Friday, October 28, 2011

Lebanese Delight and a Daring Baker Challenge

Yesterday was a not so stressful Thursday because my little girl (the one I have to rush back to and bring to her school after bringing her brother to his school) is now on a break  and so are most of the schools here in Manila.  So there wasn't any traffic yesterday.  However, I failed to post this because the boy brought the camera with him and I was too tired to write about it last night.  

This is actually a repeat lunch of Shish Tawook (recipe from Taste of Beirut).  We used chicken leg quarters instead of thigh fillets though and when the boy went home, he complained that I didn't pack enough food for him.  I'm telling you, the boy is growing and shooting up so fast and eating like a full-grown bear now. 

Yesterday's lunch:  Shish Tawook and Turmeric Rice

Povitica--Daring Bakers Challenge for October
I would also like to share in this post my completed project for the latest Daring Bakers challenge which I joined.  This is actually my second project, the first one being croissants.  I joined the sight to flex my baking muscles which have been unused for a bit.  The past couple of months though, I went (still am going through) some sort of baking mania which is good so as not to forget the skills.

This month's challenge is an Eastern European bread called Povitica--something which I have heard of only the day the challenge was posted.  It is a delicious bread filled with a nutty-syrupy filling that fills the entire house with a perfume that makes people say (while drooling)..."What are you making?"  

The Daring Bakers forum helps me challenge myself in learning new things and adapting new skills to use both in my personal and business endeavors.  If you are an avid baker such as myself, you ought to join.  Keeps your baking neurons young!  

Here is the recipe of Povitica from the host of October's challenge, Jenni of the Gingered Whisk:

To activate the Yeast:
2 Teaspoons (10 ml/9 gm) Sugar
1 Teaspoon (5 ml/3 gm) All-Purpose (Plain) Flour
½ Cup (120ml) Warm Water
2 Tablespoons (30ml/14 gm/½ oz/2 sachets) Dry Yeast

2 Cups (480ml) Whole Milk
¾ Cup (180 ml/170gm/6 oz) Sugar
3 Teaspoons (15 ml/18 gm/2/3 oz) Table Salt
4 Large Eggs
½ Cup (120ml/115 gm/one stick/4 oz) Unsalted Butter, melted
8 cups (1.92 l/1.12 kg/39½ oz/2½ lb) All-Purpose Flour, measure first then sift, divided

Walnut Filling:
7 Cups (1.68 l/1.12 kg/2.5 lbs) Ground English Walnuts
1 Cup (240ml) Whole Milk
1 Cup (240ml/225 gm/2 sticks/8 oz) Unsalted Butter
2 Whole Eggs, Beaten
1 Teaspoon (5ml) Pure Vanilla Extract
2 Cups (480ml/450 gm/16 oz) Sugar
1 Teaspoon (5 ml/4 gm) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon (5 ml/3 gm) Cinnamon

2 Tablespoons (30 ml/28 gm/1 oz) Granulated Sugar
Melted Butter

To Activate Yeast:
  1. In a small bowl, stir 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon flour, and the yeast into ½ cup warm water and cover with plastic wrap.
    2. Allow to stand for 5 minutes

