Bangkok Bound!

Although I have lived in Asia most of my life, it remains sadly unexplored by me. It seems that looking too far and wide for adventure, I failed to realize that I am sitting smack dab in the continent that invented exotic! (well, in my humble opinion at least...) One day I found myself staring blankly at a friend (from the states) when she asked me if I had been to Thailand. And Indonesia. And China. Um, no.

But you live in Asiaaaa!


Why indeed had I not looked to my friendly neighbors that were just a short plane-hop away? I was/am surrounded by a giant hot pot of history, culture, mystery, and magic...intense flavors that can make you weep and sing at the same time...gorgeous scenery from lush tropical forests to gorgeous beaches...not to mention hordes of beautiful and charming people (take a bow guys!) :)

Since then I have been dreaming of Asia.

Tomorrow part of that dream is finally coming true...Bangkok here I come! I hope you are ready :)

(I'll be back next week so we'll be silent over here for a bit...but until then Happy Halloween!!!)

Bostini Cream Pie...Do I Dare?

It’s that time of the month again when I stretch my baking muscle as far as someone else’s imagination can take it. And though I await the new challenge with tummy-trembling nervousness, the excitement (and learning) makes it all worth it. It’s Daring Baker time again and (whew!) I made it!

This month’s challenge was thought up by Mary of AlpineberryBostini Cream Pie. A twist on the traditional Boston Cream Pie, the Bostini is made up of a vanilla custard, orange chiffon cake, and topped with a rich chocolate sauce (original recipe here). Right off the bat I felt the tummy twist and I knew right away what would be the biggest challenge here…the chiffon.

Chiffon cake? Oh no! Amateur baker that I am I have never made chiffon cake in my life. Or maybe I did but the outcome was just so far from something you would call chiffon that I just blocked it from my memory. I have always preferred eating desserts you would refer to as “dense” and “chewy”, not “light” and “airy” – and I think the reason is because I can be a complete heavy-handed ogre, never producing anything “fluffy” no matter how much I wanted to.

Well, it looked like it was finally time to step up and try.

Learning from past experience I decided to cut the recipe down to reduce the amount of people I had to ply with my baking experiments. Also because, as sophisticated as my family (I decided to make it for a family lunch) can be in certain aspects, the orange-chocolate combination was not one of them. I know. Anyway, through some weird fit of misled logic (math is not my strong suit), I made one third of the custard recipe but used the whole chiffon recipe. Hmmm. Curiouser and curiouser.

Because the recipe stated that the custard was quite soft I decided to serve it layered in a glass. I figured this would make for an easier assembly, at the same time highlighting the layers in this dessert. I made the custard a day before, poured them into the glasses (this made seven of the glasses you see in the photo), covered each glass with clingflim, and placed them in the fridge to set. Then I set about licking the pan clean because this custard was over the top delicious! Whew, step one down.

Step two -- the dreaded chiffon. My plan was to make the chiffon in two regular pans, instead of individual smaller ones, and then cut them into circles after they were baked. I stirred the batter, whipped the egg whites (with fervent prayers to the kitchen gods), and gingerly blended the two. I greased my pans (I used one 9-inch round and one 8-inch round) and poured in the batter. Stuck them in the oven and crossed my fingers. When the cakes were done I pulled them out to cool. They certainly didn’t look like they had angel’s wings on them but they didn’t seem half bad. Until the time came to remove them from the pan. Criminy. They were stuck.

Ack! My whole father’s side was coming over and I had stuck cakes! And there was still the lamb and the beans and the roasted vegetables to get to. So I stood there for a couple of nerve-wracking moments while my brain went “bzzt-bzzt”. Finally I gave myself a little slap on the tush (try it! It really stretches your arms!), pulled myself together, and attacked the pans with one of the empty glasses – cutting out the circles of cake that would go over the custard, and prying them out one by one with my fingers. Wayward chiffon…you are not the boss of me!!!

