Rice Day in Black and White

Here are some random shots of yesterday’s rice and vegetable lecture & demonstration. Apart from most of us bringing digital cameras to take photos of the food (I’m the only food blogger in the group though!), our tasting spoons were put to good use as it became a full-blown feast for 12 when the paella was done. True to form, Filipino are voracious voracious voracious rice eaters.

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It still feels weird sometimes, to peruse my photo roll and look at photos of this new life that I stepped into. It’s really surreal. There’s not a lot to say about these photos, except that it’s during these moments that I know what I live for. (Rice, of course!) The experience may be stressful, physically and emotionally draining, but I’ve never felt so alive.

Pancakes with Caramelized Carrots

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I had a dream.

Sadly, there was nothing about human rights. Not even the RH Bill. It involved a plate of pancakes and an “almost butterscotch” sauce. I call it “almost butterscotch” because I vividly remember that there was no cream involved. Glazed with the liquid gold that is the mixture of sugar and butter, were thin slices of carrots. Carrots. Then I woke up and I was so hungry.

I dreamt about it a few weeks ago, even before I started cooking school. It was around the time my blog celebrated its first year of existence. During that time, being with the people from The Maya Kitchen for half a day probably had a hand at shaping the course my slumber. They were generous enough to give me a swag bag of their products to boot!

Then there I was this morning, having been woken up by the noise of my phone. It was my mom, reminding me that it was her and dad’s anniversary today. She apparently bought a cake and made it look like it came from me. I didn’t raise a single cent. I love my mom and dad. (Happy anniversary folks!)

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But what the heck, I thought. Today was the perfect day to make my dreams come true (HAHAHA CORNY! forgive me). I had a few carrots chilling in the fridge, and a few perfectly portioned pancake mixes from Maya. Although the key here is convenience, making your own pancakes from scratch is also rewarding, especially if you wake up feeling like a boss.

And let me address the issue that might be swirling in your head right now – “why the hell would I put carrots on top of my pancakes?” Well, ye of little faith, give this a shot. Despite being laden with butter and sugar, I used coconut sugar which is great for diabetics. Since it makes sense to eat carrot cake, why can’t it make sense to eat pancakes with carrots? I could go on and on, but I’m taking too much of your time. Just go ahead and make this already!

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Pancakes with Caramelized Carrots (serves 2 – 3)
  • 1 medium-sized carrot, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 200-gram pack instant whole wheat pancake mix (I used Maya Kitchen) or make your own buttermilk pancakes and just add oats!
  • 4 – 5 tablespoons coconut sugar (or: use dark brown sugar)
  • 1/4 cup butter (a quarter of a regular sized butter block)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  1. Cook the pancakes according to package instructions. When done, set aside.
  2. Make the caramelized carrots: combine the butter and sugar in a small bowl/pan over really low heat. Allow the butter and sugar to melt and stir everything together. Add the carrot slices.
  3. Cook the carrots in the butter and sugar over low heat for around 3 – 5 minutes. If the butter or sugar starts to show signs of burning, remove it from the heat source or make sure that it’s cooking over really low heat. (I didn’t have this problem but it’s good to be careful)
  4. Add the vanilla extract and the salt. Mix well. When done, top the carrots and the sauce over the pancakes. 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!

The day my salad was on TV

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I was in the car with my mom, on the way to a party, when I got the phone call.

It was my friend, Jayne, who is/was also known as the former child wonder “Kikay”. She works for the local arm of ABS-CBN, hosting a weekly features show every Sunday. Apparently the next episode they were taping was about environment awareness, and they have segment devoted to organic farming. An organic farmer, I am not, but I did mention to her in one of our conversations that I did want to have one in the near future.

They featured the garden that I posted about, the one that the “universe” led me to. I actually owe Kikay for introducing me to the place, after a few weeks of searching.

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She thought it would be a good idea for me to do a demonstration on how to make a salad from the greens that they plucked from the farm. I was a bit on the fence when she pitched the idea to me, because I was really worried about my credibility. But eventually I realized that it was an opportunity that doesn’t come often, so I just threw all reservations out the window and said yes. A big fat yes.

To cut the long story short, they shot the scenes at home. My mom was pretty excited to see her house on TV, so I think she screamed louder when they showed an establishing shot of the front of the house.

