A Hankering for Home–Arroz Caldo

We have had a spell of cold weather lately, which kinda sucks because it was already so warm! I always want a bit of home when I get the blues, so I made Arroz Caldo. It is basically the Filipino version of Congee, that much-beloved Chinese rice porrige. It is normally served during cold days, for breakfast, or when one is having a meh day.

It is quite easy to make, the only thing that you need to look out for is the kind of rice that you are using. Filipinos normally use a mixture of normal and sticky rice, but risotto rice or German Milchreis is also an acceptable variety.

First, finely mince three cloves of garlic and dice an onion finely. Chop about an inch’s length of ginger into matchsticks. In a large, deep casserole, sauté the onion and garlic in about four tablespoons of oil, then add half of the ginger and about three to four pieces of chicken in the pot and slightly brown them. When the chicken pieces are slightly brown, throw in a small amount of water (about fourth of a cup) into the pot and let the juices seep out of the chicken (this is a technique I picked up from Burnt Lumpia), about 10 minutes. Season the chicken with salt or fish sauce and soy sauce for some color and pepper, then wait another five minutes to let all the juices seep out because of the salt. Then I add enough water to fully submerge the chicken, and wait until the water comes to a boil. 

When the water starts boiling, add a cup or two of rice and the rest of the ginger and lower the heat. Cover the pot. Stir occasionally to check if the rice is done, about 30-40 minutes. Boil a little longer if it is too watery, or conversely, add more water if the porridge is too thick. Season with salt or fish sauce and pepper, and garnish with chopped chives, safflower, and a sliced hard-boiled egg. Sprinkle the porridge with a touch of calamansi (lemons and limes are acceptable substitutes) and more fish sauce, and you have the Filipino comfort food in a bowl!

And there are many different variations to this basic recipe. If you take out the chicken pieces from the stock before adding the rice, and omit the soy sauce and fish sauce, you are making lugaw, which is what we feed babies, the elderly, and the sick. Use pig or cow intestines instead of chicken, it’s called tripa, because of well…tripe. The local version of Blutwurst can also be used as a garnishing.

As for me, I prefer eating one-day old re-heated Arroz Caldo.

 

Bee Blues

The Garden has been discussing keeping bees, and I have expressed interest in becoming one of the garden’s beekeepers. One of our affiliated organizations, The Fuchsfarm, held an Open Day at their garden and let guests watch while they harvested the honey and filled them up in jars.

It was so interesting to find out how equipment and time-intensive beekeeping is, especially in the summer. Keeping bees are really like keeping pets!

bee1

So first, the beekeeper takes the honeycomb out of the wooden hive and sprays the bees away with a smoker. The cells are waxed shut by the bees when they are full, so, they won’t spill. They are then put in a bigger box, then taken inside.

With a small fine-toothed rake, pry off the wax covers on the cells on an easel that is propped over a tray.

bee2The combs are put into a steel drum, which has a crank that turns the frame that holds the wooden honeycombs. The centrifugal force flings the honey to the sides of the drum and drips down to the funneled bottom of the drum. The bottom of the drum has a tap, which is then flipped open and the honey trickles into a sieve-topped pail which catches the last bits of wax that is still in the honey.

bee3The pail itself has a tap at the bottom, and the honey is filled into glass jars that are sold on-site.

But of course, bee keeping is not without its risks. As I was taking off my protective gear in the shed, an unseen bee stung the palm of my hand! As they took out the stinger, I was given a homeompathic pellet to minimize the swelling, then another pressed a cold onion half-globe onto the swollen area.

A bit later I rubbed crushed Spitzwegerich on the area. It still smarts, but it feels much better now. I am still thinking if I should get into beekeeping, since I may not have the time to invest in it. But I would still like to try!

The Mouth is Willing, But The Stomach Is Weak

Photo by TQE

A side trip to Berlin for TQE’s belated 30th birthday party was one of the more satisfying and jam-packed 24- hour whirlwind trips I have ever taken in my lifetime.

I decided to ignore my body and my subconscious’ signal to SLOW DOWN (if a dream about being almost sucked into a tornado is a sign for someone to slow down, I don’t know what is) just for this one weekend and headed over to Berlin, where Adam and I finally went satisfy my years-long Ethiopian food munchies at Betje Ethiopia, which a former colleague of his recommended.

First of all, I would like to praise TQE’s unbelievable Panasonic Lumix camera (I think it is a GF 6?), which took still life photos with amazing picture quality in low-light conditions. Really, if I have ever envied one of Adam’s toys, it was this one.