Hah! Through iron will and determination I had enough passably decent circles of chiffon to work with. Passably decent because, not only did they show a bit of the wear for having been forcibly removed from the pan, the cake had this mysterious dense-gummy layer at the bottom. People: if you know what I did wrong and what can help, please feel free to enlighten me!

Sniffing like a hurt child, I took a bite of the cake…my eyes widened…not bad! Take away the gummy layer and the fact that it stuck to the bottom of the pan, and the cake was actually…light, airy, fluffy, with a beguiling whisper of orange. I had somewhat done it! I had somewhat made a chiffon!

After all the chiffon-drama, it was only a matter of making the chocolate glaze (I halved the recipe), pushing the cake circles onto the custard in the glasses, and topping with the chocolate. And proudly taking them into the dining room like it was the easiest thing in the world to whip up :)

Everyone enjoyed the dessert and had only praises for it. Yes, even after I firmly told them that this was a project for my baking group and that they needed to give me their objective opinion. Even my brother, who does not like chocolate with orange at all, thought it was perfect – saying that the amount of orange flavor was just right and that you could tell that it was really called for.

What did I learn from this challenge:
- Line the bottom of the cake pan with baking paper and grease it.
- Find a way to get rid of that gummy layer (perhaps I didn’t mix the egg whites and the batter thoroughly enough?)
- I can somewhat make a chiffon cake :)
- When there’s a will there’s a way!
- Desserts in glasses rock!
- My brother is more sophisticated than I thought ;)

Check out the other Daring Bakers and their Bostini Cream Pies!

Pili Nut Pesto

I have had a 2-kilo load of plain pili nuts just chilling in my fridge ever since my trip down to Bicol a while back. Though peacefully waiting in their bag, I knew I had to get started with them soon. I have been dreaming up of all sorts of ways to use them, running the gamut from sweet to savory. You see, all my life I have only had pili nuts one way – candied, as is it most often sold. Until my dad clued me in on raw pili, it never entered my head to look for them in any other way.

As I mentioned when C brought me back some candied pili nuts from a business trip to Naga city:

Pili nuts are native to the Philippines, and although they are grown as ornamental trees in other tropical countries like Malaysia, only in the Philippines are they produced and processed commercially. All this production take place mainly in the Bicol region, making pili products one of Bicol’s most popular sweets.”

The fruit of this tropical tree is harvested from areas in this region where they grow naturally. So far, there is no commercial farming of the pili trees (that I know of). So it all depends on nature’s bounty. Candied, they are delicious and addictive. Raw, they are lusciously nutty and heavy with oil. Either way, they are fantastic. They are high in calcium, phosphorus, and potassium, and rich in fats and protein. I have also seen pili nut oil on the market here but have yet to try it.

For my first foray into my pili nut stockpile I decided to make pesto. This is actually what my dad uses the pili for and was the reason he asked me to bring him back some when I was in Bicol (and subsequently bought some for myself as well). He simply substitutes the pine nuts (which are imported here and not that cheap) in a regular pesto recipe with pili nuts. Nutritious, tasty, and economical – seems like I can still learn from dad even in my old age ;)

Pili Nut Pesto
  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic (depends on your taste, start with one clove…you can always add more later)
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup whole pili nuts (you may blanch and peel them first)
  • 1/3 – 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

- Place all ingredients, except for the oil, in a food processor. Process while slowly adding the oil in…start with 1/3 cup, then keep adding if you want it thinner.
- Place pesto in a clean jar and top with a layer of olive oil. Store in the fridge. Makes about 1 cup of pesto.

The earthy taste of the pili comes through just enough in this preparation, and the nut’s natural oiliness is perfect for pesto. I just used a basic basil pesto recipe to get this but I plan on experimenting with other locally grown herbs as well.