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Kikay at the farm. (The video quality online isn’t that good)

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apparently I was supposed to teach her how to make a salad

I’m not really a salad buff. My mom is the one who usually makes the salads, so I asked her for a few pointers so I won’t make a complete fool of myself. And I think I did my stint as a public speaking teacher justice, because I didn’t freeze up, and I didn’t stutter too much. Give me a few more years and that Lifestyle Network show will be mine.
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Basic Salad + A Dressing Duo

  • Your choice of salad greens: I used romaine and loose-leaf, washed and cleaned
  • tomatoes, halved (quarter if they are large)
  • 1 red onion, sliced OR 1/2 a white onion, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds removed and sliced into strips
Combine everything in a bowl. Serve with the dressings on the side.
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the tomato vinaigrette is the one infront of the asian dressing

Asian Dressing - begin with equal amounts of sesame oil and honey. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Adjust taste according to preference

Tomato Vinaigrette – In a blender, place 1 cubed medium tomato, 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, a dash of salt and pepper, and a light splash of honey. Blend until combined thoroughly. You still might have bits of tomato. You can either pulse it some more to liquefy it or serve it as it is.

Serve both dressings on the side, with the salad. Enjoy!

I’d just really like to give a shout out to Kikay for that opportunity (I will never rue the day we became friends), and to the whole MagTV Crew as well!  

MagTV is shown every Sunday, either at 8:00 or 8:30 AM.

Guest Post: Golden Mushrooms with Broccoli and Dried Shrimps

For the first time in THG history, I’ve invited a blogger to guest post on my blog.With their shared passion for food and cooking, guest bloggers bring in a blast of fresh air to any blog.

Because Catholics all over are observing the Holy Week, this recipe is a welcome addition to your tables come Good Friday. 

Everybody, meet Raymund

Wow! This is my second time to guest post and I am really honoured that I was invited by Gio to do this for his food blog, I’ve been reading his blog posts for roughly 3 months now and I am always thrilled to see his new post and sometimes feel home sick especially when I see local Filipino dishes that I like which is impossible to make here.  Anyway, before we start with our post let me introduce myself first.

Well my name is Raymund and I am the person behind the blog called AngSarap (A Tagalog word for “It’s Delicious”) , I am a Software Developer / Architect by profession and my passion is to cook, travel and take photographs (isn’t that the best combination).  I’ve been cooking since I was 7 years old and since then I have been cooking my family dinners. I’ve travelled a bit and lived in different countries due to my profession hence I have a good grasp of local the different cuisines which is very evident on my blog.

The blog is nearly two years now and it has a good reception in the food blog circle as well as Filipino communities around the world.  It showcases dishes basically from everywhere but with Filipino, Spanish and Chinese twist which are the primary influence in the Philippine cuisine.  The goal of my blog is to educate people with what Philippines have to offer in terms of culinary arts and like I said in my past posts why Philippines is the only Asian country without an identity or even representation, what I mean by that is you have the Malaysian, Singaporean, Vietnamese, Indian, Japanese and Thai but where is the Philippines? Is it even known? That’s what I want to change, and I hope I can start with this blog.  Now I guess that’s enough about me and if you want to know further please follow my blog and start learning about what you are missing if you haven’t tried Filipino dishes yet.

For this guest post I was initially requested to post any of the three options; something that I miss from the Philippines, a specialty food from where I live now or a vegetable dish, I had chosen the latter due to several reasons.  First, while I do miss a lot from the Philippines I guess Gio has a lot of very good Filipino food posts already, just look at his story on this adobo it’s the most authentic preparation of adobo you can get.  Next is some specialty where I came from, I guess this would be hard to make as what I consider a local specialty in New Zealand is what they call Hangi, a dish where pork cooked in an underground pit so it will involve digging a pit in the ground, then heating stones in the pit with a fire, placing baskets of food on top and finally covering everything with soil trapping the heat for several hours cooking what’s beneath.  I want to do this sometime though.  So it left me with the only option which is a vegetable dish which suits well with the Lenten season.  So for today we will be making some Broccoli and Golden Mushroom with Dried Shrimp’s a creation by yours truly.

This dish is a dish made out of broccoli florets mixed with some Golden Mushrooms, it is then flavoured with mixed Asian sauces and dried shrimps. The result is a good combination of different textures and flavours – just imagine the soft and earthy mushrooms, crunchy broccoli, salty crispy dried shrimps and the sweet and savoury sauce.  Words can’t just explain it further so I just leave you to try it and find out.

