Spicy Prawn Curry with Roasted Tomatoes

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For the past few weeks Fridays have come to mean more than just the American Idol results show and the day where torrent files of my favorite shows come out. I took it upon myself to observe the season of Lent and abstain from eating meat and eat only one full meal every Friday until Easter, among other “restraints”.

Have I been faithful? No, I have taken afternoon snacks so adhering to one full meal has been difficult. Right now typing this, my stomach’s grumbling. Aside from that one Friday where it slipped my mind, I have been trying to avoid pork, chicken and beef. Self-discipline isn’t really one of my strong suits. Probably one of my fatal flaws, but nonetheless I’m proud of myself. Restraining myself, exerting a little measure of discipline during this season, is something that I’ve been trying to do. My cross is heavy but I’m trying to hold on.
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Lent is a season of reflection, of going beyond your usual call of duty and examine yourself in relation to how you treat yourself and others. At least that’s how I see Lent. I don’t claim to know everything about my faith – but I know it’s not perfect. Sometimes my roots are parched – the leaves wilt and fall, and what exactly I need to do about it, makes me wonder even more. But time and time again, my belief in a higher being will never die, no matter how misguided I can be.
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What does the prawn/shrimp* curry have to do with everything? Well, this is just my way of exercising that “restraint” without purposely depriving myself to the point of punishment.
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Have you ever tried to roast tomatoes? Try it, you won’t be disappointed. Have you ever tried to roast garlic? It was my first time to do that today, and I knew I had to put a few tender garlicky segments into the curry, just because I love garlic.
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I still had a little container of garam masala in the pantry from my chicken korma escapade. I didn’t want it to go to waste. Making this wasn’t a stretch at all. As much as I appreciate a spicy curry, the people around here don’t. A few dashes of chili flakes gave it the heat that it needed. To offset it, aside from the coconut milk, I added a few spoonfuls of peanut butter to give it that subtle sweet creaminess.
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A spoonful of this will give a gentle sweetness that  mingles with the bold curry taste, then there is that unmistakable heat that still lingers at the back of your mouth. The roasted tomatoes do their part by offering a sweet tang that gloriously blends with everything else. And there’s nothing wrong with mashing a few pieces of garlic directly into the sauce. Nothing wrong that at all.

Thank God it’s Friday.
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Spicy Prawn Curry with Roasted Tomatoes  (serves 4 – 6)

*Prawns and shrimps are semantically different but can be used interchangeably, though prawns are larger than shrimps. I used prawns for this recipe, but like you, I’m used to saying ‘shrimps’, big or small. That’s OK. I guess. 

  • 200 ml coconut milk
  • half a garlic bulb, minced
  • 1 large white onion, sliced
  • 15 – 20 pieces medium-sized prawns, peeled and deveined.
  • a few pieces of the prawn heads, the sharp pointy things (it’s called a rostrum) and whiskers snipped
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons garam masala
  • a few dashes red chili flakes
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 – 5 pieces roasted garlic segments (optional)
  • a few pieces roasted tomatoes 
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  1. Prepare the roasted tomatoes. If you want to roast the garlic, roast it will the tomatoes. I slice around 1/4 inch off the top of the garlic bulb to expose the flesh, then drizzle it with olive oil, salt and pepper. 
  2. In a pan, heat both oils over medium heat. When hot, add the onions, then the garlic. Saute until fragrant. 
  3. Add the coconut milk, then the shrimps heads. Lower the heat to low. Add the garam masala, turmeric, chili flakes and peanut butter. Season with salt and pepper. Adjust taste, color and consistency to your liking. 
  4. Add the roasted garlic and mash with your spoon to incorporate. 
  5. Add the shrimps/prawns and crank up the heat to medium, and cook until both sides turn orange in color, around 3 – 5 minutes. Remove the shrimp heads. 
  6. Add the roasted tomatoes at the last second and mix well. Remove from heat and serve. Enjoy! 

