Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chunky Ham & Vegetable Soup ala Beancounter

I’m a firm believer in letting the season decide what you should serve on your table. Not only are the fruits and vegetables in season at their very best they’re also at their cheapest.

Parsnips, turnips, swedes and other root vegetables are plentiful throughout the cold months in Australia. That is why it is only during winter when I cook my chunky soup.

A friend who’s tried it (thanks Carla and the rest of the Evangelistas) actually requested I blog ‘bout it. They recently moved to Sydney and therefore lost “free” access to my soup.

Here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

Chunky Ham & Vegetable Soup ala Beancounter

1 ham hock (discard the skin, chop the meat)
250g soup mix grains (lentils, split peas and barley)
1 turnip cubed
1 parsnip cubed
1 swede cubed
1 carrot cubed
1 desiree potato cubed
1 stick celery chopped
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
Salt to taste
A little bit of oil

1. Using a stock pot heat up a bit of oil. Sauté the onion, garlic, celery and carrot for a couple of minutes.
2. Add the ham hock meat and cook for a minute.
3. Add the soup mix grains.
4. Add the vegetables.
5. Pour in enough stock to cover the vegetables plus about an inch more. You can add more stock if you want a more soupy consistency.
6. Simmer for about an hour then check for taste. Add more salt if necessary.
7. Serve steaming hot with some crusty sourdough baguette.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Thé De Chine (Tea Glass with Filter)

My lovely wife was at the shops one day when she stumbled upon this curious looking tea implement. First person she thought of was yours truly, of course. She purchased it and gave it to me just because… There was no special occasion but I certainly felt special.

My love of tea has caused me to “unintentionally” accumulate all sorts of apparatus to enhance my enjoyment of it. This latest addition would have to be the most exquisite and delicate of the bunch.

When given the option I’d rather have “loose leaf” rather than “tea bags”. But using loose leaf can be a messy affair if not done right or if you lack the right gadget. It is especially tricky if you’re only making it for one.

My new Thé De Chine is intended to be a personal infuser set. It makes brewing tea for one a lot less complicated. Simply add your loose leaf tea, pour in hot water, and let the tea steep to your taste. The lid acts as a trivet when you are done brewing.

So thanks once again sweetheart! I love you too!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Churros…not quite

I’m not a sweet tooth but one kind of dessert I almost find irresistible is “fried dough”. By this I mean donuts and its plethora of flavours and variations.

It’s no secret to people who know me well how much I love Krispy Kreme’s Original glazed. I used to request for flights that will stop in Sydney only so I’ll be able to bring home (at least) half a dozen boxes of these heavenly rings! They’re so high in sugar they freeze really well. A few seconds in the microwave and voila, it’s as good as fresh. Thank God they’ve opened shops in Brisbane I don’t need to go through so much trouble anymore.

Another favourite is the Spanish churros. The main point of difference from the traditional donut is the fact that this one is straight, has ridges and fried till almost crisp. It is then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. You usually eat this with a cup of thick hot chocolate.

Well, at 9pm on a wintry Friday night I was craving both but did not have access to either. What to do?!?!?!?! Whip something up, of course!

The recipe below is for choux pastry (commonly used to make profiteroles/cream puffs). I can’t remember where I got to idea to fry them. I don’t know if it was from TV or some magazine but I have been frying choux for years. Roll the fried choux in cinnamon sugar and voila (I should stop saying this..), it’s just as satisfying as churros if not more ‘cause I get to eat them hot and fresh!

Fried Choux Pastry with Cinnamon Sugar

1 cup water
½ cup butter
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
4 eggs at room temperature
1 cup sugar
Cinnamon to taste
Oil for frying

1. Boil, water, butter, sugar and salt in a saucepan.
2. Add the flour in one full swoop.
3. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture forms a tick, smooth ball that leaves the side of the pan clean, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition until dough is shiny and smooth.
5. Heat up some oil in low to medium heat.
6. Use spoons, bare hands or a piping bag to make shapes you like and drop them straight to the hot oil. Looking at the photos you’ll see mine is a bit “free form”. I used two spoons. The piping bag with the right nozzle will give you the ridge effect like on the churros.
7. Fry until golden brown.
8. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle onto the fried pastry.
9. Eat fresh with your favourite hot beverage.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Binagoongan (Pork in Shrimp Paste)

It certainly wasn’t my intention to write a blog about binagoongan. Well, not last night, that is. But after all the trouble I’ve gone through to get this dish finished I think my binagoongan deserved to be blogged about!

I’m still not feeling 100%. I just wanted to get dinner over and done with (pretty sad huh…not the usual me). The last thing on my mind was to take photos of my cooking…so I didn’t.

About halfway through the process I realised I’ve got no bagoong. And no bagoong (Filipino shrimp paste) means no binagoongan. This essential ingredient just has no substitutes! Patis (Fish Sauce) won’t do. Salt is just not good enough. I’ve got belacan (Malaysian shrimp paste) in the pantry but I couldn’t see how that could work.