To Make the Dough:
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk up to just below boiling (about 180°F/82°C), stirring constantly so that a film does not form on the top of the milk. You want it hot enough to scald you, but not boiling. Allow to cool slightly, until it is about 110°F/43°C. 
  2. In a large bowl, mix the scalded milk, ¾ cup (180 gm/170 gm/6 oz) sugar, and the salt until combined.
  3. Add the beaten eggs, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 2 cups (480 ml/280 gm/10 oz) of flour. 
  4. Blend thoroughly and slowly add remaining flour, mixing well until the dough starts to clean the bowl.
  5. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead, gradually adding flour a little at a time, until smooth and does not stick. Note: I did not use all 8 cups of flour
  6. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (they will each weight about 1.25 pounds/565 grams)
  7. Place dough in 4 lightly oiled bowls, cover loosely with a layer of plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel and let rise an hour and a half in a warm place, until doubled in size.
To Make the Filling
  1. In a large bowl mix together the ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cocoa.
  2. Heat the milk and butter to boiling.
  3. Pour the liquid over the nut/sugar mixture.
  4. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
  5. Allow to stand at room temperature until ready to be spread on the dough.
  6. If the mixture thickens, add a small amount of warm milk.
To Roll and Assemble the Dough:
  1. Spread a clean sheet or cloth over your entire table so that it is covered.
  2. Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons to a handful of flour (use flour sparingly)
  3. Place the dough on the sheet and roll the dough out with a rolling pin, starting in the middle and working your way out, until it measures roughly 10-12 inches (25½ cm by 30½ cm) in diameter.
  4. Spoon 1 to 1.5 teaspoons (5ml to 7 ½ ml/4 gm to 7 gm) of melted butter on top.
  5. Using the tops of your hands, stretch dough out from the center until the dough is thin and uniformly opaque. You can also use your rolling pin, if you prefer.
  6. As you work, continually pick up the dough from the table, not only to help in stretching it out, but also to make sure that it isn’t sticking.
  7. When you think it the dough is thin enough, try to get it a little thinner. It should be so thin that you can see the color and perhaps the pattern of the sheet underneath.
  8. Spoon filling (see below for recipe) evenly over dough until covered. 
  9. Lift the edge of the cloth and gently roll the dough like a jelly roll.
  10. Once the dough is rolled up into a rope, gently lift it up and place it into a greased loaf pan in the shape of a “U”, with the ends meeting in the middle. You want to coil the dough around itself, as this will give the dough its characteristic look when sliced.
  11. Repeat with remaining three loaves, coiling each rope of dough in its own loaf pan.
  12. Brush the top of each loaf with a mixture of ½ cup (120 ml) of cold STRONG coffee and 2 tablespoons (30ml/28 gm/1 oz) of sugar. If you prefer, you can also use egg whites in place of this.
  13. Cover pans lightly will plastic wrap and allow to rest for approximately 15 minutes.
  14. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
  15. Remove plastic wrap from dough and place into the preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes.
  16. Turn down the oven temperature to slow 300°F/150°C/gas mark 2 and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until done.
  17. Remove bread from oven and brush with melted butter.
  18. Check the bread at 30 minutes to ensure that the bread is not getting too brown. You may cover the loaves with a sheet of aluminum foil if you need to.
  19. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes, still in the bread pan. Remember, the bread weighs about 2.5 and it needs to be able to hold its own weight, which is difficult when still warm and fresh out of the oven. Allowing it to cool in the pan helps the loaf to hold its shape.
  20. It is recommended that the best way to cut Povitica loaves into slices is by turning the loaf upside down and slicing with a serrated knife.
See you in the next Daring Bakers Challenge!  :-) 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Big in Japan

From an American Hamburger Steak Lunch, we now move on to a favorite lunchbox country of ours, Japan.  I have expressed in previous entries my admiration of the entire bento culture of this highly modern country with still very old-school eating ways sticking to quality and simplicity of tastes and natural beauty of ingredients.  It is wonderful how they are able to merge the old with the new by using technology to preserve tastes and enhance textures of seemingly inane ingredients such as seaweed, vegetables, meat and what have you.  (Incidentally, I read somewhere that in the aftermath of the devastating tsunami, Japan is encouraging tourism by conducting a blogging contest where winners will be given free tickets to go visit their wonderful country.  I'm not particularly a contest-joining type but I might just (might being the operative word) make myself "unlazy" and join it.  Or.  I could let the boy join it.  :-))

