Friday, 31 December 2004

The Proof Is In The Pudding

Some of the traditional British cakes are puddings - steamed or boiled and served warm with an accompanying sauce. I came across a recipe for the Chocolate Pudding in the BBC Good Food magazine that I thought is easy enough to follow. Shirley Boot from North Devon was a reader of the said magazine who was kind enough to contribute her delicious recipe. I did not change most of the measurements for the pudding but added another tablespoon of golden syrup in the sauce. The latter came out still too chocolatey for me maybe next time I will reduce the baking chocs in it. Muscovado sugar is equivalent to crumbled 'panucha' from the Phils. Much more delicious to use than your standard white sugar. They have a lot of these in the Phil. sugar producing province of Negros in the Visayas region. I just hope they are more common in the markets of Metro Manila area.

My daughter J2 loved the pudding so much and I couldn't blame her. The balance of the sweetness and the other ingredients was perfect. It was probably the only cake that I made that she really liked. So there will certainly be more of these later.


Heavenly Chocolate Pudding

100 g butter
2 Tbsp golden syrup
100 g dark muscovado sugar
150 ml milk
1 egg
1 1/2 Tbsp cocoa powder
225 gm self-raising flour minus 1 1/2 Tbsp
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

*For the chocolate sauce:
4 Tbsp milk
4 Tbsp cream
2 Tbsp golden syrup
100 g good-quality dark chocolate
  1. Butter the inside of a 1.2 litre heatproof pudding bowl (pyrex is okay) and line the base with a disc of buttered greaseproof paper.
  2. Mix the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl.
  3. Melt the butter, syrup and sugar in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the milk and egg. Add the flour mixture to the pan, mix well.
  4. Pour the mixture into the pudding bowl, cover tightly with aluminium foil and steam for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  5. Just before the end of the cooking time, heat all the chocolate sauce in a thick bottomed saucepan until melted, stirring all the time.
  6. Turn the pudding out and discard the paper disc. Pour the sauce over the top and serve immediately.

Happy New Year everyone !!

Tuesday, 28 December 2004

Pork Jamonado

Sorry people, the picture does not do justice to the lovely flavours it had. I did not take a picture of the whole pork shoulder roll because the strings came off and it didn't look one bit like a roll. :) As the name suggests, this is pork cooked 'ham style' or jamonado. You will have to adjust the seasonings such as salt and sugar to get the taste you want. It is easy make and easier to adjust to one's preference.

This recipe came all the way from my Ate Viya's kitchen in Cavite. She's my mother's youngest sister. I have to call her long distance for this. She dictated the ingredients and procedure over the phone from memory. Like any seasoned cooks, she often just guesstimate the measurements. So when she told me to have one
tabo (jug) of pineapple juice I have to specifically ask her how big is the tabo. In the end we concluded it's most probably 4 cups.

I included this in the list of Noche Buena recipes I compiled for the Pinoy Expat Ezine's December issue. Check it out - click here. Although as of today (28th Dec. '04) it seems they're having problems with the site; when you navigate there it's showing the October issue. :( Try it going to it after a few days I'm sure they would have straightened the problem by then.



Pork Jamonado

1 kilo whole pork shoulder - rolled and tied into a log
2 1/2 Tbsp sea salt
6 Tbsp sugar
4 cups pineapple juice
2 bay leaves
3 Tbsp cooking wine
1/2 Tbsp peppercorn
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce (optional)
brown sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tbsp water (optional)
  1. Combine all ingredients in a pot except the brown sugar.
  2. Cook pork until tender (about 1 1/2 hours) by simmering gently in low heat. Stir from time to time to prevent it getting scorched.
  3. Once tender, remove pork from pot, set aside.
  4. Reduce sauce until thick; taste and adjust seasonings; add brown sugar if needed.
  5. (Optional) Add cornstarch mixture and cook until thick.
  6. Removing strings from the pork and slice crosswise. Serve warm with the sauce.

