Bites

Stick food!

There are a few things that make this life so much better.  One of them is barbecue pork on sticks Pinoy style.  I’m going to find out how to make barbecue Grill Queen style.  Grill Queen is a small independent chain that sells barbecued meat – pork, chicken, seafood…you name it, they probably barbecue it.

I haven’t quite cracked it, but the recipe I’m tweaking is nearly there.  I’ll be posting the recipe on the blog soon.

But for tonight, I am eating something comfortingly Filipino: barbecued meat, rice and sautéed vegetables!

pork bbq Pinoy style

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Bites

Chocolate crinkles

Over a week ago, I gave in to the urge to finally make chocolate crinkles.  It’s a popular cookie in the Philippines.  It’s rich, indulgent and fudgy.  It’s something that might just make you go mmmmm.  I approached the idea of making crinkles with a little trepidation.  I always worry that my memories of what things taste like in Manila is different from reality.  But I did manage to work up the courage to finally make crinkles!

Chocolate crinkleI’ve written a recipe that I’ve tweaked below and I know that it works.  I would love for y’all to make chocolate crinkles and let me know if the recipe works for you.

Ingredients:

  • 150g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 150ml vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 300g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ salt
  • 150g icing sugar

Directions:

In a bowl, using a balloon whisk, mix the flour, salt and baking powder together and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the cocoa powder, sugar and oil.  To mix, I’ll use a free-standing mixer.

Chocolate mixtureWith a paddle attachment, on the lowest setting (just so that the cocoa powder doesn’t fly all over the place), start mixing the cocoa powder, sugar and oil for about 2 minutes.  Once the mixture forms a thick paste, increase the speed and mix for a further 2 minutes.  The mixture should turn shiny and smooth.  Add each egg individually and mix until the mixture is again shiny.  Once all the eggs are added, add the vanilla.

Chocolate and egg mixAdd the flour mixture and mix until well-incorporated and the mixture is smooth.

Chocolate and flour mixCover the mixture and chill in the fridge for at least 2½ hours (I initially only chilled it for 1½ hours and it seemed to be okay), the longer you chill it, the better.

Chocolate mixPreheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).  Line your baking sheets with parchment paper.  I like to use a small ice cream scoop or a 1 tablespoon measuring spoon.

Chocolate crinkle mixScoop a generous 1 tablespoon of the mixture and roll it into a ball.  Coat each ball with icing sugar and place on the lined sheet.

Crinkles in icing sugarBake for 10-12 minutes.  Once the cookies are baked, take them out of the oven and allow to cool on the sheets for about 5 minutes before transferring them onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Crinkles for bakingThe cookies have a recognisable cracked surface and that’s how you know it’s a chocolate crinkle!

Choccie crinkleThis recipe makes about 40 crinkles.

Bites

The power of the crinkle

I comfort eat.  Now I know psychologists and nutritionists and every healthcare professional reading this will be gasping and tutting and shaking their head right now.  Comfort eating is a terrible coping mechanism and will have far reaching consequences.  Ha!  How highfalluting and technical-sounding is that sentence, eh?  Mind you, I am very aware my comfort eating has allowed me to balloon and gain a whole child in terms of weight since I moved to the UK.

Apart from the comfort eating, I’ve been comfort cooking and comfort baking.  I’ve been trying to recreate in my kitchen the food that was readily available to me in the Philippines.  My favourite English proverb (which helps me justify my kitchen sessions) is: “Necessity  is the mother of invention.”  Mind you, the food that I produce in my kitchen aren’t necessarily my own inventions.  Sometimes it’s a result of me trawling the internet for tips on how to cook Filipino food.  Since Filipino food isn’t readily available to take away or to buy at the nearest convenience store, I’ve got to learn how to make things myself if I miss eating them.  I’m quite pleased that I’m able to make things that I would normally just go out and buy if I was in the Philippines.

I finally gave in to a long-standing baking to-do: making chocolate crinkles.  Chocolate crinkles will feature in most Filipinos’ top 10 list of their favourite cookies.  I’m not entirely certain whether it is a Filipino invention but it is certainly readily available in the Philippines, everywhere.  Say the phrase “chocolate crinkles” to a Filipino and you more often than not will hear them say “Awww chocolate crinkles!”

