White Chocolate and Lemon Curd Tart + Candied Lemons

I’d like to live by the sea one day. I imagine a cloudy morning and I’m walking barefoot by the shore with sand in between the toes. The silent waves push and pull the sand away. I look out towards the horizon and I’m at peace.

When I was in college I attended this workshop organised by our university’s local peace institute. One by one, each of us from our small group would share his/her idea of peace. And that was my answer, brief but really hopeful. I was going through a rough patch during that time. And I would want nothing else than to escape and leave all worries behind. We’ve all been slaves to our hedonistic daydreams, maybe for a minute, maybe for a lot longer.

What I said was true, I’d like to live by the sea one day. And maybe I could throw in a nice house to go with the view. But more than anything else I’d like to divest myself of worldly problems. The assumption is by the time I do manage to save up for that dream, I’ve already swum with the sharks, climbed rugged mountains and danced on top of hot coals.

And almost every day I’d like to churn out beauties like these.
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I’ll share the recipe for the walnut and salted caramel tart soon. But for now, let’s feast:
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White Chocolate and Lemon Curd Tart with Candied Lemons

Not everyone can stand, let alone enjoy white chocolate per se. But when it’s tempered with a contrast in flavour, it becomes bearable, more often very very delicious, with the right amount of sweet and tart notes.

The recipe for the tart crust was adapted from Food Magazine’s April 2013 dessert issue – the vodka pie crust by Ginny Roces de Guzman. I have her cookbook, Bake Me A Cake, and I think it’s a beautiful labor of love. The lemon curd is just a standard recipe I got here.

  • 1 vodka crust
  • 1 recipe lemon curd (you will have leftover curd, but it’s versatile enough to be a fridge staple!)
  • White chocolate ganache
  • Candied lemons (you can do this ahead of time)

Make the white chocolate ganache

  • 300 grams good quality white chocolate, chopped
  • 150 grams whipped cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  1. In a pot, heat the vanilla and cream to a boil.
  2. In a heatproof bowl, combine the white chocolate and the hot cream. With a spatula, mix everything together until the chocolate has melted and it’s smooth.
  3. If there are still bits and pieces, you may need to place the bowl over a water bath, or microwave it for 10-second intervals until smooth. Set aside when done.

Make the crust (this recipe produces two crusts. You only need one for the tart, save the other one for inevitable use)

  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  1. Combine vodka and water and put into the freezer.
  2. In a bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups flour, salt and sugar. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter into grain-sized pieces. When the mixture gets a little pasty, add the remaining 1 cup flour.
  3. Sprinkle vodka water on the flour mixture. Use a rubber scraper to press and mix until it comes together to form a dough.
  4. Divide the dough in half. Pat each into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap  and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  5. When ready to use, let the dough rest on the counter so it will be easier to handle.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 F/200 C.
  7. Lightly flour your workbench and rolling pin. Roll out the crust to fit a 9-inch tart pan. Carefully transfer to the pan.
  8. With a fork, poke the crust. This will prevent it from being too puffy. Cover the crust with aluminium foil and add rice or pie weights.
  9. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375 F and continue to bake for 20 – 30 minutes. Let cool.

Make the candied lemons

  • 2 lemons, sliced thinly, seeds carefully removed
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup water
  • enough water to cook the slices in a small or medium-sized pot
  1. Heat water to a boil and lower the heat to a gentle simmer.
  2. Add the lemon slices and allow to cook for 30 minutes.
  3. Combine water and sugar in a nonstick pan. Over medium heat, melt the sugar mixture until it becomes clear and syrup-like. Carefully arrange the slices evenly on the pan. Reduce the heat to very low.
  4. Allow the slices to cook and the sugar mixture to slowly caramelise. The slices have to take on the nice amber colour of the caramel. Be careful not to burn the sugar mixture. This will take around 30 minutes to an hour.
  5. Remove from the pan and allow to cool on a tray lined with nonstick paper.

Combine everything:

  1. Remove the crust from the tart pan and onto a plate or cake board.
  2. Spread a thin layer of curd over the crust.
  3. Slowly pour the ganache over the curd.
  4. Top with candied lemons.
  5. Chill in the refrigerator until the ganache has set.

