The joy of homemade mayonnaise

Sometimes I think I get too much sleep and even that isn’t enough. The bed is my refuge, my perfect excuse to just lounge around and do absolutely nothing productive. It’s gotten me into trouble loads of times – more than anything else, it goes perfectly well with my habit of procrastinating.

Coming home was perfect timing, according to my mom. I went home last Saturday and the day after was the start of the morning novena masses leading up to Christmas (misa de gallo). Waking up at 3:30 in the morning just so I can properly get ready at 4 is a challenge. We come home after the mass and I just plop myself on the bed and the next thing I know, it’s already lunch time. Ah, the life of a bum. I’ve been there, done that and got the shirt but maybe there’s a part of me that wants more shirts.

But I try, God knows I try to make breakfast count, whether it’s eggs en cocotte (eggs baked in singe serve ramekins), my default brekkie when I’m in the mood or toast with whatever spread is available. Coming home fresh from cooking school does have its perks – I find myself working faster, knowing and doing more. If only I can keep everything orderly and clean (close to impossible).
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There’s joy in being able to make things from scratch. Homemade mayonnaise just sounds so fancy, even if it isn’t. It’s labor intensive and since I have yet to try shortcuts, a lot of elbow grease and arm work is needed. At least it’s a semblance of working out. The key is to just keep whisking, keep whisking, keep whisking, while adding the oil little by little by little.

Mayonnaise is a mixture of two unmixable liquids, in this case oil and vinegar, and whisking creates that emulsion. So far I’ve been making it for two consecutive days now, and strange as it sounds, I actually like the arm work that goes into it. It just goes so well with ham, salad greens all over a single slice of toasted bread. It’s the open-faced sandwich of the season. Mom uses the mayonnaise in her salads and I’m thinking of making a spread out of it soon.
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Like I said, getting myself out of the bed can be a struggle, but if it means being able to revel in whatever finite satisfaction a good breakfast with the family holds, then it’s worth it. Making mayonnaise from scratch is also worth it.
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Mayonnaise

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon prepared dijon mustard
  • oil (around 1/2 – 1 cup, I prefer to put it in a squeeze bottle because it’s more convenient)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • honey, optional

In a bowl combine egg yolk, vinegar, mustard. While whisking vigorously, add the oil a little at a time. Repeat this process until the mixture begins to thicken and emulsify.Photobucket

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!

Egg Rings and Early Mornings

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Lately, I rarely get up early. My usual day would begin at around 8:30 am, and then there are 4-hour power interruptions here and there, I usually have brunch, I skip breakfast, I lie in bed all day, I cram work into one day, and I cram some more…
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But, when I do get to wake up at 6:00 am, breakfast becomes the most important meal of the day.
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This time I baked the egg rings instead of microwaving it. I’m precluding the possibility that the yolk might explode. Yes, it has happened before. Plus, it’s less stressful.

Time slows down and little moments (like having breakfast with people before they leave for work) becomes golden.
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Egg Rings

  • ramekins
  • 1 egg for each ramekin
  • 2 strips of bacon for each ramekin
  • a dash of salt and pepper
  • a dash of paprika
  1. Preheat oven to 180 C.
  2. Line the insides of the ramekins with the bacon strips
  3. Crack an egg in the middle of the ramekin
  4. Season with salt and pepper and paprika
  5. Bake for 15 minutes or until the center is set but still slightly wobbly. Ovens behave differently so if you want a runny center, check it at the 15-minute mark.

Nasi Goreng

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Quick disclaimer: although the title says Nasi Goreng, I’m not sure if what I made does qualify as Indonesian fried rice since I haven’t tasted the real thing yet – hence, there’s no benchmark. Note to self: eat nasi goreng when I’m in Indonesia. For it to be authentically Indonesian, ingredients have to be authentic as well. Case in point? This has pork in it. Despite all that, I can imagine that this is a close approximation.

But what’s interesting with this recipe is that I got to learn new things: belacan (Malaysia) or terasi (Indonesia), a common ingredient used to flavor the rice, is simply called bagoong here in the Philippines. So that’s one ingredient that didn’t give me hell. Next, most of the recipes I read online require the addition of ‘kecap manis’. Interesting fact: ‘kecap’ is pronounced as ‘ketchup’, and this is where the ketchup we know of today got its name from.
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Because we didn’t have kecap manis lying around, I decided to make my own. Once again, I have no idea what real kecap manis should taste like, but based on what dear old internet has given me, it’s sweetened soy sauce. How hard could that be?
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I’ve always been a sucker for good fried rice – hot and toasty with a light coating of oil. When it’s studded with other ingredients like egg, fried pork bits, peas, cabbages, carrots… (I could go on), it’s a complete meal in itself. On the other hand, there’s the simple, rustic fried rice whose only accompaniment are little bits and pieces of garlic and spring onions. This Nasi Goreng doesn’t go overboard with the toppings  (only pork and egg), but because of the flavor – intermingling sweet and salty tones, this can be a stand-alone meal.
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Nasi Goreng (serves 4 – 6; loosely adapted from Rasa Malaysia and this site for the kecap manis)