Sinigang na Hipon/Shrimp Sinigang

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Really sour. That’s how I like my sinigang. Be it fish, shrimp or pork, as long as I’m slurping a bowl of rich tangy broth, I’m good. Sinigang, to all y’all clueless, is the Filipino ‘soup’, characterized by the meat/whole protein, vegetables, and a souring agent – usually sampalok (tamarind).
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The only cop-out with this classic soup, that sits well with me,  is the use of powdered soup mix (called Sinigang sa Sampalok). Every corner store, wet market and grocery carries sachets of this in its many brands and forms. So to put it out there: I’ve never had sinigang that wasn’t prepared and soured using the powdered mix. But like I said, it works for me.
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Shrimp sinigang/Sinigang na Hipon sits at the top of the list of my favorite soups. I like how it gives the soup a fresh, subtle, “from the sea” flavor, that broth cubes just can’t give. Compared to adding pork in your sinigang, shrimp isn’t  greasy at all, and you can hardly see any oil globules floating on the surface of the soup. It’s not that I don’t enjoy eating pork sinigang, on the contrary, I love it. But I love this one more. So much more.
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I associate a hot sour soup like this one with memories of summer. Growing up it was really during the summer that I had uninterrupted moments in the kitchen with my Mama Eng. I got to enjoy family lunches and dinners more, and admittedly, I had more variety with what I was eating – probably more vegetables. I can’t really remember it all.
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If you want to make this (and I hope you do), don’t settle for the ones that are literally shrimps. Go for the big prawns. They’re meatier and pack more flavor. And don’t forget: really sour.
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Sinigang na Hipon/Shrimp Sinigang (serves 6 – 8)

  • 6 – 8 cups water
  • around 15 – 20 prawns, head and shell intact, but barbs and long whiskers snipped with scissors
  • 2 red onions, sliced
  • 4 – 5 small tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 half an inch piece of ginger, intact
  • 1 eggplant, sliced
  • around 2 cups kangkong leaves or chili tops/leaves, washed under running water
  • 1 cup/a bunch of string beans, sliced into 2 -3 inch pieces
  • 1 cup malunggay/moringa leaves
  • 2 10-gram sachets Sinigang sa Sampalok mix, or more if desired
  • 1 sachet seasoning granules (I used Maggi Magic Sarap) or salt, to taste
  1. In a stockpot, allow water to boil over medium heat.
  2. When it’s boiling, add the shrimps, onions, tomatoes, ginger, eggplant and string beans. Cover and allow to cook for around 5  minutes, or until eggplant is tender. Season with salt or seasoning granules, to taste.
  3. Add the rest of the vegetables and the sinigang mix. Lower the heat to medium-low. Mix everything together and adjust taste to your preference. When it starts to boil again, remove from heat. Serve with rice and enjoy!

Egg Rings and Early Mornings

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Lately, I rarely get up early. My usual day would begin at around 8:30 am, and then there are 4-hour power interruptions here and there, I usually have brunch, I skip breakfast, I lie in bed all day, I cram work into one day, and I cram some more…
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But, when I do get to wake up at 6:00 am, breakfast becomes the most important meal of the day.
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This time I baked the egg rings instead of microwaving it. I’m precluding the possibility that the yolk might explode. Yes, it has happened before. Plus, it’s less stressful.

Time slows down and little moments (like having breakfast with people before they leave for work) becomes golden.
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Egg Rings

  • ramekins
  • 1 egg for each ramekin
  • 2 strips of bacon for each ramekin
  • a dash of salt and pepper
  • a dash of paprika
  1. Preheat oven to 180 C.
  2. Line the insides of the ramekins with the bacon strips
  3. Crack an egg in the middle of the ramekin
  4. Season with salt and pepper and paprika
  5. Bake for 15 minutes or until the center is set but still slightly wobbly. Ovens behave differently so if you want a runny center, check it at the 15-minute mark.

Ice Candy Duo: Lemonade & Milk Tea

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I had a lot of vivid memories growing up, spending lazy days at home, far far from the clutches of school – watching Dink The Little Dinosaur, flying kites with my dad, playing “tumbahang lata” with the neighbors’ kids, starting an aquarium more than once, all of which ended in massive extinction, and a particularly graphic scene of a little calamansi fruit, literally frying with the juice boiling on the concrete, under the scorching heat of the sun. Yes, summers are more fun in the Philippines.

