On Cookbooks + Bagnet

Since I got back from Manila I’ve been itching to modify my “to-cook” bucket list because I brought home with me two cookbooks to add to my nonexistent collection. It doesn’t make sense to be a food blogger and not have at least one cookbook under your arsenal. I plan to expand my collection to a hundred, or two, but for now I’m going to settle with what I have. I have to say, I think I made a smart choice in buying these cookbooks because not every cookbook you pay for is worth it.
I’m taking baby steps with buying cookbooks. Though a lot of what’s being sold in major bookstores nationwide covers a spectrum of topics, I get discouraged with books that offer recipes that aren’t readily accessible given our context – ie ingredients are hard to come by; most of the time from Western publications.

It’s a good thing Manila has a burgeoning food scene and a lot of specialty shops and farmers’ markets now offer more variety, but here in Zamboanga…well, that’s another story. Since cookbooks are supposed to be an investment, it’s practical to know what you’e getting yourself into.

That’s why I appreciate bookstores, like Fully Booked, that allow to you scan the contents of books before buying it. Since Zamboanga doesn’t have a real bookstore that doesn’t just sell textbooks, I made the most of my visit to Fully Booked and Powerbooks.

First off, “Bake Me A Cake” by Ginny Roces De Guzman with photography by Neal Oshima (a Fully Booked Publication). Now this is what I call accessible. Because this is a local publication, each and every recipe can easily be done using local ingredients. Even if I haven’t made any of the cakes here yet, I’d like to consider this book as my cake bible simply because you begin with the four basic cakes: sponge, butter, chocolate and meringue wafer and it takes off from there – Calamansi Muffins, Castella, Malacanang Roll, even a cake called “Impossible Cake” which according to the author, I have to try to believe.

Plus I love a cookbook even more if every recipe came with a picture. Neal Oshima is brilliant behind the lens. I like how his aesthetic isn’t “in-your-face” photography and yet he brings out the best of the food through subtle blurs and simple shots. (woah, that was a mouthful)

It can’t get more straightforward than calling your book “Asian Dumplings”. Authored by Andrea Nguyen, who I presume is Vietnamese but resides in the US, this book basically outlines everything you need to know to make basic dumpling dough and the various fillings and methods of cooking it.

Personally, it looks more intimidating than “Bake Me A Cake”, but I bought this book because the response at the back was great. I’d like to believe the information I’ll get from this book is priceless.

Lastly, I got this book from one of my best friends, Jam, a day after my birthday. This was her birthday gift to me because I kinda hinted I’m into collecting cookbooks now. “Great Easy Meals” by The Food Network Magazine, is, alright, an American publication but hey, I got this for free. Though I said I’m wary of cookbooks like this one, I’m glad I managed to peruse it enough to understand that a lot of these recipes can be adapted to suit local tastes.

Every recipe looks simple enough, and I think I can easily make substitutions with some ingredients and methods. Plus, this has a great section on how to cook fish in a lot of ways. I haven’t really posted a lot of seafood recipes on THG, so the possibilities this book can bring really excites me. (Yes Virginia, I am a nerd).

Also this afternoon:

My dad did make this version of bagnet/crispy fried pork from merienda today. Let me just put it out there that we aren’t gluttons. We rarely have merienda and today just happened to be the day we did have merienda, and it was fried pork.

He boiled the pork cubes in water, flavored with vinegar, salt, pepper and seasoning granules. He did that on Monday. I read somewhere that the secret to crispy pig skin is to let it dry. Some hasten the process by using paper towels, but for us we just really forgot about the boiled meat (my fault) and there it was, sitting and drying for 2-3 days inside the fridge.

But crispy, the skin was. We might do this again just to prove that it wasn’t sheer dumb luck, and I’m excited about pairing it with tomatoes and mustasa/mustard greens drizzled with fish bagoong just so it’ll remind us of what we had at Via Mare.

No recipe today, but I’m juggling other ideas that involve non-recipe posts to expand my blog’s reach. If you’re out there, any suggestions? 😀