So we had this great lentil soup as a starter, which tasted like munggo guisado without rice. We ate it with injira, the traditional unleavened bread that Ethiopians eat with everything.  And we downed it with tej, traditional honey wine. I got pleasantly buzzed but not drunk, and I know now after reading Cooked that fermented sweet things with an over 2% alcohol content does not occur in nature. But I digress.

I came to regret even ordering appetizers. For 22 euros, we shared a huge platter about a foot and a half across that had this massive injira pancake on it, dotted with several vegetarian and non-vegetarian dips. We tore that injira bit by bit with our smelly, greasy Ethiopian-food stained hands hands until we said i no mas! with half a plate of dips still left over. Seriously though, I would have eaten the whole thing, especially since I especially didn’t eat lunch in anticipation. However, since we didn’t reserve a table, we had to leave by 7:30, and miss the traditional Ethiopian coffee roasting ceremony the restaurant has at 8. Seriously, guys, if you want to eat here, reserve a table, and come with an empty stomach.

After hitting the Berlinale Film Festival for a movie and coming home to a fitful night’s sleep at around 1:30 am, I woke up to be fashionably late at Adam’s brunch party, which was held at a restaurant called 12 Apostel. You take the S-bahn to Savigny Platz, take the exit to Bleibtreu Strasse, and you’re right there.

If there is any German city that takes brunch to another level, it is Berlin. 12 Apostel is a growing Italian chain restaurant in Berlin, and for 18 euros, you have the brunch experience, bar none. They have bread. They have scrambled eggs. They have fruit, deviled eggs, bacon, and did I mention the panna cotta? And the crepe station? And the juice and water station? They really had everything, and an amazing cheese selection to boot. A warm drink, a glass of Prosecco, and the juice and water bar is included with the meal. Really, I just wanted to have one little bit… more, but sorry, I was so full. I even took a walk in between courses just to pace myself.

pannaI swear by the panna cotta. How they are able to mass-produce such an awesome panna cotta is beyond me. TQE credits Snooker in Berlin for the amazing restaurant find.

It was the perfect party. Great company, good food, what more can you ask for? Thank you Adam, for hosting such a great weekend!

 

Betje Ethiopia

Zietenstraße 8, 10783 Berlin

S-bahn and U-bahn Nollendorf Platz

030 2625933

 

12 Apostel

Bleibtreustraße 49
10623 Berlin Charlottenburg

Brunch only Sundays from 10 am-3 pm, 18 €

Raclette

What is there not to love about melted cheese? Melted cheese gives me warm, fuzzy feelings, makes everything tastes better, makes Everything! better. Like butter, my love affair with cheese, especially melted cheese will hopefully never die.

With this adoration in mind, I was quite pleased with this past holiday season, because it turned me on to Raclette BIG TIME. I was invited to a big, wooly holiday raclette pow-wow with friends, while the children buzzed around us. Everything about raclette screams to me as fancy-schmancy comfort food. Raclette is a Swiss specialty.  Basically, it’s a teppanyaki grill, but there is space under the heater to melt the cheese in these tiny pans, which you transfer on your plate to eat with bacon, cooked on top of the grill, boiled potatoes, and an assortment of veggies like corn, peas, carrots, and herbs. I was so in love with the idea of melted cheese on meat and vegetables, I just had to get one for myself.

Since New Year is the season of the Raclette, I bought a grill for 20 euros, which I hopefully will get to use soon!

Romancing the Onion

Seems nasty, but tastes good.

October is a pretty big deal around these parts. Not just because of Oktoberfest (which actually begins at the end of September), but because Weimar is invaded by thousands of people for the Zwiebelfest, or the onion festival. Yes, when it comes to celebrating food, Germans pick the strangest ones to celebrate.

Since Weimar is close to a village that has the onion as its traditional produce, it is clear why this became the focus of the local harvest festival.

garlandSo they have onion cake, onion home decor, crafts made of onions, onion garlands, onion decorated sunglasses, earrings, head bands…you name it. Strangely, onion rings haven’t caught on yet. Thankfully, the cold weather means that most of us have the sniffles, and the cold, damp air blots out the resulting human stink.

Assorted kitsch completely unrelated to onions are also sold. This year I got myself a bundle of oats to stick over my door (reminiscent of a Filipino tradition to sticking a bundle of rice stalks over the door to ensure prosperity), an onion garland to rid myself of vampires, and a rice paddle decorated with onions and dried flowers, because it looked pretty. And a bird house made by a juvenile delinquent as part of her arts and crafts program in her detention facility. Just like with their choice of foodstuffs to celebrate, the Germans really show a knack for (not really) naming products. “Knast Made!” (Prison Made!) seems to be in really poor taste.

