Tinapa, Tomato and Truffle Linguine

I know, I know, sue me for fading into relative obscurity every now and then. It hasn’t been easy, you know, lounging and purging myself of all worldly pleasures before I dive into my internship. Yes, that was the plan – give myself a month to addle around, before all focus shifts to making sure that I survive this career. (Which reminds me! A year ago today, I wrote this, and it has made all the difference. I’m amazed)

But apparently the universe has its own time-table, and a string of events made my vacation drag on a longer than I intended it to be. Jad happened, among other things. You might be wondering how I’m holding up. It’s been more than a month now. It still hurts, my friends and I are still reeling from what happened. But we find ways to move along, which, I think, is vastly different from moving on. Life waits for no one.

So, I’m in a celebratory mood right now. For almost a year now I’ve been religiously going to the gym, and it has paid off. When I started I was at 21% body fat, a little over the normal for me. Then it went down to 17%, and just this morning after a session with my trainer I’m at 14%!

I’ve always struggled with my weight. I didn’t feel good and I didn’t like how I looked. Things got better in college, but it was still a battle of fluctuations.

It was only last year that I decided to hit the gym and keep the weight off. That was the initial goal, but it eventually evolved from a mission of pure vanity to simply self-improvement. It’s about feeling good by feeling strong, surpassing old goals and creating new ones and always challenging yourself. That mindset isn’t too farfetched, and is actually pretty helpful considering the industry I want to dive right into.

And I choose to celebrate this little victory by making really good pasta. Yes. Yes. Yes.
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It has all the good stuff: linguine, shiitake and button mushrooms, olive oil, garlic and onions, dried tomatoes, a little bit of pesto, smoked tinapa/milkfish. For absolutely good measure, a nice little glug of truffle oil.

I had that for lunch and it was a tasty little thing. What you have before you is not much, and that’s because I ate most of it already. I was too eager to dig right in.
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Tinapa, Tomato and Truffle Linguine

serves 2

  • 80 – 90 grams linguine
  • 1 piece smoked fish/tinapa, flaked
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup button mushrooms, sliced
  • ¼ cup sundried tomatoes (sold in a jar with oil)
  • 2 tablespoons of oil from the bottled sundried tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon pesto
  • half a garlic bulb, peeled and minced
  • 1 red onion, peeled and sliced
  • olive oil, as needed

In a medium sized pot, boil pasta in salty water according to package instructions, reserve around 1/8 cup of the starchy water.

In the same pot, add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pot. Add the oil from the tomatoes. When it’s hot enough, add the garlic and onions and saute until fragrant. Add the tinapa, tomatoes and pesto. Season according to taste. Mix well and add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are tender. Add the pasta water and the pasta. Mix everything together and transfer to a plate. Drizzle with parmesan cheese and truffle oil. Serve and enjoy!

Mushroom and Ricotta Breakfast Slider


Yesterday, I did something out of character: I actually did hardcore grocery shopping. By hardcore I mean I had a list of things to buy, an even longer imaginary list of things to cook, and the palpable desire to just cook at home.

The sad, peculiar truth of my 2012 was that most of the time I only cooked when I was in school, and then resorted to various fast food takeaway when I got home. At the back of my head I thought about convenience, and….yeah, that’s about it.

Over the holidays I developed a few cravings that haven’t been curbed yet. I’d consider that a good thing because now I can say that I have the gumption to cook. I feel inspired not to resort to Chowking delivery, my default go-to website when the hunger creeps in. (Don’t worry Chowking I still love y’all)

Essentially one of my favorite meals as of the moment is the sandwich. My dad loves sandwiches more than he loves rice. When I was home for the holidays, he would toast a few slices of loaf bread, cook scrambled eggs and sear the ham I made and eat everything for dinner. When I got back from vacation, more than once I found myself thinking of eating a sandwich for dinner. I thought about what I would put together, what flavor combinations would work, and if a splash of maple syrup would make any multi-decker even better.


Warm bread that’s crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside, crisp salad greens, sautéed fresh mushrooms and ricotta cheese. This combination has been rolling in the fields of my imagination for a few days now. This was the first of many excuses I told myself why I desperately needed to go to the grocery. I just had to have it for breakfast today and I did. I can’t believe breakfast got me this excited to wake up. It’s uncanny because it’s really not me. Brunch is usually the first meal of my day for as long as I can remember.

