In Which Pasta Gets Zesty…

Chorizo and Olive Fusilli

Chorizo and Olive Fusilli

Members of my family and a lot of my friends are crazy about pasta.  Spaghetti, fettucine, lasagne, even plain ol’ elbow macaroni – name it, they like it.  Of course, people are totally divided as to the sauces: one camp declaring that tomato is the way to go while another is hopelessly devoted to cream.  (And don’t get me started on the ones who declare that aglio olio - olive oil and garlic – is how God eats His pasta.)

Me, I try not to take sides with anyone.  Some meals call for a classic red sauce, others call for white, and, of course, there are days when only the simplicity of olive oil and fresh veg will do.  And sometimes, there are days when you just want an enormous bowl of pre-tossed pasta flecked with chunks of the good stuff: cheese, fresh veg, olives, capers, maybe cubes of a smoky, spicy sausage.  That’s where this bowl of chorizo and olive fusilli comes in.

Zesty and flavourful, it’s a one-dish meal that definitely rocks and is bound to be a family favourite – regardless of which side of the pasta debate you’re on.  Plus, it’s easy and feeds a crowd.  ;)

Chorizo and Olive Fusilli

  • 500 grams fusilli or rotelli, prepared according to packet instructions
  • 300mL tomato sauce
  • 1 chicken or vegetable bouillon cube
  • 1 chorizo de Bilbao or chistorra sausage, diced
  • 1 eggplant, peeled and diced
  • 1 red onion, chopped finely
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons black olives, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil and/or oregano, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or aged Edam cheese

Cook the pasta according to packet instructions.  Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water; set aside.

Heat a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat.  Pour in the oil.  Once the oil starts to bubble, add the onion and cook till softened.  Add the garlic and cook till slightly browned at the edges.  Add the bouillon cube and the herbs; cook till the bouillon has dissolved and the herbs have released their fragrance.  Add the sausage and eggplant and cook till the eggplant has softened slightly before adding the olives.  Pour in the tomato sauce and the reserved pasta water; stir well and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning.  Toss in the pasta and transfer to a serving dish; top with the cheese.  Serve immediately.

Serves 8.

In Which the Blogger Mixes Up a Riff on a Classic British Pub Drink…

I solemnly swear I am up to no good...again.

I solemnly swear I am up to no good…again.

Shandy - more formally known as shandygaff – is a drink that involves mixing beer with a non-alcoholic beverage such as lemonade or ginger ale.  The resulting beverage is equal parts sweet and bitter and is absolutely refreshing on warm days.

With the weather totally undecided in my neck of the woods – it gets quite hot at noon and the sunshine is relentless, but the winds blow cold soon as the sun sets – a sip of shandy is a welcome respite.  Fizzy, cool, bittersweet: it’s just the thing to help you relax at the end of a long day at work and hours spent stuck in traffic.

Incidentally, you can also make this with a much darker beer – say, a Cerveza Negra or even Guinness or a Newcastle Brown Ale.  If you’re taking that spin, use a carbonated lemonade or a lemon soda or, better yet, ginger ale.  Get Stanford and Shaw’s Old-fashioned Ginger Ale if you can; you need that gloriously bracing spiciness to stand up to the bitterness of the beer.

Down the hatch!

Down the hatch!

Shandygaff

  • 125ml beer (either a pale pilsen or even the new San Miguel Flavoured Beer; the lemon one is pretty ace)
  • 125ml still (non-carbonated) lemonade or lemon soda
  • ice
  • 2 slices lemon

Place the ice and lemon slices in a mug.  Simultaneously pour over the beer and the lemonade.  Serve immediately.

Serves 1.

 

In Which a Blueberry Tart Gets a Frozen Counterpart…

Fancy a pint?  ;)

Fancy a pint? ;)

Blueberry desserts have always held a certain level of appeal here in the Philippines with blueberry cheesecakes sharing the limelight with more conventional treats like chocolate cake as the dessert to have at the end of a meal.

Since I’ve been on an ice cream making kick of late, I decided to do a frozen dessert version of a blueberry cream pie over the weekend.  I am pleased to say that my experiment paid off.

This recipe gets its sweetness from condensed milk and a sweet-sharp tartness from blueberry preserves as well as a touch of blueberry yogurt.  The addition of lemon in the form of zest, flavouring (optional but it adds oomph), and an alcoholic element to keep ice crystals from forming is also key to the flavour balance.  Oh, and to approximate the crunchiness of pie crust, I threw in bashed graham crackers.