For those of you who don’t know, chocolate crinkles are soft, fudgy chocolate cookies that are slightly firm, almost crispy, on the outside and moist and cakey on the inside.  It’s covered with a generous coating of icing sugar outside and when you bite into the cookie, it’s rich and indulgent.

I’m going to share the recipe here once I’ve tried another test run, just to make sure that the recipe works properly.  Any taste testers available?

Chocolate crinkle

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Blog

Who am I and why am I here?

I’m late to the Blogging 101 Party but I thought I’d still work on the assignments.  I need to redirect my blogging efforts and relight the blogging fire so to speak.  So in this case, this start is better late than never!


Those two questions are probably the scariest questions a blogger can face…well, to me it’s very scary.  Because sometimes, I forget to focus on the who and the why.

I remember starting a blog on another blog host site.  It was mostly a journal for me.  I place where I wrote about my rants, where I made fun of people who made grammatical mistakes, where I talked about me.  I’m not exactly sure that’s where I found my voice…if I’ve ever found it at all.  But I’m a lot more serious about this blog.  Because I think I’m much more selective about what I write and share online.  I find that as I grow older, I’m more sensitive to how what I put out in the universe affects other people – ripples in the water, and all that jazz.

So, why don’t I just write my thought down in a journal.  I don’t know is the answer to that question.  Sometimes it’s just knowing that you can send things out into cosmos and somewhere someone goes, “Oh I get that completely!”  I think it’s a deep-seated human need to fit in, to belong or just feel like we’re not so different – am not entirely sure that that’s a good reflection on my individuality because it speaks volumes about my need to conform to the mores of society!

I write because I want to talk.  I think I write because I want an audience.  But at the same time, I sort of want the imagined anonymity.  I mean I can hardly be anonymous if I use my photo as my Gravatar image, now can I?  But it’s the ease of putting stuff out there.  Of seeing if anyone finds what I have to say interesting.

I also want to talk about my food journey.  I love to cook and bake and I want to share what I’m learning.  Food for me isn’t just about the physical nourishment.  It also holds a lot of happy memories of family and friends gathered around a table.  Food is an intrinsic part of my growing up, so being so far away from my family, a way for me to reconnect and cheer myself up.

I also love to talk about Filipino food, which I think is a long-ignored Southeast Asian cuisine.  I thought if I wrote about Filipino food then people would see a new facet about the Philippines.  I want to get people talking about Filipino food.  I mean I know that Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern have both visited the Philippines and they rave about Filipino food.  So we have been featured on TV.  There are a lot of tutorial videos about how to cook Filipino food floating about on the internet but I want to add my voice to that.  I want people to know how good Filipino food really is.  We need to be as known as our other Southeast Asian neighbour’s cuisines:  Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian, Vietnamese.

I have no idea how the blog is going to help me turn my food passion into something that I do everyday.  If that is even possible (yes, I know it’s been done, but in this saturated market, can I carve out a little niche for me?).  But I’d like to find out what is out there, if there are opportunities.

I think the first goal is to connect to other people.  See blogs that I have a lot in common with, actually read them, learn from them.  Refine my writing style.  Find my voice.  Fall in love with blogging again (I used to blog everyday…sometimes even more than a blog post a day!).  Find out if this is something I want to take further of this will evolve into something else.  I want to hear from other people.  I want people to come to the blog and say things, react to what I have to say.  If it’s negative, please be gentle, but thoughts are welcome!

I’m excited again.  That’s a brilliant start.

Bites

Hopia

I’ve always been proud of Filipino food.  I’ve always believed that if people tried the food that we Filipinos ate on a daily basis (ably prepared by our mothers and titas), people would be addicted too!  Filipino cuisine is influenced by the food cultures from China, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Spain.  We also have a very pronounced American influence.  These influences are due to the fact that the Malays an Indones were the early settlers on the Philippine islands and it has been historically proven that we traded with the Chinese very early on.  The Spanish (and largely Mexican food tradition) influences came because the Philippines was a Spanish colony for over 300 years (the Philippine islands were named after King Philip II of Spain).  Then after the Spanish, we had the Americans with us…for a while.