Maybe that’s a good thing – how I’m developing new habits. I don’t know how long I can sustain this feeling but if it would get me back on a revitalized track to eating healthier, blogging and cooking more…then by all means, lez do thiz.

Mushroom and Ricotta Sliders (serves 1 – 2)

  • 2 – 3 small pieces pan de sal, sliced in half
  • salad greens, washed, enough to fit in one layer on the bread
  • 3 – 4 pieces mushrooms (I used fresh button and shiitake), sliced
  • ricotta cheese, as needed

In a pan, add 1 tablespoon canola oil over high heat. When the oil is hot enough, add the sliced mushrooms and saute for around 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside.

To assemble: place the salad greens on top of the sliced bread, then the mushrooms and top with the ricotta. Top with the other half of the bread to make 2 – 3 sandwiches or make open faced sliders so you can have 4 – 6 pieces.

Chicken Roulade

I’ve been home for a few days now, and by home I mean this little dusty town of Zamboanga, far far away from the chaos of Manila. Being home for the holidays makes me all giddy because I have more than a few plans for Christmas dinner and all the lunches, dinners and meriendas leading up to it. This will probably be my longest holiday ever (3 weeks), and God knows if and when I get to come home next year so every moment has to count.

I brought home a few cookbooks with me, and because of that I had to dole out more than a thousand pesos at the airport because my baggage exceeded their weight limit. Lesson learned. But to have them with me during the holidays means I get to soak up as much inspiration as I can. I’m currently leafing through Saveur’s compendium of The New Comfort Food and already I’m listing down the things I can cook. Larousse On Pastry would be my go-to for desserts, and I can’t stress enough how important it is for me to make a decent cheesecake this year.

Memories of Philippine Kitchens, the one by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan (owners of Purple Yam in New York) would have to be my favorite simply because I was there when they launched the revised edition at Powerbooks, and I got to have my copy signed. That was an awesome moment. And already I’m thinking of their recipe for ube/purple yam tarts.

Before I’m knee-deep in cookbook recipes, for Sunday lunch I felt that there was a nagging need to replicate something that my chef instructor demonstrated in school. Chicken roulade sounds and looks fancy but it’s actually very simple to make. It’s just rolled up chicken breast y’all!

I’ve always preferred dark thigh meat over white meat because the latter can get really tough when not cooked properly. The only real way to have juicy chicken breast is to cook it just enough and when it’s cooked just right, it’s really good. I could have gone the extra mile by making sauce from scratch, but there were people to feed and like me, they get really cranky when they’re hungry. And true to form, it was a great lunch.

Chicken Roulade (serves 2 – 3)

  • 4 chicken breast fillets, butterflied (click here for a tutorial)
  • bacon strips
  • a few pieces of basil
  • 1 medium-sized white onion, chopped
  • half a bulb of garlic, minced
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 284ml can cream of mushroom
  • 3/4 – 1 cup water
  • mushrooms of your choice, sliced (I only had canned button so I went with that)
  • salt, pepper and thyme
  • parsley, chopped for garnish
  • kitchen twine (or if you don’t have one, you can use toothpicks)
    1. On your work surface, season the butterflied breasts with a little salt and pepper.
    2. Then add a single horizontal layer of bacon strips to cover the breast. Top it with a few basil leaves.Photobucket
    3. Carefully roll the fillets starting from one side going to the other (essentially, left to right). Secure it by tying twine near the ends. Season the rolled fillets with salt, pepper and thyme.Photobucket
    4. Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of your pan. Make sure the oil is very hot before you add the chicken. Carefully add the chicken, and allow to sear. When one side is already golden brown, sear the other side. At this point, you don’t want to cook the chicken through and through, you just need a beautiful sear.
    5. When the chicken has been browned enough, remove from pan. In the same pan, add the onions and the garlic and saute.
    6. Add the flour and stir everything together until you create a light roux (mixture of flour and fat). Cook for about a minute over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
    7. Add the cream of mushroom and the water. Stir everything together. Bring to a boil and let it simmer. Adjust the taste to your preference. Add the mushrooms and the chicken.
    8. Cook for about  5 -6  minutes until sauce has reduced slightly. Remove from heat, garnish with parsley and serve with rice or mashed potatoes. Enjoy!

Five Spice Chinese Pork Stew

No, this isn’t adobo.

