Tuesday, December 30, 2008

22 hour long test of endurance

As this was our fourth trip to the delivery room we were quietly confident we knew what to expect.

Personal history tells us that the length of labour was getting shorter and shorter. Our first child took 12 hours, the next one was 8 and the third one was only 6 hours. So naturally, we’ve set ourselves for a shorter labour. 4 hours perhaps. She could even come sooner. I know a friend who almost did not make it to the hospital as hers only lasted 45 minutes.

How wrong were we!

What actually happened was a 22 hour long test of endurance…not for me, but for my dearest wife. I was there the whole time and wished I could somehow take some of the load…but all I could do was just be there.

We never thought we’ll get to the other side but on 16 December 2008, at 6.12am we welcomed our new arrival, Eliyah Cate.

All praises go to God and of course to my lovely wife, who felt it all!

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Proverbs 31:28

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Loofah Soup (Patola na may Miswa)

Long before loofah became a “beauty product” I’ve always know it as a vegetable. Before it was marketed as a “natural exfoliating scrub” I was consuming it as a soup with some curious noodles called miswa (Extra Thin Flour Vermicelli).

With all the rich food that came with Christmas having this soup is a welcome break. It is light and leaves you feeling quite refreshed. Loofah is a type of melon after all.

I wasn’t really planning on writing a post about this dish that is why I intentionally did not take a photo of the fresh loofah. I have already peeled and sliced my loofah before I realised that some people might actually find this interesting. I found some photos in a blog called Wandering Chopsticks.

Loofah Soup (Patola na may Miswa)

2-3 cloves garlic chopped
1 medium onion chopped
Mince meat of your choice or dried shrimps
1 fresh loofah sliced
1 bunch miswa (Extra thin flour vermicelli)
4-5 cups Water or stock
Fish sauce or sea salt
A bit of black pepper

1. If you are using dried shrimps make sure it is soaked in warm water for about an hour. If you are using meat heat up some oil in a pot and stir fry the minced meat until cooked. Set it aside.
2. Add a bit more oil in the pot if needed. Fry the garlic until golden brown.
3. Add the onions and cook until translucent.
4. Add the meat back in or the re-hydrated shrimps.
5. Add the sliced fresh loofah and stir fry.
6. Add some of the fish sauce/sea salt.
7. Add the stock/water and bring to a boil.
8. Adjust the taste.
9. Add the miswa noodles. Simmer for about five minutes.
10. Serve hot on its own or with some freshly cooked jasmine rice.

“Fried” (leftover Christmas) Ham Sandwich

I’ve only now just started to breathe again. After so many things have happened to explain my extended absence I am now here, sitting down, and writing a blog.

If there’s one Christmas tradition I could not do without it would have to be the ham. And it cannot just be any kind of ham. It has to be a full leg on the bone! Semi-boned just does not cut it for me. It doesn’t taste as good and does not cook as well.

I normally would glaze the ham with a homemade pineapple preserve and bake it for a couple of hours (depending on the size).

Leftover ham though is even better. Not only is it tasty it is also a lifesaver days after Christmas when the last thing on my mind is to prepare another elaborate meal.

A special treat for breakfast that I prepare using leftover ham is a type of “fried sandwich”. Yup, I said FRIED! Some people prefer to call it a “grilled sandwich” but nothing can be further from the truth. It is fried and there’s no other term for it. It’s not for the “fainthearted” for reasons you’ll find out as you follow my recipe. It’s a bit like French toast, only better.

Fried (leftover Christmas) Ham Sandwich

2 slices white bread
Leftover Christmas ham (as much as you like)
Butter (real butter)
Mayonnaise (not the low fat variety)
Horseradish cream
A slice of Swiss cheese (or leftover Edam cheese from your Noche Buena)
A bit of sunflower oil (you can use butter as well but it burns too quickly)
1 egg
Some milk

1. Beat the egg and add a bit of milk.
2. Heat up a pan. Add a bit of oil and butter.
3. Butter the slices of bread. Followed by the mayonnaise and then the horseradish
4. Layer the slices of ham and then the cheese to make the sandwich.
5. Soak the sandwich in the egg mixture.
6. Fry the sandwich until golden brown on each side.
7. Serve hot straight off the pan!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Overtime Food plus...

If I can help it I would not spend extra hours at work. I believe that spending overtime is not really a good reflection of one’s performance but rather a sign of inefficiency.

But anyway, due to the changes in my team I had no choice but to stay back to make sure the required reports are produced on time.

One thing I do not forget though regardless of how busy I am is to eat. No surprise there, you say.

But more often than not “overtime food” tends to be on the “junk” side. As this was supposed to be an unplanned meal “anything goes” is the way to go! It is usually limited to day old sandwiches, pizzas or burgers.