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Golden Mushrooms with Broccoli and Dried Shrimps

  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1/4 cup dried shrimps (hibe)
  • 1 bunch golden needle mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Chinese cooking wine
  • 1/2 cup seafood stock
  • 1 tbsp tapioca starch
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • oil

Method

  1.  In a pot add water and bring it to a boil, once boiling drop the broccoli and cook for 1 minute. Remove from pot, drain then run in cold water. Set it aside.
  2. In a small bowl mix together oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, seafood stock and tapioca starch. Set it aside
  3. In a wok add oil then sauté garlic and shallots.
  4. Add dried shrimps and stir fry for a minute or until fragrant and crunchy.
  5. Add golden mushrooms and stir fry for 2 minutes.
  6.  Pour in the mixed sauce then bring it to a boil, once boiling add the broccoli and stir fry for 1 minute.
  7. Add sesame oil then turn heat off, serve while hot.

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!

Vienna Sausage Soup

Organization isn’t really one of my strong suits. My part-time teaching gig ended around November, but it took me more than a month to rearrange my study table here at home, cluttered with piles and piles of test papers and essays (which I confess, never really read thoroughly, hence, I’m too lazy to be a teacher).

But I’m attempting to organize my blog a little bit more. I’ve noticed a few hitches here and there – posting schedules, what to post, and tags. The last one I have yet to address, if that only means I have to go through every single one of my 75 posts to tweak the tags, then that can wait (notice my failed logic).
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On posting schedules and what to post, I tried to go back to basic pen and paper lists, with days and dates marked with tentative recipes/dishes I might try. I seriously need visual reminders to keep me on track (haha).
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Today’s the first day my “list” takes full effect, and I’m pretty happy that I managed to make at least one dish. I tried to break it down into smaller, attainable goals every day with breathing space in between dishes. That simply means in a week, I’ll TRY (and I will, I promise), to post dishes of varying degrees of difficulty to challenge myself and bring in more variety to my blog.

For today, I wanted to make something that uses basic canned items that take up too much space in our pantry. Instead of the usual frying and microwaving, it would be so much better to go the extra mile and make something “special” but still incredibly easy.
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Mom woke me up today and told me she’s in the mood for soup, and like it was meant to happen, soup also happened to on my shortlist for today, and I needed to make good use of vienna sausage.
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The secret to this hearty soup is using good quality vienna sausage. I was really never a fan of vienna sausage because I thought it tasted funny, and most of the local varieties are exorbitantly salty. But all that changed when I tried Libby’s, an imported brand. And before somebody lectures me about patriotism, let me just put it out there that Libby’s trumps all y’all local cans. Even you, Purefoods. And I really think Libby’s can be found in any major grocery nationwide. Even the largest grocery in Zamboanga has it, so yeah, it’s accessible.
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If you think you’ve found a better vienna sausage brand than Libby’s, then please, use it to make your soup more special. And drop me a line, I’d like to hear more about it.

But for now, cheers to great, easy soup on a Saturday morning.
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Vienna Sausage Soup (serves 6 – 8)

  • 1 large can (around 255 grams) Libby’s Vienna sausage, drained
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 4 shallots or really small red onions, sliced in half (for garnish; optional)
  • 1 small potato, sliced into small cubes
  • A dash of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 (a total of 20 grams) chicken bouillon cubes
  • 4 cups water
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • a dash of thyme
  • 4 – 6 cabbage leaves, sliced into strips
  1. In a medium sized saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Heat until oil glistens or “shines”, an indicator that oil is hot enough. When oil is hot, add garlic and fry for 10 seconds.
  2. Add the onions and continue to fry until it starts to go limp. When using shallots/small onions, be careful when stirring so the half pieces do not crumble. At this point, remove the shallots sliced in half and reserve for garnish.
  3. Add the potatoes and reduce heat to low. Continue to fry until potatoes are lightly browned and tender, around 3 – 5 minutes.
  4. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
  5. Add the Vienna sausage and stir to coat it with oil.
  6. Add the water and the bouillon cubes. Crank up the heat medium and stir to dissolve the cubes.
  7. Add the flour and cornstarch and simmer for about 3 – 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the thyme. Add the cabbage leaves at the last minute.
  8.  When desired taste and consistency are achieved, remove from heat, garnish with shallots and serve warm in individual bowls. Enjoy!