Simple pleasures

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I don’t make bread often, and it’s only when I’m home that I get full reign. Making it made me appreciate just how amazing freshly baked, homemade, handmade baked is. As soon as it’s done, I let it cool for only a little bit. I then scramble for minced garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and chili flakes – my dip of choice, with no balsamic vinegar. I heat all of that a bit, just so the flavors infuse.
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I slice through the bread, the exterior is hot and crusty. Steam billows out, it’s definitely fresh. The inside is pillow-like, riddled with holes – just right.

I pick up a crusty slice, dip it in the garlic oil, take a bite and just allow a moment of silence to sink in. Reverence is at play here. There is joy to be had from eating something made from scratch in all its humanity. It’s simple. It’s good.

You have to eat and enjoy bread while it’s still warm and crusty. Now more than ever I understand.
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I’ve been hit with the realization that there are certain things and people in this world, like good bread, that are just too good to last forever.
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Life is beautifully and painfully short. Although it’s painful to know that Jad’s life was abruptly and unjustly halted, I can find comfort in the idea that he was in a good place in his life when he died. He realized what fulfilled his days, and until the last minute, he was chasing his happiness.

Let’s make bread while we still can.

Mini walnut baguettes

makes 15 – 16 pieces

adapted from King Arthur Flour’s baguette recipe

For the starter:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
  • 1 cup bread flour

For the dough:

  • 1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
  • 1 cup to 1 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 starter recipe
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnutes
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

In a medium-sized container, combine all the ingredients for the starter and mix. Allow it to rise and bubble at room temperature for 14 hours. 

When ready to make the bread, to the starter, add in the water, olive oil and brown sugar. Mix together.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients for the dough. Make a well at the center and add the starter mixture. Mix together. If you’re using an electric mixer, handle it with the dough hook. Otherwise, knead it by hand, until it starts to become smooth. Let the dough rest in a generously floured bowl for 20 minutes. Resting it will relax the gluten more, hence cuts down on fermentation time later. Afterwards, knead until dough is smooth and supple. Place the dough back into the bowl and allow it to rise for 45 minutes, or until the dough feels airy when lightly poked (it may be less than 45 minutes). Afterwards, to remove some of the gas that has formed, “fold” the dough by bringing/folding the top part to the center, then doing the same with the sides, then folding the top part towards and over the bottom. Let the dough ferment for another 30 minutes.

When done and if you’re going to add the nuts, knead it now then press down on the dough, and roll it like a log. Divide it into around 40-gram pieces. Shape each piece into a rough ball and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Then shape each piece into a roll by flattening the ball, folding the bottom part towards the center, then doing the same with the top part, then finally folding the top over the bottom. Seal the seam by flattening it with your palm. Then roll it into a tapered log, with both edges slightly slimmer than the center. Transfer it to a baking sheet with a silicone parchment. Lightly dust each piece with flour. Allow it to rise for 20 to 30 minutes. It’s best to place them in the oven when they’re not completely proofed, because they rise more in the oven. While the bread is rising, preheat the oven to 220 C.

With a sharp paring knife, diagonally slash (“score”) each log 3 times (because baguettes have odd numbered slashes). Lightly dust with flour again, then place it in the oven. Prepare an aluminum tray with some water and place it below the rack where you’re going to place the baguette. The steam with help the bread rise. My oven came with a detachable tray placed at the bottom of the oven that’s supposed to catch drippings, so I used that. As soon as I placed the trays of bread in the oven, I poured water on the tray and that became my steam source.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until a nice golden color is achieved. 

I wish I could be there

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It’s the day after Mother’s Day and as I’m writing this I’m hoping that the courier doesn’t screw up more than it already has. Mom hasn’t received her package yet and right now the timing (and the drama) is off. (Edit: the package arrived and apparently reduced mom to a puddle of tears. What was the gift? A simple handwritten letter)

The last time I was with the family was when I went home for the Easter holidays more than a month ago. Suffice to say I went a little crazy, baking almost everyday. The macarons I wrote about were one of the things I churned out (which reminds me, I’m tinkering with the next installment to that post!). To be honest I wasn’t all that keen to go home. I kept on thinking that I need to sensitize myself to the separation, as depressing as it sounds. But that week off turned out to be one of the best vacation weeks I’ve ever had, and by the time I had to be whisked off to the airport, I was a hot mess. I’ve never been that sad to leave home.
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But to dwell on how much abuse my oven received makes things less morose. To think about how much I enjoyed making sans rival makes things a lot better.