  • 7 cups day-old rice
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Half a garlic bulb, minced
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons shrimp paste/bagoong gata (a sweet-salty version of bagoong which is cooked with tomatoes and coconut milk)
  • 2 pieces pork shoulder or belly, sliced into small cubes (you can use chicken or shrimp)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon chili oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Cabbage (optional; I didn’t use this but looking back it would’ve been better if I did)
kecap manis:
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • A dash of five spice
  1. In a frying pan, over medium heat, add the eggs and cook to make an omelet. When set, using your spatula, shred the omelet into smaller bits. Set aside.
  2. In a bowl, using the back of a spoon or fork, break the rice that might have clumped together. Set aside.
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  3. In a wok/pan that is large enough to hold the rice, heat oils over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and fry until fragrant and lightly toasted.
  4. Add the bagoong and sauté for 1 minute. Add the pork. Sauté the pork for 1 minute. Add the water, cover and allow pork to cook. Stir occasionally to prevent it from burning.
  5. While the pork is cooking, make the “kecap manis”: in a small bowl, combine soy sauce, molasses and five spice.
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  6. When the water has evaporated, pork has become tender and fat renders, sauté and allow the pork to brown. Add the kecap manis, and chili oil.Photobucket
  7. Add the rice, and mix everything together to coat the rice with the ‘kecap manis’.  Stir the rice to allow it to fry some more, but take care not to burn the bottom.Photobucket
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  8. Add the shredded omelet and mix well. When done, remove from heat and serve warm. enjoy!
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And you ought to meet my new recipe notebook which doesn't like to stay open. Moleskine this isn't, but this'll have to do.

Cinnamon Rolls

Before I made my first cake I baked my first bread. Even before my first bread, I made my first bao/siopao. So I introduced myself to yeast early on in my life as a food blogger. The orthodox ladder of progression must have been lost in the mail.
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The first batch of cinnamon rolls I made a month or two ago, had the texture of day old bread. Suffice to say I was disappointed so that made me lay off making rolls for a while. So maybe starting haphazardly has its disadvantages.

After more than a week of silence (I went on a little trip) I finally went back to the kitchen and baked. I made the mistake of forgetting when the yeast sitting at the back of the fridge was going to expire, so over the next few days and weeks you will hopefully see me churning out yeast inspired magic. Tall order, I know.

I was skeptical at first. I didn’t know if the yeast would froth (the indicator that yeast is still viable). I knew the froth had to resemble copious amounts of beer foam, but the description said as long as the top bubbles, it’s still usable. And bubble it did.

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The original recipe called for cream cheese frosting, but I didn’t have any cream cheese on hand. But the first bite into these morsels managed to make me forget all about it. These didn’t taste like day-old bread at all (!).
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The verdict: it tastes like how I imagined a great cinnamon roll to taste like – a soft whisper of a crust, giving way to the warm, soft, pillow-y interior. The filling perfectly buttery, with just the right amount of cinnamon. It made perfect sense.
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You can add the cream cheese glaze, nuts and raisins, even apples to the filling, but these rolls stand alone perfectly. I’m not sure if it’s the monsoon season here in the Philippines but we have been having rain showers for days now. A batch of warm toasty cinnamon rolls with a cup of hot chocolate would be your best friend on a lazy, cold afternoon.
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Cinnamon Rolls (makes 12 – 13 rolls; adapted from yummy.ph)

For the dough

  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package OR 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the filling

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup butter, cubed and softened
  1. In the bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. (If you have an electric mixer, you can do this in its bowl). Leave for 5 minutes.
  2. Add sugar, butter, and eggs. Using a hand mixer fitted with the dough hook (or the electric mixer), run the mixer on low speed to stir the mixture.
  3. Gradually add flour and salt, and knead until mixture forms a smooth, elastic dough, about 20 to 30 minutes. I used the dough hook to “knead” it for a while, then placed it on a floured surface and knead it by hand. It took some time but patience is key.
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  4. Place dough in a greased bowl. Cover with cling wrap and leave in a warm place. Allow dough to rise until double in size; about 1 hour.
  5. Punch dough to release air then transfer to a work surface. Roll dough into a rectangle (24-inch – long, 16-inch-wide, about 1/4-inch-thick).