Sunday, 26 December 2004

Beggar's Chicken

A blogging friend was asking what is our usual Christmas dish. I honestly couldn't think of any because we were always on the look out for something different every year. Until I remembered as I was doing this dish that it was probably the fourth time I made it. So by the number of occurrence this could be our traditional family Christmas dish.

Like some popular food, Beggar's Chicken has a romantic tale behind it. There are many versions but from what I have read it began when a starving, homeless beggar in rural China caught and stole a chicken from a yard he passed by. He killed it, built a fire and prepared for cooking. Suddenly, a posse of the emperor's guards came passing by. In his panic to hide the chicken he covered it with mud and threw it into the fire. The resulting baked chicken was said to be the most tender and flavourful he's ever eaten.

Nowadays the dish is not exactly beggar friendly due to the high price it commands in Chinese restaurants. You have to order it way in advance before you dine since it involves very long cooking times. A special mallet is used to ceremoniously open it and the honor is normally reserved to an esteemed guest.

I adapted the recipe I found in the Australian Women's Weekly's Chinese Cooking Class Cookbook which has a simple stuffing - actually not stuffing - just a sauce that you put inside the cavity. The dough is not meant to be eaten and becomes rock hard when baked which means it kept all the flavour and aroma in. Once you split open the dough after 4 hours of baking the scent escaping is simply marvellous. The meat is fall-off-the-bone tender, juicy, and very succulent.



Beggar's Chicken

1 whole chicken (about 1.5 kg)
3 shallots or green onions
1-inch square ginger - peeled and sliced
1 tsp sugar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp cooking wine
1 Tbsp water
1/4 tsp five spice powder

*Rub:
2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
2 Tbsp oil

*Clay Dough:
1 kg fine salt (yes that's right 1 kilo salt !)
4 cups flour
1 3/4 cups water (approx.)


* For clay dough:
  1. To make the dough, mix flour and salt in a bowl.
  2. Gradually stir in water. Mix into a firm dough ball with your hands, a little extra water may be needed. Do not have the dough too soft or it will be hard to handle.

* Procedure:
  1. Preheat oven to 475F/240C.
  2. Mix shallots, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, cooking wine, and water in a small bowl.
  3. Place two very large sheets of aluminum foil (one on top of the other) on the table. Brush top sheet with oil. Put chicken in the middle of the top foil.
  4. Rub chicken with soy sauce all over. Repeat with the oil.
  5. Pull skin at neck end down under the chicken. Tuck wing tips under chicken and over the neck skin.
  6. Carefully pour the shallots-soy sauce mixture into chicken cavity through the posterior opening, holding chicken up slightly so that no sauce runs out.
  7. Secure end of chicken with a small skewer or needle and thread.
  8. Wrap aluminum foil around the chicken one at a time and secure like a parcel. It is important that the foil does not have any tear or hole in it (especially at the bottom) so that the salt in the dough will not penetrate the chicken itself.

Roll dough out to approximately 1 cm (1/2 inch) thickness so that it will completely encase the chicken. Fold dough over the chicken. Press edges and ends together. Make sure that there are no holes in the dough.





Place chicken into lightly oiled baking pan. With wet fingers, smooth out all joins making sure there are no holes in the pastry for the steam to escape.






Bake in 475F/240C oven for 1 hour. Reduce heat to 325F/160C and bake for a further 3 hours.







Remove chicken from the oven. Break open pastry clay with mallet or hammer.









Lift foil-wrapped chicken onto serving plate and carefully remove foil.

*Note: The 1 kg cooking salt in the dough recipe does not influence the taste of the chicken - just ensures that the dough bakes rock-hard as protection for the chicken during the long cooking time.