I always though making sans rival was unattainable. But I always enjoy eating the layers of crunchy-chewy meringue, with buttercream sandwiched in between, all dressed in a rich velvet layer of more buttercream. That was before I went to school so basically I thought a lot of baked goods seemed impossible to make by my lonesome. That was then, this is now. And during the course of the week I was able to make five, a pretty awesome feat by my standards.

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Right now I’m at a place where I can say that anything baked isn’t impossible to make. This one is no exception. Making it wasn’t a breeze of course – time and patience (things I feel I lack) are the key elements here. It’s one of those desserts that have components made separately and then put together to make one solid piece of goodness.

This is a nod to my mom, who is (a cheesy comparison coming up) really like sans rival. She’s a crowd favorite and everyone instantly likes her, she’s both sturdy and fragile (sometimes at the same time), and although on the outside she seems to be all butter, you’ll see that she’s made up of so much more than that. She’s never typical.

Last year when I was still home we had this silly moment together where her favorite song was playing on the radio and she just took my hand and whirled me around the kitchen. It was awkward, I was embarrassed, mortified…and strangely enough right now I wish I could do it all over again.
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Coffee Buttercream Sans Rival

serves around 8

This recipe is good enough to make three rectangular sheets that could fit in a half-sheet tray (18 by 13 inches). I decided to pipe the meringue into rounds instead of rectangles, but I still used a sheet tray lined with a silicone mat that measures 11 5/8 by 16 ½ inches. Two rounds fit in the silicone mat so I worked in batches. Alternatively, you can also use cake pans, greased, lined with parchment, greased again, and floured.

  • 180 grams clean egg whites
  • a pinch of cream of tartar
  • 170 grams granulated sugar
  • 10 grams all-purpose flour
  • 50 grams granulated sugar (for the flour and nut mixture)
  • 60 grams cashew nuts, processed/chopped into very small pieces
  • additional cashew nuts for decoration

Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar and whip until stiff.Combine the sugar, flour and nuts and fold it into the meringue, working in 3 additions. Use a piping bag to pipe the mixture onto the pan, using a spiral motion to create equal circles. Bake at 350 F/180 C for 30 – 45 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool at room temperature.

Coffee Buttercream

recipe adapted from Memories of Philippine Kitchens by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan

  • 7 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 454 grams/1 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons coffee powder (or more if a stronger flavor is desired)

Beat the yolks and sugar using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, until it becomes light and lemon-colored. Warm the heavy cream in a large saucepan, until bubbles appear around the sides. Whisk the heavy cream into the yolks and return it to the saucepan. Stir over low heat until thick, around 10 – 12 minutes. Be careful not to let it boil or else it will curdle. Remove from heat, transfer to a large bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer) and let it cool.

You can whisk the buttercream by hand or use an electric mixer, with the paddle attachment. Either way, add the butter into the cooled custard bit by bit, beating the pieces in until completely absorbed before adding in the next. Add the vanilla extract. When all the butter has been incorporated and the mixture is smooth, you can set aside 1/3 of the buttercream, and mix in the coffee powder into the remaining 2/3. Set aside until ready to use.

Assemble: place one layer of meringue on a plate or cake board. Using a straight or offset spatula, spread an even but thin layer of buttercream on it, and top with the second layer. Repeat, then top with the third layer. Spread the buttercream on top, and along the sides. When the coating is generous and even, you can pipe decorative rosettes using the regular buttercream on top. If the surrounding temperature is a bit warm the buttercream might soften too much for you to achieve good, sturdy piping. At this point you can let the mixture rest in the fridge, or to speed up the process, place it in the freezer for a couple of minutes.

Coat the sides and sprinkle the top with the chopped cashew nuts. When coating the sides, get a handful of the chopped nuts and lightly pat the side making sure that the nuts stick to the buttercream. The excess will fall of and you can clean it up when you’re done decorating.

Place it in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to serve.

