Posted in Home Cooking

In Which a Classic Side Dish Gets a Flavorful Tweak…

I honestly don't know anyone who would turn a nose up at potato salad.
I honestly don’t know anyone who would turn a nose up at potato salad.

Say this about potato salad: it tastes great, is crowd-pleasing, and is perfect as both a side dish and something to eat on its own for a light(ish) supper for one.  Practically everyone has their own way of making potato salad.  One friend insists on combining hot bacon fat with balsamic vinegar to make the dressing; another friend adds curry powder and raisins to give the salad a South Asian vibe.  My friend Floyd’s wife, the Missus, is of the opinion that a perfect potato salad is made with baby potatoes and a touch of paprika in the mayonnaise.  The Antipodean’s mother, on the other hand, adamantly insists on the German way of dressing potato salad with plenty of bacon, dill, and finely minced onions.

But where I’m from, the secret ingredient is – believe it or not – tinned asparagus.

WHAT?!?” the Antipodean half-shrieked when I told him about it.

“Yeah, seriously!” I insisted.  “And it is so gosh-darned good, man.  The asparagus adds a bit of a nutty, savory flavor to the spuds.”

The addition of asparagus to potato salad at my house is a relatively new one, the spur-of-the-moment idea of my mother who can’t abide waste and was all askance at finding a tin of white asparagus cuts in the kitchen cupboard.  Given how we sometimes add cubed chayote to potato salad to add a mild hint of sweetness, it was worth a shot – and, yes, it was worth it.

Mom uses regular boiling potatoes for this.  I, on the other hand, prefer to use baby potatoes.  Both of us agree, though, that adding pickle relish gives it an appetizing sharpness, sweet paprika makes all the flavors pop, and cheese helps to round them all out.  Whichever kind of potato you choose for making this salad, this makes a perfect accompaniments to roasts and caramelized chicken.  It’s also amazing on its own as a snack or supper when you’re all alone.

One tip, though: be sure to drain the asparagus properly when you make this; otherwise, the dressing will be too watery.

‘Sparagus Salad

  • 1 kilo marble (baby/chat/new) potatoes, scrubbed well and cut in half
  • 1-1/2 cups whole egg mayonnaise
  • 1 medium can white asparagus, well-drained and finely chopped
  • 1 small can crushed pineapple, well-drained (save the juice/syrup for another recipe)
  • salt, pepper, and sweet paprika (pimenton dulce) to taste
  • 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
  • 1/4 cup grated mild Cheddar cheese or processed cheese food

Boil the potatoes in enough water to cover plus one tablespoon coarse salt until fork-tender.  Drain well and rinse under running water.  Pat dry with paper towels; set aside.

Whisk together the mayonnaise, pickle relish, and cheese; season to taste.  Fold in the potatoes, asparagus, and pineapple until well-combined.  Transfer to a covered container and chill for at least two hours before serving.

Makes 12 side servings.

Posted in Home Cooking, The Well-read Foodie

In Which One Attempts Caramelized Chicken…

Caramelized Chicken
Caramelized Chicken

The thing about magazine recipes is that they can be rather daunting when you read through them.  It’s only when you actually have the gumption to go and make the dish for yourself that you realize that it wasn’t so difficult; indeed, it could seriously be a walk in the park.

Case in point is the caramelized chicken recipe I found in an old issue of Delicious – Australia.  The list of ingredients read like a litany and I seriously wondered if I could hack it.  I’m glad I did: all you really have to do is bung everything – from the marinade to the chicken – into a large bowl, mix it all together, leave it to soak for a bit, then bake it for three quarters of an hour.

It has to be the most delicious recipe I’ve ever tried for chicken: the meat is gloriously tender and rich, the marinade lends it a sweet and tangy flavor, and the sauce is magnificent on plain rice or mashed spuds.  The baked tomatoes and caramelized onions also add to the appeal.

This recipe has already been tweaked, seeing how I ran out of Worcestershire sauce midway, but it is amazing.  The sweet chili sauce gives it extra oomph and a welcome hit of heat.

Caramelized Chicken

  • 1 kilo mixed chicken legs and thighs (approximately 8 – 9 pieces)
  • 2 large red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce or chili jam
  • 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 3 teaspoons water

In a large non-reactive bowl, combine the oil, ketchup, chili jam, soy, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, sugar, thyme, and pepper until the sugar has dissolved.  Place the chicken and the onions in a large plastic container with a cover (or a very large Ziploc bag).  Pour the marinade over, massaging it into the chicken.  Cover (or lock the bag) and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees / Gas Mark 6.  Put the chicken and onions in a large baking dish; pour the marinade over all.  Bake for 35 minutes.  Add the cherry tomatoes to the dish; bake an additional 10 minutes.

