Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cookies 'n Cream Polvoron - Eating Your Words 2010 Edition

In the couple of years that I have been blogging this is the first time I'm participating in an online competition. I figured, start with a relatively simple one before delving into more complex gastronomy challenges.

Eating Your Words was pioneered by Tangled Noodle and Savour the Thyme. The object was to " 'Write, spell or draw' using food or drink, and create a blog post about it." Sounds easy enough?

Polvoron, I thought, was the perfect dish to create edible art. It seemed malleable enough to be moulded into letters to put together a catchy phrase or a witty quote.

How wrong was I?!?!?!?!?! My confidence was shot down from the letter "A"...

The photos, with the words "Eat Me", were the result of my feeble attempts to be artistic with my food. Rather than a congenial invitation, "Eat Me" seemed more like a threat to the diner!

Luckily, my Filipino "cookies 'n cream shortbread" was most definitely edible albeit barely readable! The straightforward recipe, a variation to my wife's basic polvoron, is also in stark contrast with the difficulty of using it to write!

One thing is for sure! I'll never look at this challenge the same way again...

Cookies 'n Cream Polvoron

4 cups plain flour
1 cup powdered milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
250g butter
2 x 150g packets of Oreos crushes (as fine or as coarse as you like)
1. Toast the flour in a pan until it starts to turn light brown.
2. Sift the toasted flour, milk and sugar in a large bowl.
3. Add the butter and make sure they're blended well together.
4. Add the crushed Oreos and mix well.
5. Use a polvoron mould to shape the mixture into traditional shapes.
6. Wrap the polvoron pieces in cello wrap.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Saturday Pancakes ala Beancounter

I call them Saturday pancakes for the simple reason that I only get to make them on Saturdays. It is the only day of the week when I get to sit down and have breakfast with the whole family. So for me it is a special time that calls for a special meal.

My kids are still in bed when I leave for work in the morning. I appreciate it very much when they purposely get up to kiss me goodbye. But having breakfast together is a bit of a luxury...for all of us. Three of them are now in school. They also have their own "morning" things to sort out.

If I'm up early enough I'll bake pan de sal. But most Saturdays I sleep in so we go for the next best thing. Pancakes! Who doesn't like pancakes?

We like them hot and fluffy served with real butter and maple syrup. I also cook sausages and cheesy scrambled eggs to complete the weekend's first meal!

Saturday Fluffy Pancakes ala Beancounter

4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2-3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Separate the eggs. Beat the egg yolks.
2. Add the milk and the melted butter to the egg yolks.
3. Combine all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
4. Pour the egg mixture into the bowl and mix well. It's fine even if it may be a bit lumpy.
5. Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
6. Mix the egg whites gently with the batter a ladle at a time to prevent the tiny bubbles from bursting.
7. Heat up a lightly greased pan.
8. Pour a ladle spoon of batter into the pan. Once bubbles start forming you can flip it to cook the other side.
9. Serve with butter and maple syrup.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pork Katsu (Tonkatsu) Curry

Thanks to Hanaichi, one of the fastest growing Japanese eateries in Queensland, Katsu Curry is now available all over Brisbane (in major shopping centres at least). They serve them cheap, fast, hot and very tasty. I figured, why bother making it at home?

But I was inspired after reading Cusinera's (of Busog! Sarap!) take on this popular Japanese take-away to try and cook it myself. It did not seem as fiddly as I thought it would be!

Trying to get the combination of spices spot on was to me very daunting so I never dared. But S&B's Golden Curry mix does away with all that (no, they did not pay me for this blog!).

Cooking this at home also give me more freedom on how it is served. In most Japanese restaurants the curry sauce is poured on top of the katsu. If you've been following this blog you know I prefer my sauces on the side. I decide when my rice gets mixed in with the sauce, not the restaurant (also keeps my katsu crispy!)

For the Curry Sauce:

100g S&B Golden Curry Sauce Mix (I used mild but there are "hotter" varieties)
2 1/2 cups water
1 large onion sliced
1 large carrot cut in large chunks
1 stalk celery cut in large chunks
2 desiree potatoes cut in large chunks
A bit of oil for sauteing

1. Heat up a bit of oil in a pot.
2. Saute the onion until soft and translucent.
3. Add all the vegetables and saute for another minute.
4. Add the water and bring to a boil.
5. Reduce the heat to simmering point. Simmer until all the vegetables are cooked.
6. Crumble the Japanese curry into the mixture. Stir until all dissolved. Cook for another 5 minutes.
7. Set aside

This is plenty for just one meal. You might want to halve the recipe if you don't like leftover sauce.

For the Pork Katsu (Tonkatsu)

2 pork chops sliced thinly lengthwise to make 4 thin chops
1 large egg beaten lightly
1 bowl of water
Plain flour with a bit of salt
Panko Japanese style breadcrumbs
Oil for frying

1. Heat up oil in a pan for frying.
2. Dip the pork chops in egg.
3. Coat each piece in flour and shake any excess.
4. Dip the coated pieces in cold water for a few seconds (I thought this was a crazy idea. It's a technique apparently used by fast food places to guarantee a crispy coating. It does work! I used the same technique in my Crispy Fried Chicken Recipe.)
5. Coat with the Panko bread crumbs.
6. Fry on each side until golden brown.
7. Chop into pieces and serve with the curry sauce on top or on the side.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Food of Love and Other Autumn Reads

Yes, autumn has finally arrived in the Antipodes. It's less of a visual treat where I live than in other states but you can certainly feel a "change in the air."