Knowing full well that the shops were already shut I’ve got no choice but to visit my closest Pinoy neighbour. By that I mean some 5kms drive away. So I rang them to announce my spur of the moment visit to borrow some shrimp paste. I brought my own ziplock bag to spare the couple further trouble (sad…really!)! But being the good and generous friends that they are they gave me half a jar rather than the few tablespoons I needed (or they probably just want to get rid of me ASAP!). Thanks to Patrick and Pilar for saving our dinner last night!

Binagoongan for me is normally a side dish to kare-kare (oxtail in peanut sauce). But in my condition I just wasn’t up to cooking kare-kare.

Some of you might find the thought of combining pork and shrimp paste horrifying. I say, don’t knock it back till you try it!

The best way to cook this dish is by pre-frying the pork before adding all the other ingredients.

Binagoongan ala Beancounter

500g pork belly diced
2-3 cloves garlic chopped
1 onion chopped
2 tomatoes chopped
4 tablespoons bagoong (shrimp paste…Barrio Fiesta or Kamayan brand preferably)
1 teaspoon vinegar (optional)
Chillies (optional)

1. Heat up a pan. Add a bit of oil and fry the diced pork. Do this in batches to avoid steaming the meat. Set aside.
2. Remove excess oil from the pan. Fry the garlic (till golden brown).
3. Add the onion and cook till translucent.
4. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes.
5. Add the shrimp paste. You can add more than 4 tablespoons if you like. It’ll be more like a dipping sauce rather than a side dish if you do. Cook for about 2 minutes.
6. Add the pre-cooked pork. Simmer for 5 minutes.
7. Add the vinegar and cook for another minute.
8. Serve with freshly cooked rice.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Simple Wonton Noodle Soup ala Beancounter

I haven’t been feeling great lately. This was brought about by the change in season (it is winter down under) plus over indulging during the last long weekend we had. As a consequence I haven’t ventured into our kitchen for a while. It was only tonight that I had enough energy and inspiration to start cooking again.

Wonton noodle soup definitely ticks all the boxes during times like this when I’m craving something hearty and comforting (now that my appetite has returned from a few days of absence).

My version of this dish is quite simple. By that I mean I use fewer ingredients than some other recipes. When I have more time and I have them available in my pantry I might add a few more ingredients like dried mushrooms, water chestnuts, prawns etc. But I am time poor and I haven’t been to the shops lately. Also, I think, the simplicity of my recipe makes it a lot more versatile. You can have it in a soup or fried like a spring roll (I did both tonight). Putting a few fried wontons to your noodle soup adds a bit more character to the dish with its crunchy texture.

Simple Wontons ala Beancounter

500g pork mince
1 carrot finely chopped
1 large onion finely chopped
1 stick of celery finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 egg
Wonton wrappers

Noodle Soup
Chicken stock seasoned to your liking
Your preferred noodle
Your choice of vegetables

1. Combine all the wonton ingredients (except for the wrappers, of course).
2. Wrap the mixture using the wonton wrappers and chill for about half an hour before cooking. I’ve done three types of wrapping (please refer to one of the photos). All of them seem to keep their shape well when fried, steamed or boiled.
3. Boil some water and cook the wontons a few at a time. They’ll start rising to the top when they are ready. I prefer pre-cooking them in water rather than cooking them in the soup stock. The soup comes out much clearer.
4. You can use bought chicken stock. Just “asianise” it by adding ginger, soy sauce, pepper and a bit of oyster sauce (or whatever you fancy).
5. As for the noodles, follow what the packet says.
6. Put together the noodles, cooked wonton and some vegetables in a bowl and pour the hot soup over it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Coming Home to Mooli

In a previous post I’ve mentioned that Mooli is another name for daikon (white radish). Little did I know that Mooli has a deeper meaning to anyone who speaks the Visayan dialect. A fellow blogger (Edik Dolotina of The World According to Melchizedik) has kindly informed me that Mooli (read as moo-lay in Tagalog) also means “to come home”.

pre-dinner chaos
The name is very apt for what you get at Mooli, Mermaid Beach. Having a meal there is less of a restaurant experience but more like visiting one’s aunt to share a sumptuous meal of aged old Filipino recipes that have been passed on from generation to generation. Thanks to Tita Liz Solatan who highlights the experience by being the warmest and most welcoming host. Tito Rodi Solatan, on the other hand, says it all with the food that he serves.

more pre-dinner chaos

So for the second time in as many months we went to Mooli for a special Queen’s Birthday weekend dinner. The experience was not worth keeping to oneself so I brought some more of my dearest friends on this follow up visit.

post dinner smiles

We had the requisite longanissa, adobo and siopao. They are consistently good, of course. We also ordered some fresh lumpia, fried lumpia, pinakbet, chicken teriyaki and fried rice with prawns. To finish the meal we had halo-halo (in the middle of winter, I know but that weather didn’t matter). Everything was good!