I was too lazy to peel away the thin brown inner skin (as evidenced by the brown flecks you see in the pesto) but please feel free to do so. Although the skin is edible, and in my opinion makes the pesto taste “nuttier”, it is a lot of “roughage”, and who knows how that’ll interact with your digestive system right? My dad does peel his by blanching it quickly in boiling water then, when cooled down a bit, pressing the nut between his thumb and forefinger. According to him the nut will shoot right out of its skin with impressive speed and force…like a rocket. He goes on to say that it would make a super fun game to play…some kind of crazy battle of the pili-rockets? He insists that I try it, not for anything to do with the pesto’s flavor, but because, really, pili-rockets…how could I not want to try it? Ok, dad, next time…I’ll put on my pili-fighting-gear and you better get ready to defend yourself!

This is my entry to this round of Weekend Herb Blogging (I hope nuts count!), a fabulous event created by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen. WHB just celebrated its 2nd year anniversary very recently! This round is hosted by one of my favorite food bloggers, mushroom foragers, and apple cake queen…Pille of Nami-Nami! :)

Pancit Bato

Exploring other food blogs is always a source of inspiration for me. I love tap-tapping on my laptop late into the night, or early in the morning when I have my coffee and all is still, surfing the ever-changing WWW-landscape, uncovering treasures at ever turn. The recipes file on my hard drive is bursting with deliciousness (and a tremendous back-log!) from all the picture perfect dishes I have picked up here and there.

But I wonder how many of the not-so-perfect ones make it out here? Should we even bother putting out our less-than-stellar attempts? I think so. Once in a while I don’t mind reading about how this didn’t turn out quite the way it was expected to; or how that just seemed to go wrong at every turn. Why? Because the thing I like best about blog dishes is human on the other end – yup, that’s you! Yes, you without the test kitchen nor legions of assistants. You that sometimes produces moments of culinary brilliance, and sometimes just needs to get dinner on the table in 20 minutes after a stressful day at work. You who would love to buy organic and free-range everything, but sometimes has to make do with pre-packed flim-flam and parmesan cheese in that bright green container.

Here's a less-than-stellar moment (one of many I tell you!), from my kitchen to yours...

My best friend K brought me back a hefty bag of Pancit Bato from her trip to Camarines Sur. After our first trip to Bicol, the magazine sent her back to do a more in-depth feature on the water sports complex at Camarines Sur. In between whipping around the cable park attached to a board, and exploring the gorgeous islands of Caramoan, she managed to get me some fresh Pancit Bato noodles. Bato in Tagalog (the Filipino dialect where I live) means stone (or rock). These aren’t noodles of stone tough…they are named after the town of Bato in Bicol, where they are made. After the noodles are prepared, they are baked for a bit in a pugon (wood-burning oven) giving it its special toasty flavor. The fresh noodles will only last 7 days at room temp – as K was advised not to place them in the fridge. So after their journey back with K, I was all excited to use them!

K dropped them off at my place with instructions and tips, and I got to them right away. The instructions called for cooking them in water and Knorr Meaty Seasoning, then adding veggies and maybe some kind of meat or seafood. K said the one she ate had bits of pork and kikiam (the Chinese que-kiam – made of ground meat and vegetables and wrapped in thin bean curd sheets). C wanted chicken and shrimp. So I just tossed everything in – bits of pork belly, slices of chicken fillet, shrimp, and kikiam – along with some garlic and onion, and thinly sliced carrots and cabbage.

Perhaps the amount of my improvisation confused my poor noggin into forgetting some basic rules: Do not over-cook noodles. Do not over-cook shrimp. Do not over-cook veggies.

Sometimes we have to learn the hard way!

The dish as a whole was tasty…definitely not inedible (thank goodness!). I had it for lunch and dinner. C had it for dinner. Our building’s whole staff had it for lunch and dinner too – it was a big batch! I could taste the slightly smoky flavor from toasted noodles, I really liked that it had a lot of sahog (that means the meat and veggies that you add in), and I rediscovered my love for kikiam. The noodles were too soft though and the shrimp too hard…ack! Had I failed K's noodles? Oh dear. I am definitely doing a number of things differently if I come by these special noodles again:

  • I will use the specified amount of liquid.
  • I will cook it al dente and not turn part of it into noodle-mush.
  • I will add the veggies later rather than sooner.
  • I will add the shrimp last.