Wednesday, 22 December 2004

Brownies



It's the first time that I am giving out homemade cookies to friends for Christmas. And I started out with these scrumptious brownies adapted from a recipe of RFCer Barb Schaller. It won first prize in a Minnesota State Fair. I like my brownies 'cakey' rather than 'fudgy' which this perfectly fits the bill. Crumbly, moist, rich, and very chocolatey - quite good with a hot cup of tea or coffee. I have to give strict instructions to my kids not to touch it otherwise I will be left with an empty plate by the time I get home. I do hope they obeyed me. :)


Classic Chocolate Brownies

1 cup [250 g] unsalted butter
250 g unsweetened baking (dark) chocolate (70% cocoa content)
2 cups [400 g] granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 1/3 cups [190 g] cake flour or plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C/gas mark 4. Grease and line with grease proof paper (parchment paper) a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
  2. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt (see note below).
  3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a separate heatproof bowl set on a saucepan with simmering water. Blend well. When everything is melted and blended, remove from saucepan and cool slightly.
  4. Mix in sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Mix well (if required use wire whisk at this point).
  5. Add vanilla, mix well. Add in nuts.
  6. Using a wooden spoon, fold in flour mixture and stir only enough to moisten dry ingredients.
  7. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 33-35 minutes. Do not overbake! The centre when pierced should have moist crumbs but not wet batter.
  8. Remove from oven and cool in the baking pan for about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into 2-inch squares.

Note: If you do not have cake flour, use all purpose flour but replace 1 Tbsp for every cup with cornflour/cornstarch; though I've used just plain flour here and it didn't seem to affect the result much.

Monday, 20 December 2004

Eight Treasure


A colleague of mine was complaining that I don't have much vegetarian dishes in this blog. Well, actually I have only one! So to redress this imbalance here is a vegan recipe. It did not turn out as good as it used to because I doubled up the recipe but forgot to double the oil. Oh well, it may not be glossy enough but at least it's healthier.

This was adapted from the
Chinese Cuisine cookbook of Huang Su-Huei. It is supposed to contain 8 types of vegetables (hence the name) but you can vary it as you like it. Actually the quick way of doing it is to scoop 2 1/4 cups of mixed frozen vegetables, pre-cook it, then do as directed in the recipe.


Eight Treasure Vegetables

2 Tbsp oil
1/4 cup raw shelled peanuts
1/4 cup frozen peas or broad beans
1/4 cup diced canned bamboo shoots
1/4 cup diced cucumber
1/4 cup diced button mushrooms
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced bean curd

*Sauce:
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sweet bean paste
1 tsp hot bean paste
1/2 Tbsp sugar
  1. Cook peanuts, peas or broad beans, and carrots separately in water.
  2. Mix all ingredients for sauce and set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a wok. Fry bean curd briefly to make it a bit firm.
  4. Add all other ingredients, stir to mix. Add sauce and stir fry for 2 minutes.
  5. Transfer to serving plate and serve.

Thursday, 16 December 2004

Tocino, Sinangag, at iba pa

This is another one of my cooking basics for my kids. They often confuse sinangag with sinigang. Sinangag is Filipino for fried rice while sinigang is meat sour soup.

When you say sinangag it implies the traditional Filipino fried rice which is comprised of left over cooked rice fried in oil and garlic. Quite an enjoyable comfort food whether eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The usual application (sounds like a software) of this is in the ubiquitous meals suffixed with 'silog' in fast foods and eateries in the Philippines. These are meals with a variety of fried meat and always paired with sinangag and itlog (egg) - all fried. I likened it to the all-day English breakfast. Usually eaten in the morning but taken as well any time of the day. Varieties of the 'silog' are numerous: Tapsilog - tapa (thinly sliced cured beef); Tocilog - tocino (cured pork); Lonsilog - sausage; and others. Your nearest Filipino or oriental store will surely have these. Another similar brekkie meal that brings me a smile whenever I hear it is the 'pakaplog' - pandesal (breakfast roll), kape (coffee), itlog (fried egg).

I cooked a tocilog one night (see below), guess what is missing. That's right I forgot the egg!




Oh well, use your imagination and picture a nice fried sunny side up egg in there. ;-) On the top left hand side of the plate is a little mound of achara (pickled green papaya). It's a regular accompaniment for all the 'silog' meals. I also like to have suka at patis (vinegar and fish sauce) dip to balance things up.


How To Prepare For Fried Rice:
  • Keep the cooked rice in the fridge to chill. This will make the rice easier to separate since they are less sticky in that state.