My childhood summers are one of the sweetest moments of the life, particularly because I didn’t like going to school, and there was always something to do at home or outside. That was the good life. I didn’t care for anything else, except that I wanted to have fun. Going back to school  takes those golden moments away. It’s also a part of life (and a fact) that growing up pushes these memories aside, making room for new priorities, interests, and even friends.
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Moving on to happy thoughts…

Judging by the heat, the scorching  summer has definitely arrived. When I was growing up, summer also meant that ICE CANDY season has also arrived. Ice Candy, is basically any refreshing liquid of your choice, poured into thin, flimsy plastic ‘wrappers’ specifically made for ice candy, tied up and frozen. That’s it.
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How is it supposed to be eaten? You bite into and tear off a little piece of plastic from the bottom, then suck away. The heat from your hands will begin to melt the ice, and it’s a venerable treat to relish the liquid that’s slowly dancing in between liquid and solid. I can’t get any better than that.

Because I was a wee fledgling when the ice candy craze kicked in, making it involved teamwork. I would pour the liquid into the wrapper, and my Mama Eng would tie it all up and place it in the freezer. Sometimes, the neighborhood kids would help out as well. We’re tight like that. Then we would sell it for 1 peso a pop. One summer, the craze was so popular, every single household in our extension was selling ice candy! A classic ice candy flavor would have to be Milo. Fruits juices only ranked second.
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This month would mark my first attempt at joining Kulinarya Club’s monthly theme activity. I received confirmation of my membership around mid-February, and I’ve been looking forward to taking crack at the March theme: ice candy (thanks to Jun of Jun-Blog and Arnold of Inuyaki for this stroke of brilliance).

I put my own spin to this oldie-but-goodie by showcasing two flavors that I’ve fallen in love with recently: lemonade and milk tea.
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I’m not really a calamansi juice person, though I won’t mind if it’s liberally drizzled over a plate of palabok. There’s just something…cleaner and fresher about the smell and taste of lemons that takes me away from the humidity and unforgiving heat of the day. My mom’s lemonade ratio really hits the spot each and every time – the flavor of the tart lemons and the sweet sugar marries perfectly. I can finish a pitcher in one day.
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Milk tea has been a growing trend here in the Philippines and I’ve had my fair share of it over the past few months. But I’m proud to say that among the milk teas that I’ve tasted, Zamboanga’s own Zensonita (Zen-son-night-ta) is one of the best in my book. It shares the top spot with Gong Cha. That says a lot. Zensonita is unpretentious and serves it like it is, no gimmicks, no frills. Visit their store along Nunez extension and order all three bestsellers: original, tarik and strawberry. I tried to replicate their original flavor – basic black tea with a slurry of fresh and condensed milk.

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And as the song goes: “summertime, and the livin’ is easy”. Ice candy might as well be the songwriter’s muse, maybe even the perfect symbol.

Ice Candy Duo

Lemonade

  • 6 cups  cold water
  • 3 – 4 lemons
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar

Mix everything in a pitcher and allow to chill in the refrigerator.

Milk Tea

  • 4 cups water
  • 3 bag black tea
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup fresh milk
  • 1/2 cup condensed milk, or more to taste
  1. Boil water in a pot over medium heat. Once boiled, remove from heat and add the tea bags. Allow to steep for 10 – 15 minutes or until a strong tea flavor is achieved. When done, remove tea bags. When cooled, transfer the tea to a pitcher.
  2. Mix the fresh and condensed milk together in a small bowl or cup. Add to the tea and mix well. Adjust the taste to your preference.

Make the ice candy:

  1. If you’re working alone, it’s best to have a mug/cup with you. Place the plastic tubes/wrappers inside the mug with prop it in such a way that it’s resting on the rim of the mug/cup.Photobucket
  2. Use a small funnel to pour the liquid in, filling the wrapper a little over halfway to 3/4ths full. Take the excess plastic and tightly twist it to compress the liquid inside. Use your fingers to roll the excess plastic until it’s toothpick-thin, so it will be easier to twist.Photobucket
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  3. Twist the excess plastic around your finger, and loop it around to make a knot. Repeat the process until you have your desired number. Freeze until firm and enjoy!Photobucket

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    The 3rd one from the left is what you'll get when you won't twist the excess plastic enough

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Chorizo and Roasted Tomato Pasta

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I’ve had my fair share of pasta problems. Usually, when I was starting out, the comments would be along the lines of, “It tastes good, but the pasta’s undercooked/overcooked/mushy”, or the other way around, “The pasta’s cooked perfectly, but I don’t taste anything else”. Take note, I’ve never made my own pasta from scratch before, since I don’t have the ingredients, and the equipment is exorbitantly priced.
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I take comfort in knowing that there’s always a canister of ready-to-cook pasta noodles resting inside the pantry. So far my pasta streak has been pretty good. But of course, I’m looking forward to the day I might be able to press my own pasta noodles.

