Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Pinakbet1

Preview to SBS Food Safari:

http://www.sbs.com.au/food/video/20560963937/thursday-night-food-safari-filipino-promo

Last year I was contacted by the producer of SBS Food Safari, only the best food show ever, asking if I would consider featuring a recipe for an episode on Filipino Food. I think it was on the back of some of the posts they had seen on the Kulinarya Cooking Club. There was certainly no way I would pass on this chance!

As we tried to decide which recipe to feature, the producer suggested Pinakbet. When I asked Georgie why she was interested in that recipe, she mentioned that it was one dish that really stood out as featuring unique ingredients that Australians wouldn’t have normally cooked with. She was right, Pinakbet is a traditional vegetable stew usually made up of okra, talong (eggplant), ampalaya (bitter melon), and shrimp paste. I could understand why the dish would be worth showcasing but at that time it was not exactly a dish I would consider as a top choice. In fact, it probably wouldn’t have even been in my top ten favourite Filipino dishes.

I didn’t grow up enjoying vegetables. In fact, as a child I used to think that whoever invented Pinakbet must have really hated children because it had all the bitter and slimy vegetables I detested. The only saving grace, I thought, was the crispy bits of pork belly that was sprinkled throughout the dish. But I was determined to make sure that I would practice making the dish several times before the actual filming date.

The funny thing is, I started to appreciate the slimy okra, the bitter ampalaya, and the eggplant. The tastes started to grow on me and I thought of it as an acquired taste. The same way I learned as an adult how to appreciate a beautifully bitter dark chocolate, where as a child I would have preferred a sweeter milk chocolate.

The day of the filming came and I can honestly say I was a convert to Pinakbet. I cook this dish regularly nowadays. Sometimes the prejudices of our youth prevent us from enjoying something special.

And about the show? Maeve, the host of SBS Food Safari, and her team were fantastic! They do so much to promote the many cultures and cuisines of Australia. I was worried that Maeve would have the same reaction to Pinakbet as I did when I was a child. I was so wrong. She absolutely loved it! And in case you’re wondering, Maeve is every bit as nice and beautiful in person as in the show.

Food Safari airs in Australia on 7 March 2013 on SBS One at 7:30 pm.

Recipe for Pinakbet can be found here.

The Color Run Salad

Color Run Salad

Two months ago my husband and I decided to go for a run in a park a few minutes away from the house. I still remember that morning as if it was just yesterday. I took my GPS watch so that we could measure the distance we would go. The area was really more of an oval but truth be told, I wasn’t able to measure the entire distance as we stopped around half way through. My husband was out of breath – after 190 meters. The next day we ran the entire oval then walked another round. Little by little we would progress around the oval until one day we could do three or four rounds without stopping or heaving for breath.

Sometime in mid-December we agreed that we would have a goal, and that was to run in the Color Run that would be held in the Sydney Olympic park in February. So off we trained, a few extra hundred meters at a time until we were running the five kilometers maybe three or four times a week.

My brother, who runs marathons as a pastime told us that “one day, running the five kilometers will come so easily that it will feel like nothing…” that day, was clearly not going to happen anytime soon. We would finish each run, muscles sore, sweating profusely and trying to catch our breath. There were days when we would feel like sleeping in but we would try to motivate each other with little quotes like “there will come a day when you will not be able to run… today is not one of them” or when it was rainy we would tell each other that “there was no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”.

The Color Run is a five kilometer run loosely based on the Indian Holi festival. Everyone starts with a white T-shirt and each kilometer is associated with a designated color. As you run or walk (or dance) each kilometer, you are blitzed with color so that by the end of it, you look like some sort of colorful grunge art piece.

There is a reason that the Color Run is called the happiest five kilometers. The event itself was truly amazing. There were over 20,000 who participated and needless to say running through each color zone definitely made the run more fun. But what really inspired and motivated me was crossing the finish line with my husband. Here was someone who could barely run 200 meters just two months ago and was now finishing his first run. Something he never (ever) thought possible.

This salad was a recipe given to me by my Aunt Jenni. I am not sure what the origin of the salad was but I think one of her friends gave it to her. We used to call it the Qantas salad because someone said they used to serve this as part of the first class meals (I have never ridden first class so I can’t confirm). In any case, I’ve renamed it the Color Run Salad in honour of our first run together. It’s as tasty as it looks beautiful and it’s healthy too!

The Color Run Salad

  • 1/2 butternut pumpkin
  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 2 beetroots
  • 1 cup semi dried tomatoes
  • 2 cups spinach or rocket leaves
  • handful of pinenuts, toasted
  • 100 grams feta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Peel and cube the pumpkin, sweet potato and beetroot into cubes. Toss with the olive oil, mixed herbs and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Roast the vegetables in the oven for around 25 to 30 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  3. To serve, combine the roast vegetables with the pinenuts, feta and spinach/rocket leaves.

