Peach Marmalade and Tomato Braised Pork Steaks

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Weekends are golden days for me. As soon as Friday creeps in, that feeling of having a few uninterrupted hours to catch up on all things mundane excites me. I think you might know by now that I’m a geek who loves children’s fiction, and I’m currently halfway done with The Mark of Athena. Usually I can devour a book in a day, but I choose to savor the third installment since the next one will be out in the fall of 2013.

This weekend was a good one for me. After a long while, this blog’s pulse has been racing again, with a few updates on my life as a would-be glorified cook, the new header image and I think I boldly declared that I’d be posting a recipe soon. I couldn’t post a recipe without actually cooking something, and cook I did.
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My routine doesn’t involve a lot of cooking at home. The horror, I know. Sometimes I’m just not in the mood to cook something for my survival – and because the place where I live doesn’t run out of places to eat (thank you, my friendly neighborhood ihawan/barbecue place), I find it pretty convenient that my needs are satisfied.

It’s funny that it took making a proper home-cooked meal to realize just how I missed myself. By “myself”, I mean the food blogger. And not just the blogger who writes about what he ate, but the blogger who writes about and shares what he cooked. The latter has always been who The Hungry Giant is.
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This is a simple recipe that involves only a few ingredients. I needed to practice my tourne abilities, hence the shaped carrots and chayote. They were simply steamed while the rice was cooking, using the steaming basket that comes with almost every rice cooker.

I wanted something other than the usual adobo (not that there’s anything to hate about adobo), and the idea of braising something in a thick tangy tomato sauce made me not miss adobo that much. And thanks to that trip to the Pancake House, where I had peach waffles, I asked myself why it took me this long to appreciate the sweetening power of anything made with peaches. A few heaping tablespoons made all the difference.

Not all weekends are like the one I had recently, but at least I milked it for what it’s worth.
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Tomato and Peach Braised Pork Steaks with Steamed Vegetables (serves 3 – 4)

  • 1 carrot, tourneed (or just slice it like you would thick fries)
  • 1 small chayote, tourneed (or just slice it like you would thick fries)
  • 1 -2 tablespoons butter
  • half a bulb of garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 6 pieces pork steaks (choose a cut with good marbling; this is roughly a kilo)
  • one 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup water/stock
  • 5 – 6 heaping tablespoons peach marmalade
  • 1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  1. As you cook the rice in the rice cooker, place the vegetables in foil or in a bowl with the butter. Season with salt and pepper. Place it in the steaming basket and place it over the rice to steam. Once the vegetables are cooked (not too soft that it becomes mushy), remove.
  2. Pat-dry the pork and season it pork with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. In a pan, heat a little bit of oil over medium heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook until aromatic. Remove from pan. Turn up the heat to high. Add around a tablespoon of oil.
  4. Sear the pork steaks on both sides, until they start to brown. Remove from pan.
  5. Add the tomatoes (together with the liquid in the can), marmalade, garlic, onions and water.
  6. Place pork back into the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the pork is tender and the sauce has reduced. If the pork is still not cooked through and the sauce dries up, add more water. Season to taste with salt, pepper and the cayenne.
  7. Serve with rice. Enjoy!
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Pork Estofado

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A few months ago, I saw a familiar post being featured on WordPress.com’s Freshly Pressed. It’s a homepage fixture where the people at wordpress choose the best posts from their 400 thousand-strong bloggers who churn out new material, and feature it. The post belonged to a blog friend of mine, Julie, of Willowbird Baking. She’s the one who shared the recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes, and it has long since been a hit with my friends who would kill (not really, but you get the idea) to have it as a birthday present. As to what post was featured, I’ve already forgotten, but I really remember thinking to myself with a slight jab of envy, “When will I be worthy of being freshly pressed”?

Apparently, the answer came 4 days ago.

I woke up to almost a hundred new emails, all of which were either comments on my post about Crispy Pork Belly, or subscription notices. I was dumbfounded at first, then sifting through the comments, some of which were congratulatory, I finally found the confirmation email.
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In just eight months of blogging, out of 471,983 bloggers (as of Feb 29), my post has been freshly pressed. FRESHLY. PRESSED (!)

It was a big deal for me because my readership grew by leaps and bounds! (TO ALL MY NEW READERS, HI!!!). I couldn’t believe it. The response was extremely overwhelming. Just this morning I got a comment from somebody who successfully tried my crispy pork belly recipe. People were telling me how happy they were discovering me in my little corner of the web. I must have done something right. Humbling, really.
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It’s kind of ironic that I posted that under less than stellar circumstances. This new job that I have keeps me busy for almost half of the week. But the affirmation that I got from all of you who want more from The Hungry Giant, tells me that it will always be about quality over quantity. I’m so happy I found part of myself through food and blogging about food. The love for food is universal and it’s a privilege to be able to express my love in the way I do.