Although my office is only a few steps away from one of Brisbane’s café districts I don’t really have time to have a proper sit down meal. The idea is to finish the work and have a meal simultaneously.

McDonald’s was my choice during my recent stint. Although McDonald’s now has got “healthy options” I still went for the “unhealthy” burger choices. But to make sure I get a bit of balance I ordered the McFeast. I’ve noticed that among all the burgers it’s the one with the most salad. I might be wrong but I’m comforted by it!

Much to my delight a colleague of mine has also offered me a Cookies & Cream cupcake! This just made the extra time at work a bit more bearable.

The cupcake was definitely tasty! The fact that is was presented so elegantly added to its goodness. Thanks Miss S for the very lovely treat!

I’ve copied the recipe from Miss S’s book 500 Cupcakes by Fergal Connolly:

Cookies & cream cupcakes

Makes 1 ½ dozen

For the cupcakes
225g unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
225g self-raising flour
1 tbsp baking powder
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
10 crushed cream-filled chocolate cookies (Oreo is probably the best)

For the icing
375g icing sugar, sieved
225g unsalted butter, softened
Pinch of salt
10 chopped cream-filled chocolate cookies (I think the author meant to say Oreos)

1. Preheat the oven to 175°C.
2. Place 18 foil or paper baking cases in muffin tins (Miss S used black & white striped muffin cases from Wheel & Barrow).
3. Combine all the cupcake ingredients, except the cookies, in a large bowl and beat with an electric whisk until smooth and pale, about 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Stir in the cookies.
5. Spoon batter in the cases. Bake for 20 minutes.
6. Remove tins from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Then remove the cupcakes and cool on a wire rack.
7. To make the icing, beat the icing sugar, butter and salt using an electric whisk.
8. Spread the icing onto the cooled cupcakes and sprinkle the chopped cookies on top.
9. Store without icing in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Who wrote this?

An attribute of good blogs, according to 43 Folders is:
Good blogs have a voice. Who wrote this? What is their name? What can I figure out about who they are that they have never overtly told me? What’s their personality like and what do they have to contribute — even when it’s “just” curation. What tics and foibles fascinate make me about this blog and the person who makes it? Most importantly: what obsesses this person?
In the quest to make mine a reasonably good one I’ve answered some questions that’ll give readers of this blog some idea of who I am. At the risk of defeating the purpose entirely by telling you “overtly” things about me I’ll give it a go anyway:

What I love most about cooking…it is an art form that can literally be consumed.

What I least like about it is…the cleaning up after.

The best meal I’ve ever had was…at Trang’s in West End. The food is always excellent!

The worst meal I’ve ever had was…at the Holiday Inn in Darwin, the worst nasi goreng ever.

My interest in food began…at a very young age. I grew up at my grandparents’ place where everyone cooks.

The first thing I cooked was…lumpiang shanghai (Filipino spring rolls).

The foodies I admire are…Maeve O’Mara (for her highly informative shows and being culturally sensitive), Jamie Oliver (for his passion to get everybody on board), Doreen Fernandez (for shedding light on Filipino cuisine), Marketman (for inspiring me to write my own blog), and Anthony Bourdain (for having No Reservations).

My guiltiest pleasure is…KFC original recipe and Krispy Kreme original glazed donuts.

I'm very bad at…writing down notes.

The word that best describes me is…a learner.

Three things people might not know about me are…1) I don’t mind airline food; 2) I don’t like long drives; 3) I love fashion.

Someone who makes me laugh…is my wife.

Five years from now…I’ll be a father of four kids ages 15, 11, 9 and 5 and a husband to one.

My worst fashion moment…freshman at UP, I wore cycling shorts to class. Yuk!

You would not catch me wearing…crocs! They belong only in hospitals! Ugly things!

If there were five people, living or dead, I could invite to dinner, they would be…Ai AI de las Alas (Filipina comedienne), Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ennio Morricone, Doreen Fernandez, Marketman (of Marketmanila).

As a child I was…extremely shy.

My first job was
…forgettable. I stayed only for a month.

You wouldn’t know it but I’m no good at…doing quick sums without a calculator.

When I was a child, I wanted to be…a doctor. Typical!

The best invention is…TV.

If I were a movie actor, the character I love to have played is…Salvatore in Cinema Paradiso.

I wish I hadn’t…held back.

If only I could…make everybody happy.

The celebrity I most fancy is...Monica Bellucci.

My favourite smell is...freshly baked bread.

My best career decision was...going into mining.

The best advice my parents gave me was...study hard.

The thing that keeps me awake at night is... doesn’t apply. I sleep well.

A book that means a lot to me is...the Holy Bible.

A movie that has stayed with me is...Cinema Paradiso.

A song that resonates for me is...Cinema Paradiso soundtrack. It’s all music but very moving.