Tuna Poke

Tuna Poke

Tuna Poke

Every few months or so, I’ll discover a restaurant that quickly becomes my new favourite. It always plays out the same way, I’ll go back several times in a month and think how handy it would be to have a “standing reservation” every week. My husband prefers to try different restaurants so by the third or fourth time, he is pleading we try something new. A restaurant that made it to the favourite list and one we visited more than the usual was a restaurant serving Japanese pub food in Surry Hills called Izakaya Fujiyama.

They are famous for their charcoal grilled fish head which is limited in availability. They manager mentioned that it’s only available usually once a week. Naturally, when we found out that there was a tuna head was available, we had to order it. We asked the waitress for it and she put in our order. A few minutes later she came back with bad news. “Chef says that you cannot order it. It’s too big.” She told us. Given that we had already ordered four other dishes, she tried to persuade us that there would be too much food. We said we didn’t mind and we really wanted to order it so she went back to the chef to place our order. Forty minutes later this monster of a fish head arrived in our table. The head was so large that all our other dishes had to be cleared because the wooden serving plate covered the whole of the table. Of course there was no way we could finish the dish. In fact, we shared it with the table beside us and still had half to take home!

We rolled out of the restaurant thinking we would need to take at least four or five people to join us next time. Later on my husband told me that when the waitress went back to tell the chef we were insisting on ordering the dish, he saw the chef laugh and shake his head.

Equally as impressive, this tuna dish is definitely more manageable. Tuna Poke made with sashimi grade tuna marinated in soy, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil, over a bed of seaweed and topped with crispy wonton strips.

Tuna Poke

serves 2 as a started

  • 250 grams sashimi quality tuna
  • 100 grams seaweed
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Dash of shichimi togarashi
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame
  • strips of fried wonton wrappers
  1. Diced the tuna into 1 cm pieces. Set aside.
  2. Mix the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, shichimi and toasted sesame in a bowl and spoon over the tuna.
  3. Lay the seaweed salad on a serving plate, top with the marinated tuna and finally the wonton wrappers.
Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Ricotta

Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Ricotta

My husband and I like to go to a little Italian restaurant around the corner from where we live (well, more like in the next suburb to be exact). The other day we were heartbroken to find out that the restaurant would be moving. We said that we needed to go there as often as we could so as to enjoy their food until the big move. One of the specials on the menu were these zucchini flowers stuffed with a prawn and scallop mousse. Of course we ordered the dish! How was it? It was fantastic. Crisp batter and a beautifully light mousse.

Do you remember how my Mom, aka the blog monster, thinks she is part owner of this blog? Well now there’s my husband as well, who I like to think of as the aspiring blogger. The other day he came home with a packet of zucchini flowers and said he would stuff them like the dish we ate a few nights earlier. He said he planned to make a vegetarian version with ricotta and some fresh herbs from our garden.

So he prepared the zucchini flowers all by himself, the only advice I offered was for him to stuff them using a piping bag instead of a spoon. But I pretty much left him alone in the kitchen. A few minutes later I heard a click from the kitchen… then another click… click … click…

Curious, I went to have a look, to see my husband taking photos of the zucchini flowers with his iphone! I knew then and there I created another blog monster! But hey, if he keeps churning out dishes like this one, it will definitely be worth it!

Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Ricotta, Herbs and Pine Nuts

Serves 4
These zucchini flowers are a nice vegetarian dish. The ricotta mousse was delicious with the chopped herbs and the pine nuts added some nice texture to the dish.

  • 8 zucchini flowers
  • 250 grams ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • 25 grams pine nuts, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons of mixed fresh herbs – basil, parsley, and mint
  • salt to taste
  • 160 ml ice cold water
  • 100 grams tempura flour
  • oil for shallow frying
  1. First remove the yellow stamens inside the zucchini flower by pinching it off.
  2. Make the ricotta mixture by combining the ricotta, egg, pine nuts, fresh herbs and salt to taste. Place in a piping bag.
  3. Pipe the ricotta mixture into each zucchini flower, making sure not to overfill the flowers. Twist the edge of the flowers to seal.
  4. Make the batter by combining ice cold water and the tempura flour. Mix lightly, around 5 to 6 times, making sure not to over mix the batter, it should stay lumpy.
  5. Heat the oil and dip the zucchini flowers into the batter and then carefully lower into the oil. Shallow fry the flowers for around a minute in each side until crispy. Drain on paper towels. Serve with lemon wedges and sprinkle with salt prior to serving.
Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Ricotta, Herbs and Pine Nuts

Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Ricotta, Herbs and Pine Nuts

Trissalicious then

When I was growing up, my idea of beauty was to have long healthy hair. It must have been a case of wanting what I didn’t have because for as long as I can remember, I grew up with short hair. When I asked my Mom if I could grow out my hair, she said that it would look messy and be hard to manage. I still remember one day, (I still had short hair at this time), out of nowhere I found ONE strand of shoulder length hair out of my boyish hairstyle. I had no idea where it came from but I recall just stroking that one strand of hair for the whole day. “If only the rest of my hair would catch up!”, I thought. You can’t imagine my disappointment when at the end of the day, that one strand finally fell (maybe from over touching?)

