Clam Curry

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I’ve taken it upon me to download whatever torrent file I could get my grubby hands on when I was home a few days ago. Having lived for two months with a plug-it that’s mediocre at best made me more appreciative of the blazing fast internet I have at home. It’s good for the soul, coming home to country comfort.

My mom and I went to the wet market on Saturday to buy some ingredients we need for a little picnic the following day. Before I left, I wanted to have a picnic with my family but things got in the way and it didn’t happen. This time, we made sure that our schedules were wide open. Anyway, there were mounds and mounds of clams in different sizes, (around 5 – 8 per mound) for sale that morning. I didn’t pass up the chance to buy around two mounds because I was inspired by Kumar (of MasterChef AU fame) to cook clams with curry. I’m a big fan of MasterChef Australia, so much in fact, that this blog has thrived after feeding off the show’s happy juju. Thanks to incredible download speeds, I was up-to-date with this season’s offering. The latest season is an All-Stars edition, pitting 4 fan favorites each from season 1 – 3 against each other for charity. In one of the challenges, where it was season 1 vs 2 vs 3 in an all-Indian challenge, Kumar from season 3 cooked mussels (tahong) in coconut milk flavored with a homemade spice mix. We don’t get a lot of really good mussels but clams were in abundance.

Clams and mussels taste like the sea so much that the flavor is unmistakable. It does wonders to soups, rice and now, I can curry to the list. Like most of my kitchen experiments, it was the first time I cooked clams with curry so I just went with gut feel on taste and seasoning.

The garam masala was still in the pantry, albeit a little milder in flavor, and mom always keeps a supply of coconut cream in tetra packs for convenience. I was home…and it was game time. Another home run for the clams.

Clam Curry (serves 2 – 3)

  • around 15 clams
  • 400 ml coconut cream
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder (what I used: 1 1/2 tablespoon garam masala + 1 1/2 tablespoon turmeric powder), or more to taste
  • one 1-inch knob of ginger, minced
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • half a bulb of garlic, minced
  • 1 large white onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 bell peppers (preferably 1 red and 1 green), sliced into thin strips
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 bunch pechay or bok choy, roughly chopped
  • 1 finger chili, sliced, or red pepper flakes (optional)
  1. In a medium-sized pan or sauce pan, preferably with a lid, add a splash or two of oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger. Allow to toast until fragrant then add the onions. Cook until onions start to go limp. Add the lemongrass and bell peppers and stir everything together.
  3. Add the coconut cream and the spices (and if you’re using it, the chili). Mix everything together until well incorporated. Season with salt and pepper and allow to simmer.
  4. Add the clams and cover the pan.  Allow to cook, making sure to discard the clams that do not open.
  5. Add the pechay at the last minute, stir everything together , let it cook for a bit then remove from heat. Serve warm and enjoy!

 

Waiting out the rain (with pork and cabbage)

I was rushing to school the other day, with my uniform sealed in a plastic garment bag because the weather was incredibly hard on us. Hey, I wanted to make a good first impression. There were no signs that a public vehicle going to my destination was available outside of the place where I’m staying, so I had to take the long way and commute twice.

Because I’m usually lucky with averting tardiness, I arrived on time, only to be greeted by a deserted school and a padlocked main door. It was 30 minutes before class should start and there I was, trying my best not to look like a fool for not checking any notifications before I left. Classes were cancelled. The rain has apparently morphed into proportions fit for a typhoon, but strangely enough, it couldn’t be considered a typhoon – but the numbers don’t lie; the devastation has already surpassed Bagyong Ondoy (typhoon Ondoy, 2009). And it wasn’t a freaking typhoon. Oh and apparently, the real typhoon is coming soon, if what I read on facebook is true. Pray for the Philippines, please?

The rest of my week will be spent waiting out the storm. Food supply is still good, enough to keep us fed until the week ends, and I will never rue the day we chose to live in a subdivision that was flood-free.
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This bowl of ground pork and cabbage was filled to the brim before I decided to photograph it. My friend and I gobbled most of it up like wolves, because thinking about the weather is stressful. As usual, this is nothing fancy – ground sirloin fried with small cubes of potatoes, minced garlic and sliced onions, dressed in a splash of soy sauce, then finished off with half a cabbage, that wilts so much the intimidation goes away with the volume. This is good stuff.

Should I even post the recipe? Yes? No?

What the heck, let’s run with it!
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A Delicious and Hearty Bowl of Pork and Cabbage (serves 2 – 3)

  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 red onion, peeled and sliced
  • around 300 grams ground pork sirloin
  • 1 medium sized potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • half a head of cabbage, sliced into think strips
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • a splash of soy sauce (just enough to coat the pork)
  1. In a pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and the onions and cook until garlic is fragrant and onions start to go limp.
  2. Add the potatoes and mix to coat with the oil. Fry until the potatoes start to crisp and become golden brown at the edges.
  3. Add the ground pork, season with salt and pepper and cook until it browns and some of the fat starts to render.
  4. Add the soy sauce and mix well until the pork is evenly coated.
  5. Add the cabbage. Carefully mix well to allow the heat to wilt the cabbage.
  6. When done, remove from heat and serve warm with rice. Enjoy!

