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.