Remove the dish from the oven.  Place the chicken, tomatoes, and onions on a serving dish.  Skim the fat off the juices in the pan and transfer to a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and add the dissolved cornstarch.  Cook whilst stirring till thickened; serve alongside the chicken.

Serves 6.

Posted in Novels and Poetry Online, PotPourri, Sweets for the Sweet, The Grocery Shop-a-holic, The Joy of Snacks

In Which the Blogger Features a Few Treats…

Most of your favorite snacks in a single...scoop?!?
Most of your favorite snacks in a single…scoop?!?

Last week was a pretty rough one for me, but – for some weird, unfathomable reason – this week was just the opposite.  Despite the tons of work at the office, things have been sailing smoothly.  I’ve not been cranky all week, I was able to squeeze in a bit of writing (to the point that I’ve almost finished another chapter of the new novel), and treats have been popping up left and right.

The Movie Night gelato from Bono Artisanal Gelato is one of them: it’s a fun, whimsical cream-ice that features the sort of snacks that you’d probably want to nosh on while watching one of the latest flicks.  Chocolate-coated malted milk balls, salted butter caramel ripple, chocolate chips, and ripple-cut potato chips are all folded into a creamy vanilla base.  It’s all a play on flavor and texture: crunchy bits against the creamy smoothness of the gelato, a touch of salt amping up the flavors of the sweeter ingredients.

It’s very, very moreish stuff and I’d go back for another scoop…  Well, that’s if the magnificently decadent new Rogue flavor (dedicated to Rogue Magazine; a rather butch, tres manly flavor featuring roasted pecans and butterscotch sauce swirled into a buttercream base spiked with twelve-year-old Elijah Craig Bourbon) doesn’t steal the limelight first.

Slabs o' goodness!
Slabs o’ goodness!

Another recently discovered treat: the chocolate slabs from NZ chocolatier Whittaker’s.  Currently, the only flavors available here in the Philippines are Roasted Almond Gold (P 51.00 each at Rustan’s / Shopwise) and the Original Peanut Slab (P 45.00 each at Rustan’s / Shopwise) – but they’re both pretty awesome in my book.

If you love the combination of chocolate and nuts, these babies are right up your alley.  Both bars are loaded with chunky nuts – not wee, chopped up bits, mind you: we’re talking whole or split almonds and peanuts, roasted till golden and folded into some of the richest, creamiest, just-sweet-enough milk chocolate I’ve had in ages.

I’d recommend chilling the slabs prior to munching, just to firm up the texture so that each bite is properly crunchy.  Now, if only the folks at Whittaker’s could start shipping over the other flavors; the Hokey Pokey in 33% milk chocolate, the Berry Biscuit Slab, and the Whole Hazelnut Slab all sound so tempting!

And speaking of tempting…

Dear Daniel...!
Dear Daniel…!

Daniel Lissing from TV’s Last Resort is currently in the running to become Cleo Magazine‘s Bachelor of the Year!  Yep, our lad is now in the Top 50 and definitely needs the votes to be number one.  It’s all in good fun and it’s definitely for a good cause.  Here’s what Daniel is planning to do if he wins:

Hey Friends!! Please vote for me for CLEO Bachelor of the year …. It only takes a second. Vote as many times as you like and please share this if you like. I will be donating any and all $$ from this to charity.

Isn’t that sweet of him?  🙂

So, get out there and click here to vote.  😉

Posted in Drinkables, Restaurant Hopping, Sweets for the Sweet

In Which We Try a New Coffee-Bar…

Just so you know, it's NOT a French franchise...
Just so you know, it’s NOT a French franchise…

My siblings and I were at the mall a couple weeks ago on one of those rare occasions when all three of us were off from work and could just chill out and relax.  After lunch and a happy browse-through at Book Sale which turned into a full-scale hunt for inspirational tomes (for my brother), manga (for my sister), and Brit and/or Aussie food magazines (mine), we decided to hie off and grab some coffee and dessert.

“Is there any other place that does coffee here aside from Starbucks?” my brother asked rather plaintively.

I pointed in the direction of Hollys Coffee which was, ironically, just a hop-skip-and-jump away from Starbucks.  “That place looks promising,” I said.

It does look a bit more posh than the competition...
It does look a bit more posh than the competition…

Hollys (no apostrophes, mind you) is a franchise of a popular chain of coffee-bars in South Korea.  It’s supposed to be based on a Parisian cafe (hence the poster at the top of this particular blog entry) where patrons are encouraged to sit and relax for a while with some coffee and a slice of cake as opposed to barking one’s order out at the barista and sprinting out as soon as you’ve paid and your order’s in hand.

The decor features plush armchairs and couches flanking low wood and wrought iron tables, softly ambient lighting, wood panels and old-school cabinets, and the chairs for the regular cafe tables are cushioned.  Jazz music (I’m not sure if it’s the New York or Paris sort; I was never a big jazz fan, really.) plays softly in the background.