We Ate Like Royalty

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Our place is a 39-square meter condominium unit that we rent at a relatively cheap price. Our kitchen is like a small galley – nothing fancy, with space that isn’t too friendly for a big guy like me, but we get by…I guess. Sure, I’d give an arm and a leg for a kitchen that functions like a kitchen, but what we have right now comes with the territory. Sometimes I think it’s prohibitive, but that’s probably just me being a (bleep) about it.

Our expanding bellies and (slightly) sedentary lifestyle drove me to make this dish one morning. I woke up at around 10am, and we were all hungry so the need was there. Back home, a hefty bowl of pork and sitaw guisado (stir-fried pork with string beans) would merit an even heftier serving of rice. I tried to recreate it to the best of my memory, but I think nothing really comes close to how my Mama Eng would do it. In an attempt to live healthier, my roommates and I splurged on vegetables at the local grocery, so there were carrots and tomatoes sitting in the fridge – of course you know how it ended.
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I didn’t bring anything to help me with photographing the food I cook (no linens, no money to buy linens!) but as luck would have it, my tiny room has a window that lets in a great amount of light. All I had to do was to remove my bed’s mattress and use the wooden frame as my surface! (The things I do to get the shot.)

Extravagant, this isn’t…heck, the technique isn’t something groundbreaking, but during that solitary moment around our little mini bar (we don’t have a table), taking in every single morsel with rice, we ate like royalty.
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Pork and Sitaw (String Beans) Guisado (serves 3)

  • 150 grams sitaw, cleaned and sliced into 2-inch pieces
  • 4 medium-sized tomatoes, quartered
  • 250 grams pork belly, sliced into bite-sized cubes
  • 1 small carrot, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Water to cook the pork + ¼ cup water to cook the string beans
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a medium-sized pan, add the pork and enough water to cover the bottom of the pan up to the height of the pork.
  2. Allow to boil over medium heat until the water has almost evaporated. Add the carrots and mix well. The water will begin to cook the carrots.
  3. When the water has evaporated and pork’s fat has rendered, add the string beans and the soy sauce. Mix well to coat evenly. You may add a little bit of water to cook the string beans.
  4. Cook until the water evaporates and the strings beans and carrots are tender. Season with salt and pepper. When done, remove from pan and serve with rice. Enjoy!

An Easier Boeuf Bourguignon

There’s this really amazing food blog that constantly fills my google reader with almost daily posts – Ang Sarap. That in itself is a feat because the voice behind it, Raymund, a fellow Filipino residing in New Zealand, is a working man whereas yours truly is currently bumming around (that’ll all change SOON) and I can’t even muster up the gumption to post frequently lately. His blog is filled with recipes I wouldn’t mind trying every single day, so early on I was sold.

Ang Sarap is currently hosting guest posts from food bloggers all around the world, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of that tight circle. My guest post is currently up on his site, so you might want to check it out.
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Before I left for Manila I made Boeuf Bourguignon for a cozy dinner among friends. A few hours prior, I was staring in front of the black hole that is my pantry, trying to figure out what to cook. I’ve been known to hoard ingredients that I don’t get to use often. So sifting through everything was a challenge. Making a simplified version of Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon was always at the back of my mind. The last time I made it was for Christmas lunch, which was a hit with the family.

This time, I stripped it down until I was left with the core ingredients of beef and wine, and whatever remotely related to bourguignon was left in the fridge and pantry found its way into the pan.
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(excerpt from the guest post)

But is what I made still Boeuf Bourguignon? I implore you to never second-guess this dish! Bourguignon or not, it’s still something incredibly special.

This still requires a few hours in the oven to cook, BUT if you ask me, I think cooking this in a pressure cooker for an hour would do the trick. I would do that eventually once I get my hands on a pressure cooker. Sometimes what we would do at home is to pressure cook the raw beef then place it in a container and just leave it in the fridge. When we need it for quick soups or stews, then it’s good to go!

I stumbled on a goldmine when I dotted the dish with butter before I placed it in the oven. Your kitchen will thank you. For a servant-less Filipino cook like me, this might as well be godsend. 

I wish I could make this dish soon but the tiny kitchen I have right now is making it a challenge. I’m still in the process of easing myself into this new lifestyle in the big city so you might notice that it’s been quiet here at THG lately. But because Manila’s food culture is amazing, you might see more of what I ate than what I cooked.

