Sunday, October 25, 2009

Brunch at my Home-- "Kain Tayo!"

Since I am a full-time working mom, I try to make up among other things, by making meal times special for my family. I cook Saturday and Sunday dinners and Sunday Brunch. On Sundays, we tend to linger longer at the table before heading for worship service at midday.

It has been such a habit that my youngest, now 15 years old would wake me up in the morning, less I forget to cook! They look forward to that. I'm glad.

I cook depending on what's in the pantry. Or when I happen to be in the grocery on a Saturday, I start buying for my brunch menu. Pinoy breakfast is hearty. And while I add things of my own, revise bits here and there-- you will find my family heritage at our table.

The latest pinoy theme included chicken tocino, crispy boneless dilis, spanish sardines, sunny side-up, puting keso ng calabao (carabao white cheese) pan fried in butter and tsokolate eh (spanish chocolate). with the pre-requisite sinangag (fried rice) and bread. For toasted bread, it's a toss-up for me between pandesal, french bread, whole wheat or rye.

Both my parents hail from Batangas, so I grew up with native white cheese, although then it was saltier and wrapped in banana leaves...
tocino, although then it was with fatty pork...

The rest especially the spanish chocolate is still the same--dark and thick. The way I imagine the Spanish Friars had them in the olden days. Tablea is basically roasted cacao seeds ground and placed in small tin molds till dry.
  • 6-9 unsweetened chocolate tablets
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 c sugar

Simmer the chocolate tablets in water till it dissolves. The traditional way is to beat it until frothy with a batirol. In the meantime, a wire wisk will do. Add sugar. This istill quite bitter. Just offer milk and sugar or condensed milk at the table. Let them add according to taste. We enjoy ours bittersweet.

I cherish this time with my children and I hope that they will remember these sunday brunches with fondness. That they too, will make it a point to keep the weekly tradition alive where their own families are able to bond and make up for the hectic week that had just passed.

Summer in the midst of a Storm

Despite the incessant rain and typhoon-- I dream of summer and the cornucopia of fruits that it yields.

I was so thrilled when I accidentally stumbled upon a mound of native guavas, the small, sweet and fragrant kind. They were at the peak of ripeness that I just could not resist! And so I bought 2 1/2 kilos giddy with the thought that I will get to experiment on making guava jam.

What I see in supermarkets (which are rare these days) is guava jelly. What I wanted to make is true to the fruit, the result of which is a spread that is a dessert in itself!

I remember my grandmother had a lone guava tree in her backyard in Quezon City, next to the fruit-laden tamarind tree. The flesh of the guava was pink and almost sugar-sweet. The tree was short and easy to climb on. And my cousins and I would excitedly devour it. (on other days, we would pick from the neighbor's aratelis tree).

And so, I washed my guavas well and removed the seeds. The ones with soft and mushy pulp were the sweetest and I couldn't resist popping a few in my mouth. It was like going back to my childhood days of summer. The tougher ones, about less than ten pieces had to be removed, otherwise they will leave a bitter (mapakla) aftertaste. So my guess is, I was left with 2 kilos of guavas to cook.
I didn't put much sugar because the guavas were already sweet. I just needed the sugar to heighten the flavor and preserve it.

2 kilos ripe guavas, pitted, discard seeds
2 1/2 to 3 /2 c sugar
1 t salt
juice of 1 lemon

In a deep pot or wok, put the sliced guavas, add about a half to full cup of water, and when boiling, bring the flame down to a simmering heat, leave to cook for 30 minutes. Add salt and sugar and cook for another 15 minutes. Finally, add the lemon juice. When the fruit is soft, let it cool a bit and put in blender. You don't have to liquefy it as a few chunky bits make more enjoyable to eat. Put back in pot or wok and cook till thick and of spreadable consistency. It's like thick fruit sauce.

For me it's still best with thin crackers, with it's sweetness and crunch dancing in my mouth. Or on toasted wholewheat mainly because of the crunch and the earthiness of the bread.

As I was savoring my guava jam one cool morning, I thought it would probably go great with panna cotta. Too late-- my stash was almost gone! However, I have saved a little because I heard that it's wonderful sauce for baked ham. So, I'm saving some for Christmas. And that's not too far away. :-)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Kiss the Cook: Typhoon Pepeng and Hainanese Chicken Rice

Kiss the Cook: Typhoon Pepeng and Hainanese Chicken Rice

Typhoon Pepeng and Hainanese Chicken Rice

Saturday, many waited for Typhoon Pepeng's fury with bated breath-- as they indulged in their favorite comfort food. So did we.

Among those eats that we truly enjoy as a family is Hainanese Chicken Rice. I love this dish because it's simple yet flavorful. It feeds the senses--from the smell to the mouth feel to the taste.

For many who have gone to Singapore, I bet their shopping expeditions were mostly for clothes and shoes. As for me? My luggage had a box which contained the following: A couple of jars of chicken rice mix, 3 bottles of premium soy sauce, 2 small jars of chicken rice chili, 1 bottle of laksa paste, curry mix and black pepper mix and 6 bottles of kaya jam for pasalubong. I also brought home difficult to find spices like cardammon. And given the chance to go back--I will bring home more of the same things!

Because I won't be going to Singapore anytime soon, I've learned to make my own chicken rice mix and kaya jam (coconut cream jam). I wanted to get as close to the original taste that I so thoroughly enjoyed! I intend to bottle these and join bazaars one of these days.

Hainanese Chicken Rice is not hard to do. I've checked different recipes and they varied a bit from each other. So what I'm sharing is what works best for me. I've tried the boiling-chicken-and-plunge-in-ice-water method...but I find that what I like to do best is steam it. The chicken stays succulent that way. The trick I believe is in the prep.

1 whole medium to big chicken
dash of salt, pepper and garlic powder
thumb size ginger, cut into thin slices

Remove excess chicken fat--the yellowish mass under the skin, near the thighs. Gently run your fingers under the chicken skin, to separate it from the meat, especially at the breast area. Massage with the mix of salt, pepper and garlic powder on the meaty side. So as the chicken cooks ,it is already infused with flavor. Under the skin, put the ginger slices in strategic areas: breasts, legs, thighs.

Steam chicken in a steamer or wok. The water for steaming itself should have a couple of slices of ginger,too. The water must remain a rolling boil. Steam for 40 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the chicken. Cover tighly, and add water every now and then to prevent it from drying up. The water used to steam the chicken will catch the juices and basically becomes the broth. Set this aside for the chicken rice.

Chicken Rice

Thumb size ginger,sliced into thin strips (matchsticks)
2 big segments of garlic, sliced into thin strips (match sticks)
1 t salt
1/3 c of oil
3 c uncooked rice

Heat oil in the pot (or the rice cooker pot on stove flame). It should be a gentle heat...add the ginger and garlic, just to release the aroma-about 30- seconds to 1 minute, then add the uncooked rice so as to coat the grains with oil. Use the chicken broth as the water (about 3 cups) ,add the salt--stir and let cook as you normally would with rice. (Likewise with the rice cooker pot-- after the open flame--let it cook in the rice cooker).

Chop chicken into smaller pieces, serve chicken rice heaping in bowls and a siding of really good soy sauce and chili paste. What I like about the premium soy sauce is its syrupy thick and mild sweet-salty taste. My friend prefers the salty variety. To contrast with crunch, serve with cucumber slices. It is a lovely and cool counterpart to the chili. If you don't have chili paste-- a little tabasco will do the trick.

The rice has to be piping hot!

Once we took the first spoonful-- Pepeng was soon forgotten.


The latest recipes from Kiss the Cook-- enjoy