Thursday, October 29, 2009

Coffee at Work

One thing I don’t understand is why my workmates insist on getting coffee outside when at work we’ve been provided with first-rate espresso machines that produce decent coffee.

Coffee made using these machines are not inferior substitutes but rather equal if not better alternative. We’ve got at least five Delonghi Magnifica Espresso makers that allow you to make coffee that suits your taste. The machine uses whole beans (that it grinds itself) rather than ground coffee (plus for freshness!). You are able to regulate the strength of your coffee by adjusting the machine controls (unlike bought coffee which is normally set for one and all). The added bonus…it’s FREE!

I’ve got nothing against dairy (I consume milk in more delectable forms like cheese, cream, butter, yoghurt, ice cream, etc…) but I prefer soy milk in my coffee. This I buy myself but I do not mind it at all. There’s a plethora of choice in soy milk but the one that suits my taste best is the one in the photo.

To make my soy latte I heat up about ¾ of a cup of soy milk in the microwave (I could use the machine frother but this would take a while). I then set the machine at 2 shots of espresso and water mark 2. Press the button and voila, soy latte!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Baon – Singapore Chicken Curry

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll probably realise how much I love curries. It’s easy to make, keeps for long, and very tasty. Also, the variety of curries available guarantees a lunch that is not going to be mundane.

Toasted Ham & Cheese Croissant and Soy Latte

The other bonus, it is an “acceptable” meal to have at work…even inside the office. Some of my workmates might not squeal with delight when their nostrils are hit with the aroma of curry but no one protests as it is not an unfamiliar scent.

One of the easiest curries to make would have to be Singapore Chicken Curry and this is what I brought to work today.

Singapore Chicken Curry

2-3 Desiree potatoes (one potato cut in 4)
½ a free range chicken cut up in large pieces
2-3 tablespoons Singapore curry paste (depending on how spicy you want it)
Water or coconut milk (if you prefer a creamier sauce)
Salt to taste

1. Marinate the chicken pieces in the curry paste for at least half an hour.
2. Fry the potatoes until golden brown.
3. Heat up a little bit of oil and sear the chicken pieces a few at a time. Set aside.
4. Add the chicken pieces back in the pan. But if you prefer a spicier curry, sauté some curry paste on the same pan used to sear the chicken then add the chicken pieces.
5. Add the desired amount of coconut milk or water.
6. Simmer until the chicken is cooked.
7. Add the potatoes.
8. Adjust the taste by adding salt or fish sauce.
9. Serve with roti and/or steamed rice.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Baon – Open Face Tuna Sandwich

A sandwich is not my idea of a meal. It could be a precursor to a meal but never the main event. I am always left unsatisfied even after gobbling down conspicuous amounts of these sliced bread concoctions.

But there are days when I’m left with no choice. I spent most of the weekend outside the house. There are therefore no yummy leftovers to speak of.

If you’ve been following this blog you know how much I can’t stand soggy bread. That is why I prefer my sandwiches open faced. The bread and the filling only have a few seconds to get acquainted before they get devoured.

For today I am having an open face tuna sandwich. I could have brought some cucumber to liven up this grey mass a little bit but I also did not have time to shop.

To make the tuna filling you basically drain a can of tuna, add a bit of mayonnaise and white pepper and mix together. I had it with lightly toasted wholemeal bread (only because we’ve run out of white).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Baon – Thai Green Chicken Curry

Now that I’ve decided to post about my packed lunches I make that extra effort to actually plate my food, nicely. I the past, like fellow blogger Julie (of Mama at Home to Two) I didn’t bother. I’ll heat up my lunch and eat it straight out of whatever csontainer I brought that day.

Also, to solve my “sauce-infused rice” issue I’ve decided to start bringing my lunch in at least two containers. The rice would always have its own. I’ll put it in a plastic bag if I have to.

Today’s lunch is Thai Green Curry Chicken. I also brought tuyong biya (as a challenge) which I like having with Thai curries. There you go Edik (of The World According to Melchizedik), I’ve done it! No more kaluoy!

Extra treats for today included leftover pancakes for breakfast and a pink muffin for morning tea as part of the Pink Ribbon Breakfast to help breast cancer research.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Baon – Leftover Steak Dinner

I like my rice plain. But one thing that is almost unavoidable when bringing baon to work is soaking it in whatever ulam I’ve brought. Unless I’ve got separate compartments in my baunan my rice is bound to be infused. The rice and the ulam will go together later on anyway so what am I fussing about? Well, I like to do it in my own terms…

For today, I’ve brought left over steak and vegies. My workmate also gave me some home made bola-bola siopao (Vietnamese style) which I had for breakfast.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Baon (Packed Lunch) – Home Made Pizza & Pasta

A lot has been said about the rising power of the Aussie dollar but to be perfectly frank I do not see it translating well to my day to day living. AUD might be sitting at USD$0.92 (it was USD $0.50 early this year) but the price of “my essentials” are moving at a similar rate and direction. Rice, for example, has actually doubled in price!

So, in an attempt to “simplify” my life I decided to bring “baon (packed lunch)” to work most days of the week. Not only is it beneficial to my pocket my lunch choices is now not anymore at the mercy of my local deli.

I thank God for our new open-air lunch area. I am now also basically free to bring anything I like even those “assault to the senses of my colleagues” type lunches. Binagoongan anyone?