In any case, when I was old enough to decide that my Mom couldn’t stop me from growing my hair, I vowed never to cut it. Through the years, I would break that vow and each and every time, I would regret it. I always felt that I looked too much like a boy and my roundish face wasn’t suited for short hair.

So what changed? A few years ago I read somewhere about a program to donate hair so that wigs could be created for cancer patients. You see, when I was six, my Mom was diagnosed with cancer. She was given six months to live. One of the first things that entered her mind was that if she died, she hoped that my Dad would marry one of her unmarried sisters so that he would someone to take care of him. That’s the kind of person she has always been – thinking about others before herself. My Mom was also refused to let cancer beat her. She was so tough that she would even drive herself to chemo sessions! One time I asked her, what was the hardest part of cancer. She said it wasn’t the chemo, nor was it that she had a mastectomy. She said it was losing all her hair. Many years later, my Mom is thankfully still alive and kicking… oops, make that, alive and dancing!

I also remember my mother in law who unfortunately passed away from cancer a year ago. She was also another generous person who when I asked how she was doing she would always say to please take care of her son (my husband). She had battled with the disease for a few years and over time we noticed that less and less she felt like going out and socializing. I think part of it was because she had also lost her hair and was self conscious of this.

For a girl, losing one’s hair can be a confronting experience. It can make you lose your self esteem.

As much as I loved having long hair, I wanted more to be able to do one little act to tell everyone who may be suffering from cancer and losing their hair that there are people who care. I care. It’s also my small way of acknowledging and supporting people like my Mom and Mom in law who have had cancer. I’ll be the first to admit, there were times, in particular when I saw the hairdresser’s scissors, that I wanted to chicken out. But, I hope by my writing about this, there are others who are inspired to show they care and donate their hair.

Pantene have a program called Beautiful Lengths that provide free real hair wigs to women who have lost their hair through cancer treatment. At a minimum hair must be 20 cm long and cannot be dyed, bleached or chemically treated. More information can be found on their website.

So this is me today, and I’m simply loving my new look. This is one time I’ve had no regrets about having short hair.

Trissalicious now

Trissalicious now

Short recipe for this post. My husband and I have been experimenting on a spicy scallop recipe on the back of a new recipe book I purchased a few weeks ago called Hashi. The original recipe requires you to make your own mayonnaise and serve the spicy scallops atop a bed of rice. I’ve adapted the recipe for a much more simple, yet delicious approach.

Easy Spicy Scallops

Easy Spicy Scallops

Easy Spicy Scallops

Serves 6

  • 150 grams fresh scallop meat
  • 100 grams Japanese mayonnaise (kewpie)
  • 15 grams chili sauce (i.e. lee kum kee garlic chili sauce or ling ham)
  • 1/2 nori sheet, cut into little pieces
  • 2 tablespoons flying fish roe
  1. Spray the scallop shells with a little cooking oil. Cut the scallop meat into 1 cm sized pieces (usually quartering them will be enough) and lay them on top of the scallop shells.
  2. Mix the Japanese mayonnaise and chili sauce together and set aside. Top the scallops with a few nori pieces and some of the flying fish roe.
  3. Spread some of the Japanese mayo mixture over the scallops and either grill the scallops in the oven or blow torch the scallops until the mayonnaise turns golden brown.
Easy Spicy Scallops

Easy Spicy Scallops

FIlipino Style Spaghetti

FIlipino Style Spaghetti

I love being an Aunt and I’m fortunate enough to have three gorgeous nephews who I can return after a few hours of babysitting! I previously wrote about my eldest nephew when I did a post on making sushi rolls a few years ago. Since then, two other little boys, James and William, have come into our family. Its fascinating to watch James handle his little brother. I still remember the first time James laid eyes on William. He came into the maternity room with his father, looked at the little bundle, then looked at his Mum, and then back to his brother and then to his Mum again as if to say “what have you done?!?!” Luckily he quickly warmed up to William, constantly trying to give him a cuddle and kiss. It should be loads of fun to watch them grow up together but I suspect though that James will find a way to put the blame on William for any mischief them may get into. When I ask him “who is naughty?”, James loves to say, “bro-da”!