Coming from a family whose conceptual definition of pasta is a chunky, saucy spaghetti, it’s a challenge getting them to try anything that digresses from their mental image. I’ve haven’t really made major breakthroughs with them yet. One time, when my uncle suggested that my vegetarian tomato pasta would taste better with condensed milk, my ego was torn in half. My mom, however, is my biggest supporter and a fan of my garlic and sardines pasta, so I usually give everything to her.
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But of course, when I saw my 12-year old cousin, who has known fried chicken and Jollibee spaghetti all his life,  devour his plate of my pasta, I had a feeling I was on to something.

Like I said, the roasted tomatoes I made are incredibly versatile. One classic preparation that I’ve always wanted to try is to add it to pasta. And the rest was history. The chorizos that I used were the plump, sweet, smoky variety, so it imparted a rich taste to the pasta oil. The tomatoes were the icing on the cake.
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Imagine yourself swirling your fork to pickup the noodles, stabbing little chunks of juicy chorizo and a piece of roasted tomato, and putting it in your mouth, slurping the pasta – the sweet flavors of chorizo and basil, the acidity of the tomato, dancing and exploding in your mouth.  Does it feel good? Are you drooling right now? I thought so.
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Chorizo and Roasted Tomato Pasta (serves 3 – 4)

If you noticed, there isn’t a lot of precise measurement involved. Just put it all together, and have fun dancing with generosity and restraint. 

  • 100 – 150 grams angel hair pasta
  • 6 – 8 pieces sweet smoky chorizo, sliced
  • roasted tomatoes
  • a few pieces of fresh basil leaves
  • around 1/4 cup olive oil, or more if desired
  • salt and pepper
  1. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water before draining. Drain the pasta and set aside.
  2. In a pan, over medium heat, cook and brown the chorizo until the fat renders. Season with salt and pepper. And the olive oil, tomatoes and the basil leaves. Allow to cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Add the reserved pasta water, then add the pasta. Mix well to coat the pasta with the seasoned oil. Add more olive oil if desired. Cook for 1 more minute, or until the water evaporates, it’s no longer soggy and the pasta has taken the sauce well.
  4. Remove from heat and serve warm. Enjoy!

Roasted Tomatoes

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Have you ever tasted something so amazing, that it left you speechless? One bite, and all you could think of, all you could say is, “delicious”?

I know this might sound like I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. I don’t even want to elaborate on this too much. I made roasted tomatoes, and it tasted amazing.
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It’s crazy how something so inexpensive, homey and rustic, can be transformed into nuggets of pure pleasure. Once again, I’m not exaggerating. The process is incredibly simple – slice tomatoes in half, drizzle it with olive oil, and generously sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Absolutely no pretensions. Just leave it in the oven for a little over an hour, and true to form, the end product is more than the sum of its parts.
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One bite from these little shriveled nuggets will make anyone a believer. Can something be incredibly sweet and tart at the same time? Yes. These roasted tomatoes are just that. Biting into the pieces is a sensory overload – the tomatoes have dried and caramelized perfectly, leaving a sweet, subtle exterior. Emphasis on the caramel. Chewing on the morsels releases its full flavor – the bright, refreshing, zesty tang that marries, and also tempers the saccharine taste perfectly.

The flavor of the tomatoes speaks highly of its versatility – I can imagine doing a lot with it. My only regret? I didn’t make a larger batch. But since the market is a stone’s throw away from our house, tomorrow then.
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And I’ll let the pictures do the talking
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Roasted Tomatoes

  • 8 – 10 medium-sized tomatoes (Start with this batch and make more if you want. Trust me, you’ll want to)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or a silicone mat.
  2. Slice the tomatoes in half, lengthwise. Arrange the tomatoes on the sheet.
  3. Generously drizzle it with olive oil, but don’t go overboard. You may pour the olive oil onto a tablespoon first then drizzle it over the tomatoes.
  4. Evenly sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours, or until tomatoes have crinkled but is still partially moist.
  6. When done, remove from oven. Use as desired or place it in a clean bowl and drizzle it with more olive oil, cover it with cling wrap and store it in the refrigerator. Use when ready.