But for now, with a spoonful of nostalgia and homesickness, here it is….Boeuf Bourguignon 2.0
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An Easier Boeuf Bourguignon (serves 3 – 4)

  • 500 grams beef rib eye
  • 115 grams canned whole or sliced button mushroom
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 1 beef broth cube dissolved in 1 ½ cup hot water
  • ¾ cup red wine (use wine that you would drink)
  • 6 bacon strips, roughly chopped
  • ½ tablespoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 teaspoons all purpose flour
  • Small cubes of butter

In a large nonstick pan, heat olive oil over medium heat then add the bacon. Fry until fat renders. Remove the bacon and set aside. Pat the beef dry with paper towels. Season one side with salt and pepper. Using tongs, place the rib eye on the pan, seasoned side down. Season with salt and pepper the side facing up. Cook both sides until it starts to brown. Remove from pan and set aside. In the same pan, sauté the onions until limp. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 30 more seconds. Using the spatula, nudge the onions and mushrooms to the sides of the pan, and then add back the beef and the bacon. Add the beef broth water and the wine. Season with thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle in the flour and gently mix everything together.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the pan in the oven and allow to cook for 2 – 3 hours or until beef is tender. Remove from the oven and adjust the taste to your preference. Serve warm with rice or buttered toast and enjoy!

One-Pot Pork Asado Sticky Rice

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I know I’ve been quiet lately, but I have a perfectly good excuse (!): NCIS Los Angeles marathons have kept my mom and I up until 12 midnight, and my body clock is as functional as a log, which means I usually wake up late. I wake up so late that I can’t even process what I want to make for lunch, and thank god for the people living next door, because they’ve never failed to feed me. But there are plans, here and there. Sometimes before I sleep I think about what to make for the following day. I juggle a few recipes that have been sitting on my to-do pile for months now. Months. But…plans get lost in translation, life gets in the way and the real world needs me. Well, I need to get a hold on the real world. Am I being cryptic? Sorry, it’s just been a crazy couple of weeks.

When one of my best friends told me twice that she’s wondering why I haven’t posted anything in a while now, that’s when I know it’s a cause for concern. I was on the phone with her when we had the conversation. But after she told me that, I looked over my shoulder and there it was: a medium-sized pot with steam trying to waft out. Rice was cooking, slowly taking in the different sauces that made up the liquid, the tender pork cubes (YES EVERYONE I’M POSTING PORK AGAIN!) becoming even more tender, and that tiny hint of five spice wraps it all together.
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I was inspired by the smell and taste of pork asado, the filling that I like in my siopao. While watching NCIS, sometimes I also blurt out what I’d give to have a nice bowl of adobo rice with me, so it’s been on my mind lately.

There’s this heavy snack/meal (notice how I can blur the lines between the two), called “Matchang” (not to be confused with matcha green tea powder) that is essentially sticky/glutinous rice (malagkit), flavored with soy sauce and other chinese spices, with meat and a hard-boiled egg, wrapped in a banana leaf.

I think what I made is like matchang, without the banana leaf, and I’m more generous with the pork. Of course that makes sense. But anyway, this is just to remind all of you that I’m still here, and I’ll always be around. With lots of pork recipes in tow.
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Pork Asado Sticky Rice (serves 4 – 6)

Remember to cook the rice in a pot that can easily hold double the amount of rice you put in. Rice is crazy like that.

  • ½ kg pork belly, cubed
  • 1 ½ cups water, to boil the pork
  • 1 – 2 chinese canton sausages, sliced
  • 6 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 4 – 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
  • 1 286-gram can shiitake mushrooms (or use fresh ones), halved
  • 2 cups uncooked plain rice
  • 1 cup uncooked glutinous rice (malagkit)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 5 cups water
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. In a pot, place the pork, sausage and add the water. Allow to boil on medium heat.
  2. When the water has almost evaporated and the pork is tender, add the shiitake mushrooms, soy sauce, rice wine and oyster sauce. Mix to coat the pork with the sauces.
  3. Add the rice, five spice powder and the water. Sprinkle it with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  4.  Cook over low heat, covered, for 30 – 40 minutes or until rice has absorbed the liquid and has cooked through. Serve warm and enjoy!

Lemon and Pepper Chicken

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If there was a battle between lemons and calamansi (the small native Philippine lime), I’d be rooting for the lemon. My friends think it’s strange that I don’t like calamansi, considering that I’m Filipino. Sometimes when we’re eating out, and we would be given tiny saucers so we can make our own dip out of soy sauce, vinegar and calamansi, they would grab my pieces without hesitation. What’s exactly my beef with this little defenseless humble lime? Well, I would always rationalize that this ‘loathing’ doesn’t have any rationalization. I just don’t like it. But maybe, if I need to give concrete insight, maybe the calamansi’s citrus scent doesn’t appeal to me, the way the fresh clean lemon scent does.