Anyhoo, let’s not sweat the small things. Things may not always go smoothly in our collective human kitchen but that’s no reason to fret. After all:

  • I have a best friend who would drag a bag full of fresh noodles around for me :)
  • I have now been baptized in the ways of pancit bato
  • I have a building full of guards and administration staff that will not bite the hand that feeds them ;)
  • I have extra kikiam to eat!
  • Despite the over-cooking, it still made for a half-way decent photo ;)

Zamboanga Hermosa (part 2)

Here is part 2 of my highlights from our awesome adventure in Zamboanga (if you haven’t read part one click here):

Lunch at Vista del Mar
Vista del Mar is the seaside resort where C popped the question two years ago. This year, our group arranged for a lunch there. This was one of my favorite meals this trip! We had grilled lapu-lapu (a kind of grouper), steamed lapu-lapu with a soy-garlic oil (this was amazingly good! Moist, tender, and oh-so-flavorful), prawns, batter-fried squid, and a trio of delicious salads – pako salad (fiddlehead fern) with tomatoes and a roasted garlic infused olive oil; green mango salad with tomatoes, onions, and crushed peanuts; and my absolute favorite, lato salad (lato is a delicious seaweed that is abundant in Zamboanga – it only grows in clean waters) with tomatoes and onions. We feasted right by the water, the sea breezes mussing our hair as we ate. For dessert we had leche flan and lanzones…the perfect ending to this meal. To work off our lunch we took a leisurely walk to the Maria Clara Art Gallery, which is also on the grounds of the resort. It’s a small, charming gallery with some nice paintings on display, along with local crafts for sale. La Vista del Mar: Calarian, Zamboanga City. Telephone - +63 62 9830099.

Yakan Village
The Yakan Village in Upper Calarian (very near Vista del Mar) is another place I like to visit. The Yakans originally settled in Basilan (and island near Zamboanga City) but some moved to Zamboanga City. They are famous for their beautiful weavings. The colorful designs are made into bags, placemats, table runners, jackets, and many other things to tempt the tourist…a temptation to which I happily yielded. I came away with two table runners and a cute traditional cap for my dad :)

Balikbayan Night - Sitti in Concert
One of the important events during the fiesta is Balikbayan Night – this is when all the Zamboangeños from all corners of the world (balikbayan literally translates to “return to homeland” and is a term used to describe Filipinos who live abroad when they come over to visit) get together for one big party, usually involving dinner and entertainment. One of the main performers that night was Sitti, our very own princess of bossa nova, who apparently has roots in Zamboanga (by way of her grandmother)! This girl is a natural charmer on stage and, by the end of her performance; she had us on our feet and dancing! The dancing did not stop there, and as the next band came on we were all shaking and shimmying in earnest! I love to dance! Thank goodness C can keep up (usually) ;) By the end of the night, after much shouting from our friends, the band called C and I up on stage to sing...In the glare of the spotlight, my emotions struggled between acute embarrassment and that uncontrollable desire to grab the microphone that karaoke-addicts like me tend to suffer. Guess which won out?

Midnight bibingka at Master’s Bakery
After a night of revelry we look for something hearty to settle our stomachs. Although some of us clamor for spit-roasted chicken, while others shout of sisig (um, see here), our uncle directs us to Master’s Bakery, a little hole-in-the-wall bakeshop in Giwan, where we have freshly cooked bibingka (rice-flour cakes topped with local white fresh cheese and salted eggs, baked in a clay oven, then slathered with butter and served with freshly grated coconut) still steaming hot. The bibingka here is bite-sized and topped with cheese, maybe a little butter, and that’s it. None of the red (salted) egg, sugar, and coconut. Perhaps it’s because I don’t really enjoy salted egg on my bibingka that I find this to be one of the best I have ever tried…it could also be because it is fresh out of the oven and thus at its peak. Of course, we can’t discount the fact that it could also be because we had been wining away all night. In any case, nibbling at these incredibly soft warm cakes, while packed in a van filled with your friends, after a night of fun and laughter, was definitely a highlight for me.