Easy-peasy and quite a treat, seeing how we’re in for hotter days as summer rears its ugly head…

Blueberry Pie Ice Cream

  • 375mL all-purpose cream
  • 250mL condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup blueberry or mixed berry yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon or blueberry-flavoured alcopop / vodka pop / beer
  • 1/2 cup graham crackers, coarsely bashed
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon flavouring (optional)
  • 1/2 cup blueberry pie filling or blueberry preserves

Whisk together the cream, condensed milk, yogurt, zest, flavouring (if using), half of the blueberry filling, and the alcohol.

Remove the softly-set mixture and scrape into a mixing bowl.  Whip vigorously (or, better yet, use an electric mixer at medium speed) until soft peaks form and the mixture has doubled in volume.  Fold through the remaining blueberry filling and the graham crackers.  Scrape into clear plastic tubs with covers.  Freeze for at least ten or a maximum of twelve hours.

Makes 2 pints.

In Which One Tries Her Hand at Nutella-stuffed Cupcakes…

Just pop the tins into the oven and you, dear reader, are good to go

Just pop the tins into the oven and you, dear reader, are good to go

Ever since I got a pair of madeleine tins a few years ago, I’ve enjoyed baking those darling little shell cakes.  There are many recipes for madeleines both online and in standard cookbooks, but my personal take on Maddies is to spoon standard-issue cake batter (flavour is totally up to you) into buttered tins, bake them for about eighteen to nineteen minutes – just to brown the edges, really – and that’s about it.  A fresh batch of two-bite cakes to go with your afternoon tea is ready, lickety-split.

Stored properly in the fridge or freezer, cake batter keeps for about a week or so – which is great because you have a ready batch of batter to bake up should a cake craving hit.  In my case, it was more than a little convenient to have some cinnamon butter cake batter left from a batch I used to bake a couple batches of cupcakes and a box of madeleines a while back.  Mainly because it gave me the opportunity to turn the batter into Nutella-filled muffins!

Cinnamon Nutella Cupcake, anyone?

Cinnamon Nutella Cupcake, anyone?

I got the notion from this recipe over at the blog Sally’s Baking Addiction for cinnamon-sugar-topped Nutella-filled muffins.  It sounded easy enough: glop in a tablespoon of cake batter into paper-lined muffin cases, top with a dollop – well, a bare teaspoon – of Nutella, top with another tablespoon of batter, et laissez les bon temps rouler.  Twenty minutes in, and you have rich, buttery cupcakes with an unctuous, chocolate-hazelnut interior.

I won’t put down the recipe for these here, as yet.  As shown in the picture above, they still need some work on an aesthetic level; but rest assured that these were delicious, delightful little mouthfuls.  Coffee is highly necessary here.

In Which the Blogger Discovers a Local Ginger Ale Brewery…

This one is for all the ginger-heads in the audience!

This one is for all the ginger-heads in the audience!

One reason why a lot of people find me rather unusual is the fact that I am dead-serious about my love of ginger ale.  Time and again, I have mentioned on this blog that this particular soda preference is actually the end-result of a college-era rebellion against the conventional and prevailing taste for Coke, Pepsi, or whichever soda pop was available at the cafeteria and the bookstore.  But, more than that, I love the stuff for the zingy flavour and the refreshing aroma it exudes.

Which brings us to the point that ginger ale is more expensive in the Philippines because it is so goddamned rare!  For a long time, the only ginger ale available was the artificially-flavoured mixer sold under the MixMate label.  Asia Brewery took a stab at the ginger ale market by putting out Roots several years ago – but, alas, that failed to gain critical ground.  (It was a pretty damned good ginger pop, though.)  That said, the only way one can get a ginger ale fix here in the PHL is to head over to specialty groceries like Healthy Options or the one over at the Union Jack Tavern.

Well, that is, up until recently.

A balanced fizziness, aromatically spicy

A balanced fizziness, aromatically spicy

Allow me to introduce your tastebuds to the ginger ale from the Stanford & Shaw Brewing Co., a dynamic brewing duo who – despite the name – are all-Filipino.  I chanced upon their micro-stall a couple weekends ago over at the Salcedo Saturday Market and was almost immediately hooked onto their brew by virtue of the rather snappy sample I tried.

This is old-school, home-brewed ginger ale: there is none of the overly saccharine sweetness one encounters in commercial ginger ale.  You pop the bottle open and your nostrils get a fragrant blast of spiciness: fresh, sharply gingery with a bare hint of lemon zest that hardly tempers the intensity of the aroma.

caveat for any ginger newbies trying this: this is a ginger ale with a hell of a lot of serious bite.  Fiery only begins to describe it: you can really taste the fresh ginger used in this one: that snarling bite that tickles tongue and palate yet goes down smoothly and soothingly down the throat.  Throw in the fact that this is slightly fermented, and you have something with a good kick, to boot.