The lemon’s scent and acidity lend themselves well with chicken. I decided to make this on the fly because people were coming over (another story altogether, sorry if I’m being evasive!), and I was supposed to serve this to them, but the chicken ended up wrapped in foil for  them to take home. The first batch ended up pretty dry but still flavorful, probably because I left them too long in the oven. As soon as the chicken hits the one hour mark, that’s when my paranoia sinks in, because I still want the chicken to be moist. I think I achieved it with the second batch (the ones pictured), because it tasted just the way I imagined it to be  – the fresh tartness of the lemon absorbed by the meat, with delicate, paper-thin skin, and yes, it’s flavorful down to the bones.

But of course if you’re a calamansi purist, I see no reason why you can’t use it instead of the lemons. But if you do have lemons lying around, well, you know what to do.

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Lemon and Pepper Chicken (serves 6 – 8)

  • chicken leg and thigh, 6 pieces each
  • juice of 3 lemons
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • a generous dash of freshly cracked black pepper, around 2 -3 tablespoons
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons salt (or more, to taste)
  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold the chicken. Add in the chicken and marinate for at least an hour, preferably overnight.
  2. When ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 200 C. Arrange the chicken pieces in a baking pan, preferably with a rack, with the bottom of the pan lined with foil to catch the drippings.
  3. Place the pan in the oven and bake for an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. flipping halfway. Bake until chicken’s skin is golden brown and the meat is done.
  4. When done, remove from oven and serve warm. Enjoy!

Honey Rosemary Pork + 10 facts

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OK, digressing from my spiel, I think it’s good to inject a little bit of cheese into the blog. The Food and Wine Hedonist (and his other persona, Sir Mix-a-Lotta-Ingredients [did I get that right man? haha!] awarded me a ‘Kreativ Blogger’ badge, along with a few instructions. I don’t really pay attention to user-generated blog awards, but I might as well indulge it this time since, honestly, I can’t really say a lot about today’s recipe except to say that it’s incredibly delicious.

Since I accepted the award, here are 10 facts about me:

1. My name is Gio. Yeah, that’s a fact. I’m an only child, so I have issues (wink)

2. I used to be incredibly overweight growing up! ‘Used to’, because it was in college that I began losing weight. But it’s been a constant struggle ever since. Constant. Struggle.

3. I love pork fat. I love pork. You might find this disgusting but vivid childhood memories of me eating would mean requesting that my rice should be liberally drizzled with my ‘special sauce’ — COOKING OIL! (The oil used to fry the pork or bacon of course!).

4. My friends can vouch for this: I suck at math. Computing simple change, is my downfall.

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5. I blink more times than the average person.

6. I hate hate hate eating liver and other innards. I have this sudden urge to vomit when I do taste liver. To illustrate, I once walked out of a family dinner when they didn’t tell me that the dinuguan (blood stew) had liver and I accidentally had a spoonful of it.

7. When I’m pissed at someone, or when I have this sudden urge to stab/murder somebody but can’t, I snap my fingers.

8. I have a potty mouth. People have word crutches and default responses when they’re shocked, scared, happy, angry etc. Well, I cuss. And this bad mannerism also rears its ugly head during inappropriate occasions, like…during birthday parties when we’re about to pray.

9. If it’s not a dog, I’ll probably end up killing my ‘pet of the moment’.  First it was fish, and my teeny aquarium held more than the usual number. They didn’t survive. Next it was rabbits. I probably force-fed them to the point of obesity, and well, they lived a miserable life. Right now I have a two year-old dog, and she’s alive and well. (Praise!)

10. Since I told you that it’s a constant struggle to maintain my weight, I usually jog in the late afternoon. After a heavy meal for lunch. Then I’d have a heavy meal for dinner. Constant. Struggle.

So, there you have it. If you have any other questions you’d like me to answer, just leave a comment and if it’s not inappropriate, I might get back to you. :)
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On to the recipe: this was conceived the day before Mother’s Day, when I was daydreaming about baking pork until the fat caramelizes and becomes extremely rich and gooey. I can’t really say anything else. It was perfect. We loved it. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.
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Honey Rosemary Pork (serves 6 – 8)

2 kg pork (shoulder, belly or chops)

marinade for every 1 kg:

  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼  cup honey
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Rosemary leaves from two 4-inch sprigs
  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold the meat.
  2. Add the pork and ensure that each piece is evenly coated with the marinade. Place in the refrigerator and let it marinate overnight.
  3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 220 C.
  4. Arrange the pork on a baking pan, preferably with a rack to let the fat drip. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes – 1 hour, turning halfway.
  5. When done, remove from the over and allow to rest for around 3 – 5 minutes. Slice into bite-sized serving pieces and serve with rice. Enjoy!