Macaron Days (Part 1)

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It’s a blazing hot Saturday here in Manila. It’s the kind of heat that precludes all intentions of going outside to where it’s scorching. Ah, the problems of living in a country with four seasons (hot, very hot, rainy, oh look there’s a typhoon). So here I am doing myself a favor and after a long while, updating! I’m not going to whine about the weather because even if it feels like I’ve been living under a rock, I’ve had a pretty stellar week.

We had a week off from school to give way to the Easter holidays, and I was in a quandary whether I should go home or not. By “go home” I mean visit my family in Zamboanga. I told myself that I should go home less often, just to sensitize myself. But I caved in after being prodded by my parents. Honestly, I can’t really say no to home, can I?

And I’m glad I caved in because the chance to use an oven and bake again sent me in a frenzy. It was no vacation by all means. Every day I was in the kitchen, mixing, whisking, piping, rolling and baking. I didn’t really give myself a lot of room to breathe. I’m not complaining though, because I was amazed at how productive I was. Amazed.

I began my vacation with a few achievable goals in mind: macarons, meringue, pate a choux, puff pastry.

First, I just had to make macarons because when we made it in school I was really happy with the results and it wasn’t “that” hard as long as I observed a few pressure points. I’ll be talking about macarons for here on out.

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I’m not an authority on the matter, though! Simply think of this as an account of somebody who tried his hardest, in the most obsessive way possible, to make a macaron – failures and all.

There are a lot of macaron recipes online, with varying techniques and nuances in ingredients. There’s really no “right” or “wrong” method. Just choose one and go from there. If it didn’t yield the results you wanted, modify, adapt and try again. There’s no shame in that.

This recipe is a bit lengthy but it’s hard not to be descriptive when you’re talking about making a macaron.

French Macarons with Chocolate Ganache and Marmalade

  • 60g powdered almonds
  • 120g powdered sugar
  • 60g egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 45g granulated sugar
  • food coloring of your choice

All I had to do was to blitz the sliced almonds in a food processor/blender until it has become fine powder. To make sure the consistency is good, I passed it through a fine strainer and I processed the big pieces that were left. I didn’t toast the almonds in the oven before I processed it. (My chef instructor told me I shouldn’t have skipped that step so I could have removed the excess moisture in the almonds)

I then mixed the almond meal with the powdered sugar, and then passed it through a strainer again. It’s not so much obsessive as it is necessary to remove the large lumps of sugar. My instructor also told me I could go the extra mile and process the sugar-almond mixture again, which I didn’t do. Is this part necessary? If I would get the chance to make more macarons, I would have done this.

Whisking the egg whites is also another crucial step. Whisking incorporates air into the whites causing it to become white and stiff. Two things can go wrong: either it won’t rise to medium-stiff peaks OR it will be overdone and resemble shampoo foam which is kind of gross. In any case, it is crucial that the egg whites are clean, free from fat in the form of traces of yolk.

I didn’t have a stand mixer so I had to use muscle power and elbow grease to manually whip the whites. This part is physically taxing but it gets the job done. I whisked the egg whites until medium peak. Then I added the sugar and whisked until stiff. Medium peaks is the stage when the whites are whisked until they form peaks whose tips droop. The peaks when stiff are sharp, pointy and well, stiff.

Now that you have your meringue and almond-sugar mixture ready, it’s now time to fold the two together. Folding is more gentle than mixing, and I used my rubber scraper to do this. Folding requires a “lifting” action that gently covers the meringue over the almonds and so on. When it’s folded together, add a drop of food coloring, and fold to distribute. Add more until the desired color is achieved. When you lift the mixture using the rubber scraper, it has to fall in a thick stream, not in clumps. If it’s still clumpy, add a little bit (a drop or two) of egg white and fold again.

I then transferred the mixture to a pastry bag with a round tip (#12), piped it as big as a 5 peso coin and left 2 inches of space in between mounds because it will still spread. It’s important that you allow the macaron to dry and form a skin. This is incredibly temperamental because it depends of the humidity and temperature of the area, which affects the drying time. What worked best for me was to leave the tray in an air conditioned room for two – three hours, or until a skin is felt on the surface when “lightly” felt/poked by the finger.  I had one tray dry at room temperature, roughly the same time length of time received by the ones in the air conditioned room. They also cracked.