Oh, what to pick...!
Oh, what to pick…!

“Ooh, look at what they’ve got in the display case!” my sister exclaimed, pointing at the array of cakes, buns, cold sarnies, biscuits, and pastries in the refrigerated case.

The selection is a bit more interesting than at the Yankee coffee bars: steamed and baked meat buns appear on the menu, tea-infused sweets such as a blondie infused with black tea are supposed to be best-sellers, Korean flavors like kimchi and bulgogi are added to sandwiches and pasta, and you can opt to top your Belgian waffles with powdered sugar, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, or cream cheese.

The drinks are rather unusual, too.  Aside from the regular coffee bar drinks – your cappuccini, espressi, and whatnot – they also have such unusual things as sweet potato lattes and a yam macchiato, house-blended sparkling sippers, and decadent spins on hot chocolate.

Coffee, cake...
Coffee, cake…

Since it was a hot day, we decided to give the Hollycino, Hollys’ spin on the ice-blended coffee, a shot.  The sibs each ordered the mint chocolate Hollycino which features proper creme de menthe vert blended into an iced mocha; the drink is topped with a fluffy swirl of aerosol whipped cream and a generous drizzle of creme de menthe syrup.  The sibs pronounced it an excellent drink: not too sweet or bitter, the flavor of the mint well-balanced and not reeking of toothpaste.

My choice was a Hollys specialty: the dark forest Hollycino.  For this particular ice-blended, dark chocolate and black Morello cherries in syrup were whizzed into a white mocha, topped with cream, drizzled over with syrup, and completed with a whole, pitted Morello.  Most cherry-infused drinks in this country taste disturbingly of cough syrup and either candied glace cherries or Maraschinos are used for garnishes; this drink was neither.  You get a proper cherry flavor: the slight tartness providing a bold yet tasteful counterpoint to the bittersweet chocolate and the vanilla-ish notes of the white mocha.  Seriously good stuff.

My sister chose a slice of the red velvet cake for the three of us to share, but this proved to be the only misfire for an otherwise perfect dessert.  While it was moist, buttery, and not too sweet, the cake fell flavorwise as it was neither cocoa nor vanilla to our tastebuds and the cream cheese icing was run of the mill.  Nevertheless, it was considerably better than the red velvet flogged by other local purveyors.

Red velvet cake aside, I am definitely stopping by Hollys again soon as the weather gets a bit cooler.  I am so intrigued by the sweet potato bevvies…

 

 

Posted in Home Cooking

In Which One Puts the Ketchup On Before Frying the Chicken…

The ketchup is IN the chicken...
The ketchup is IN the chicken…

I was stumped for lunch ideas yesterday seeing how the past week was one marked by family feasts and a rather harrowing time at work for me.  I was more than a little drained and just wanted to laze about the house on a humid Sunday when I was, in a manner of speaking, bullied into preparing lunch.  Ach, porca miseria…

Now, I’ve been hankering to do a spin on caramelized chicken, a recipe I spotted in an old issue of Australian Delicious, but found that I didn’t have some of the ingredients on hand.  This is pretty much what I did: make a batch of fried chicken and give it a bit of a spin.

The list of ingredients for this recipe sounds a little trashy, seeing how tomato ketchup plays a role in flavoring the chicken.  Supermarket Parmesan and bottled Italian seasoning give it a bit of oomph, while panko gives it a nice, crispy crust.  Overall, it made for a fairly passable dish for lunch.

“Sweep the Fridge” Chicken

  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 4 chicken drumsticks
  • 1 cup tomato ketchup
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning or 1/2 tablespoon each of dried basil and oregano
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • oil for deep-frying

In a non-reactive bowl, combine the ketchup, Parmesan, and Italian seasoning.  Rub the chicken with salt and pepper, then add to the marinade.  Toss until all the chicken is well-coated; cover and leave to soak for 30 minutes to an hour.

Heat oil in a wok or a deep saucepan over medium heat.  Dredge the chicken parts in flour, dip in the beaten egg, and roll in the panko.  Fry until golden brown and cooked through.  Drain on a plate lined with paper towels.  Transfer to a serving dish; serve immediately.

Serves 6.

Posted in Home Baking, Sweets for the Sweet, The Well-read Foodie

In Which a Breakfast Bun is Infused with Coffee and Eaten in a Most Decadent Fashion…

The embodiment of pure, glorious gluttony...
The embodiment of pure, glorious gluttony…

My favorite author Nigella Lawson came under flak last year for dishing up a seriously calorific recipe involving ice cream scooped into a split brioche.  To which, I had only this to say: BOLLOCKS TO THE SCRAWNY LOT OF ‘EM!  The problem with people today is that, in their quest to eat “healthily”, they have had a tendency to shun even the simplest pleasures that life has to offer – with food being first and foremost among them.

