Friday, April 27, 2007

Lasang Pinoy 17: Salted Eggs


This topic about eggs really got me egg-cited. Eggs, are no doubt a perfect food. An essential ingredient in every kitchen, they are inexpensive, available at any time of year, nutritious, easy to prepare, and can be added to just about anything you're cooking.

Growing up in a farm, my siblings and I have lots of fond memories about eggs. The most vivid and probably exciting was that of "stealing" them from the nest (made from old baskets we call kaing, in Pampango), while the hen was still incubating them. Another one was discovering ducks' eggs under the haystack, or in a dark corner of the barn concealed under rubbish, or under piles of used bamboo poles where predators, meaning, dogs and children, wouldn't notice. Likewise, finding tiny quail eggs in equally small nests nestled in between rice stalks in the middle of a rice paddy, really thrilled us. But what was amazing for us as children then was my father showing us how to cook eggs in a different way--wrapping them in clay and throwing them in a bonfire. After a few minutes, when the clay had dried and had visible cracks, the egg inside was ready.

And of course pleasant memories about how eggs are used in Filipino foods also abound, like the sinful leche flan during town fiesta or Christmas season, the soft and still warm bibingka topped with salted eggs and grated coconut meat during the misa de gallo, spanish omelette in the morning and of course, balut, penoy, red, salted eggs, etc. etc.

Indeed, there are endless ways we could prepare eggs, but for this Lasang Pinoy 17, I would choose salted eggs.

Food we grew up with would always have a special place in our tummy, you know, so even the nicest and yummiest pasta dish would not beat the satisfaction you get from eating salted eggs, ripe fresh tomato, slices of green mango and steamed rice wrapped in fragrant banana leaves.

I remember, the last days of classes during my primary school years were always fun. Our teacher/adviser would tell us to bring our lunch to school so we could all have lunch together inside the classroom. I normally would have lunch at home on ordinary days because school was just a few minutes walk from home. Aside from that, I felt miserable eating a cold meal during lunch time. For that "special" last day of classes, I would bring my lunch to school, which would often be steamed rice wrapped in banana leaves and at the center of it was a shelled salted egg and a very ripe, fresh tomato. If I was lucky and pico mangoes were on sale, I would buy one from the public market on my way to school.

As a teen-ager, the salted egg also figured in our picnics with friends, especially if the invitation was sent on a short notice. Salted eggs were always available, they do not spoil easily, were easy to prepare and very cheap compared to meat, so they would almost always be included in our picnic baskets.

Some two months ago I chanced upon huge geese salted eggs at a farmers' market here and didn't think twice about buying two because for several days prior to that I had been craving for salty eggs with ripe tomatoes. The eggs were huge, probably twice the size of a medium-sized hen's egg. Not satiated with just two, I decided I would try doing them myself so I asked from among my friends for a recipe for salted eggs. I got one and this was what I used for my salted eggs using chicken eggs.

Salted Eggs

1 1/2 c Rock salt
4 c Fresh water
12 Fresh eggs, preferably duck eggs


Bring water and rock salt to a boil. Let cool. Place eggs in a crock or glass jar. Cover the eggs with the salt-water mixture. Let stand in a cool place for 21 days. Remove eggs from salt bath and store them in the refrigerator if not ready to use immediately. Yolks should be a bright yellow-orange color and quite firm. The white should be slightly cloudy and still runny. Eggs without a firm yolk should be discarded. To hard cook, cover with fresh cold water and simmer for 20 minutes.

Maybe I was too excited or too anxious that the recipe would not turn out right, or the eggs would become overly salty, so I tried one after 15 days. The egg yolk was allright, it had a nice color to it, the white was not too bad either, but it was not as salty as the ones commercially sold. So I waited six more days and the result was satisfying. Needless to say, I had a feast!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

New Zealand grown ampalaya

I finally had bittermelon fruits from the vine I planted October last year. Actually, this was the last one. I picked three others some weeks ago and was quite pleased, but not too happy about them as they are so tiny compared to the bittermelon we grew in Pampanga. But since it's autum and the temperature has gone really low these days, I worry that the frost would beat me to my bittermelon so i also picked some of the leaves. These will be nice in sauted mung beans soup later this week. Well, semblance of food from home.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Pancit Bihon with Bittermelon and sardines

I chanced upon some ampalaya (bitter melons) in one of the Chinese stalls at the Riverside Farmers' Market last Saturday and decided to buy a piece which cost me three dollars. I had given up hope of producing my own ampalaya this year because to this day, the bitter melon vine I planted last October (which I kept well-watered and well-fed under the hothouse), hasn't produced any single fruit. It was a well-looked after plant, maybe even "spoiling" it with organic fertilizer once a week and making sure it is protected from any predator insects. In return, it grew lush, healthy leaves and the vine has almost filled the length of the hothouse. I was excited seeing its first bud burst in January, although it was quite late considering that it's been four months since I planted it. I anticipated to pick the first bitter melon fruit in February, but to my dismay, the first bud which was just about an inch long, turned yellow just as February was about to start. There were lots of buds that sprouted since then, but the same thing happened - they wilted just as soon as their flowers dried. Not a single fruit survived. And autum has set in, meaning colder temperature which the ampalaya wouldn't like. So last week, I picked all the young leaves and cooked them into a bitter soup with lots of tomatoes in it.