So for lunch, I made a Katsu-Kare donburi or rice topping.  Katsu is a word for anything breaded and fried (Tonkatsu--breaded pork cutlet, Torikatsu--breaded chicken fillet, etc.) and Kare is curry which is pretty big in Japan.  They cook in curry nearly anything, beef, chicken, vegetables.  They even have Kare Pan or bread curry!  For this dish, I had a little help from these ubiquitous curry cubes you can find in the Japanese sections of most groceries.  God knows everyone needs a little help now and then and these curry cubes are very helpful indeed.  Of course, if you want to make it from scratch, by all means do so.  To tell you honestly, I don't know what stuff they put in the cubes as the entire package is in Nihonngo.  But last I checked, the Japanese are one of the healthiest people on earth.  So I suppose these cubes are alright.  :-)

Today's Lunchbox:  Katsu-Kare, Steamed Rice with Furikake


500 grams Pork Tenderloin Medallions (cut rounds from tenderloin and pound between 2 sheets of wax paper until thin, you may also use pork cutlets or chops or chicken fillet--which will then be called Torikatsu)
Flour for dredging (may be omitted for a lighter breading)
2 beaten eggs
Panko or Japanese bread crumbs (for final dredging)

  1. Season pounded pork medallions with salt and pepper.
  2. Dip in flour, beaten eggs, panko.  If omitting the flour, press the bread crumbs gently to stick more onto the surface of the meat.
  3. Deep fry in medium heat, drain in absorbent paper
Kare Sauce

2 Curry Paste Cubes
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, cubed
1 potato, cubed
1 cup beef stock

  1. Saute onion until slightly translucent.  Add in potatoes and carrots, 2 curry cubes.  Mix around until the cubes have disintegrated.
  2. Pour in beef stock and wait until thickened.
  3. You may pour this on the Tonkatsu you have earlier made or serve it on the side ala Sally Albright.  Bon appetit!  :-)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Salisbury Steak Lunch

I am still so tired from the Halloween shindig we had at home over the weekend.  So this will again be a very short post.

Today's lunch is a Salisbury Steak with a Brown Mushroom Gravy.  It is a very, very easy and quick dish to make so I seriously hope that none of you buy those ready-to-cook ones found in the grocery.  There is no excuse in buying those stuff.  None.  Zero.  Zilch.  I mean, come on.  How difficult is seasoning some freshly ground beef and forming them into patties, pan-grilling them and making some gravy?  It's easy as 1-2-3.   

I am posting my recipe here.  Now you really have no excuse.

Today's Lunchbox:  Salisbury Steak with a Brown Mushroom Gravy and Homemade Smores Bars (leftover from the weekend party)

Salisbury Steak, My Way
500 grams ground Sirloin (or 250 grams Ground Sirloin, 250 grams Ground pork--this would make for a softer patty)
2 strips of Bacon
1 big onion, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Button Mushrooms
1 tablespoon flour (you may omit, if gluten-intolerant)
2 Cups Beef Stock
2 tablespoons cornstarch dispersed in water

  1. Render the fat from the bacon then crumble. Sweat onions and garlic in the same oil then when cool, toss in the ground meat and season with salt and pepper.  Let sit for a minimum of an hour then form into patties.  I make them into the size of a smallish tennis ball and chill that way. Then I flatten them on the pan-grill when cooking.
  2. Drain a bit of the oil from the same pan and brown the mushrooms.  Do not overcrowd which just means that you should let the mushrooms sit on a single layer and fry in relatively high heat.  Toss in the flour, if using and let it brown a bit.  At this point, you may opt to deglaze the pan with some wine (which I did) or with some stock.  Thicken with a bit of cornstarch.
  3. Pour on the patties and serve.  Easy as 1-2-3!  :-)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Choco Loco

I only asked the boy to bring me home 2 things from his recent trip:  Tim Tams and Violet Crumble.  For some reason Tim Tams here taste differently and Violet Crumble's hardly available anywhere.  Turns out looking for these babies were just as difficult to find where he was because it was always a full day of museums and zoos such that the time they were finally free was the same time shops closed.  Bummer.  But, he did find a suitable replacement in Cadbury's Crunchie Bars--similar honeycomb center covered with milk chocolate that is guaranteed to stick to your teeth or what's left of it.  Incidentally, I will be making these for our Halloween shindig this Saturday where I will dress up as Bellatrix Lestrange.