Put the chilled rice in a bowl and mash them with your hands to separate the grains. While separating them, dip your hand in a bowl of water or stand by an open tap (faucet) and wet your hands from time to time. This will remove the stickiness from your hands and at the same time sprinkling the rice with water. You need the rice to be wet and soft because it will lose a lot of its moisture in the frying process. If not wet enough the resulting fried rice would be on the brittle side. However, if your rice is already 'malata' (soggy) then you do not need to wet it.
  • Set aside for a few minutes to let the sprinkled water to seep in the rice.

Sinangag
(Garlic Fried Rice)

5 cups cooked rice - chilled and separated
1 1/2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 - 3 Tbsp oil
sea salt
  1. Heat oil in a wok or big pan. Saute garlic in low heat - do not burn it!
  2. Add in rice and season generously with salt. Mix from time to time.
  3. Cook for about 5 - 10 minutes. Serve hot.


How To Cook Tocino
  1. Make sure that the tocino meats are sliced thinly.
  2. Put the meat in a pan (preferably non-stick) and add about 1 cup of water for every kilo of tocino.
  3. Cover (optional), bring to boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. Add more hot water if it's drying up too soon.
  4. After 30 minutes, remove cover, add about 1 Tbsp oil then let the remaining sauce to dry up. Keep this at low heat to prevent the tocino from burning. This happens easily because of the sugar content.
  5. Add more oil if needed and fry until meat is well caramelised. Serve warm.

Tuesday, 14 December 2004

Bistek

All along I thought "bistek" is a Filipino adaptation of the English word "beef steak". Then I went to a Colombian restaurant last Friday and had a "Bisteck a Caballo". A friend also had a "Bistec" in a Cuban nosh place. So I guess it's a Spanish thing since the most obvious common denominator of Pinoys, Colombians, and Cubans is our shared coloniser - Espana! In all three variations, the beef is marinated in sauce, herbs and spices then pan fried. For the latter 2 they use the sirloin cut, while for Pinoys anything goes as long as it's beef. :)

 
Churrasco Argentino                  Bisteck a Caballo



The place me and my colleagues (for our section's Christmas meal) went to is the La Bodeguita in Elephant & Castle, southwest London. It was a non-fancy restaurant, unpretentious, and has matching low price tags. Above left you can see the enormous steak several of us ordered. It's about 12 x 7 inches big. Probably for Americans this is normal but for Londoners used to miniscule servings this is certainly overwhelming. Among 5 who ordered, only one managed to finish it, three of them did not even came close to half of it. Me, I ordered the Bisteck a Caballo just because I'm curious to how this Pinoy food namesake taste. It was okayish nothing to write home about, then again this is the first time I've eaten Colombian food. So I wouldn't know if it's supposed to taste like that.

We regularly cook bistek at home specifically pork bistek. That must be a conflicting name, isn't it? Translated literally it's 'pork beef steak' but actually in Pinoy cuisine (as far as I know), bistek is a cooking style where you marinate meat in soy sauce and lemon then pan fried (or grilled or broiled). My mother often cook Bangus (milkfish) Bistek when the Laguna de Bay overflows during typhoons (means an abundance of cheap bangus in the market).


Bistek

Pork Bistek

500 g pork fillet or shoulder steaks - sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
ground pepper (optional)
2 garlic cloves - minced (optional)
1 big onion - sliced into rings
1/2 - 3/4 cup water
2 tsp cornstarch - dissolved in 1 Tbsp water
oil for frying
  1. Mix soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic, and pepper. Taste mixture and adjust the amount of soy sauce and lemon juice according to your preference.
  2. Add pork and marinate for at least 2 hours preferably overnight.
  3. Lightly pan fry onion rings in oil. Set aside.
  4. Drain pork from marinade and pan fry in the same pan (or grill/broil in oven) according to your preferred doneness. Put in a serving plate with the onion, set aside.
  5. Pour marinade into the pan. Add water and cook for about 2 minutes.
  6. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning and amount of water. Add the cornstarch mixture, let boil for a few seconds until thick.
  7. Pour over the fried meat. Serve.
Note: If you grill/broil the meat, make sure you have a pan of hot water underneath the grill to keep the meat moist and tender.


