’t know anyone who does not like it, even if everyone has varying preferences – salty, tangy, oily, saucy, mixed, double cooked… as it is claimed, indeed, that there are a million and one ways to cook it.

But the adobo that I like and cook at home these days is one where a bit of my ancestry shows through – with banana blossoms (which some say are really lily buds but that’s another story…)

I also like my adobo with bay leaves and boiled eggs… in addition to being all pork, specifically belly part (although on occasion I also use kasim or pork shoulder), where I try to find ones that have very little pork fat (otherwise we trim off as much as we can). And as much as I like pork adobo, I’m really not a fan of the chicken variant, don’t know why.

Anyway, here is my recipe.  It is pretty standard, although I use my magic cooker –

5 to 6 strips of pork liempo (about 750 to 1000 grams), cut into cubes (we trim a lot of fat off…)
1 whole bulb garlic, cloves smashed
2 to 3 large pieces bay leaves, crumbled
1 cup soy sauce (I use light soy sauce)
1/2 cup native vinegar
a handful whole black peppercorns, lightly smashed
1 cup water
a handful of banana blossoms, rehydrated, tough ends cut off
hard boiled eggs (optional)

Clean the pork and place into the inner pot of the magic cooker. Add garlic, bay, soy sauce and vinegar. Leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Place the pot on the stove, add water and cook (simmer) over low-medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir only after the mixture has bubbled (initial boil). Place the inner pot in the magic cooker and let it sit for at least 30 to 40 minutes.

Return the inner pot to the stove. Add the banana blossoms and boiled eggs. Lightly stir the mixture. Let simmer about 10 minutes. Return to the magic cooker and let sit until meat is tender – another 30 minutes or so.

Adjust the seasonings. I know some people like a really salty, or a salty-sweet adobo, but personally I like mine adobo tangy and only a bit salty so I’ve been known to add a little more vinegar (the banana blossoms add to the tanginess, too).

Yummmmyyy!!! And perfect with ice cold coke (diet or zero). Where’s the rice????

Kesong Puti

Kesong Puti is, literally, “white cheese”.  It is a cheese that is truly Filipino!

This kesong puti has got to be the easiest cheese ever!  The most difficult part of this recipe might be sourcing the carabao milk!  In my case, I found fresh carabao milk at the weekend market in Centris.  I have been told that certain supermarkets do sell pasteurized carabao’s milk.

Anyway, the recipe has only 4 ingredients… carabao milk, salt, vinegar and lemon juice.  That’s it!

Stir 1/2 teaspoon salt in 500 ml of carabao milk.  Heat in a double boiler for 15 minutes.  I started counting when the water underneath reached boiling.

Remove from heat and immediately mix in 1 teaspoon lemon juice and 2 tablespoons vinegar, in my case I used Datu Puti.  Curds should form almost immediately.  Leave to cool and set for an hour.

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Pour the curds into a cheesecloth-lined strainer.  I used an old birdseye cloth diaper, sterlized of course!  Gather the ends together and squeeze lightly.  If a soft creamy cheese is desired, then it is done at this point.

But in my case, since I wanted a drier, crumbly cheese, I squeezed more whey out.

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Whether soft and creamy, or dry and crumbly, wrap the kesong puti in a softened banana leaf and store in an airtight container.  Chill and enjoy!

Consume within 7 days.

The original recipe is from yummy.ph.  I halved the recipe and used a bit more salt.

A final note about salt – adjust it as you like.  We found the original recipe to be lacking and added a bit more.  When I make the recipe again, I may add a little bit more since hubby commented that it could use a tad more…

Tablea Chocolate Cake

Tablea is what we call our locally produced, pure cacao tablet.  Recently, a friend gave me a pack of tablea that she claimed was the renowned one in her province…

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And while I could use them to make sikwate – a hot chocolate beverage made with locally produced tablea, I decided I wanted to make something else… a chocolate cake using tablea!

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The basis for my cake is from the local Yummy magazine – http://www.yummy.ph/recipe/chocolate-tablea-cake-a185-20120319.  I used about 100 grams of tablea.

So how does the tablea chocolate cake compare with the regular chocolate cake?  Well, there is a different dimension to the the tablea choco cake and a slight tang but it was delicious in its own special way!

 

 

 

Ensaimada!!!

Ensaimada (or ensaymada) is a Filipino sweet bread that is slathered on with butter, sugar and cheese.  It may or may not have its origins with the Spanish ensaimada (mallorca) but it has evolved to be the quintessential Filipino bread (pandesal notwithstanding).