For today, I adapted a recipe from the blog Give Me Some Oven-- Cocoa and Chili-rubbed Pork Chops.  I tweaked it by changing the chili powder into chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce--everything else I retained, including the brining which is much needed to keep the chop moist even when it becomes cold by lunch time.

Today's lunchbox: Cocoa and Chipotle Rubbed Pork Chops and Mexi-Cali Rice

Now, as I still have remnants of the weekend's flu, I must go back to my chemically-enhanced, deep sleep.

Good night and good morning to y'all.  :-) 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

We're Back!

So after a week's absence, we are back.  As you know, the boy went on a field trip somewhere far, far away and has just returned last Saturday hence the absence of the posts.  It was the first time he went away overseas without either parent so I was a bit antsy which apparently (thank God) was for no reason.  He mingled quite well with the other kids and was not a bother to the upper school prefect.  He told me that he did not miss me nor feel homesick--a proof that he's super sick of my nagging (which I vowed I will keep doing so long as he keeps on doing stuff he's not supposed to and vice-versa) and of his growing independence.  However, as independent as he may seem, it still gave me much satisfaction hearing this third sentence from him: "Mom, what for my lunchbox next week?" ***sighs***  I am mighty pleased with these lunchboxes.

So this week I am sharing my recipe of Cereal Prawns, something so easy to make but is sold in restaurants here in Manila at disgustingly exorbitant prices.  It's pretty sick.  One restaurant even sells it at PhP150.00 a piece.  That's just too much for something so very simple to make.   One may actually buy mixes for Cereal Prawns in groceries abroad which I too tried.  We purchased some in Singapore which tasted a bit too salty and one in Malaysia which was perfect.  Both  also contained MSG. However, there is no reason why you can't make it here from readily available and very cheap store-bought stuff sans the MSG too.  I must admit though, that I have not tried those versions sold here. This recipe is based on what I remember tasting in Singapore and so I dare say, this is a pretty good guide.  :-)

Today's lunchbox:  Cereal Prawns (Cereal separated), Steamed Rice with Babirang

Cereal Prawns

1 Kilo medium-sized prawns, shelled and deveined
salt and pepper to taste
3 Packets Nesvita Cereal Drink--original flavor (Nestum in other countries)
4 Tablespoons Coffee Creamer
4 Tablespoons Cerelac--original flavor which is wheat and banana (Yes the baby food)
4 Teaspoons Quick-Cooking Oats
2-3 Tablespoons Butter
a fist-full of curry leaves
4 cloves crushed garlic
2 chili padi (or more if you like it spicy)

  1. Season your prawns with salt and pepper and quickly fry in oil. Set aside but do not drain because the oil is needed if you want the cereal to stick to the prawns. 
  2. In a bowl, mix together all dry ingredients:  cereal drink, creamer, cerelac, oats and season with a bit of salt and pepper.
  3. In the same pan where you fried the prawns, remove nearly all the oil and saute in it the garlic, chili padi and curry leaves.  When garlic is golden and the chili has released its oil, add in the butter and all of the cereal mix.  Toss around until crumbly like the texture of polvoron or pie crust.  
  4. Toss in the prawns and voila!  Cereal Prawns that didn't cost an arm and a leg to make.
PS  If you get to try this recipe, please do share your experience.  Would appreciate any comment at all.  Cheers!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Meat Loaf Lunch

Yesterday was a Meat Loaf lunch for the boy.  Didn't get to post it as I had a million things to do and was too tired to think of what to write about it.  Actually I'm still tired and haven't figured out what to write about it.  So instead, I will write about next week since there will be no lunch boxes all of next week.

The boy is going away for the week, out of the country and an ocean (maybe 2?  I suck at geography too) for the very first time without either parent.  And I'm fiddling with my fingers and making a hundred lists in my head of what could possibly go wrong with this trip.  I think this is where my fatigue is coming from.  I should totally stop.  The boy is taller than I am and can very well figure out a crook from a good bloke.  I should relax, probably have a drink with my girlfriends and let him have fun without me.  Yes. He is after all turning 14 this year.  I'm sure he will learn a lot of things both on an academic and personal level.

