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…

In Which DIY Ice Cream Sandwiches are Made…

Ice cream + cookies = bliss
Ice cream + cookies = bliss

Despite the fact that the weather in this part of the world continues to be chilly, the success of my ice cream making experiment prompted a little bit of sweet kitchen madness.

I met up with a friend from my days at uni on Saturday last week and I carefully squirreled a quarter-pint of mocha mudslide gelato for her.  And, since I promised her a box of cookies for Christmas (and, alas, we didn’t see each other in December), I went and baked a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  (Incidentally, I tried Beryl’s 65% dark Belgian-style couverture for this batch; absolutely, deliciously delightful!)  Since I had a number of cookies left after packing a box for my friend, a little devilry ensued the following day.

Ice cream sandwich + coffee = YEESSSSS!
Ice cream sandwich + coffee = YEESSSSS!

It’s an easy-peasy thing to make an ice cream sandwich.  You just carefully scoop some ice cream into a neat-ish ball with either a scoop or a digger as above and position it between two more-or-less equally-sized cookies.  Smush the lot together.  If you want to save it for later, wrap individual sandwiches in waxed paper and tuck into the freezer.

Otherwise, go pour yourself a cup of coffee, put your feet up, and tuck right in.  Sweet, creamy, crunchy bliss.

In Which There is a Confection from a Legendary Port City…

Les briquettes de chocolat
Les briquettes de chocolat

Japan is not a nation known for growing its own cacao and, yet, it is known for a startling number of chocolate confections that have become popular throughout the world.  Vari-flavoured KitKats are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg as are the numerous products churned out by Meiji, Glico, and Morinaga.

And how can we forget nama, those decadently rich squares of liqueur-infused ganache rolled in cocoa, so beguiling on the tongue and so seductive in their appeal?  Royce has the [sort of] mass market end of the business by the horns, but I find it too sweet and a touch too boozy.  Better – and, truly, the gold standard in my book – are the squares from Sachi Nama: rich, balanced, tempting – but now nowhere to be found as Heavenly Chocolates in Quezon City, the sole source of these delights, has since folded up.

It kind of looks like nama - and, hey!  There's a tiny knife!
It kind of looks like nama – and, hey! There’s a tiny knife!

And then these sweets showed up at our house: briquettes de chocolat – chocolate bricks.  So named because of their resemblance to the dark bricks used for city structures, these come from Yokohama, a city rich in history and culture as one of Japan’s windows to the world.  These, in particular, are made and sold in the Yokohama Motomachi, a fabled shopping district whose wares range from haute couture to haute cuisine and bespoke delicacies.

These little bricks are tucked in about a dozen to a box referred to as a collection: half are made with a white chocolate ganache, the other half with dark.  And, since everyone knows I’ve never really been a white chocolate sort of girl, I made a beeline for the dark side…of the box.

They weren't mucking about when they said these were chocolate bricks!
They weren’t mucking about when they said these were chocolate bricks!

On the outside, these look like super-sized nama blocks: ganache pressed into bars, a very light dusting of cocoa on top.  However, the difference becomes noticeable when you consider the texture and the flavour.

There is a reason why there are wee plastic knives with each block: these are considerably denser than nama; there is a solidity, a heft to these confections.  Plus, on closer inspection, they aren’t as smooth as nama as there is a certain grittiness more reminiscent of fudge than pure, creamy ganache.  But seriously: this is not a bad thing.

Looks like nama, but it's not
Looks like nama, but it’s not

Taste-wise, the flavour is definitely more fudge than ganache: think chilled brownie batter, richly bittersweet with a faintly nutty savour to it.  The knife, mercifully, is there to let you cut off just enough of the brick to nibble with your morning coffee.  (Or an evening liqueur, if that’s how you roll.)

It’s a really amazing confection and definitely something to consider as omiyage if you should find yourself in Yokohama; it’s a real treat.  🙂

In Which the Blogger Puts Her Spin on Nigella’s Ice Cream Recipe…

This is like asking for trouble
This is like asking for trouble

Ice cream is a real treat for people of all ages.  It calls to mind birthday parties, getting good grades in school; fun, good times for all.

For the most part, the bulk of the ice cream eaten in my part of the world tends to be store-bought.  The cheapest fix, of course, is a P 10.00 tri-coloured cone bought from the sorbetero cart on Sunday mornings after Mass.  While I was growing up, Magnolia was the brand of choice – specifically the sweetcorn ice cream that heralded the start of the summer months.  Later on, when the original Magnolia brand was bought and rudely superseded by Nestle, it became a toss-up between Selecta and its predecessor and now competitor Arce Dairy.  And then the foreign brands came in: Ben and Jerry’s, Haagen-Dasz, Dreyer’s and Breyer’s – all pricey, super-premium, and definitely worth saving up for in the even that you should choose to celebrate a happy moment with ice cream instead of champagne.

Homemade ice cream, nevertheless, is not unknown in this part of the world.  For those of us with Kapampangan/Cabalen (those hailing from Pampanga in Central Luzon) roots, ice cream churned in a garapinyera – an old-school bucket churn you filled with ice and salt to facilitate freezing – was a highlight of many a childhood summer, if not a mouthwatering memory related by one’s elders at family reunions.  Alas, who in this hectic, schedule-conscious day and age has the time or the patience to crank the stainless steel churn for hours just to get an ice cream fix?

Still, with many people rediscovering the Old Ways of cooking – and finding out that doing things from scratch does make a delicious difference – it isn’t surprising that ice cream is one of the things that people now want to make at home.  And that’s with or without either a churn or even a modern ice cream maker!

Have a pint?
Fancy a pint?

My recipe is actually a spin on Nigella Lawson‘s one-step/no-churn ice cream – a scrumptious, coffee-and-cream affair made livelier with a splash of espresso liqueur.  Don’t cringe back at the use of alcohol in this recipe: it is necessary.  According to another of my favourite authors, Titania Hardie, the alcohol prevents the formation of ice crystals that may otherwise ruin the texture and overall quality of the finished product.  The addition of alcohol delivers an  end-result that is something more like gelato than commercial ice cream: smoother, richer, creamier, with a bit of a chew to it.

Now, the back-story for this particular recipe involves my misreading of the measurements in La Lawson’s original.  Rather than 300mL of cream and 175 grams of condensed milk, I actually ended up using 375mL of cream and 300mL of the condensed milk.  This little snafu actually got me into a little panic as my mixture just wouldn’t thicken and lift up into soft peaks no matter how much whisking I did.  Fortunately, consulting with a friend more knowledgeable about making ice cream got me this little bit of advice: let the mixture sit in the freezer to set a bit, and then go at it with the beaters.  She was absolutely right: the semi-frozen mix thickened beautifully and I happily chucked it into the freezer overnight.

The next morning, I had a little of my creamy, dreamy ice with breakfast.  My only regret is that I didn’t bake any brioches to go with it for a proper Sicilian breakfast.  :p

I confess: I had a wee bowl of it for breakfast
I confess: I had a wee bowl of it for breakfast

Mocha Mudslide Ice Cream

  • 375mL all-purpose cream
  • 300mL condensed milk
  • 25 grams dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate or coffee cream liqueur

Whisk together the cream, condensed milk, coffee, cocoa powder, and liqueur until the dry ingredients have more or less dissolved.  Pour into a covered container and freeze for about 1 hour.

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 chopped chocolate.  Scrape into clear plastic tubs with covers.  Freeze for at least six or a maximum of ten hours.

Makes 1-1/2 pints.