Lasang Pinoy 16: Pinoy Holiday Food Gifts

I haven't been able to join a Lasang Pinoy event for so long...and I miss it. It was one of the the first food blogging events I ever participated in, and the first I ever hosted. This month, I swore to myself, by hook or by crook, I am getting back on the Lasang Pinoy wagon. After all, this is a food blogging event highlighting Filipino food, something I think deserves to be highlighted and something I think more people (including myself) should be encouraged to explore.

This month's theme for Lasang Pinoy is Filipino holiday food gifts and is hosted by Ala Eh! "Wonderful!", I thought, when I heard. I could make my own Christmas gifts, just like I did last year. As crazy schedules and the Christmas hustle and bustle would have it however, I was relegated to buying gifts this year...not that that was such a bad thing as I discovered lots of cool products made by young local graphic designers which I was happy to gift my friends with. But, moving on...

I have been starting to make my own jam and, so far, have been quite pleased with the whole endeavor. But even then, I think I knew where I would end up...with the fruit that I think is the best in the world, a fruit that has been equated with the Philippines, the fruit that my grandmother (and now my father) has been jamming since I was a child. I would end up making mango jam.

I have waxed poetic about mangoes before, and I truly believe they are a little bit of edible heaven. It was only natural that my fixation with jam-making and my love for this fruit would eventually collide. And what a sublime collision it was! After hurriedly conferring with my dad on the proportions, I set to work. I scooped out the meat of the mangoes with a spoon and came up with 570 grams of meat. To this I added 470 grams of sugar. My grandmother uses equal parts mango and sugar, but our mangoes are just so wonderfully sweet I decided that we could do with less of the sugar. I put the this in a heavy-bottomed pot and cooked it for about 45 minutes, stirring frequently.

The result was delicious, and, I think, my best jam attempt so far (ok, it's only my third...but best is best!). It was simply divine! Mango jam is a whole other level of jam for me...almost like a very decadent candy. And it's great with so many things! On toast with melted gruyere, in dressing, with yogurt, in pan de sal with fried kesong puti (local fresh white cheese)...I'm sure you could even do wonders with this in relishes and marinades. And, in fitting with this month's theme for Lasang Pinoy, they would make excellent presents. Just festoon the jars with ribbons, and any odd knick knacks, and you have a little bottle of sweet tropical life to give to the people you love.

This may have come too late for this years round of gift giving, but I guess everyone now knows what they're getting next year!

I hope everyone is experiencing a holiday season full of love and laughter! I wish you all the best...may life hold many sweet surprises for us all! :)

Food Blogger's Welcome Dinner

If I could have all the food bloggers over for dinner, what would I serve? A daunting question. For even if I have never met a nicer bunch of people, to cook for a group for whom food is an all consuming passion is, well, a prospect that is liable to keep me up for a couple of nights…recipes and scenarios running through my head like mad chickens.

That being said, I would also be beside myself with excitement at the thought of meeting all these terrific people who I have shared this corner of the blog-o-shere with. We have exchanged recipes, cyber-laughs, and virtual-hugs, and I must say at this point: Food bloggers rock! A more enthusiastic and supportive community I would be hard pressed to find. So, despite quaking in my heels, I will roll up my sleeves, batten down the hatches, and fix up a Food Bloggers Welcome Dinner…a project put together by one of the sweetest bloggers out there, Angelika of The Flying Apple.

(Cyber-laughs? Virtual hugs? Enthusiastic, supportive, a food blogger that rocks? Angelika is a prime example!)

I though long and hard about what I would serve. I am by no means an accomplished cook. Nor have I a lifetime history of growing up in the kitchen, cooking at my mother’s elbow. As such, my repertoire is neither expansive nor impressive. And although I would be sorely tempted to try some new and magnificent sounding recipes, I think we would all be better off with the tried and true. Simple fare, but dishes I would be confident enough to serve to a group of discerning bloggers.

To start:
- Marinated Olives: I marinate my own because the ones they sell here that are any good are also ridiculously expensive.
- Quezo Manchego and Idiazabal: Two of my favorite cheeses, especially Idiazabal!
- A variety of cold meats like jamon jabugo, chorizo Pamplona, vela de lomo, and salchichon iberico: My aunt imports a selection of Spanish products here so I have a steady supply :)

Mixed greens with tiny cherry tomatoes still on the vine, topped with local goat’s cheese, with a balsamic vinaigrette – I love these tiny tomatoes that I found in the market! And with beans as part of the main event I wanted something very light.

- Roast Chicken with herbs de provence, stuffed with lemon and garlic: Has never failed me yet!
- Roasted new potatoes: Tossed in olive oil, sea salt, and rosemary, and roasted with the chicken.

- Fabada: My specialty :) A humble bean stew but so satisfying! I make it with chorizo bilbao, Morcilla, and thick slabs of bacon. I also make the stock myself (with the bone of a jamon serrano if I can find it) really makes a difference. For a little kick I toss in some mild green chilis (sili pangsigang). It's not very photogenic...

- Baguette with garlic paste: Baguettes from my aunts who run and professional bread making business and whole garlic that has been roasted with the chicken. I usually press all the garlic out, mash in a bowl, then drizzle with some good olive oil.

Gâteau au chocolat fondant de Nathalie: I have made this before and it is always well received. It’s one of those almost flourless chocolate cakes that is rich and dark and packs quite a chocolate punch.

Coffee or tea: I love coffee and I love my coffee cups of white porcelain with pewter handles. So we can cup these in our hands and wind down and chat about anything and everything...