Relax Mama...relax.  Inhale...exhale...

Yesterday's lunch box:  Homemade Meat Loaf, New Potatoes and Gravy

See you week after next.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Çok Lezizdi! (It Was Delicious!)

Hello darlings.  Sorry for having been absent for the past two days.  Monday's lunchbox was a replay (Garlic Steak) and Tuesday, the cook made Tonkatsu--I was too spent to get up so I told the boy that I'd rest for a day.  So today, I made one of his most favorite things in the world: Bulgur Köftesi, Turkish Kofte.

If you haven't tried it, you really are missing a whole lot, if you are into bold and exotic flavors that is--like my boy, Enzo.  He has a very mature and diverse palate.  He eats anything from street food to high street food, from the very cheap to the, well, during special occasions, very expensive (emphasis on special occasions).  Today's recipe was adapted from the blog Almost Turkish which I tweaked a little bit to suit Filipino taste buds. The yummy salad which I made into a sauce (just so that he would eat eggplant) was from a Turkish chef, Ismail Tosun of the restaurant Eminem in Perth, Australia (what a cutie!).  

Try making these to spice up your repertoire.  It is easy, yummy and different.  You may, of course adjust the spice level according to your preference and fry a bit of the meat mixture to taste if it is already to your liking.  But remember, be brave!  You'll never know what culinary delights you're missing if you fail to try what the world has to offer.  If you don't like it, then you'll find out you don't.  And if you like it, just say--Çok Lezizdi!  And be thankful for finding one more beautiful, yummy thing to live for.  

Şerefe! (Cheers!)
Bulgur Koftesi (adapted from Almost Turkish)

500 grams ground beef (you can use a mixture of beef/lamb or beef/pork)
1/2 cup bulgur (I bought mine at Santi's Delicatessen but there's also some at Taj in Makati)
1 big onion, finely minced (I do this in the food processor)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup cilantro (wansuy-you could use less if you don't like this so much)
1/2 teaspoon cumin (a lot less than the original recipe which calls for 1 1/2!)
1/4 cup Italian or flat-leaf Parsley, minced
4 cloves of minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Put the bulgur in a bowl and cover it just until the surface with boiling water.  Let sit for 10 minutes then drain. 
  2. Combine all ingredients in a biggish bowl and mix with your hands until uniform in color and texture. 
  3. Let the flavors develop for at least 4 hours, I do this overnight.  Just make sure to cover the mixture well or else your water will taste like onions.  (Yuck!) 
  4. Form into patties, or oblongs or whatever shape you like.  Traditionally, they are skewered into to long kebab like sausages but I find that too difficult to grill.  They always disintegrate on me so we do it like pelotas--little teardrop disks.  I think they're cute! 
  5. Grill on coals or on an electric grill like we did this morning or fry in a little bit of olive oil on a non-stick pan.
Narli Paticlan Kizartma (Fried Eggplant with Tomato and Pomegranate Sauce) recipe adapted from Ismail Tosun 

500 grams fire-roasted and peeled eggplant
5 pieces canned, whole, peeled Italian tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons Pomegranate Molasses (I made my own by reducing 2 cups of pomegranate juice, 1/4 Cup sugar and squeeze of lemon until the consistency was that of molasses.  About 7 minutes in high heat)  
  1. The original recipe said that you fry the seasoned eggplant (not roasted--that's my take) and put aside.  My son won't eat that because it still looks like an eggplant.  But you can do it that way, of course.  In my version, I fire-roasted the eggplants for that smokey taste and then sauteed it with the tomatoes and garlic until it looked pretty much like a thick sauce.
  2. Add in pomegranate molasses, season with salt and pepper.
  3. That's it.  Serve and wait for the ooohs and aaaahs.  Oh and a great big hug! :-)