My secret skill (that is now no longer a secret is)...I’m very good at parking.

My earliest memory is...being taken to the doctor to get a shot.

I don't like talking about...real estate and the stock market.

At home I cook...all the time.

It's not fashionable but I love...Spam.

What I don't find amusing is...vegetarianism.

I'm always being asked...by other people about what to wear.

At the moment I'm reading...re-reading The Mad Tea Party by Clinton Palanca.

I often wonder...what life would have been like if I have brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Variation on a Steak

As much as I like steak in a restaurant I love it even better when I cook it at home. I’m yet to encounter my perfect steak meal when dining out. More on that a little bit later.

The closest to perfection in my opinion was the steak I had at Embers in Milton. It was so good there was no need for any sauce or any other accompaniment. But still it fell short.

Although the accompaniment is exactly what it is, an accompaniment it could make or break the deal for me. Steak is not hard to duplicate at home. All you need is your preferred cut of meat, the right equipment (a good grill/barbeque, cast iron plates perhaps) and a bit of cooking skill and voila, you can cook the perfect steak! It just becomes more involved when you try to copy the “other” things that came with your restaurant steak.

I come from a culture that does not consider a meal complete without rice. Rice is present in Filipino gastronomy from breakfast to dinner and anything in between. It is therefore natural that my idea of a perfect steak meal includes rice.

I’ve had steak with the usual suspects (seasonal vegetables and potato – baked/chips/mashed). Other times I’ve had them with more interesting sides like garlic prawns. But I’m not aware of any restaurant that serves steak with rice (in Australia), steaming hot jasmine rice to be more specific.

I like my steak medium rare served on a sizzling plate. It might be horrifying for some but I use supermarket bought sauces. Que horror! purists might say but I just haven’t got the time to make jus for two when we feel like having steak.

Apart from the rice, my preferred side dishes are caramelised carrots and Brussels sprouts (a stuff of nightmares in some cartoon series).

Here’s how I do my steak:

T-bone (the meat closest to the bone is the tastiest)
A bit of sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
Olive oil

1. Put the sizzling pan on the stove (preferably gas)
2. Some say do not salt your steak before cooking. I don’t subscribe to this. If you want to do it my way I suggest you salt the steak at least 10 minutes before cooking.
3. Add some black pepper (to your taste).
4. Cover the steak in olive oil.
5. After 10 minutes of marinating thrown your steak on the sizzling plate. Make sure it’s on high heat to develop a nice colour on your steak.
6. Depending on the thickness of the steak medium rare is about 2 minutes on each side.
7. Pour your preferred sauce onto the steak (while still on the sizzling plate) just before serving.

Brussels Sprouts w/ bacon
8-10 Brussels sprouts cut in half
A slice of bacon chopped (Pancetta if you want to be a bit more fancy)
Butter (not margarine)
Sea salt

1. Boil some salted water.
2. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook about ¾ of the way. Drain then set aside.
3. In a pan melt some butter then fry the bacon pieces.
4. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

Caramelised Carrots
1-2 Carrots cut into chip size pieces or mini batons
Sea salt
Butter (not margarine)
Bay leaf
A bit of water

1. Combine all the ingredients together except for the butter. Make sure the water just covers the carrot pieces. Cook over medium heat.
2. Just before all the water has evaporated add the butter.
3. Cook until the pan starts to sizzle and the carrots are starting to caramelise.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cheap Eats – Laksa Hut

51 Sherwood Road
Toowong, QLD 4066
Speciality: Laksa

You’ve heard the old adage “do not judge a book by its cover”. It’s fairly true with a lot of my favourite eateries. They are sometimes literally “hole in the wall” operations. But the look of premises betrays little about the glorious food that is on offer.

Laksa Hut is a good example of such. The signage was obviously done on a very limited budget (it looks hand painted – and I do not mean that as a compliment). There’s very little décor to speak of. Basic white crockery was probably too minimalist for them (an eclectic mix of tableware was more their thing…Hello Kitty plastic spoons, etc). And so on and so forth… but the food is good and that’s what matters!

Laksa Hut almost did not make it on my list of cheap eats. You see, a cheap (but not nasty) meal for me should cost less than $10.00. But Laksa Hut recently pushed up their prices by a $1.00. The cheapest laksa on their menu now costs $10.50.

I’m no laksa expert. All I know is how I want my laksa. And Laksa Hut do theirs pretty close to my idea of a good laksa. My Singaporean friends concur with this. The laksa here, according to them, is very similar to what they get back home.

I always order the Roast Pork Laksa but they offer a whole range, from vegetarian to roast duck. It always comes steaming hot, chockfull of the ingredients you would expect and with just the right amount of spiciness!

Laksa Hut can push up their prices a bit more (they might actually do as another unwanted effect of the GFC). I might complain a bit but I know I’ll be back.