* Alternative Method:
  1. Combine the meat, soy sauce, lemon juice, water, ground pepper and garlic (if using) in a pot.
  2. Bring to boil and then simmer for about 1.25 hours or until meat is tender. Add more hot water if it is drying up too much. You should have about 1/3 - 1/2 cup sauce left with the meat.
  3. Stir in the dissolved cornstarch in the sauce. Bring to boil and cook for about 1 minute.
  4. In a pan heat some oil and lightly pan-fry the onions. Remove and place on a serving dish.
  5. Dish up meat and sauce on top of the fried onions. Serve.

Thursday, 9 December 2004

Interesting Finds

I know, I know, you must be sick and tired of me saying Spanish this and that. But indulge me one last time, see the picture above? I got them from a grocery shop in Valencia. They're chocolate coated round-with-a-hole-biscuit (cookie) branded as Filipinos. Mabuhey! :-) They come in varieties coated with dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate.

The first time I saw this years ago when my husband brought one from a business trip I was taken aback. Actually offended ! Why would anyone name a biscuit after us? Grrrrrr! To rub in our flat nose that we're brown skinned sweet nice smelling delicious like those biscuits? Uh, that doesn't sound bad really, does it? Then I thought it's a good product judging from the way me and my kids and their friends fight over it. (Waaah, nothing left in the fridge!) So me thinks it's not really dreadful being named after a good biscuit. I researched the origin of this in the internet several years back and there was a story that the recipe was bought by Nabisco from a baker somewhere in Spain who named his creation after his Filipino friends who like their namesakes are brown and very nice. Well not bad, afterall there are a lot of things we call after certain group of people - men wear 'Amerikanas', we make lantern with 'papel de Japon', we eat French fries, French bread, Swiss cheese, Belgian chocolate, Chinese dim sums, English Patis ... ooopss erase that last one. I was wondering though what's with the hole in the biscuit ??


I've got Cadbury drinking chocolate powder in my cupboard, the 'tablea' drinking from the Phils. is shaped like a big pill, some of Hershey's drinking chocs are in gooey liquid form but this is the first time that I've seen it shaped into a bar (see above).

Monday, 6 December 2004

American Style Pancakes



There are a great many variations on the pancake. These are thought to have originated (at least in England) when Catholics wanted to use up all the rich food (butter, milk, eggs) that they have in their pantry before embarking on the fasting required in Lent. What better way to dispose of these rich food than by making pancakes. Thus we have the Shrove Tuesday (the Tuesday before Lent) or Pancake Day.

The British pancake consists of just egg, flour, and milk. Hence, it comes out flat and thin. The American pancake (also called hotcake) is made of the same things but with added raising agent like baking powder or baking soda. It results in more 'cake' like apperance.

My family prefers the American version most probably because it is what me and my husband was exposed to in the Phils. which in turn what we exposed our children with. We very occassionally have this in a weekend morning with butter and maple or golden syrup on the side. Although in the Phils. we often have no syrup so we just make do with (Star) margarine spread on it and then sprinkled with granulated sugar. Good comfort food.

In the Phils., we do not always adhere to the standard size of between 3-5 inches diameter pancakes. I've often seen people cook a dinner plate sized (10 inches) pancake and I've been guilty of this also. Well, the practical Pinoy would say - why cook several small ones when you can save cooking fuel by frying it all in one go! :) An American tourist was ROFL when he was confronted by these monstrous pancakes in a rural carinderia (eatery)! He admitted it was as good as back home though the size was something he had to get used to. Well I thought Americans are used to big servings! ;)



American Pancakes

2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 2/3 cups milk or buttermilk or sour cream (or combination of the 3)
2 eggs - beaten
1/3 cup vegetable oil
  1. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Mix all liquid ingredients in another bowl.
  3. Add wet to dry ingredients and stir until mixed. (If the batter looks too thick add water or milk a little at a time until you get the consistency that you want.) Let rest for about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Pour onto medium hot greased pan. Once bubbles cover the surface, flip the pancake, cover pan and lower heat for about 1 minute. The cover will help the pancake to rise more.
  5. Remove from pan and serve with butter and syrup.