White Rice Pilaf

I think it was when I saw a little kid on television make pilaf that I told myself that I desperately needed to make it as well. Junior Masterchef has that effect on you.
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You might be wondering, what the hell is pilaf and how different is it from risotto and even paella? Well, risotto uses arborio rice, so it’s more temperamental. Proud paella uses malagkit/sticky rice and saffron (or if you’re cheap like me, annatto seeds). Pilaf is the simpler relative, it isn’t high maintenance, and if you’re a hardcore rice eater (hello, my fellow Filipinos), it hits close to home.

The way I see it: replace the water used to cook rice, with broth, add at least two vegetables, season with a herb of your choice, cook it the way you would cook regular rice, and ladies and gents, you have pilaf.
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My take on the pilaf is, dare I say it, really accessible (read: anyone can cook this; which is part of my goal as a food blogger after all). The tricky part is the water-to-rice ratio. General consensus is, 1 cup of rice:2 cups of water.

Remember that there are a lot of varieties of white rice out there, but the ratio is almost always consistent. But I would usually reduce the water by 1/8th to 1/4th of a cup because   I always have this perpetual fear that my rice would turn out mushy, but that’s just me.
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Recipes online would make use of wild rice, even brown rice for their pilaf. Since we don’t have it here, white rice is here to stay. Instead of the canned chicken broth, I just replaced the cooking liquid with bouillon cubes dissolved in water. I didn’t go crazy with the vegetables because I just used carrots and Baguio beans. Plus, this dish has no meat.

I think this is pretty budget friendly and a great weeknight, quick fix meal.
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The pilaf doesn’t overpower whatever main course you have, but it’s still pleasantly flavorful. In my case I had it with estofado, a thick tomato-based pork stew, and I ate mine with gusto. Filipinos have the propensity to look at rice not just as a side dish but really, part of the meal itself. If that’s the case, then the humble pilaf seamlessly and effortlessly joins the party.
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Simple White Rice Pilaf (serves 6 – 8)

broth:

  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups water
  • 1/2 tbsp dried rosemary
  • 2 (around 20 grams) chicken bouillon cubes
  • a dash of pepper
  • a slice of ginger
for the rice:
  • 2 cups white rice
  • 2 tbsp olive/canola oil
  • half a bulb of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 medium sized shallots/red onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into minute/small cubes
  • 5 – 8 pieces green/Baguio beans, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 lemongrass leaves (around 10 – 12 inches)
  1. Make the broth: In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, broth cubes, rosemary, ginger and pepper. Stir until broth cubes dissolve and liquid is warm but not boiling. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a saucepan large enough to hold the rice with the broth, heat oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and the onions and saute until onions are translucent.
  3. Add the carrots and green beans, and stir to coat with the oil.
  4. Add the rice and stir to coat with oil. Continue cooking for 1 minute.
  5. Add the broth, stir well. Add the lemongrass. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes, covered, over medium heat. Resist the urge to frequently open the lid of the pot, this won’t help cook the rice thoroughly. It helps if the lid is transparent. You may check on it once in a while. 
  6. When rice is cooked through, remove heat and remove the lemongrass. “Fluff” the rice using a fork (run a fork through the rice itself as if you’re lightly scraping it; don’t scrape the bottom though!!!) and serve hot with your main course of choice. Enjoy!

The Stove

Ever since I tried bicol express cooked not just with chilies but with eggplant, many many years ago, I have become an eggplant convert. At first, the thought of eating something mushy, kind of like okra (so sue me for my poor descriptive skills), didn’t really appeal to me. But a lot has changed since the first time I tried and actually enjoyed eggplant.

Now, one of my all-time favorite comfort foods would have to be tortang talong or eggplant omelet. There’s something about biting into soft, slightly toasted, smoky eggplant meat that is an experience all on its own. I usually just use liquid seasoning to flavor it some more, but when Mama Eng is in the mood (and I encourage her), she makes a mean “pritong sawsawan” or fried dipping sauce. Toasted minced garlic, onions and a few pieces of sliced bird’s eye chili cooked in oil and soy sauce, paired with the omelet, is a winner.

Today I observed how she makes tortang talong and also helped out in the kitchen a bit, but I don’t have a recipe to share since I’d like to hone my eggplant omelet- making skills some more. I think I’ll let this post simmer a bit before I belt out my own recipe. For now, here’s something you standardized stove owning folks around the world don’t get to see everyday:

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Using this (I’m not really sure what to call it) traditional stove top (?) fueled by burning wood and dried coconut husks…she makes magic. This is also where we cook our paella, and it’s pretty much practical and economical to use.

Well, it’s probably more cumbersome than the regular stove, but it gets the job done.