Where we're going this evening - the Philippines
Compounding my ignorance of quite where Oman was last week, to my shame I struggled to put my finger on the map as to where the Philippines are too. What was I doing in geography classes? Actually, I was learning about hanging valleys and drumlins - but not learning about where places are, obviously.
In fact, about the only thing I can dredge up about the Philippines is that it was ruled in the fairly near past by a pretty unpleasant chap called Marcos, whose wife Imelda had a big thing for shoes. If that's the best I can do, I'd better get researching...
....so the Philippines are in the far east - the total land mass is about twice the size of the UK, consisting of over 7,000 islands, and with a population about half as many again as the UK. The climate is tropical, with a diverse range of fauna and flora.
As in so many instances, the Europeans were at it again in terms of deciding that this bit of land would make a fine extension to the county despite it not only being thousands of miles away, but also having a perfectly happy indiginous population. In this case, it was the Spanish, and they so liked the archepeligo that they even named it after their king, Philip II.
Finally independent in the mid fifties, Ferdinand Marcos was elected president a decade later, but being prevented by the constitution form being able to run for a third term in office, he declared martial rule and carried on regardless for another decade or so before being run out of town - to Hawaii, actually - with his wife and her unfeasably extensive footware collection.
Internal spats and wrangling ensued with a number of administrations over the next couple of decades being blighted with political scandals and allegations of corruption. All rather undignified, I'm afraid. That doesn't stop the Filipinos from being a hardworking bunch - both at home and as expats all over the world - and the country is definitely being tipped as 'one to watch' in terms of development.
As far as the food goes, there's an undeniable Spanish influence but also from their Asian neighbours - however the food is described as 'robust' as opposed to spicy, and although rice is a staple, their Western roots mean that chopsticks are not as widely used as they are in the neighbouring countries.
So let's say kamusta to the Filipinos and see what's on the menu for tonight...
Characteristic of Filipino cuisine is the counterpoint between putting something sweet with something salty - the custom is to serve everything together rather than in courses, which rather underlines the practise of lots of bold sweet/sour/salty tastes all bunged together in one shebang.
Vinegar is a common ingredient - which I thought was very odd as I think of vinegar as British, for some reason, something to do with fish and chips not being the same without it, I guess - and also sweet rice. So I'm opting for hopefully a bit of all the flavours for that authentic Filipino experience.
Adobo is a stew like dish with vinegar and soy sauce; the sweet bread rolls are served with a sprinkling of sugar and grated cheese; the champorado is a sticky chocolatey rice pudding - it all sounds like it's going to be an explosion in a tasting factory, but let's see how we get on.
Chicken Adobo with rice - recipe from filipino food
Brown onion, garlic in a pan then add chicken (or pork - I used turkey), soy sauce, vinegar, paprika, bay leaves & some water. Simmer for 30 mins. fish the meat out of the pan and brown for a few minutes in a separate pan before returning it to the stew. Thicken with a little cornflour, season and serve with rice.
Ensaymada - recipe from the internet
Mix easy blend yeast, dilute evaporated milk, sugar, melted butter, egg yolks and sifted plain flour in a bowl then knead and leave for an hour to rise. Divide the dough in portions, roll into snakes then coil and place in muffin cases. Leave to rise for another hour then brush with butter and cook. Cool completely then slather with butter, dust with sugar and top with grated cheese.
Cook pudding rice on the hob with water, until thick and creamy Add cocoa powder, sugar, and a few drops of vanilla. Serve with a swirl of cream or condensed milk.
And what have we learnt?
- Co-incidence is a funny thing - I always have vinegar in the cupboard - because you do - but rarely use it. In fact it will be a good couple of years since I had call to - except this very morning on reading a tip on how to remove limescale I used the entire bottle on the bathroom taps. The bathroom now smells like a chip shop, and - yet again - I am to be found hot-footing it up to Aldi on the corner early evening in order to secure a vital cooking ingredient. This point to be subtitled 'what was that about reading the recipe in advance?' On the plus side the taps are sparkling.
- In the adobo recipe, browning the meat after it is simmered rather than at the start of the recipe would appear to serve no purpose but to use yet another pan which will then need to be washed up
- Sweet bread straight out of the oven requires more will power that I possess to leave to get cold before slathering with butter, sugar and cheese.
- It's mighty tricky to take photo of cocoa rice pudding without it looking like a cow pat.
- Hmm - I have also learnt - looking at the pics above - to either provide some sort of marker in order to give a sense of scale, or to always use the same size plates for my dishes. That is not a giant tomato in the first pic, that is a side plate. Equally, the rice pudding is on a saucer, that is a teaspoon. However, it still looks like a cow pat.
And out of 10?
- for the chicken adobo - a solid 7/10 - the inclusion of soy sauce and vinegar gives this stew a real zing. One to do again.
- for the ensaymada - a whopping 9/10 - in fact the only thing that knocks this sweet bread/butter/cheese jobbie off the top spot is the fact that (for the most part) I followed the recipe and a left the bread to cool before garnishing with sugar/butter/cheese. The ones that I nicked straight off the cooling tray were magnificent.
- for the champorado - a reasonable 5/10 - chocolate is generally good, and this was ok, but I like a rice pudding as it is, thank you. This one certainly does not win on the beauty stakes, and given that enjoyment of food is dependent on more than just the taste of the dish, this is certainly marked down on looks. Tough old world, ain't it?