James and his baby brother Wills

James and his baby brother Wills

One of James’ favourite food is spaghetti. He also has a penchant for anything sweet (like his Mum). I suspect James would love Filipino Style Spaghetti which was the Kulinarya Club’s dish for the month of October. Purists out there need not read any further as the recipe below is enough to give any Italian grandmother a heart attack. Filipinos have taken the traditional bolognese recipe and put their own twist to it. So what makes it so different? A few things come to mind. First, the sauce is sweetened by the addition of sugar and some recipes will also include ketchup (banana or tomato) Second, is the that the recipe includes chopped hotdogs. The recipe is not going to win any awards for traditional cuisine but kids love it! In fact, it’s so popular that it’s become a staple in children’s parties and even Mc Donalds in the Philippines have created their own version called the Mc Spaghetti.

So here is my recipe. I have to admit that I couldn’t bring myself to use ketchup in this recipe but otherwise, it’s pretty much how I remember it tasting. A little quirky, but every little bit of it delicious.

Filipino Style Spaghetti

Serves 6

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 500 grams beef mince
  • 230 grams hot dog (your favourite brand)
  • 50 grams tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 400 grams pasta sauce (your favourite brand)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup grated cheese
  • 1 package of dried spaghetti noodles
  1. Heat the oil in a large pot and add the onions and garlic. Saute over low heat for around 5 minutes until the onions turn translucent.
  2. Add the red peppers and again saute until softened, around 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Add the beef and cook over medium high heat until cooked then add the chopped hot dogs and the tomato paste.
  4. At this point, season with salt and pepper and add the sugar. Stir the mixture well and add the tomato sauce. Allow to cook for around 15 minutes over a low heat.
  5. In the meantime, prepare the pasta as per directions on the packet. Drain the water from the pasta. When the sauce and pasta is done, spoon the sauce over the spaghetti noodles.
  6. Serve with cheese.
FIlipino Style Spaghetti

FIlipino Style Spaghetti

Twice Cooked Pork Belly

Twice Cooked Pork Belly

The other week I received a rather curious comment from my husband. He said he wanted to learn to make pork belly.

“You aren’t ready.” I told him. I thought that a good pork belly, the one with really crispy crackling combined with melt in your mouth meat and a rich gravy was something only experienced cooks attempted.

But he insisted to make it for dinner and I said, knowing the failure to come, that I would have nothing to do with making the dish.

So off he went to buy the pork belly and every so often I’d get a text asking for advice. “What knife to use to score the pork belly? Knife not sharp enough??” or “Where is the thyme in the garden?” and “How do I turn on the oven?”. The questions were getting scarier and scarier and so I chose to ignore the messages and decided to go with plan B, and buy take away.

I knew I had made the right decision when I got home a few hours later. The kitchen counter was as clean as I had left it that morning and I thought that He must have aborted the project mid-way. I was impressed though that he had cleaned up.

Come dinner time however, he pulled this big slab of pork belly from the refrigerator and started portioning the meat into generous servings, ready to crisp the pork skin in the oven.

“Uhm, where’d you get that?” I asked him. Surely he didn’t make it. Did he?

Turns out, you can pretty much learn how to cook anything from You Tube. He had found a video of Gordon Ramsay making a twice cooked pressed belly of pork and proceeded to make his own. What can I say – I was humbled. It was exceptional. He even made a gravy and cauliflower and apple mash to go with it!

I learned a lot of things from my husband that day. First, when someone says you can’t do something, challenge it. Second, never underestimate a person’s abilities and third and most important lesson – my husband makes a mean pressed belly of pork!

Gordon Ramsay’s Pressed Belly of Pork

  • 1 kilo of pork belly (ribs removed), scored – it is easier to ask your butcher to do this
  • 2 bulbs of garlic, sliced in half horizontally
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • White wine (enough so that it covers the roasting pan during the cooking process plus a little more to deglaze the pan when done)
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160c (fan forced, add 20c if the oven is not fan forced)
  2. Season the pork belly generously with salt, pepper and olive oil.
  3. Place the garlic in a roasting pan and the thyme on top of the garlic. Place the pork belly on top of the thyme.
  4. Cook the pork belly for 2 hours. When done, remove and set aside to rest.
  5. Place the roasting pan over the stove top (be careful as the pan will still be hot. Deglaze the roasting pan with a generous splash of white wine and allow to reduce by for around 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and allow to reduce the liquid by half. Sieve the sauce into a pan, making sure to press the garlic through the sieve as much as you can so the sauce is infused with the garlic. Set aside
  6. Place the pork on a tray and place another tray on top of the pork belly. Press down on the top tray and place some weights (i.e. some cans from your pantry) on top of the tray to weigh it down. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
  7. When the pork is ready, pre-heat the oven to 240c (fan forced). Slice the belly of pork into 4 to 6 portions of smaller squares and cook for around 15 minutes until the skin crisps. While the pork is cooking, heat the gravy. To serve, place the pork on a bed of cauliflower-apple mash and pour the gravy around the pork.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,987 other followers