Garden Dinner at Palmeras
Another gastronomic highlight on my trip was the splendid dinner C’s mom had prepared for us at the garden of Palmeras (our hotel). This dinner showcased the Spanish influences on Zamboanga’s palate. There was callos (a tripe stew – it’s good!) and lengua (tongue – I know, I know…but I really like it!), prawns in a creamy-spicy sauce, and baked fish. We also had a lechon (roast pig) which was tender and very flavorful (the lechon in Zamboanga rocks!). My favorite though was the famous curacha with Alavar sauce (which I have actually made at home!), or rather Palmera’s sauce as this was our hotel’s own version of that famous Zamboanga condiment. It was so good I put it on more than just my curacha! For dessert we had saguing rebosao (bananas cooked with brown sugar) and the most amazing date bundt cake with caramel sauce (I wouldn’t say this was indigenous in any way, but it was made by special request of my mum-in-law and, indigenous or not, it was spectacular). After the food was gone we toasted the night away with many a “Viva Zamboanga!” :)

Sta. Cruz Island
Visiting Sta. Cruz Island (there are two islands actually, and a sand bar) will always be a highlight for me, and no matter how many times I see it, I don’t think I will ever tire of its untouched white (pink actually…the pink of decades worth of naturally crushed coral) beaches…its sense of isolation despite being so close to the mainland…the irony of the peaceful languor you feel as you lie on its shores, knowing that you can’t visit it unless you have some sort of escort. Sigh…not very zen to have navy guys following you on your meditative beach-walks (no matter how cute they are!). They were really nice though and we badgered them with questions about their missions. We brought a picnic lunch with us…more grilled fish, adobong pusit (squid adobo), and a pile of lato that we had some of the fishermen living on the island fetch for us straight out of the sea (which is the best way to have it)! After lunch we walked to the end of the sand bar...what a magical moment…standing on a thin strip of sand in the middle of the sea with nothing but a bunch of sea birds as company! Check out another traveler’s account of Sta. Cruz islands here.

I hope you enjoyed these highlights as much as I enjoyed reliving them. I can’t wait for next year’s fiesta…already our group is getting bigger as more friends want to see what all the fuss is about :) Have a good weekend everyone!

Zamboanga Hermosa (part 1)

I’m back! Well, I’ve been back since Sunday but you know how it is…trying to ease into the swing of things while your body and mind are still lounging in the warm afterglow of a fantastic holiday. So let me linger a bit longer in this post-vacation bliss by sharing it all with you…

I was eagerly looking forward to returning to Zamboanga after my first eventful trip there two years ago. During that trip I got my first taste of C’s birth-city, my first taste of curacha, and my first taste of being engaged. Zamboanga delighted me at every corner, swirling around me in so many colors like the beautiful batiks you find in the market.

This year we went back with a bunch of friends in tow, which made the trip extra special…and extra fun! Every day was an adventure, whether we were eating (which we did in glorious excess!), shopping (again…glorious excess!), lying on a pristine beach (sweet island life…), painting the town red (viva Zamboanga!), or singing on stage (oh boy…this needs no further explanation I think). Nothing makes a holiday better than a fabulous group of people to share it with :)

Here are some of the highlights* of my trip:

Zamboanga Airport
Laid back and open air, with a roof designed to blend in with the native architecture and sunlight streaming through the skylights. A troupe of dancers sashay to local music to welcome you. Everyone is smiling and the exotic sound of chavacano tickles my ears. It is at this moment when I feel the complete disconnect from Manila and from work. Heaven!