I’d like to believe it’s supposed to be unpretentious as well. I’m Filipino, and I never grew up eating and appreciating expensive dishes, plated like molten gold, studded with grass (I mean, herbs). From my corner of the woods, the best dishes would always be “lutong bahay”, literally, “cooked at home” – hearty and extremely rustic (meaning it ain’t really purdy) dishes using ingredients that are commonly found in a regular Filipino wet market.
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A classic dish that I love so much is “Estofado”. It sounds and reminds you of ‘stew’ right? Ok, maybe not. But it actually means ‘stewed’. And in our context, it’s stewed meat. The liquid would be tomato sauce, and the meat would be pork (AGAIN). Chopped potatoes, carrots, and sometimes bell peppers are also added to the mix. Everything is stewed until the meat becomes fork tender and the sauce thickens.

How is estofado different from its cousins ‘caldereta’ and ‘menudo’? All of these are tomato sauce based dishes. But from what I gather: Caldereta/Kaldereta is usually made from beef and chopped liver/liver spread as the sauce thickener, Menudo is usually made of cubed pork AND liver, sometimes raisins and hotdogs are added and Estofado doesn’t have the frills that other two have. Filipino families will have their own variations, so it’s no surprise that sometimes these overlap.
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Anyway, I love a good estofado that has a thick sauce, almost like gravy. It also doesn’t hurt that the meat has to be fork-tender. My Mama Eng (mom’s cousin who has lived with us since forever) makes a really great estofado. She doesn’t settle for shortcuts – everything has to cooked to perfection. She’s a patron of the slow food movement without even realizing it. That’s the kind of thinking that I had while I was making this estofado.

This is something special because of two things: 1. I marinated the pork for a while, which makes the meat more flavorful (even without the sauce) and 2. I added breadcrumbs so the sauce would be like gravy. I’m actually pretty proud of what I did. This estofado is so good I’m getting hungry right writing about it.

I know I say this a lot, but today I really mean it with every fiber of my being: this is comfort food at its finest.
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Pork Estofado (serves 6 – 8)

2 kg pork, balanced fat:meat ratio, preferably from the shoulder, cleaned and cut into 2 inch thick cubes

Marinade

  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • a dash or two of freshly cracked pepper

Sauce:

  • oil for frying
  • 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes (optional; I like mine with a subtle amount of heat)
  • three 200 gram packs tomato sauce
  • one 425 gram can whole or diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, or more if desired
  • 2 whole garlic bulbs, minced
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, cubed
  • 5 small potatoes, cubed
  • one 113 gram can pimentos, drained and roughly chopped (optional) OR 2 – 3 large red bell peppers, sliced into thin strips
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. Mix in the pork and leave for at least 30 minutes.Photobucket
  2. In a frying pan, heat enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the carrots and potatoes and fry until slightly brown and potatoes are tender. When done, remove from heat and set aside.Photobucket
  3. In a large pan or wok, heat oil and add the garlic and onions over medium heat. Fry until garlic is slightly toasted but not brown, and onions are slightly limp. Add the red pepper flakes.Photobucket
  4. Add the pork with the marinade. Mix everything together. Cover and allow to cook over medium heat for around 30 – 40 minutes or until pork is tender. If everything dries up too soon, add a few tablespoons of water.Photobucket
  5. When pork is cooked and tender, add the tomato sauce and tomatoes. Using your spatula or spoon, crush the tomatoes. Stir everything together. Add the potatoes, carrots and pimentos. Reduce heat to medium – low.Photobucket
  6. Add the breadcrumbs and stir to incorporate. Adjust taste by adding more salt and pepper. Adjust consistency by adding more breadcrumbs or water. Cover and cook for another 15 – 20 minutes with occasional stirring.Photobucket
  7. When done, remove from heat. Place it in a large bowl, garnish with more red pepper flakes and serve it with an even larger bowl of rice. Enjoy!

Pressure (Beef Caldereta)

Google “pressure cooker deaths” and you might read at least one incident where obviously, somebody died because of a pressure cooker.

Growing up, I’ve heard a lot of weird stories from my dad and grandfather, mostly about ghosts and pressure cookers (yeah). I can vividly remember my grandfather telling me a tragic story of a couple about to get married. The girl, dutiful and loving, was cooking a meal for her husband-to-be using her pressure cooker. But for some reason it exploded and the force was strong enough to send the pieces flying in all directions, and the girl was impaled. She died. The end. Yeah in retrospect this story sounds bizarre and twistedly funny.

Well, the point I’m trying to drive at, as you probably already guessed, is that kitchen appliances can be freakishly deadly in a Final Destination sort of way.

Paranoia aside, today I did use the pressure cooker and I didn’t die. Handling it was tricky because my dad treats it like a child ready to scream. To prevent any accidents, he turns off the heat and waits a few minutes to let the pressure ease out. Then he brings the whole thing to the sink and places it under running water. He slowly pulls the whistling nozzle (whatever it is) to further release the pressure. Once the nozzle doesn’t whistle anymore, it’s safe to open. It’s not exactly rocket science but we can categorize it together with the intricacies of dismantling explosives.