I have been on a quest to make THE ensaimada that I like for almost 5 years!  My attempts have all been flops… until this one… and wouldn’t you know it, it’s a no-knead one!

As always, I based the recipe on one that is in the The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François.  But I tweaked the brioche recipe in order to make it even richer because as far as I knew, the dough for ensaimada has more egg yolks and virtually no egg whites!  (I kept a couple of whites in the recipe though).

Wonder of wonders, I not only succeeded, but it was the perfect one for me!

Yay!

Homemade Sinamak

How could I not have thought of it before?

Actually, I did not think of it at all. The idea came from A-te J. After trying out the various kinds of suka (vinegar), and figuring out which I like best, and then deciding to buy Sukang Tuba (native coconut vinegar) and Sinamak (native spiced vinegar) on my next supermarket day, A-te J told me to make my own. And when she told me, I actually smacked my forehead!

After all, how hard would it be to make your own spiced vinegar???

A cursory look at the label made me realize that it was totally doable! After all, if I could make my own vanilla extract, surely I could make sinamak. A-te J, who hails from the southern regions where sinamak is popular, told me that it was as easy as placing ginger, onions, garlic, peppercorns, green and red siling labuyo (or similar) in a bottle and pouring in my suka of choice (tuba, of course!) and waiting a couple of weeks! In her home province, they mix their own all the time (they ferment their own suka, too!). And here’s the best part, A-te J says that when their bottle runs low on the suka, they just top it up with more suka and it’s good to go!

As for the recipe? According to A-te J, just dump in matchstick slices of ginger, garlic, and onions into a glass bottle. Add black peppercorns (I added white peppercorns also) and birds eye chilies (or the local labuyo) with the stalks removed and pour in the suka (vinegar) of your choice (mine is obviously tuba).

(my proportions – Stuff the following spices in a liter bottle – 1/2 cup chopped labuyo (bird eye chilies), 1/8 cup thin ginger strips, 8 smashed cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoons cracked black and white peppercorns, 1 small onion, sliced thinly into strips.  Pour in sukang tuba (native coconut vinegar) and give the bottle a shake or two.  Leave it in a cool dark place for at least 2 weeks.  The longer the time, the spicier the it gets!

Now all I have to do is wait!

Inasal na Manok

Hubby is predicting that our electric bill is going to skyrocket, with the baking I am doing with the small electric oven!

But I am just soooo excited!  And I’m having fun with it.  Especially the rotisserie function.  Here’s my second chicken project – the Inasal Chicken.

Inasal Chicken is a local dish of Bacolod, in the Western Visayas (Panay region) and its neighboring provinces.  The chicken is marinated in native vinegar, calamansi, achuete and pepper, then roasted, in pieces on a wooden skewer, on a charcoal grill.

My chicken inasal, at least for this occasion, is not grilled over charcoal.  Instead I cooked it rotisserie style.  I really like the rotisserie function of my ovenette – it enables me to multi-task.  I put the chicken in and leave it to roast.  I go and do whatever else that needs to be done and violà, an hour and a half later, we get to eat!  Isn’t that wonderful?

The recipe –

1 whole chicken, about 1.2 kilograms, cleaned and patted dry

8 cloves garlic, grated
1-1/2 tabelspoons grated ginger
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup sinamak (spiced coconut vinegar)
1/3 cup pure calamansi juice
2 to 3 stalks tanglad (lemon grass), white part only, smashed
reserve the green part
1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 tablespoon fresh coarsely ground pepper
a pinch of annatto powder

Clean the chicken and pat dry.  Place the chicken inside a ziplock bag.

Combine the marinade ingredients together.  Pour into the ziplock bag containing the chicken.  Leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 48 hours, turning the chicken every 4 to 6 hours.

Skewer the chicken on the rotisserie rod, stuff the cavity with the reserved green part of the tanglad (lemongrass) and (as I prefer) tie the chicken securely.  Roast the chicken at 240C for about 70 minutes.  Check the inner temperature of the chicken.  It should be between 75C to 77/78C.  Alternatively, chop into pieces, skewer on wooden sticks and cook over charcoal.

I got my recipe from a friend who claims to have gotten it from a native of Bacolod.  She says that the secret is using sinamak, the native spiced vinegar.  Sinamak is also the condiment served with the chicken.  Sinamak can be purchased at the supermarket but it is not difficult to make your own!  (Recipe coming up in the next entry!)