It’s Chinese pork stew. And it’s slightly different from adobo in that it’s not cooked with soy sauce and vinegar per se. The stew has soy sauce but it has stock/water as well (it’s a stew afterall). The ratio of the stock to soy sauce is around 2:1.

I was compelled, after eating canned chinese pork stew time and time again, to replicate the recipe and make it less…oily. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy eating the stuff. I like how the stew has just the right amount of saltiness in it and the pork is extremely tender. But the last time I ate it, I was left scarred, bloated and extremely unhappy with myself. The Narcissus brand in particular was extremely oily, and I was unlucky enough to taste it. It was so fatty and oily that I could not taste the stew because there was so much visible oil. The meat was completely immersed in oil but because I was hungry and I needed to satiate my cravings, well, I yielded to sin. The Gulong brand is better, albeit still fatty, but more stew-y.

This is actually my second attempt to make this. I was inspired to make it again because I wanted to remind myself of the smell of Hong Kong hole-in-the-wall eateries – which oozed with the aroma of Five Spice powder. It has a strong cinnamon-y attribute to it, but when you add it to food in gentle amounts, a little goes a long way. This stew is amazing, hearty and lightyears away from the canned kind.

And this is embarrassing but what the hell….if somebody can tell me what paikut is in English (and no, it isn’t spareribs), please enlighten me. The cut is a vertical strip of pork with fat on top and a great marbling of the meat. The bone runs along one side of the meat.

Five Spice Chinese Pork Stew (serves 6 – 8 )

1 & 1/2 kilo pork paikut, sliced into cubes – sorry I don’t know what the cut is called in English

for boiling the pork

  • water enough to cover the pork by 1/2 inch more
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
  • 1/2 tbsp cracked pepper
  • 1 tbsp iodized salt
  • 3-5 bay leaves
  • 2-4 celery stalks

For the stew

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 head of garlic, minced
  • 2 medium-sized shallots/sibuyas na pula, sliced
  • 1 large white onion, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup light soy sauce
  • 3 cups pork stock (the water used for boiling the pork)
  • 1 ginger, two inches in length, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1/2 tbsp anise seed
  • 1 /2 tbsp cracked pepper
  • 1 198gram can whole mushrooms, sliced in half (it’s chunkier that way)
  1. In a large pot, add the pork with the rest of the ingredients for boiling. Add water, enough the cover by pork by 1/2 inch.
  2. Boil on medium heat until the pork is fork tender. Once done, remove the pork from the pot.
  3. Reserve the stock and run it through a fine sieve to strain the impurities.
  4. In a wok or large pan, heat the oil and add the garlic. Allow to toast but be careful not to burn it.
  5. Add the shallots and the white onion and saute until it sweats and goes slightly limp. Add the ginger and fry until very fragrant. Remove around 1/4 of the onion and ginger and reserve for garnish.
  6. Add the pork and mix everything well until the pork is lightly toasted, around 2-3 minutes. Add the pork stock, followed the the soy sauce.
  7. Add in the remaining ingredients and mix well. Cover the pot and allow the stew to reduce for 2 – 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another minute. Remove from pan and serve hot, garnished with the sauteed onions and ginger, and with a heaping scoop of rice. Enjoy!

And this is the part where my cousin grabbed his plate of rice because he was hungry and it’s time to eat. He really didn’t appreciate me using his rice as a prop.

Better luck next time, Risotto

I made Risotto for lunch today. And well, the most important lesson I learned, in the most zen-like manner, is to respect rice. Rice, without a rice cooker, is temperamental and aside from skill, patience is key. I mean, who likes to bite into rice that’s soggy and crispy at the same time?

That happened to me today, but I’m not really complaining. I liked it somehow since I got over the texture of semi-uncooked rice early. I managed to eventually rehabilitate it for dinner, though. Taste-wise, I liked it so much. It was hearty, rustic and meaty. It smelled great too thanks to the rosemary.

It’s around 10pm here and I’m pretty sleepy to post my recipe. But the point is, instead of simply putting mushrooms, I went all out and added pork, chicken and chorizo like I was hell bent on changing its nationality to paella sans the color. I got this recipe from Yummy.ph, and rest assured I’m not over this feat.  I just need to practice how to make risotto tender but not mushy, cooked al dente with just the recommended amount of stock.

Risotto, we’ll meet each other again, sooner rather than later. Bwahahaha. Hopefully you’ll look better next time.