Nasi Goreng

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Quick disclaimer: although the title says Nasi Goreng, I’m not sure if what I made does qualify as Indonesian fried rice since I haven’t tasted the real thing yet – hence, there’s no benchmark. Note to self: eat nasi goreng when I’m in Indonesia. For it to be authentically Indonesian, ingredients have to be authentic as well. Case in point? This has pork in it. Despite all that, I can imagine that this is a close approximation.

But what’s interesting with this recipe is that I got to learn new things: belacan (Malaysia) or terasi (Indonesia), a common ingredient used to flavor the rice, is simply called bagoong here in the Philippines. So that’s one ingredient that didn’t give me hell. Next, most of the recipes I read online require the addition of ‘kecap manis’. Interesting fact: ‘kecap’ is pronounced as ‘ketchup’, and this is where the ketchup we know of today got its name from.
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Because we didn’t have kecap manis lying around, I decided to make my own. Once again, I have no idea what real kecap manis should taste like, but based on what dear old internet has given me, it’s sweetened soy sauce. How hard could that be?
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I’ve always been a sucker for good fried rice – hot and toasty with a light coating of oil. When it’s studded with other ingredients like egg, fried pork bits, peas, cabbages, carrots… (I could go on), it’s a complete meal in itself. On the other hand, there’s the simple, rustic fried rice whose only accompaniment are little bits and pieces of garlic and spring onions. This Nasi Goreng doesn’t go overboard with the toppings  (only pork and egg), but because of the flavor – intermingling sweet and salty tones, this can be a stand-alone meal.
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Nasi Goreng (serves 4 – 6; loosely adapted from Rasa Malaysia and this site for the kecap manis)

  • 7 cups day-old rice
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Half a garlic bulb, minced
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons shrimp paste/bagoong gata (a sweet-salty version of bagoong which is cooked with tomatoes and coconut milk)
  • 2 pieces pork shoulder or belly, sliced into small cubes (you can use chicken or shrimp)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon chili oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Cabbage (optional; I didn’t use this but looking back it would’ve been better if I did)
kecap manis:
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • A dash of five spice
  1. In a frying pan, over medium heat, add the eggs and cook to make an omelet. When set, using your spatula, shred the omelet into smaller bits. Set aside.
  2. In a bowl, using the back of a spoon or fork, break the rice that might have clumped together. Set aside.
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  3. In a wok/pan that is large enough to hold the rice, heat oils over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and fry until fragrant and lightly toasted.
  4. Add the bagoong and sauté for 1 minute. Add the pork. Sauté the pork for 1 minute. Add the water, cover and allow pork to cook. Stir occasionally to prevent it from burning.
  5. While the pork is cooking, make the “kecap manis”: in a small bowl, combine soy sauce, molasses and five spice.
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  6. When the water has evaporated, pork has become tender and fat renders, sauté and allow the pork to brown. Add the kecap manis, and chili oil.Photobucket
  7. Add the rice, and mix everything together to coat the rice with the ‘kecap manis’.  Stir the rice to allow it to fry some more, but take care not to burn the bottom.Photobucket
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  8. Add the shredded omelet and mix well. When done, remove from heat and serve warm. enjoy!
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And you ought to meet my new recipe notebook which doesn't like to stay open. Moleskine this isn't, but this'll have to do.

Lunch with the chickens

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It’s crazy that this post’s photo folder has been dormant for over three months now. Fresh, this is not, but I’d like to believe memories, although fleeting, easily taken for granted, easily preserved but eventually forgotten – can still be lived one way or the other. Today is one of those days.