But whatever it took to calm the pressure cooker down, I got to make really really good Caldereta today.

Kaldereta/Caldereta, according to a packet of instant Caldereta mix (which I didn’t use!) is a dish of Spanish origin, derived from the Spanish word “caldero” which means cooking pot. This savory dish is prepared with one’s choice of beef, chicken or goat meat stewed in tomato sauce and selected spices.

I got this recipe from The Best of Food Magazine. It’s Food Magazine’s compilation cookbook of their favorite/best recipes. The Chicken Donburi and Siopao I made also came from Food Magazine. They don’t have a website, which is peculiar since they’ve been in circulation since 1995-1996. And they also have a digital version available for the ipad, but no website. Really really weird.

Their caldereta recipe calls for pork liver broiled and mashed. Liver, along with calamansi (Philippine lemon) are two food items I can’t really stomach. There was no way in hell I’m putting a kilo (!) of pork liver in the caldereta. So I just used canned liver spread. ( Right now there’s no use arguing my logic ok? That’s just how I roll )

The preparation is pretty straightforward: boil/pressure cook the meat and make the sauce then put the two together. That’s it. Amazing tender beef swimming in rich, thick tomato sauce.

Beef Caldereta (serves 8 – 10 )

  • 2 kilos stewing beef, cut into cubes
  • enough water to cover the meat in a pressure cooker
  • seven 85-gram cans of liver spread
  • 1 block (180 grams) processed cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (I used Italian style spaghetti sauce instead)
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 large red bell peppers, sliced lengthwise into thin strips
  • 1 cup pitted green olives
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 head of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 large white onions, sliced
  • 1 chorizo bilbao, sliced
  1. Put beef in a pressure cooker (or large casserole) and pour enough water to cover. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until beef is tender. When the meat is done, discard/remove the remaining water.
  2. Combine liver spread with cheese, tomato sauce, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, bell peppers and green olives. Stir until smooth. Set aside.
  3. In a large skillet, heat olive oil ans saute garlic, onions and chorizo bilbao. Stir in liver mixture and simmer for about 15 minutes or until mixture turns lighter in color.
  4. Pour liver mixture into beef in the casserole/pressure cooker and simmer for 15 minutes or until mixture thickens and beef is complete tender. You don’t need to pressure cook it. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Lazy Afternoons and Pasta

Today feels like the morning after that really sweet party and it’s back to reality for me. Don’t you hate that feeling? – Well if you actually understood what I just wrote. People who visited us over the weekend have finally left, and here I am alone at home after what seems to be my longest weekend in a while.

I have a pile of papers to check, a lesson to plan and other miscellaneous things I need to get done. And if you know me pretty well, I’m a procrastinator and I usually wait until the 11th hour to finish everything. Well, if you haven’t caught on yet, I’m a part time teacher in my alma mater, teaching English to wide eyed college students. I can’t believe that a few months ago, I was that college student who didn’t really give two cents to what the teacher’s blabbering about infront. Now that I’ve come full circle, I can totally relate to my students, so I don’t blame them if they’re sometimes(?) uninterested. But still, I’m enjoying the time given to me so I’m not complaining that much to have me consider quitting.

Where was I? Oh yeah, procrastination. Instead of me devoting the afternoon checking papers, here I am writing about my afternoon meal. Remember the sausages my mom brought home from Manila? Well, it turns out they’re pretty tasty when paired with pasta! Honestly my cooking range isn’t really that diverse. At the moment I’m limiting myself to the quick pasta, fried fish here and there. So I’m really dead set on widening my repertoire. But for this lazy afternoon, I’m pretty comfortable being…well, lazy. It’s still tasty pasta. Definitely a winner.

Ilocos Longanisa Pasta

serves 1 – 2

175 grams spaghetti, uncooked

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, sliced

7 pieces Ilocos longanisa, roughly 150 – 200 grams

200 grams tomato sauce

1/2 tbsp Basil

a dash of salt and pepper

Parmesan cheese

1. Heat water to a rolling boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions.

2. When the pasta is halfway done, heat a pan and add the oil. Add the garlic and lightly toast it. After a minute, add the onions and allow it to sweat and go limp.

3. Add the longanisa/sausage and cook until slightly brown and the fat renders nicely.

4. Add the basil, tomato sauce and season with a dash of salt and pepper.

5. Get a tablespoon of the starchy water and add the the meat

6. When the pasta is al dente, drain and add it to the meat sauce. Allow the sauce to coat the noodles well.

7. Remove from heat and add parmesan cheese. Mix well. Serve hot and enjoy!

And yes, while I was cooking and taking pictures of the dish, Junior Masterchef was on. Dang those kids are amazing.