Knickerbockers and Crispy noodles at Palmeras
Palmeras was the lovely hotel we stayed at. Relatively new-ish (compared to the old, venerable Lantaka by the sea), it has nice clean rooms, friendly staff, and a pretty garden to hang out in. It also has a great café that serves Knickerbockers – a pile of fruits (bananas, watermelon, mango) and jello cubes in a glass, topped with a scoop of strawberry ice cream. It is at once sweet & luscious, and cool & refreshing. I cannot count how many of these concoctions we consumed as a group…too many I’m sure! And every other table in the place seemed to be ordering them as well! Aside from the blessed Knickerbocker, the Crispy Noodles with Seafood is also worth a taste – the sauce is thick and intensely flavorful with tender chunks of seafood all throughout, topped with a generous head of noodles, crispy on top and soft where they are soaked by the sauce. Palmeras Hotel & Restaurant, Pasonanca Road, Zamboanga City. Telefax - +63 62 9913284.

Shopping at the Barter Trade
Now who doesn’t enjoy a spot (or more!) of shopping? :) I certainly do! The barter trade is a complex of stalls selling everything from instant noodles to gorgeous batik cloths, malongs, and sarongs. We all went a little bananas here (well, the girls at least). I came away with malongs and batik robes for the folks back home, as well as kantiw (or sawal…are they the same? anyone?) – the loose cotton pants worn by the Muslims in the region – these pants are so comfy and perfect for lounging!

Exploring Zamboanga City Market
I hadn’t been to the main market the first time I visited Zamboanga, but because we had a contingent among us clamoring for durian off we went to get some. While the durian-eaters inspected the fruit, extolling the virtues of each variety, I wandered about looking at all the produce on display. Aside from the colorful fruit stalls they had the hugest daing (dried salted fish) I had ever seen! Later in the afternoon (yes, we went more than once…apparently cravings for durian are wild and unpredictable!) there were big hunks of tuna being loaded onto scales…although we weren’t in our tuna capital (that would be General Santos), Zamboanga is still a treasure trove of all manners of seafood.

Jimmy’s Satti Haus
Another bit of local eats I missed during my first trip. Satti is little bits of beef or chicken on a stick, grilled over hot coals, much like the Malaysian satay (as we are close neighbors the two could very likely be related). It is served with a sticky orange sauce which is both sweet and spicy. The satti is placed in a bowl literally swimming in the sauce together with rice that has been packed so much it is practically solid. I think we were a bit shocked at how small the satti pieces were, but we quickly found a way around that by simply eating more…heehee! We bought our satti at Jimmy’s Satti Haus (Campaner cor. Brillantes)…get it fresh off the grill and don’t forget the sauce and the rice! We ate ours plain because we got it to-go but I would have loved to have it with all the trappings! Next time I am definitely planting myself at a table and getting the full treatment!

Contemporary designers’ take on the Mascota
The mascota is the dress traditionally worn by the high-society Zamboanga ladies of yore. It is said to be Spanish in origin, which is easy to believe as many things in Zamboanga (including its language) seem to originate from the Spanish. So as not to lose this tradition the city started a mascota competition where local designers create their own renditions of this beautiful costume. The competition this year was held in Fort Pilar and the old stone walls of the aged fort proved to be a magical backdrop for the charming models (each of them tall and tan and slim, with dark shining hair and a come-hither smile…I used to dream about looking like these girls when I was a child!) in their mascota finery. Here’s an article you can read about the mascota competition last year.

That's all for now as the “daily grind” calls and I must answer (criminy). But stick around for part two :)

*I'll be posting highlights but if anyone has questions just email me and I'll answer as best I can!

Raisin Stuffed Chili Pepper Pickles

It’s late…I’m tired…but I’m bursting with excitement! In a few hours we will be off to the airport to catch our flight to Zamboanga! Zamboanga is a province (and a city) in our southernmost island group called Mindanao. This is the home of the delectable curacha. It is also the place where C was born and where he took me to propose! We are going to celebrate the fiesta like we did two years ago when C popped the question over a fantastic seafood dinner by the shore. This time we are bringing a bunch of friends with us to share the festivities. Yay! :)

I’m not leaving you all empty handed though. I’ve concocted a little something to house-sit while we are away. It’s spicy and tart so hopefully no one will dare cross her (although she is also a little sweet and aromatic). And while we are off dancing and feasting and exploring, she will be lolling and mellowing in her bath of honey and vinegar…slowly reaching the point of pickle perfection.