You would all be invited...Hope you enjoy this! Thanks Angelika for thinking up of such a fun project (even though I am so very late) and for being the sunny person that you are! :)

Olive Oil Bread

I have made bread before, and was so smitten at the process (reflective kneading of soft dough, dough mysteriously growing to twice its size, the unbelievably wonderful smell as it bakes) and the results (something I had at one time only purchased in stores magically coming out of my oven, the kitchen smelling like a bakery, and, of course, eating warm, delicious, freshly baked bread), that I told myself why buy bread ever again? Well, I did discover the answer to that question -- between work life and personal life, sometimes there is little time left over for bread life. Which is not to say that one can't have a bread life at all...just that at some points in your bread life, you will have to replenish at the store...

But, moving on, this post is not about store bought bread, it's about olive oil bread. Home baked olive oil bread to be exact. I was back in the bread baking saddle again! This particular recipe comes from Tessa Kiros' enchanting book Falling Cloudberries.

an aside: I love this book...Tessa Kiros is a lyrical writer and weaves a delightful web of memories around the recipes she shares. It is perfect for dreamers like me, whose cooking and baking is really more aspirational than professional. Also, it has recipes from her life in Finland and Greece, two places that have touched my own life (as well as stomach) greatly.

I had to change the recipe a bit simply because I had no fresh yeast, nor oven roasted tomatoes. Also, I decided to bake the bread in a loaf pan instead of in 2 smaller baguettes (mainly so I could make sandwiches).

Olive Oil Bread
(adapted from Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros)
  • 1 packet instant yeast
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 400 grams flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- In a large bowl mix together the yeast, olive oil, sugar, and 1 cup tepid water. Leave for about 15 minutes, until it starts looking frothy.
- Add the flour and the salt and mix with your hands or a wooden spoon until it comes together, then turn out onto a floured wooden board or work surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until firm, smooth, and elastic.
- Place the dough back in the bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave in a warm, draft-free spot for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until it has doubled in size.
- Punch down on the dough and give it 1-2 scant kneads, form into a loaf, and place in a loaf tin that has been oiled slightly (it is at this point, after punching down, that the original recipe mixes through the oven roasted tomatoes and divides into can also use other ingredients you think would be good). Cover once more with a tea towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes.
- Pre heat your oven to 220C (425F)
- Remove tea towel and bake loaf for about 20 minutes (bottom of loaf should sound hollow when you knock on it).
- Cool slightly before slicing.

The bread was good, especially fresh (it did make for a great toast as well). It was soft, with a nice tang, although the olive oil flavor was not as pronounced as I would have liked. And because I decided to make a loaf out of it, it did not take on the rustic appearance I would think an "olive oil bread" should have. I will try making a more free form loaf out of it next time, instead of sticking it in the tin...and I will definitely try adding those oven roasted tomatoes! (I may also try that intriguing "no knead bread" that has been making the rounds...)

note: this is the bread you see sliced in my post on mangosteen jam...

Mangosteen Jam

What is it about jam that has charmed me so? It’s a relatively simple thing. It’s not a Plaisir Sucré, a fabulous dessert by Pierre Hermé requiring many steps and much attention. It’s not a soufflé that calls for skill and confidence. It’s jam. Simple. Sweet. Sticky. Sensational.

Have you ever experienced a moment so perfect you wanted to bottle it up and keep it forever? That, for me, is what jam is to fruits (and even some vegetables!). The perfect snapshot of a seasonal treasure. A way of taking what would have otherwise lost its luster in a week sitting at you countertop, and turning it into a jewel that remains brilliant for months to come. That’s magic. That’s jam.

I have only made jam once before. We have no winter here that requires canning and preserving, so the process was not something I really experienced when I was growing up (except for my grandmother’s & dad's mango jam...which is amazing and will warrant a separate post someday). After my first brush with jam-making however, I was eager to try it again. I browsed through cookbooks and blogs, finding a lot of scrumptious sounding entries on jams of every kind of berry imaginable. Unfortunately, every kind of berry imaginable does not really grow on my shores. As luck would have it though, a blogging moment of gastronomic serendipity led me to a marvelous post from Marketman about his successful attempts at mangosteen jam.

Mmmm…mangosteen. Delicious and tropical, and what’s better, available! Mangosteen is right up there with mangoes in my list of favorite fruits. Their flavor is fantastic! It is described best here and here. Why do I keep looking across oceans for fruits to jam when we have so many gorgeous specimens here? Hmmm…must be something to do with that grass being greener myth...

In any case, I finally attempted it, soon after I saw Marketman’s post, and this is the result. I bought 2 kilos of mangosteens which yielded about 480 grams of fruit. I let this steep for two hours with the same amount of sugar. When the mix turned all liquid-y, I poured it into a heavy bottomed pot and cooked it on medium low, stirring quite often. I cooked it for 60 minutes exactly and what was left filled 2 jars. The texture was perfect. I used the plate-in-freezer test which I think works well and is actually quite fun in my opinion. The color though, as you can see, was a very light blush compared to Marketman’s brilliant burgundy (and compared to the mangosteen jams on the market). I will try cooking it longer next time, although I don’t want to sacrifice any of the texture. Suggestions are welcome! The taste was oh-so-very good and I happily stuck my fingers in the empty pot once it was cool and did a pretty good “pre-clean” ;)

Marketman and his readers have already thought up of great ways to use it, and I am happily taking notes. But for now I can say, on toast with a good strong cheese it is sublime.