The cracked macarons weren’t pretty at all. I probably set the oven temperature too high. They cracked at 180 C. When I set the next batch to bake at around 140 – 150C, then came out just fine, feet and all! I baked them for about 12 – 15 minutes, until they look dry.

The piped a ring of chocolate ganache and filled the center with orange marmalade because the flavor pairing just works so well.
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Tune in for more macaron madness soon. I promise thing will get better, and cuter if I do say so myself.

Potato and Bacon Gratin

 I’ve been asked so many times how it feels to grow up having no brothers and sisters. At the top of my head I say it’s great: you get all the attention, financial and emotional support. I consider myself lucky. But there are some setbacks – I think about what could be, what could have been, and that’s when I feel the pang of loneliness. Don’t get me wrong I don’t wallow in it…I just want it sometimes. Then I wake up and reality sinks in. I might not have the biggest family, but I’m still happy and thankful.

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This afternoon we visited our loved ones at the cemetery. It’s nothing grand. The scorching heat expedited our trip, but before we left, we said our prayers, lit our candles and left our flowers. I looked around and saw more than a few tombstones unkept, with the paint virtually gone. Clearly they were forgotten. It’s a sad sight really. I know this is getting heavy, but I just need to put it out there: I don’t want to be forgotten. I want to live a full life and all the frills attached to it and still be remembered by the people I left behind.

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Yeah, I daydream a lot. I think about the things I can do, will do and should do. Sometimes I ask myself how I want people to remember me, what legacies I leave behind. I’m being romantic here, but I do want to be remembered because of my food and company, which go hand in hand.

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I made potato gratin yesterday and I wanted to savor that moment. The funny thing is, the first time I made it for class, it was undercooked. I’m happy that I have the luxury of time to make sure this heavy, hearty dish is cooked perfectly. It’s a thing of beauty in its simplicity.
With the same desire of not being forgotten long after I’m gone, I don’t want to forget the moment I opened the oven and just knew everything made sense and fell into place. I was vindicated.

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Potato and Bacon Gratin (serves 4 – 6)
  • 600 grams potatoes
  • 1 medium-sized red onion, minced
  • half a bulb of garlic, minced
  • 4 strips of bacon, sliced into small pieces
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • parmesan cheese, to taste
  • nutmeg, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. In a pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and saute until fragrant. Add the bacon and render the fat.
  2. Mix in the flour and keep on mixing until it becomes thick, almost like a paste (you’re making a roux). Once the flour-y taste has been cooked off, add in the milk. Stir to incorporate everything. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
  3. Season with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg. Add the parmesan cheese and adjust seasoning. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F. Peel and eye the potatoes. Carefully slice the potatoes, around 1/16th of an inch, like potato chips.
  5. Place the potatoes in the sauce pan and carefully mix together to coat all the slices with the sauce. Reserve a few bacon bits.
  6. Arrange the slices on a 10-inch pie plate. Once done, top it with more parmesan, bacon and sauce. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes, or until potatoes are done.
  7. Remove from heat, slice into individual serving pieces and serve warm. Enjoy!

A Big Breakfast

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By the looks of it, it’ll be a rainy morning today. The weather has always been erratic. Manila weather is even worse. When it rains, especially early in the morning, you know you’re kind of screwed. Commuting and traffic become ten times worse. I’ve learned to brave (and welcome!) the blistering heat because at least I know getting from point A to B is easier, although still uncomfortable.

However, nothing can really be said about what happens when it rains here in Zamboanga. When you’ve faced the mother of all monsters, the tiny ugly imps are manageable. In a strange, reverse-meteoric way, I feel happier when I wake up to the sound of rain. *and on cue, it starts to rain*

Maybe it’s because I know breakfast is mandatory to warm me up. Maybe it’s also because the light in my photos is pretty nice. And when there’s a marriage of the two, I know it’s a good morning indeed.
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My default breakfast meal would have to be egg rings. The inside of a ramekin is lined with bacon then an egg fills the center. It’s then zapped in the microwave or baked for 15 minutes. I’m partial to the gentle cooking that happens when it’s being baked. Today I had the bacon and the eggs, but I wanted more. I had some potatoes, a few spices and a pack of bratwurst just sitting in the freezer. The wheels started to churn and I went into overdrive. It was go time!