Inspired by Johanna’s WTSIM round-up of savory preserves, I am on a preserving/pickling/chutney-ing state of mind. Each entry in this round-up looks temptingly good. I wish I could make them all right now, but unless I grow a couple of extra arms, one pickle will have to do for the moment: Raisin Stuffed Chili Pepper Pickles. Now say that five times fast! The chili peppers are stuffed with raisins and pickled in a mixture of vinegar and honey -- the perfect blend of spicy, sweet, and pickly…yes, me like :)

You can find the original recipe here at Zlamushka’s Spicy Kitchen, another new blog I have discovered and am happily enjoying. C & I love spicy food and peppers in one form or the other are always around. Here’s a link to a chili scale which measures the “heat” of different peppers (with pictures!). I have used jalapeños for this batch. Jalapeños are used often in Mexican cuisine, which just so happens to be one of C’s favorite cuisines ever…so he too is excited about this little experiment. These peppers vary from mild to hot depending on how it is grown. I didn’t taste any of them yet so I wouldn’t know, but based on my burning face (where I must have rubbed it with jalapeño-stained hands) these guys were pretty hot!

In honor of the 2nd anniversary of Weekend Herb Blogging I decided to add another dimension to the pepper pickle by adding some herbs. After consulting with Zlamushka, I decided on sage and thyme (as it would go with the honey aspect of the pickling solution – like a nice honeyed herbal infusion). The thyme, I am proud to say, came from my “garden” of five pots (kaffir lime, thyme, chili pepper, and a “money plant” for good fortune!). I wish I could tell you all how the flavors work together but this needs about three weeks resting time to be ready!

Ok, no more procrastinating…I must get packing! See you all next week and hopefully my pickled peppers with be progressing positively! ;)

Happy 2nd anniversary to WHB!!! Kalyn, from a sworn meat-lovin' gal: You have made a herb-blogger out of me! :)

Update 5/19/2010: I am submitting this post to Tried & Tasted, this round featuring Zlamushka's Spicy Kitchen!

Chicken, Chorizo, and Bean Bake

In atonement to Donna for pulling a Gordon on her during the last round of Hay Hay it’s Donna Day, I thought I’d share a dish of hers that I really really like. It’s from issue 32 (the autumn 2007 issue…a season we don’t have here but that doesn’t stop me) of Donna Hay magazine, part of a feature on chorizo. Now, chorizo is something I love (along with a legion of other people I’m sure) and, unlike fresh figs, rhubarb, and chanterelle mushrooms, something that I can easily get here. Aside from being perfectly delicious on its own, it is also lends itself skillfully to many dishes, giving them a smoky kick and Spanish flavor. I can simply fry them up for cocktail nibbles; they are an essential element in my fabada; I’ve made fried rice out of them; and I’ve even used them in our ubiquitous munggo guisado (mung bean stew).

This dish is a one-pan dinner combining chorizo with chicken, olives and lemon, and dusted with pimentón de la vera (Spanish smoked paprika). It is packed with flavor and dead easy to make. If you’ve got a nice dish it’ll go straight from oven to table. Although I love this in its original state, I decided to take some liberties and change it a bit. Ok, maybe more than a bit. The whole “vibe” of it really reminded me of fabada (blame it on the chorizo and pimentón!). Also, I felt there should be something soaking up all the amazing juices that this dish renders (eau de chorizo/ pimentón/chicken/lemon/black olive…oohlala!). So I added beans…truly a magical, if at times musical, fruit ;)