Ube-stuffed Sour Cream Cupcakes

Ube is purple yam.  It is a starchy root vegetable, like potatoes, taro, sweet potatoes, but it is NOT a potato, taro or sweet potato.  And, although it is a root crop, we use it more often in sweets and desserts – ube jam or halaya, ube cake, ube bread, ube rice cakes, ice cream, candy, etc.  My personal favorite is stuffing it in cupcakes… then frosting the cupcakes with more ube infused frosting!

Ube Cupcake half

For the cupcake, I used a vanilla-sour cream cupcake – a super easy recipe that was shared by a friend a long time ago –

Stir together 2-2/3 cups cake flour, 1-1/2 cups vanilla sugar, 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt.  Add 3 super jumbo eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 cup whole milk, 2/3 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup melted butter and 1/2 cup canola oil.  Mix well.  Scoop into 24 paper-lined cupcake tins.  Drop a teaspoon of ube halaya onto each cupcake.  Bake in a preheated 350F oven for about 22 to 26 minutes.  Watch the cupcakes because they brown fast and if overdone, the top with be crusty instead of soft.  Cool in pans about 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Ube Cupcakes

For the icing, cream 1/2 cup butter until light and fluffy.  Add 3/4 to 1 cup ube halaya, by tablespoonfuls, mixing well after each addition.  To make stiff, add powdered sugar.  To thin, add milk.  In my case there was no need to add powdered sugar but I had to thin the mixture a bit.

 

Halabos na Tahong

To be honest, I am not fully certain what halabos is as a cooking technique.  But what I’ve been taught by our kusinera (home cook) a good 25 to 30 years ago is that it is a “cross” between steaming and boiling.  How is this so?  Well, a very small amount of water or stock is used to cook the dish (usually seafood, especially shrimps).  The dish would be cooked largely by the steam generated by the water or stock.  (I hope that made sense because I don’t really know how to explain it…)

But to demonstrate it, here is halabos na tahong (mussels).

The recipe –

1 kilo tahong (mussels)
4 to 5 thin slices of ginger
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 small onion, sliced
1 medium tomato, sliced thinly
1 to 2 cups water
salt to taste
1 to 2 pieces finger chili
handful of dahon ng sili (pepper leaves)

Wash the tahong well and remove any dirt and “hair”.  Drain.

Sauté the ginger, garlic and onions.  Add the tomatoes.  Stir fry a couple of minutes then add in the mussels.  Pour in the water and cover the pan.  When the water starts to boil, throw in the finger chili and sili leaves.  Season with salt, to taste.  Stir occasionally.  When the mussels open, turn off the flame.  Do not over-cook.  If the water fully evaporates, add hot water in half cup increments.

The broth (what little of it is left, that is) is very tasty and I always exercise (what I call) cook’s privilege which means no one else gets the broth but me!  (hwa-hwa-hwa.)

*I like using a wok for this dish.  I find it easier to stir the mussels around so that they cook evenly.

Patola Misua Soup

This soup, sponge gourd and thin wheat noodle soup, is one of my favorites, as well as a comfort food for me.  It is usually cooked with ground pork, but chicken strips are used as well, and, if a more decadent version is desired, with shrimps.

In my household, we always use a combination of ground pork and shrimps.  But depending on the state of the local treasury, the amount of pork and shrimp used vary!

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My recipe:

1 large patola (sponge gourd)
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small onion, minced
50 to 100 grams ground pork
12 pieces shrimp, trimmed and cleaned
40 to 60 grams misua, or thin wheat noodles, or as desired
3 to 6 cups shrimp stock, or water
salt and pepper, to taste
toasted garlic bits or chips, optional

Begin by preparing the sponge guard.  Peel the skin off and slice the gourd into thin rounds.  Rinse and dry.

If desired, the shrimps can be shelled and diced.  The shells and head can be used to make shrimp stock, which can be added to the soup for more flavor in lieu of water.  Otherwise, use chicken or vegetable stock.

Saute the garlic and onion.  Add the ground meat and shrimps.  Stir fry several seconds.  When the ground meat and shrimp are cooked, add the stock, or water.

Let the mixture boil.  Add the wheat noodles, simmer a couple of seconds until the misua is softened and cooked.  Season with salt and pepper, as preferred.

Garnish with toasted garlic bits or chips, if desired.