Anyhoo, as with most small town festivals, the best thing to do is not to take everything seriously and have fun! And drink copious amounts of alcohol while at it.

Fiori di Zucca

So, as you know, my zucchini plant is in full bloom, and during my personal Italian night, I made Fiori di Zucca, or filled zucchini flowers, battered then deep-fried to a crisp.

Now, I first read about this dish in Eat, Pray, Love. (Yes, I will own up to reading that book and liking it. So there.) When I visited Rome for the first time in September last year in my own Eat, Pray, Love moment, I ordered fried artichokes and zucchini blossoms. I really liked it. It seemed simple enough to make.

anchovyMy kababayan Kuya Francis (my friend, not only from Facebook), who works as a chef, gave me a small jar of anchovies preserved in oil during my second visit last December.

So now that I was all set, I bought mozzarella cheese, fizzy water, and downloaded this recipe. Like their recommendation, I got firm mozzarella chesse. Mozzarella di Bufala, or Buffalo Mozarella, tends to have a creamy/milky interior. I didn’t want oil splatter, so I went for normal mozzarella.

Mixing the egg with fizzy water made the liquid very foamy, to the point that I asked myself is this normal? But it made the crust really crunchy.

As I said, really easy to make, and it is a great appetizer. Think of this as zucchini tempura. However, this has to be eaten quickly. I prepared seven flowers for myself, eating the last ones prepared first. Eating the first flowers at the end, I noticed that the crust had turned soggy. But it was the same taste of sweet, salty, and creamy all at once. I highly recommend this to anyone. Up next, make Fiori di Zucca with chili tinapa!

Adobong Pechay

With my new tatsoi harvest coming in, I could again indulge in one of my my favorite simple dishes, Adobong Pechay (tatsoi in Tagalog).

Adobo is something that’s specifically Filipino. It is a way of preserving meat dishes. The basic recipe is a marinade of garlic, soy sauce, and vinegar, though vegetable versions normally leave out the vinegar.

While this is normally made with 100 g of ground meat, it can also be made with tofu or salmon, which I did in this version.

The ingredients are: two tatsoi plants, an onion, a clove of garlic, 100 g minced meat, or cubed salmon or cubed tofu, about 10 ml soy sauce, and pepper.

Finely slice the onion garlic, then wash then slice the tatsoi in thick strips–they will shrink with cooking.The stems are edible and not tough at all, you can throw in everything. Fry the meat/tofu/salmon in a pan with a few tablespoons of oil, and fry them until it turns brown. Then saute the onion and garlic, and add the vegetables until the wilt a bit. Add the soy sauce and pepper. and you’re done!

I love eating this with steamed white rice. Enjoy!

Thüringer Bratwurst

Doesn’t look like much, does it? But it’s reaaallly good.

This blog sometimes documents my efforts to re-create Philippine/American cuisine in a foreign country.

I also sometimes think about what if I were back in the Philippines? What German dishes would I try to re-create? My answers to that question are a) Rotkraut, or stewed red cabbage, b) Klose, or potato dumplings, c) Braten, or pot roast, and the only one I haven’t made from scratch is d) Thüringer Bratwurst.

brat3Thüringer Bratwurst (although the literal translation is fried sausage, Bratwurst is actually grilled over hot coals) is a way of life in Thuringia. It is a geographically-protected product, so any bratwurst made outside of Thuringia would be Thuringian-style. It is normally eaten in a bun, smothered with tart mustard. Ketchup is fine, but purists will wrinkle their noses at the sight.

Thuringians literally eat that stuff up, especially in the summer, when everybody and their mom goes on a picnic outdoors. I estimate I eat one or two a week between May and September.

brat1There is a museum dedicated to the Bratwurst, and today we braved the cold (-4°C in the sun!) to go to the annual Thuringian Bratwurst festival. It is a hokey, small-town festival not unlike the fairs in the US, with the “Bratwurst King and Queen” opening the ceremonies. My friend Tanya was there as a chef with the “Friends of the Thüringer Bratwurst Club,” and she committed sacrilege by not putting casing over the Bratwurst, and adding plums soaked in Thuringian Aromatique bitter and bacon. Only a foreigner would be adventurous enough to toy with tradition, and it was surprisingly good! The sweet plum contrasted nicely with the salty bacon and smoke-flavored Bratwurst.

If there is one thing that is a must-eat here in Thuringia, it would be the Bratwurst.

Food Fight! Mont d’ Or vs. Ofenkäse

Allemande versus Frankrreich!

Now, you didn’t think that I bought bread from Backstube just for any old reason, did you?

Ever since Marketmanila turned me on to David Lebovitz, I’ve been following his blog to get ideas on what other foods that I have to try before leaving this earth.