I am so thankful that there are enterprising individuals (who may or may not be Filipino) who have identified an opportunity to sell to Filipinos living overseas the food staples.  I’ve been able to cook Filipino food here in England and it helps the homesickness.

But nothing compares to the satisfaction when one is able to make something that isn’t always available in the Oriental or Filipino supermarkets.  A few days ago, whilst I was recuperating from a really bad migraine (I was signed off for a week), I told myself that I would make hopia. I had been watching various YouTube video how-to’s and I felt that I was ready to attempt the Filipino treat.  I even risked eating store-bought hopia in the name of research!  Mind you, it was a tad disappointing because the hopia I bought seemed to have shrunk!  For what I paid for, well, it was an exhorbitant amount of money for 4 minuscule hopia pieces – not at all what I remembered eating when I was growing up!

Hopia is also known as bakpia (in Chinese).  It is a bean paste-filled pastry that was apparently introduced by Fujianese immigrants in the Philippines.  It is usually filled with mung bean paste (either red mung bean or yellow mung bean), or purple yam and there is a variant that is filled with candied wintermelon (called kundol in the Philippines).  Apparently, in other countries (apparently this is a popular Indonesian treat as well!) the fillings can be pineapple, durian, cheese, chocolate, coffee and custard!  I’ve never had a cheese hopia, but it certainly sounds interesting!

I painstakingly wrote down the recipe from all the YouTube videos and translated it into metric measurements.  Then I set about making my hopia!

Hopia before baking

I was quite excited about how they looked like.  Even more excited when they came out of the oven.  I loved the smell that wafted out of the oven.  I was definitely in hopia heaven!

Hopia

I need to practice some more.  I think the pastry is nearly there.  A few more tweaks with the procedure and a few temperature adjustments will help.  But what I’ve been allowing myself to eat is hopia.  It’s not as sweet as the store-bought ones, but it is, already, hopia!

More hopia

Bites

Ensaymada!

So because I have been at home, housebound because of illness and experiencing cabin fever, I once again cracked open the Goldilocks Bakebook and baked something familiar and comforting.  I made ensaymada.  It’s a sort of soft brioche-y type of bread that’s slathered with creamed butter, slightly sugared and smothered with cheese.

Ensaymada

And just like that I am comforted.  The recipe needs tweaking because the dough was unbelievably wet!  I’m going look up other ensaymada recipes and see where improvements can be made.  I am thankful for the ability to bring Manila to me…even if it was through several cheesy-buttery-bready mouthfuls!  What can I say – baking is like medicine!

Ensaymada bite

Bites

Mongo bread!

It has been quite the stressful few weeks.  Mostly because of the changes in my work environment.  When I get really stressed I get really homesick.  And when I get really homesick I bake something that I can eat from home.

I’m really grateful my sister has bought the Goldilocks Bakebook for me.  I have had feedback from friends that the book has been discontinued due to the errors and omissions in the book.  I must agree that the book could do with a few editorial tweaks so that it will read smoother.  The recipes and baking instructions need a little reworking so that the procedures are clear, so that the users and bakers know exactly what to expect from the recipes and the steps.  But I am still thankful for the book.  It has allowed me to bake things that are familiar, things I grew up eating.  It has helped me with the homesickness, because even the act of simply reading the book makes home a little closer.

This weekend wasn’t any different.  I’ve been planning the baking of mung bean bread for a while.  Mung bean is mongo in Filipino (pronounced mong-goh).  Mongo bread is a bakery staple and most local bakeries in the Philippines have a version of this bread.  The Goldilocks Bakebook recipe called for red mung bean and red mung bean isn’t exactly something you can pluck from the shelves of the local supermarket.  I had to go to a supermarket in Chinatown in London to find red mung beans (and even now, I’m not quite certain what I picked off the shelves were actually red mung bean, but hey, they worked!).  So after having purloined the main ingredient, I studied the recipe and made certain tweaks.  After following most of the directions, I have made notes and am ready to try the recipe again with my additional tweaks.  But the first attempt has produced quite a pretty loaf!  Hopefully, when I attempt the recipe again (and post it on the blog!), it will still turn out like the first loaf.  Fingers crossed!

Presenting, my mongo bread —

Mongo bread