fresh lumpia



But what made that dinner more impressive were servings of fresh octopus ceviche (kinilaw na pugita) and jack fruit salad (langka na may gata). We did not order these as they were not on the menu but Tito Rodi gave us generous helpings of these delectable dishes…gratis! Them, being complimentary, did not mean they are less scrumptious. In fact the opposite is true. I could have had another bowl of the ceviche and still want more! My wife specially enjoyed the jack fruit salad. According to her it is reminiscent of a favourite Laguna dish. This salad together with pickled bitter gourd (ampalaya) is normally served with lechon (which we should have ordered as well!). I did not know you can actually pickle ampalaya! You learn something new everyday, they say. A taste of the pickled ampalaya was definitely a first for me. And it was also very good!

octopus ceviche

green jack fruit salad

Sweet sourish ampalaya pickle

There was certainly one fault that evening and it wasn’t on the Solatans’ part. It was our failing for not being more specific with the dishes we want at the time of booking (to include even those not on the menu). Another lesson learned! We’ll be better next time!

So thanks once again to the Solatans! A big thank you to all my friends (the Adinas, the Mendozas, the Samsons and the Vicencios) who drove quite a distance to join us!

Chef Rodi in his domain

Chef Rodi & Me (& mini me) - unprecedented access to the control centre


By the way, thanks also for the Sharon Cuneta tapes playing on TV that evening. That made the wife very happy!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Litsonero and other Food Movies

I am big fan of movies about food. No surprise there, I know.

But I don’t think there’s ever been a Filipino film of the that genre. I’m not a movie historian so do not quote me on this. That is why I’m quite pleased to hear of a new film by Lore Reyes titled “Litsonero”. According to the news it is supposed to be the Filipino version of the 1987 Oscar Best Foreign Film winner Babette’s Feast (Denmark). I just hope Litsonero would be able to live up to the original and not just become a poor imitation.

Litsonero, by the way, literally means lechon cook. Lechon, for the uninitiated, is the Filipino version of the spit roasted pig. It has been named as the Best Pig in a recent Time Magazine article. Famous foodie, Anthony Bourdain, put lechon as number 1 in his Hierarchy of Pork. It is therefore just natural for lechon to be the main focus of what I believe to be the first ever Filipino food movie.

In the meantime I’ll just share with you a list of my favourite food movies of all time:

1. Babette’s Feast – 1987 Oscar Best Foreign Film winner. I don’t think I need to say more.
2. Eat Drink Man Woman – A film by Ang Lee focusing on man’s two main desires. A Latino-American version was made in 2001. I still think the original was far superior.
3. Like Water for Chocolate – Based on Laura Esquivel’s novel titled Como Agua Para Chocolate.
4. Ratatouille – 2007 Pixar animated film that both kids and adults can enjoy.
5. Vatel – starring Gerard Depardieu as the legendary 17th French chef.
6. Chocolat – Based on Joanne Harris’ 1999 novel of the same title.
7. Dinner Rush – food and the mafia.
8. Soul Food – love this movie but I’ve never had authentic “soul food”.
9. Waitress – Starring Kerri Russel. Competed in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.
10. What’s Cooking? – focuses on diversity and yet how one and the same we are.

Honorable mention goes to:
Fast Food Nation
Supersize Me
Harold & Kumar Go to Whitecastle
Charlie & the Chocolate Factory

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Movie: Fierce People (Nothing is more savage than high society)

Synopsis from facebook:
Sixteen-year-old Finn (Anton Yelchin) wants nothing more than to escape New York and spend the summer in South America. But Finn's dreams are shattered when he is arrested in a desperate effort to help his drug-dependent mother, Liz (Diane Lane). Determined to get their lives back on track, Liz moves the two of them into a guesthouse on the vast country estate of her ex-client, the aging aristocratic billionaire, Ogden C. Osbourne (Donald Sutherland). While Liz battles her substance abuse and struggles to win back her son's love and trust, Finn falls in love with Osbourne's beautiful granddaughter, Maya (Kristin Stewart), befriends her charismatic older brother, Bryce (Chris Evans), and even wins the favor of Osbourne himself. But when a shocking act of violence shatters Finn's ascension within the Osbourne clan, the golden promises of this lush world quickly sour. Both Finn and Liz, caught in a harrowing struggle for their dignity, discover that membership always comes at a price... Contrasting the mores of high society with the blunt savagery of primitive tribes, "Fierce People" takes an inside look at the upper classes, examining the darkness that lurks beneath the surface of good manners. Sporting a biting wit, and featuring charismatic performances from Diane Lane and Donald Sutherland, this unflinching drama exposes the trappings of wealth and privilege, and their overwhelming power to both seduce and corrupt.
This would have to be one of the more interesting films I have seen in a long time!

It shows the paradox between the Ishkanani tribe and American high society and how in the end they are no that dissimilar. Their lives basically evolve around 2 things, f & k, f & k, f & k (as mentioned in the film, not my words).

There’s an interesting surprise for the Filipino audience around the 90 minute mark of this film. It is worth sitting through the movie for that reason alone.

The actors are all very believable. Special mention goes to Elizabeth Perkins who seems to have the role of a “drug addicted mom” down pat.