The books below are not autumn related in any way. I just happen to be reading/re-reading them this season

THE FOOD OF LOVE by Anthony Capella

"You will learn all about Italian food. It is funny, witty and the love of food cannot be overemphasised if it tried. You will then learn why Italians from different regions are so fervent about their food. You will never call it Spaghetti Bolognese again unless the sauce actually comes from Bologna...nor want to drink cappuccino in Rome after 10am." - R Franco

That's an excerpt from an email from a recently re-acquainted friend from high school (thanks multiply, facebook). He now lives in the UK and is probably a bigger foodie than I am (please start that blog soon!). Unlike him, I'm yet to dine in a Michelin starred restaurant.

With that sort of recommendation and promise about a book how can I resist? I ordered it online soon after reading his email. I'm now three quarters through the book.

It may not be life changing literary work but there sure is plenty to learn about Italian food, the facets of love and how they relate.

WARNING: If you're squeamish about overtly sexual passages then this might not be for you.

KULINARYA by Glenda Rosales Baretto, Conrad Calalang, Margarita Araneta Fores, Myrna Segismundo, Jessie Sincioco and Claude Tayag

This book is a result of the Kulinarya movement. The group aims "to inspire everyone to refine Filipino cuisine." It is a collaboration of well known Filipino food personalities.

Much has been said about this Asia Society commissioned book. Not all of them favourable. I'd like to discover it for myself and form my own opinion.
It was on my "to buy" list when I last visited Manila. I really thought I had plenty of time to go back to the bookshop. Anyway, lesson learned...
Many thanks to a good friend of mine Carla from Sydney (I still owe you!) who managed to get me copy through a friend of a friend of a friend...don't know where it ends.


Penned by the owners of the much-admired Cendrillon of New York (sadly they have shut their doors).
This is more than just a recipe book. It takes you on a journey of Philippine Culinary history told by various households from the diverse regions of the country. Some stories are very personal that somehow I've made my own.
This book, like Capella's, proves once again that food is more than just physical sustenance.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lighter Side of Work Travel

The Bag

Club breakfast with proper coffee this time

My ride

Breakfast on board

Rehydration supply

Morning tea

Morning tea

Only Downunder

Sepia soaked room

View of sunset from my room

Creme brulee


Seafood pasta


Danish for breakfast


Cheese selections


Evening's entertainment

Croissant for breakfast

Chicken & Corn Soup and Foccacia

Lunch - Beef - tastes better than it looks

Afternoon tea

View on my way home

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Little Singapore - Charlotte St, Brisbane

Our first visit to Little Singapore was for Sunday lunch on Valentine's Day. Things started out well. We were seated pretty much as soon as we arrived.

First impressions were really good. The restaurant felt spacious. The decor was very tastefully done. The menu was a sight to behold boasting a number of dishes I've never seen in similar restaurants around Brisbane.

I purposely did not bring my camera that day. All I wanted was to enjoy the food and worry about the photos on a highly probable follow up visit.

As it was our first time we wanted to concentrate on our all time family favourites. I wanted to get popiah (Singapore style fresh spring rolls) for entree but apparently it wasn't available. We settled for Roti Canai instead and weren't disappointed. For mains we ordered Hainan Chicken Rice, Fried Chicken Kapitan, Hokkien Mee and Char Kway Teow.

One thing I really appreciate was how generous the servings were. Might not be enough for two regular sized adults but sure is plenty for one.

All in all it was good but not really memorable.

We gave them another go a couple of weeks later with my parents in tow. Again, we started with Roti Canai and some spring rolls. Kiko was pretty disappointed with his chicken rice the last time so he decided to go for the Yeong Chow Fried Rice instead. My girls shared Hokkien Mee once again, mom had Seafood Hor Fun, dad ordered BBQ Pork and Roast Duck Rice, and I had their Curry Laksa.

Another filling lunch but like the last time pretty ordinary. The laksa was especially forgettable.

When I visit a Singaporean restaurant what I'm really after is a flavour explosion courtesy of Nonya style dishes distinct to the cuisine of this island nation. And that's probably why I'm somewhat dissatisfied with Little Singapore. Their dishes were good but lacked the oomph. The spices seemed to have been mellowed to the point of blandness. I had to ask for extra sambal just to get that spice hit I'm looking for and still didn't quite get there. Their sambal was indicative of the rest of the dishes - more sweet than spicy.

This restaurant has got a lot going for it - central and convenient location, spacious and stylishly decorated premises, generous servings of a wide selection of dishes, and very reasonable pricing. Unfortunately though, I believe they have to work on their flavour department.

One last thing, on both occasions we felt like we had to beg the staff to break a smile. It's a relatively modern Asian restaurant run by a fairly young staff. It wouldn't cost much to show your teeth from time to time.