For today, I’m having a slice of home made pizza and bow pasta arrabiata. Just click on the link for recipes.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hot Chocolate (using Dumaguete Tableas)

It's not a well known fact but the Philippines has got a rich chocolate culture that is believed to date back to the 1600s. Hot chocolate made from native chocolate tablets called tableas is the beverage of choice for breakfast, during Christmas or when simply enjoying rice cakes and other traditional desserts.

I’ll be honest I did not grow up on this thing. I’m more from the Milo and Ovaltine generation. My earliest memory of having Filipino hot chocolate was as a grown up at CafĂ© Adriatico. Sad but true.

So it pleased me to no end when we were gifted with Dumaguete tableas by my wife’s childhood friend - and now ninang to Eia. Thank you very much Thennie and advance happy birthday! It was very thoughtful of you!

Now, what do I do with it?

Water feature prominently in most recipes I’ve read. But since I like mine rich, thick and creamy I opted for milk and cream instead. To take the edge off the bitterness of the tableas I’ve added some Cadbury drinking chocolate.

Blogs and cookbooks recommend the use of a batidor (wooden chocolate beater) and a slender pot called tsokolatera, both of which I do not have (note to self: get some on next rip). I ended up using a saucepan and a regular whisk. The end result wasn’t too bad at all.

Hot Chocolate ala Kidpawan

1/2 cup cream
1 cup fresh milk
2 tablets of Dumaguete chocolates
2 teaspoons Cadbury drinking chocolate
2 teaspoons brown sugar

Combine the cream and the milk in a saucepan and heat until just boiling.
Add the chocolates and sugar and whisk until completely dissolved.
Top each cup with cream before serving if desired.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Paksiw na Pata – Braised Pork Hocks

“Paksiw” is a Filipino cooking method of braising meat or fish in some sort of a sour broth. Usually with “meat paksiw” soy sauce is added and vinegar is the souring agent of choice.

Among all the paksiws there are Paksiw na Pata would have to be my favourite. It’s shockingly easy to make but don’t cook it too often as your “bad” cholesterol levels will probably shoot up quite literally. It is extremely high in fat but that should not put you off. If you choose your hocks well there should be lots of lean meat to be had as well. Connoisseurs recommend the front legs.

What makes this paksiw unique is the combination of dried banana blossoms (or lily flowers) and bay leaves that give this dish a distinct flavour.

Paksiw na Pata is best cooked over low fire for at least 2 hours. I don’t recommend using a pressure cooker as you need this dish to “age” properly rather force it. It is best eaten the day after it has been cooked when all the flavours have seeped into the meat.

Paksiw na Pata ala Kidpawan

2 pork hocks
1 cup vinegar
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup brown sugar
6-10 whole garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons peppercorn slightly crushed
1 cup dried banana blossoms or lily flowers soaked in hot water
1 cup pineapple pieces

1. Combine all the ingredients together (except the water) in one big pot.
2. Add just enough water to cover the hocks.
3. Bring to a boil then reduce to low to medium hit and braise for 2 hours. Skim off the muck that forms on top.
4. If you want to reduce the sauce further after two hours of cooking I recommend you remove the hocks first. This will keep your hocks intact. Return the hocks to the cooking liquid when it reaches your desired amount.
5. Serve with steaming hot rice.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Crispy Fry Fried Chicken (ChickenJoel TM)/Pork Chops

If you want that “take-away” (“take out” for those in North America) taste in your fried chicken/pork chops it’s pretty hard to go wrong with Ajinomoto’s Crispy Fry Breading Mix. Yup, Ajinomoto! Probably the most well known MSG (monosodium glutamate) manufacturer in the world. So, if you’re MSG sensitive or want nothing to do with MSG at all please look away now.

Well, I don’t know if Crispy Fry has some MSG in it but just in case…

I do want to make it clear though that I was in no way paid by Ajinomoto to promote their product. I’m including it in my blog purely for taste reasons.

There are days when we just feel like eating take away food (take out” for those in North America). Unlike in the Philippines where you can get almost anything delivered right at your doorstep (yes, including McDonald’s), here down under the quickest way would have to be the drive-thru. But sometimes I couldn’t even be bothered to drive. It’s times like those when Crispy Fry comes really handy.

If you like your fried chicken with gravy you’ll be glad to know that each Crispy Fry packet also comes with a gravy mix.

I was introduced to this product by Mister J. He’s also showed me some tricks he’s learned during his stints at fast food restaurants to make your chicken extra crispy.

The recipe below, once again, is Mr J’s very own (in his own words):

Really Krispy Pork Chops (Also applies to ChickenJoelTM)

Rub a small amount of salt & pepper on thinly sliced pork chops (about a kilo or nine pieces).
Let stand for a few minutes. Meanwhile...

Mix about 200 grams all purpose flour, a teaspoon or less of fine salt and pepper. Or just mix the flour with commercially prepared breading mix such as Ajinomoto Crispy Fry or magic seasonings like Knorr Real Sarap.

Break an egg and manually cover the chops. In a separate bowl, bread the chops with the flour mixture, pressing with your hands to make sure the flour sticks to them.

Transfer the breaded meat to a sieve and dip in a bowl of water or wet it a little under a running tap for about 5 seconds. Shake vigorously.

Do the breading for the second time this time without dipping in the water. Be sure to eliminate excess flour by sifting.

Deep-Fry until golden brown.