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    uhm, yeaaah, that looks about right. 😉

  6. Make the filling: Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and mix well.
  7. Using a spatula, spread softened butter evenly over the dough then sprinkle the surface with the cinnamon-sugar filling.PhotobucketPhotobucket
  8. Roll dough tightly into a log. With the seam side down, cut the dough into 2-inch slices. Place on a greased baking pan, or a pan lined with a silicone baking mat, 2 inches apart. Allow dough to rise until double in size, about 30 minutes.Photobucket
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  9. Bake the rolls in an oven preheated to 375 F/190 C for about 12 to 15 minutes or until golden. Place on a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm and enjoy!

Completely unrelated:

I came home from Manila with a handful of things to help me out in the kitchen: two nice cookbooks, a brand new silpat (which you can see in the pictures), useful kitchen utensils and, wait for it, placemats. I use these when I’m taking photographs of the food I make and it really helps. Scouring the discount aisles at The Landmark for placemats made me feel like a child again. (haha)

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The Stove

Ever since I tried bicol express cooked not just with chilies but with eggplant, many many years ago, I have become an eggplant convert. At first, the thought of eating something mushy, kind of like okra (so sue me for my poor descriptive skills), didn’t really appeal to me. But a lot has changed since the first time I tried and actually enjoyed eggplant.

Now, one of my all-time favorite comfort foods would have to be tortang talong or eggplant omelet. There’s something about biting into soft, slightly toasted, smoky eggplant meat that is an experience all on its own. I usually just use liquid seasoning to flavor it some more, but when Mama Eng is in the mood (and I encourage her), she makes a mean “pritong sawsawan” or fried dipping sauce. Toasted minced garlic, onions and a few pieces of sliced bird’s eye chili cooked in oil and soy sauce, paired with the omelet, is a winner.

Today I observed how she makes tortang talong and also helped out in the kitchen a bit, but I don’t have a recipe to share since I’d like to hone my eggplant omelet- making skills some more. I think I’ll let this post simmer a bit before I belt out my own recipe. For now, here’s something you standardized stove owning folks around the world don’t get to see everyday:

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Using this (I’m not really sure what to call it) traditional stove top (?) fueled by burning wood and dried coconut husks…she makes magic. This is also where we cook our paella, and it’s pretty much practical and economical to use.

Well, it’s probably more cumbersome than the regular stove, but it gets the job done.

 

Chicken Donburi

I have to be honest – when I was making this post I did my fair, shallow share of research so I won’t offend any sensibilities. But of course, to err is human (haha)

I’m not a hardcore fan of Japanese food. I’m not even familiar with most of what’s considered Japanese. I don’t like sushi but I do enjoy California maki. I can crave for Ebi tempura, but I stay away from katsudon. Well, the issue with pork katsudon is that it was my first real meal after I was operated so eating it brings back memories I’d rather not remember fondly. And don’t get me started on wasabi (!)

But despite that, I still tried to make my first Japanese dish for lunch – chicken donburi. Apparently Japanese fastfood. (And right now I’m walking on eggshells because my disclaimer says it all)

Reading about donburi, I think my first mistake was using a plate instead of a bowl. Donburi means bowl and it’s also the name of a dish consisting of boiled riced topped with meat, fish, eggs and/or vegetables and broth. That’s the general term and it’s further divided into whatever protein is being used – Oyakodon (chicken and egg), Katsudon (pork) etc. I’m not sure if I’m reading what a Jap food purist might write (and we can skirt around some technicalities), so maybe somebody can enlighten this poor soul.

But whatever the process, it was still great. Thighs are my favorite part of the chicken. Groceries don’t sell it deboned so I did it myself. Yeah, this dish is a labor of love in more ways than one. And I’d gladly make this again because it’s so easy.

Making this probably gave me more exp points (this is a joke; experience points = video games = japanese. get it? omg was I offensive?!) in Japanese food appreciation.

Plus Pokemon was my all-time favorite show so maybe that counts for something under the appreciation department. Uhm, don’t hit me.


Chicken Donburi (serves 4 – 6)

adapted from The Best of Food Magazine (2001)

  • 3 chicken thigh fillets
  • 3 drumsticks
  • 1 1/2 cup water/chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup light soy sauce if using chicken stock; 1 cup if using water
  • 1 cup mirin
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 1/4 carrot, chopped into really small pieces/cubes
  • 1 lemon grass stalk, sliced into 3 inch strips
  • 1 pack oyster mushrooms (I didn’t know how many grams it was so how many you put in is your call)
  • 4 eggs
  1. Combine water/stock, soy sauce, mirin and sugar in a saucepan. Stir to mix and bring to a boil.
  2. Stir in chicken, onion, carrot and lemongrass. Lower heat and simmer for eight to ten minutes or until the broth reduces.
  3. Add mushrooms.
  4. In a small bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Pour on top of simmering chicken.
  5. Cover until chicken is fully cooked and eggs are set
  6. Spoon cooked chicken, mushrooms, carrots over a bed of rice. Serve warm with its broth on the side and drizzled on top of the chicken. Enjoy!