Chicken, Chorizo, and Bean Bake
(adapted from Donna Hay’s Smoked Paprika Chicken and Lemon Bake, Donna Hay magazine, issue 32)

  • 4 pieces chicken (I used 2 drumsticks and 2 thighs)
  • 1 400-gram can of white beans, drained
  • 1/2 a lemon, sliced
  • 1/3 cup black olives
  • 1 chorizo sausage, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, bashed a bit but still in their skins
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • A little less then 1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la vera
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

- Place the beans on a baking dish, then pour the stock over them. Arrange the chicken pieces, lemon, olives, chorizo, and garlic over the beans. Drizzle olive oil over the whole lot. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and pimentón.
- Roast in a 200C oven for 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
- Serves 2.

The original recipe has no beans and uses butter instead of olive oil (I figured olive oil was more “in-region” with the other flavors…but it could also be that the olive oil was closer to my hand at the time). I also reduced the recipe to fit our family of two. The dish was already delicious in its original form, but I think the beans definitely added something special. Plus, true to my juices-soaking plan, it was the perfect “bed” for all that flavorful liquid! This would make an ideal dinner for a rainy week night when everybody’s a little too tired to cook something complicated, but still need something fortifying and yummy in their stomachs. It’s been raining a lot over here and I feel the need to whip this up again (after we finish C’s excellent sinampalukang manok – chicken in tamarind broth – the ultimate rainy day dish) :)

Moominmamma's Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

Some childhood things stay with us all our life, their familiarity and happy memories a source of comfort we are unwilling to relinquish in adulthood. I have a pillow that can attest to this. No pictures though…this is a food blog after all and I wouldn’t want you to lose your lunch. Let me just say that pillows sometimes do not age as gracefully as people do. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we love them less.

But what happens if you discover something in adulthood that you feel should have SO been a part of your childhood? You feel such an affinity with this thing, such certainty that you and it belong together, and such adoration for what you perceive to be but the cutest thing on earth. You balk at being so obsessed with what is, for all intents and purposes, “kid stuff”, but you just can’t resist. So you don’t.

I fell in love with the Moomins from the first time I clapped eyes on them in Finland. Perhaps it’s because of their sweet, shy nature. Maybe because they live in the beautiful forests of Finland. Or because they all go to sleep in the winter. Or because they eat pancakes with berries and drink raspberry juice and have fantastic adventures together. Perhaps it’s because Tove Jansson was a genius whose stories about the Moomins were at the same time whimsical children’s tales and thoughtful reflections on many of life’s truths. I’ve mentioned them before in this post.

I’ve got a little Moomintroll stuff toy who sits at my nightstand, guarding the books there. Every so often I lean over and give him a pat and a little kiss.

So here I am, 30-odd years old today, and playing with imaginary trolls. And people wonder what the secret to eternal youth is. Start with a young heart and a young mind, and your body will follow (well to a certain degree, but still!). Toys help. So do Moomins. Strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff don’t hurt either.

And if that’s a bit of a stretch, how about some delicious rhubarb and ginger jam on toast? This one is from Moominmamma’s own recipe. Yes! I saw her recipe on Pille’s Nami-Nami and swore that if I came upon rhubarb over here (not always the case), I would definitely make it. Well, the stars aligned just for me…I found it and here’s the wonderful jam. The original recipe can be found here. I stuck to it pretty much, just reducing the recipe to the amount of rhubarb I had. Despite not having any “young” rhubarb (I did have young native ginger though…still moist and pink around the edges…gorgeous!), and some anxious to-peel-or-not-to-peel moments, the jam came out brilliant. Well, for me at least. I loved the tartness of the rhubarb and the slight zing of the ginger. And the fact that it’s Moominmamma’s recipe :)

Now I have a tangible, and edible, piece of Moominland in a jar, on the ready for those scoundrel-y days when belief lies just beyond reach, when the zombies of the dreary-everyday seem to be closing in…and when we need to be reminded that another year older does not necessarily mean one less year younger.

Feed your inner child today! :)