Thursday, 2 December 2004

Food of Valencia

On our first night out we went to a traditional Spanish bar called Bar Pilar which was recommended by several travel guides. Inside had an rather 'old' feel with tiled walls and dark wooden furnitures and fixtures. It is noted for its mussels rather than for the drinks. So of course we ordered 'dos enteros' two mussel starters. They came out as soups (see above right; click on it for a bigger picture). Now I'm not fond of mussels, I do eat it but I do't go out of my way looking for it. But one taste of their offering and I knew why this place is highly recommended. The mussels were one of the most delicious and freshest I have ever tasted. I was raised in a fishing village so I know my seafood. Even my vegetarian colleagues were encouraged to eat more than one mussel. The soup, which you ladle with the mussel shell, was perfect - a little salty with a taste of the sea and just a tad bit of paprika for some spiciness. Very very good! Now I will try that paprika thing next time I cook mussels.

The same night we had dinner at a restaurant where we had two enormous pans of paella. Valencia is regarded as where paella originated. The traditional Paella Valenciana (PV) above is made up of rice, rabbit and/or chicken, snails, broad beans, and veggies. That was a revelation to me, I thought PV is full of seafood which is actually called Paella Mariscos (PM) [see below]. The PV we were served only had chicken which was okay since my colleagues probably do not want to eat Thumper. It was all right but there was a marked difference in taste with the PM. The PV was a lot blander than the PM but still quite tasty. So you could jst imagine how good the PM was. Lovely shrimps, tender mussels and squids.

A reader in my other blog was asking the difference between the authentic Spanish paella with the Filipino version. I guess for me the main disparity is in the rice. In the Phils. we use the 'malagkit' glutinous rice or combination of glutinous and regular rice. Among other western countries they use long grain rice. In Spain, they use the medium grain type that looks short and plump. Paella rice varieties include calasparra, bomba, and granza among others. Also the Spanish version do not use so much tomato. We do it in the Phils. probably to make up for the colouring due to the fact that saffron is not grown in the Phils. and thus quite expensive and therefore, rarely used. For me the Spanish rice is best for paella because the rice is supposed to be just a bit creamy (though not as much as risotto) with the grains clinging to each other but not sticky or mushy. Now that you can't do with long grain or glutinous or Jasmine rice.

On with the travel ... next day me and a colleague went out of the hotel to explore the shopping mall next door. There was El Corte Ingles which is a relatively upscale department store. The rest are clothes and shoe shops and cafes. But rounding out around a corner was this ham shop (below left) which made my eyes bulge due to the wall to wall display of ham legs. OMG, loads of chorizos in the shelves (below right) I went gaga over this since back in UK, I get only one choice of chorizo in the deli counter.

The more popular hams are the Jamon Serrano and Jamon Iberico. Both aged hams but Iberico is older (and wiser) and usually more expensive. If cost is no object then go for the Jamon Iberico because they taste much better than the Serrano (IMO). They are best served sliced very thinly and eaten as is with cheese (manchego goes well with it) and/or sliced baguettes.

We then went to the old part of the city and visited the Mercado Central (central market) where I got so excited in seeing so many fresh seafood and produce at very affordable prices. Above right are fresh fish in a fishmonger's stall; some of the fish's names are quite familiar.

There are stalls exclusively for different kinds of shrimps (above left) although I could see that they are already cooked. Hmmm ... curious. There are live eels (above right). I guess they have to kill it first before giving it to the customer? There was even a stall for ostrich eggs and meat.

Dried Fruits and Nuts                      Fresh Fruits


Of course, since sausages and ham are favourites around there, the market won't be complete without the ham shop. There were a lot of them that they occupy about a third of the market stalls. I bought several kilos of Jamon serrano, morcillas (blood sausage similar to black pudding), two types of chorizos, and of course saffron.

I was carrying all these in my backpack while trekking on the beach promenade when we were looking for a place for lunch. After like an eternity, we came to a cluster of restaurants. We were so starved ready to devour everything in sight. I ordered this squid starter that was absolutely superb.