Magnificent on its own when chilled, it would also be amazing as an ingredient for such British cocktails as shandygaff (pale pilsen or lager mixed in equal parts with ginger ale) or, a more whimsical spin on the elegant theme of a Black Velvet (dark beer – say, a porter or stout like Guinness – mixed with chilled sparkling white wine) by swapping Standford & Shaw ginger ale for champagne or prosecco.  Salut!

In Which Cleaning Out the Fridge Yields a Scrumptious Sandwich Stuffer…

Breakfast is sorted out...

Breakfast is sorted out…

A couple weeks ago, around the tail end of the Papal Visit, things at home got to the point that everyone was too plum-tuckered tired out to do any cooking.  That said, I went and got a box of fried chicken for dinner.  The next day, someone came home with a whole rotisserie chicken and my mother came in with a bucket of – guess what! – more fried chicken!

With all that fowl lying inside the fridge, it was pretty easy to get overwhelmed by the leftovers.  But, dear readers, you know how things are at our house: leftovers get upcycled into amazing meals.

Chicken, olives, capers, mayo, mustard...

Chicken, olives, capers, mayo, mustard…

The easiest way to deal with leftover cooked meats in the fridge is to turn them into an easy-peasy sandwich spread.  All you need is a bit of mayo, a spot of mustard, and a little bit of imaginative seasoning – and, presto!  Something you can slather between two – or more – slices of bread and consume with a sense of deep satisfaction.

This particular spread gets added savour from the addition of coarsely chopped black olives and a scattering of capers.  Zingy Dijon mustard adds a sharpness to the smooth, savoury creaminess of the mayonnaise and turns cold chicken from bland to bright in a heartbeat.

Chicken sandwiches on toasted brioche loaf are a treat

Chicken sandwiches on toasted brioche loaf are a treat

Just tuck this nifty little spread between slices of toasted soft loaf (well, that’s what it’s called at Cafe France, but I think the clinical term for it would be brioche loaf) or challah and you, dear reader, are in for a treat.  Plus, you’ll be able to free up some space in your fridge.  ;)

Zingy Chicken Spread

  • 1 cup coarsely shredded cooked and deboned chicken
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon or wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon black olives, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon capers, drained
  • salt, pepper, and smoked paprika to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.  Season to taste.  Use immediately, though if you’re planning to use this later on, transfer the mixture to a covered container.  It’ll keep in the fridge for about 2 – 3 days.

Makes enough spread for 1 large or 2 medium sandwiches.

In Which We Talk About Pulutan

Grab a cold one and let the good times roll!

Grab a cold one and let the good times roll!

It is a cultural facet of being Filipino: any occasion for socialising – and proper socialising, at that – needs to involve certain amounts of alcohol.  These may be as decorous as wine and/or a selection of fine liqueurs or as whacked-out, potentially dangerous, and totally wasted as the deadly combination of free-flowing beer and a choice between gin and brandy – or, alas, both.  And, where there’s alcohol, there is always food with which to take off the edge.

The collective term for bar chow in Tagalog is pulutan (literally “pick-ups”).  The selection runs the gamut from pre-packaged chips and dips to home-cooked viands that can also be scarfed down with rice.  (Some examples in the latter category also double as hangover cures.)  Seriously, you could take a cue from the late, legendary prizefighter Flash Elorde (who used to endorse San Miguel Pale Pilsen in the 1980s) and keep things simple: a small dish of peanuts stir-fried with garlic to go with your beer.  On the other end, the guys at Lime 88 opt to gussy things up by serving baked oysters and balut (the infamous duck embryos) braised in red wine along with a selection of [sub-lethal] cocktails.

For most people, it’s a way of lining the stomach in preparation for the onslaught of beer and whatever else it is you’re drinking.  For others, it is referred to as pamatay-lasa - something to deaden the taste  of the alcohol; this is usually the excuse given by alcoholic lightweights or those who really aren’t in the habit of drinking socially.  And, for foodies like myself, the food actually serves to enhance the enjoyment of both drinks and company.

If you were to ask me, though, how I like my inuman (drinking) and pulutan, I will give you a rather unusual answer: I prefer my drinkin’ and eatin’ the way I like my live music.  Like I told a friend the other day, I’d rather listen to high-quality, fresh talent singing from the heart in some cheap, grody dive rather than subject myself to the spectacle of watching some souped-up sell-out playing to stadium crowds with overly choreographed and stage-managed super-productions.  Similarly, I prefer simple, homespun food – delicious, wholesome, and prepared with some degree of care – to go with whatever it is I’m drinking.  Unless, of course, you put a platter of oysters Rockefeller in front of me; but that’s a completely different kettle of fish…