Dad and I drove a few miles, to the next ‘baranggay’, to visit his little plot of land which he made into a makeshift ‘farm’. It’s not that big; its neighbors are houses, so technically it was located in a little ‘subdivision’. But it made sense. We had distant relatives nearby that he tapped to take care of it when he can’t.
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My dad always said that it was ‘in his blood’ to take care of farm animals – in his case, poultry, because his dad (my grandfather) used to take care of animals as well in their hometown of Bilar, in Bohol. If you’re wondering, I can’t speak Bisaya to save my life.
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He doesn’t like to sell the chickens or the eggs, much to my mom’s chagrin. He relishes at the feeling of simply tending to and propagating the flock. And true enough, what started with a few pairs of roosters and hens, exponentially grew into a brood of 30 or so, with chicks sprouting almost every month.
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He also decided at it would also be great to have our lunch there, so we bought all the basic things for adobo: pork, a sachet of soy sauce and vinegar, garlic, onions, pepper and bay leaf.
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“Di na natin kailangan ng plato” (We don’t need plates), was his response when I asked if we’d bring plates. I was confused. Did he keep a secret stash of eating utensils among the nests and feeds? No. Then he elaborated that we would be eating it like a ‘boodle fight‘, in short, a table and a banana leaf are all we need.

I didn’t say a thing, though I was hiding the inner frustration and hesitation at the thought of doing something that wasn’t me at all. Don’t judge – I just prefer to eat my food out of a plate or bowl. With a spoon and fork.
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Initially the conditions weren’t really my cup of tea when it came to prepping everything. There was a rickety plastic table, and that was it. It was a good thing I brought a chopping board and a knife. Just no plates.

Dad knew what he was doing, of course. “Ganito kami sa probinsya, simple lang ang buhay” (This is how we do it in the province – simple living). Well, looking back, I did get the idea.

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This is what simple living entails: no electricity, no fancy appliances, no fancy ingredients. Just the basics, and the elements – a pot and a makeshift stove using burning wood.  It’s incredibly uncomplicated and liberating, in a way. As long as there’s rice, we’re good. That’s what my dad believes in, anyway. Like the way adobo is more of a way of cooking than it is a dish, this is a fragment of a way of life.

Just so you know, banana leaves have to be “cleaned” over a flame to remove whatever it is that needs to die.
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And we wash our hands.
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Then we dig in. With our hands. No pretensions. It was one of the best lunches I’ve had in a really long time. I mean it. Despite my penchant for different adobo variants, this one was a winner. Incredible.
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I don’t eat with my bare hands (‘kamayan’; ‘kamay’ – ‘hand’, hence ‘by hand or using you hands’) a lot, despite this practice forcefully flowing through the veins of Filipino culture.

But call it luck (or whatever you want), but every single time I do get to eat with my hands, the food is always spectacular in its own way – whether it’s with the family eating freshly grilled fish and pork at the beach, or at Mang Inasal, where their chicken seriously tastes better when eaten by hand.
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This adobo was no exception. Salty, sour nuggets of pork perfectly cooked until fork tender, tempered with the taste of fluffy, steaming rice. Finished off with a bottle of ice cold (say that  seductively sloooow) coke.
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My dad and I share an imperfect, sometimes awkward, complicated relationship. But time just froze in that simple, uncomplicated pocket of a moment. And I saw a glimpse of my dad that I don’t get to see often.

We drove home a little after lunch with bellies full. And like I said, it’s been three months. Right now dad’s in Manila studying, he’ll be gone for a few months and that was the first and only time we managed to do that.  But despite all of that, there’s always the excitement of doing it all over again soon.

Fingers crossed.

Meat and Malunggay Frittata

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At around 7:00 am you can still find me in bed, probably snoring, probably aware that people have woken up already, but most of the time, I don’t have a care in the world. That’s me at 7:00 am. Since my departure from school, being a student and teaching, that has been my routine. I just love sleep.

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Breakfast begins at 9:00 am, that is, if I’m actually in the mood to cook myself something decent. The people in the house are long gone, and I’m left to my own devices. Sometimes, I just wait to have my first meal of the day during lunch at my grandparents’ house, which is just next door.

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But I have my moments too. Moments where I just focus, zone in, get a pan ready, grab things from the fridge and cook. I think I may be on to something here with “one-pan” wonders. Yesterday it was pork with tomatoes for lunch, and today…breakfast/brunch was a really great frittata.

A frittata is just like an omelet, only studded with meat and vegetables, and usually finished off in the oven. You might even throw a pie crust here and there. I remember eating an amazing breakfast buffet at the hotel where we stayed in Hong Kong. There was an “egg station” where all you had to do was point at the fillings you wanted with your eggs, and the chef will make a frittata out of it. There was no oven work involved, and with his small spatula, he masterfully flipped the egg in the equally small pan to cook everything perfectly. It was a damn good frittata.