Anyway, I decided to use the bitter melon I bought in a recipe called, "Pancit Bihon with Bittermelon and sardines" or "Pancit Bihon Maki Apalya at Sardinas" in Pampango. You probably have not heard of this dish, but this is one pancit recipe from our barrio whose main produce back then was bitter melon. It's a farmer's recipe. It's something my mother would prepare as soon as the first few fruits of our bitter melon plants are ready for picking. These first few fruits, which develop near the base of the vine are called "bungang pun" in Pampango or first fruits. These are plump and short and are not too bitter. For farmers back then, the sardines is the most readily available ingredient, especially if you live far from the market place. Toiling in the farm from sunrise to sundown gave little time for us then to do our shopping (which would have to be in the next town) as vegetables are a very demanding crops. Sardines and bihon can be bought from the neighborhood sari-sari store at a very cheap price, whereas, if you wanted shrimps and pork to go with your bittermelon, you have to go to the next town's producer's market.

To cook this dish you will need:

1/4 kg bihon
1/2 kg ampalaya sliced thinly
1 tin of sardines
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 cup chopped tomatoes (optional)
1 medium sized onion thinly sliced
2 tbsp cooking oil
salt to taste
1 cup water

Soak bihon in tap water until soft. Heat oil in a wok. Add garlic, onion and tomatoes. Pour the sardines then add water. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the bitter melon. Boil until bitter melon has turned a nice green color. Remove from the pan. Add more water if needed, then add the bihon. Cover the pot until bihon is cooked. Return the sardines and tomato mixute into the pan and mix well. Serve warm.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Salted eggs


I found these huge, salted geese eggs at a farmers' market in Lower Hutt last Saturday. I was so pleased because for days, I've been craving for salted eggs.

Nostalgia. The last days of classes during my primary school years were always fun. Our teacher/adviser would tell us to bring our lunch to school so we could all have lunch together inside our classroom. We normally had lunch at home on school days because school is just a few minutes walk from home. Aside from that, I feel miserable eating a cold meal at lunch time. And because there were no jollibees yet during those days, students' lunches would almost always be steamed rice with deep fried bangus belly with ripe, fresh tomatoes, or fried chicken/pork chop, adobo chicken/pork, etc. It was proper food, you know. Nothing from fast foods. Some years, I would have steamed rice wrapped in banana leaves and at the center of it was a shelled salted egg and a very ripe, fresh tomato. If I was lucky and pico mangoes were on sale, I would buy one from the public market on my way to school, or else, I made do with the indian mango.

The salted egg also figured in our picnics with friends, especially if the picnic was just a spur-of-the-moment decision. Salted eggs were always handy - they do not spoil easily, are easy to prepare and very cheap compared to meat.

Food we grew up with would always have a special place in our tummy, you know, so even the nicest and yummiest pasta dish would not beat the satisfaction you get from eating salted eggs, ripe fresh tomato, slices of green mango and steamed rice wrapped in fragrant banana leaves.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Stuffed Marrow



Last year, we had a bumper crop of golden zucchini and we tried several recipes using this. We made zucchini pickles, zucchini fritters, zucchini and mint soup, zucchini this and zucchini that. This year, we decided that we want the green one. Zucchinis are fantastic to have in the garden - they are easy to grow and need little attention. But not when they have begun fruiting because the zucchinis seem to grow vigorously and could become marrows overnight.

Two weeks ago, we noticed an overgrown zucchini and so allowed it some more days of sunshine before we decided to pick it. David suggested that we stuff the marrow and bake it like we did with the yellow marrow last year. The recipe is called Stuffed Marrow which was from the book "The Cooks' Garden" by Mary Brown, Helen Leach and Nancy Tichborne.

For this recipe, you will need a large vegetable marrow (1.5 kg). Cut it evenly in half and use a spoon to remove the seeds and the soft pulp inside.









For the stuffing:

1 small onion chopped
2 tbs butter
250 g mince
60 g fresh mushrooms chopped
1 tb chopped parsley
1/2 tsp chopped thyme
50 g soft breadcrumbs
freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 small egg
2 tbs butter, melted

Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the onion and saute for a few minutes. Add the mince and mushrooms and continue to cook until browned. Remove from the head. Add the remaining ingredients except for the melted butter. Mix thoroughtly with a fork.

Pack the stuffing carefully into the marrow. Place in a large roasting pan and brush with melted butter. Cover with a piece of foil. Bake at 190 degrees. A large marrow will need 1 1/2 hours and a small one will need 45 minutes in the oven, Serve with Neapolitan sauce.

Neapolitan sauce

250 g ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
1 tb cooking oil
1 tsp chopped basil or parsley

Saute the tomatoes, garlic and seasoning in oil for a few minutes. Do not allow the tomatoes to become pulpy as the fresh taste will be lost. Add basil or parsley and serve with the stuffed marrow.

This sauce also goes well with spaghetti and topped with grated cheese.