The baby squids were very fresh and tender which were simply cooked in garlic greens (talbos ng bawang), olive oil, and some seafood stock. I really enjoyed that. My other companions who ordered steaks were not impressed at all. Oh well, I guess their specialty is really seafood.

On our second night, we had several rounds of beer and some tapas in a small bar (all the bars here are small). They served us excellent Jamon Iberico - thinly sliced, slices of Manchego cheese, and potato-venison croquette. A collegue was joking that since we didn't have Thumper we might as well have Bambi. :) We went onwards to a Colombian restaurant but it was full to the rafters. So we managed to get into a grubby looking small cafeteria. It looks like a lorry drivers cafe but the food was good and the manager/waiter/cook was very accommodating. He served us some baked soft cheese dish (which suspiciously looked like mozarella) sprinkled with herbs (above right) and some empanadas. Our bellies full, we hit the clubs and bars. In all of them, the drinks were cheap compared to London prices and they were very generous with the spirits. Say for example rum & coke, in London the rum would be poured up to only an inch from the bottom. In Valencia they would pour it 2/3 way up! Hardly any room for the coke!

The next day was our last, so we went seriously sightseeing in the old city again. Lunch time we settled for outdoor seating in a restaurant. They had these enormous pans of paella in their windows (above left). I thought they were displays only. Turns out they get their serving from those very pans and reheat them. Oh my gulay! I didn't know that even in the land of paella the quality would vary greatly. Nevertheless, me and a colleague ordered arroz negra, it's paella with seafood and squid ink thus the black colour. Our other companions were so grossed out making us smile to see our blackened teeth (heh inggit lang nila!). But it was very tasty actually. They also serve paella with aioli on the side - they can be quite garlicky strong - phwoar! I had to chew some gum to reduce my bad breath!

After that more walking and looking around. I saw some interesting bakeries where I saw this walnut-raisin cake or is it a pie? (above right)
Lots of interesting things to see in Valencia and the culinary side was not disappointing especially with the excellent seafood dishes they have. I wish I had more time to explore it more. Maybe next time ...

Wednesday, 1 December 2004

Drinks of Valencia

I just got from a weekend trip to Valencia, Spain with my work colleagues (see travelogue in my other blog). I had a great time: beautiful city, nice weather, friendly locals, and of course great food and drinks at reasonable prices. So let me start with the drinks:

This is the delish Agua de Valencia which we had at a bar in the old city area. A concoction of freshly squeezed orange juice with sparkling wine (champagne or Cava) and spirits - Cointreau or gin or vodka or all three of them. Served very cold with ice - very nice! I looked up the recipes in the Internet but there are a lot of variations. Some with sugar, some with half orange and half sparkling wine. Here's something to start with and you can always add and subtract according to your taste.

Agua de Valencia

250 ml sparkling wine (Champagne or Cava) - well chilled
750 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
80 ml spirit (Cointreau or vodka or gin)
2 Tbsp sugar (brown or white)
ice cubes
  1. Combine orange juice, spirit, and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add in the sparkling wine. Mix.
  3. Add ice cubes. Serve.

This one is not Valencian but Brazilian, nonetheless it was very good. Caipirinha (kai-pi-rin-ya) is traditionally made with the Brazilian cachaca but a good vodka may be used as a subtitute. Another nice cold drink to refresh you. I could imagine this is perfect on a hot day in the beach. I watched carefully as the bartender mixed this drink so I'm sure of the prep method and measurements.

Caipirinha

1 lime - quartered
1 Tbsp sugar (brown or white)
30 ml of cachaca (or vodka or white rum)
ice cubes with water
  1. Put sugar in an old style glass (also called mixer) - it's a low, round, wide mouthed glass.
  2. Add the quartered lime. Using the handle of a wooden spoon or a wooden pestle, mash the lime in the glass just enough to release the juice. Do not mash too much or it will taste bitter.
  3. Mix in the cachaca and stir.
  4. Add the ice cubes and enough water to fill the glass. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Serve.