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And this one? I’d like to believe it’s just as good – probably even better. I had this idea of adding malunggay or moringa leaves to the frittata from a recipe that I read in one of our food magazines lying around. Malunggay, in the Philippines, is usually added to soups, like chicken tinola, to impart an earthy taste that goes perfectly with the ginger in the soup. Strangely enough, when I’m trying to describe malunggay’s taste, the thought of ginger comes to mind.
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It’s crazy overwhelming how nutritious malunggay is. It makes perfect sense to have it for breakfast because the leaves have quadruple the calcium content of regular milk, among other nutrients. We’re lucky enough to have a small tree growing just outside our fence, so all I had to do was grab a bunch.

What’s great about this recipe is that this can easily be a blank canvas. You can replace the chorizo and the meatballs with whatever deli products you might have lying around, keeping in mind that bacon makes everything better (haha). But seriously, don’t skip the malunggay.

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Chorizo, Meatball and Malunggay Frittata (serves 4 – 6)

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • malunggay leaves (I used 2 small stalks)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 – 8 meatballs, quartered (or your choice of deli)
  • 3 – 4 chorizos, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces (or you choice of deli)
  • 1/8 cup frozen green pease (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 160 C.
  2. Remove the malunggay leaves from the stems and wash under running water.

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    Make sure you remove the leaves from the stem

  3. Crack the eggs into a bowl. Add the milk. Beat until everything is incorporated well. Season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes.
  4. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the chorizo and fry until lightly brown and fat renders.
  5. Add the meatballs and green peas. Stir to incorporate everything together.
  6. Pour the egg-milk mixture onto the pan. Sprinkle with the malunggay leaves.
  7. When the edges of the omelet have begun to set, remove from heat and place it in the oven. Allow to cook for 10 – 13 minutes, or until the frittata has set all the way through.

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    The edges have begun to set

  8. Remove from the oven (use an oven mit, the pan handle may be hot) and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Pork with Tomatoes

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I’m a sucker for one-pot/one-pan wonders. This is probably the first one-pan meal I’ve posted, and it’s strange, considering that this is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. I’ve been consuming this for years now. When my love affair with this dish started, I haven’t the slightest idea. Before I started really cooking, my Mama Eng would cook this like no other person can, for lunch, dinner, sometimes even both.

It may seem extremely counterintuitive but when I was 10 kilograms heavier during my teens, I used to go home after a great game of badminton with a large bowl of pork with tomatoes and a steaming plate of rice waiting for me. Yes, that scenario made so much sense. Really.

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This doesn’t have a fancy name. This isn’t even a fancy dish. Comfort food isn’t even supposed to be fancy. It’s simply a basic combination of pork and tomatoes, stir-fried together to make an incredibly satisfying dish. I just really love a simple, easy lunch that doesn’t involve a lot of technique. Don’t get me wrong, I have a list of “complicated” dishes that I hope to accomplish gradually.

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But because I’m me, I appreciate quiet breathing spaces along the way, where one pan is all I need to feel good. Oh, of course, a good siesta won’t hurt as well.

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Pork with Tomatoes (serves 4)

  • 1 1/2 kg pork shoulder or belly, cubed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1 whole garlic bulb, minced
  • 1 large white onion, sliced
  • 6 – 7 medium-sized tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons soy sauce/liquid seasoning (I used Maggi Savor)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  1. In a large pan/wok, add pork cubes and water. Generously sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Over medium heat, allow to simmer and bring to a boil. Cover and allow to cook for 10 – 15 minutes or until pork is tender. Add more water is necessary if pork is still not tender.
  3. When the pork is cooked and the liquid evaporates completely, the pork’s fat will render. Toast the pork in its own fat, stirring frequently until lightly browned, around 3 minutes.
  4. Push the pork to the side of the pan and add the garlic and onions into the cleared space. Toast the garlic and onions for 30 seconds. Afterwards, stir to incorporate it with the pork.
  5. Add the tomatoes, soy sauce/liquid seasoning, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix everything together and cook until tomatoes soften and go limp.
  6. When done, remove from heat and serve with rice. Enjoy!