I find scrawny women a pain in my obviously ample, well-padded, and magnificently curvaceous backside.  They’re not comfortable with their bodies.  It’s like they HATE being female; they won’t celebrate their gorgeous curves – and, as a result, they make fun of women who are comfortable in their curviness and get really mean about our eating habits.  As we would say in this part of the world: walang basagan ng trip – no raining on anyone’s parade, you skinny, malnourished Nellies.

But enough of those fashionable scarecrows.  I recently decided to pay tribute to the fabulous Lady Lawson by taking a cue from her: by serving ice cream in homemade buns.  In this particular case, I added a tablespoon of instant coffee into my basic brioche recipe and baked it as 24 mini brioches.  They were utterly heavenly as I also added vanilla bean and some cinnamon to evoke the flavors of a morning cappuccino.  Best of all, they were utterly magnificent when sandwiched with a scoop of vanilla ice cream: pure magic on a late summer evening.

Cappucino Brioches

  • 500 grams all-purpose flour
  • 100 grams sugar
  • 1 sachet fast-acting / rapid-rising yeast
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee
  • 1 vanilla bean; seeds scraped and pod reserved for another use
  • scant 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 150mL milk + extra for brushing
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup salted butter (that’s about 1/2 of a block of butter) + more for greasing the muffin tins
  • vanilla ice cream to serve

In a large metal bowl, combine flour, sugar, coffee, vanilla bean, cinnamon, and yeast. In another bowl, pour in the milk and add the butter; microwave on HIGH for two minutes. Whisk the eggs into the butter-milk mixture until it resembles a thin custard. Pour this custard into the dry ingredients. Stir everything together until it all clings together and becomes something of a shaggy mess.

Flour your hands and start kneading the dough in the bowl. Use all the force you can muster: punch the dough, massage it, flip it around, smack it around – clobber it, by all means! (Now you understand why I specifically asked that you use a metal bowl!) Knead the dough for about ten minutes. After ten minutes, form the dough into a ball and set in the middle of the bowl; cover with a clean dishtowel and place in a warm place to rise for about an hour or till doubled in bulk.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees/Gas Mark 4.  Grease the cups of 2 regular (12-hole) muffin tins.

When the dough has risen in bulk, punch it down and divide into 24 balls.  Place a dough ball into each of the cups.  Cover with a dishtowel and let rest for 20 minutes and let it get nice and puffy.  Brush the tops of the buns with the extra milk before baking.

Bake the buns for 20 – 25 minutes until they’re nicely brown and crisp in parts. Serve them split with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Makes 24 brioches.

Posted in Sweets for the Sweet, The Flavors of Asia, The Grocery Shop-a-holic, The Joy of Snacks

In Which an Antipodean Treat Helps One to Chill Out – Quite Literally…

Tim Tams...  FROZEN Tim Tams...
Tim Tams… FROZEN Tim Tams…

The summer heat has finally gotten to a number of people.  One friend literally wilted in the heat while waiting for the bus, the victim of dehydration.  Another friend has been suffering from serious nosebleeds and has taken to strapping an ice pack to the back of her head when she goes to work.  A colleague’s blood pressure soared to astronomical heights and had to be taken to a hospital ASAP.  Eep.

Me, I ended up with a bad case of dizziness that literally floored me Thursday last week and ended up feeling poorly a few days ago when the trains broke down and everyone spilled onto the streets to grab buses home.  It has, as far as I know, been the worst summer ever.  (Thank goodness, though, that the rains began to pour last night…)

Lucky for me, I decided to beat the heat and the blues with a two-edged sword – Tim Tams; more specifically frozen Tim Tams.

Arnott’s recently put out an Asia-specific version of these popular Aussie biscuits which are best served chilled in the fridge prior to consumption.  They are, unfortunately, not as good as the proper shipped-from-Down-Under kind as the chocolate is compound and rather waxy.  But, in a pinch as obvious as this, they’ll do – just.

In my personal opinion, these are better frozen rather than just refrigerated.  They taste better that way, the cold minimizes the waxiness of the compound choc, and the biscuits are slightly crunchier.  The Antipodean, who is currently spending a week or so home in NSW, is of the opinion that I should try freezing real Tim Tams next time; it’s what he does in the summer – and, yes: it is substantially better.

He also noted through the screen that I was munching the Tim Tams along with an iced coffee (again, alas, instant; but what the hell…).

“When you get your hands on a packet of real Tim Tams, babe,” he said, “I’ll teach you the Tim Tam Slam.”

“Promise?” I asked as I munched through the third cookie in the tub.

“Promise.”

“Well, kid, you got yourself a deal…”

(But, no: there is no way in hell that you’ll get either of us to try those vile cheese-flavored Tim Tams that are currently the rage in Indonesia.  We have our standards, you know!)