I don’t really know if a fancy name fits because this is by no means fancy. But it’s still pretty good. I’m going to be subtle about the title then:
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Baked Eggs over Bratwurst and Potatoes (serves 2 – 3)

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 pieces bratwurst/hungarian sausage, sliced thinly, around 125 grams each
  • 4 strips of bacon, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • half a bulb of garlic, minced
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 small potato, around 150 grams, peeled and diced small
  • 50 grams green peas
  • 4 – 5 eggs
  • cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Spanish paprika, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Chili flakes, for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/ 350 F. In a pan, heat the oil. Add the garlic and the onion. Saute until fragrant.
  2. Add the potatoes and cook until it starts to brown at the sides.
  3. Toss in the bacon and saute until it starts to render. Add the sausage slices and mix together.
  4. Add the peas. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika.
  5. Remove the pan from heat and crack the eggs over the mixture. Season the yolks with a little bit of salt, pepper and paprika.
  6. Place the pan in the oven and allow to cook for about 15 minutes or until the yolks are set but still slightly runny. When done, remove from the oven, garnish with chili flakes and serve warm with rice. Enjoy!

Cream Cheese Mac & Cheese

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I think this simmering obsession started with a little plastic cup of instant mac and cheese mix. It was microwavable and ready in 3 minutes. I thought it tasted okay, nothing special, but since I didn’t have a benchmark for really really good macaroni and cheese, I didn’t really rely on first impressions.

I called it a “simmering” obsession because sometimes I scour recipes for inspiration, at the back of my head this image of that little plastic cup of microwavable mac and cheese always rears its ugly head. Sometimes I find myself in the middle of dinner, wishing I was eating macaroni and cheese instead. I know, it sounds strange coming from me, because I’m never one to regret dinner, unless I’m served liver of course.
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I’ve been going over recipes back and forth, knowing that there were still a few blocks of cream cheese sitting in the fridge almost ready to expire unless I make good use of them. There was an internal debate going on inside my head on whether I should cook the macaroni in the cheese sauce, or cook them separately then put it all together in the end. I decided on the latter, knowing too well my misfortune with under-cooked pasta. New Year’s Eve of 2011 saw me in the kitchen, pouring water every 10 minutes on a baking dish full of raw lasagna noodles which refused to cook, God knows why (because I’m an idiot probably). I learned my lesson and hopefully I’ll pass that little nugget of wisdom to my children, and they’ll pass it on the theirs, and so on, and so on. Of course google works, too.
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Anyway, I still had to google if Eden cheese is a universal Kraft product. Unfortunately, I think it’s not because it’s tailored for Filipino consumption. But don’t fret, I’d like to believe this is a standard recipe that welcomes substitutions – just don’t skip the cream cheese!

I would’ve liked this to have more cheese sauce, because c’mon, who doesn’t appreciate a lot of sauce? But as soon as it came out of the oven, I knew this would be good, and I was right. Dig in, and for good measure, help yourself to seconds and thirds. Well, I did.
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Cream Cheese Mac & Cheese (serves 6 – 8)

  • 300 grams macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup reserved starchy water used to cook the macaroni
  • ¾ cup grated Eden cheese
  • 1 225g bar cream cheese, softened and cubed
  • ½ tablespoon prepared mustard
  • Grated mozzarella cheese, for topping

Boil water in a pot. Add a little bit of vegetable oil, and a generous sprinkling of salt. Add the macaroni, and cook according to package directions. Stir occasionally to prevent pieces from sticking to the bottom. Reserve 1 cup of the starchy water for later use. Drain the macaroni and set aside.

In a saucepan, melt butter. Add the flour and stir everything together until a thick cohesive paste is formed (the roux). Add the milk and the water. Season it with salt and pepper. Stir until it thickens.

Add the mustard, Eden cheese, and most of the cream cheese. Save a few tiny cubes for topping. Mix everything together over low heat and allow the cheeses to melt. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C.

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resist the urge to eat it straight from the pot

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It will be a thing of beauty

Carefully add in the macaroni, mixing everything to coat it with the sauce.Pour everything on a baking pan, and top it with mozzarella and dot it with the tiny cream cheese cubes.

Bake it in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and caramel brown specks have started to appear.

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See?

Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Serve warm and enjoy!