A trip to the Swiss-French border last week, concentrated around Geneva, gave me an excuse to try out Mont d’ Or, an unpasturized raw milk cheese made near that area. David made a blog post about Mont d’ Or that piqued my curiosity. I was getting ready to hunt down fromageries in France for it, but all I needed to do was go down to the next Migros supermarket, which had the last seven boxes of this cheese in one of its refrigerated shelves. It was a bit pricey, € 6,99 for a wooden carton (I made sure the box was stapled and the cheese au lait cru, David, in case you are reading this. But that is wishful thinking).

Then I thought, why not try it side by side with German Ofenkäse? This is also basically fondue in a box. So off to the supermarket to get a wooden carton of Ofenkäse from Allgäu, and beat it to a friend’s house to share the goodies, eat a cheese dinner and make the comparison.

wine

Next to the Migros in Neydens in France is a wine store, and I was quite relieved that the young proprietor spoke English. I asked for a wine that went with the cheese, and recommended this bottle from Switzerland, since I am partial to sweet and fruity wines. Fendant only cost me € 11 a bottle, which is quite cheap for Swiss wine. I opened this bottle of wine and drank it with my friend while we prepared the cheese the same way, the way David described on his blog post.

After thinly slicing two cloves of garlic, and inserting a total of one clove in each cheese into slits cut into the top of both , I splashed a generous amount (half a cup) of wine into both cheeses. The Mont d’ Or was then wrapped in aluminum foil with the top exposed, while the Ofenkäse was left to bake as it was.

At the halfway mark (15 minutes), I took the Ofenkäse out of the oven and sliced the top to expose the cheese inside, according to package instructions. At thirty minutes we took both the cheeses out and I made several photographs.

cheese2

As one could see, the Ofenkäse on the right looked like melted cheese on pizza. The Mont d’ Or on the left looked untouched.

Then we set sliced bread and the cheeses onto the table and had it with a salad of carrots and apples with creme fraiche dressing and cornichons. The French would gasp in horror, I know. But I made sure to eat all of the sour foods at the end and wash each bite of cheese with water so as to not spoil my taste buds.

It kind of felt wrong to have such a decadent dinner on a Friday. I was supposed to abstain from meat because of Lent, but it doesn’t make sense to abstain from meat when these cheeses were just so fatty.

cheese3Mont d’ Or is delightfully French. My first bite smelled and tasted like a smelly armpit. It was fatty, gooey,  and funky. It left a fatty deposit on my palate and my lips, as if I ate a bowlful of Nilagang baka, a very fatty Filipino beef stew. However, I would like to also add my discovery that Mont d’ Or is not my favorite cheese, as I am more partial to pungent goat cheeses.  Not that Mont d’ Or is not good. Au contraire.

After sampling Ofenkäse then Mont d’ Or, in that sequence, my friend announced her regrets for not eating more of the Ofenkäse because “how can anybody go back to eating that stuff?”

At this point I had almost forgotten the German cheese and ate it. Yuck! It tasted like nothing! It seemed different to me in every bite. Where there was harmony in the fat and garlic taste of the Mont d’ Or, there was only dissonance in Ofenkäse. It tasted in turns like air, then strongly of garlic, then like processed cheese food, a factory-like, completely manufactured flavor.

I’m sorry to say that when it comes to cheeses, the French just K.O’d the Germans.

 

Chicken Nuggets

This low-calorie Chicken Nugget recipe is a favorite stand-by for chicken breast recipes. It is quick and easy to do, perfect for a quick dinner. I eat this UFC banana ketchup and rice :-).

The English translation of this recipe is: 

A pack (1 pound or 500 g) chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces

60 ml Buttermilk, or 60 ml milk thickened with a teaspoon of vinegar

Half a cup of crumbled cornflakes. I take a thick, food-grade ziploc plastic bag, fill it with cornflakes and beat the ever-loving shit out of it with a rolling pin.

1 and a half tablespoons of flour

Salt and pepper

A few drops of Tabasco sauce or a knifetip Sambal Olek

Some olive oil.

Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Wash the chicken, pat dry and cut into pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Mix the milk with the tabasco in a bowl. In a deep dish, mix the flour, cornflake crumbs, and more salt and pepper. Dip the chicken pieces in the milk mixture, then in the cornflakes mixture

Lay the chicken pieces on a lightly-greased baking sheet, about an inch apart. Place a drop of olive oil on each nugget and bake each side for 15 minutes each.

The chicken pieces retain their juices after baking, and are so flavorful, I haven’t used another chicken nugget recipe since finding this one a few years ago!