Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Chocolate Cake of My Childhood

Looking at my finished product, one could never tell that this baking adventure was pretty much a disaster. The batter overflowed, spilled on the oven floor, caught fire and almost tripped my fire alarm!

I started out fine. The batter tasted really good and I was in high spirits as I put the cake pan in the oven. But 15 minutes into the baking, I saw that the batter was rising higher than I expected and so I hurriedly slipped cookie sheets underneath the cake pan to catch the batter drippings. I thought I had averted the disaster but it wasn't enough. The batter dripped out of the the cookie sheets too! The batter spilled onto on the oven floor and caught fire. So I had to find a way to wipe it off. I decided to use wet paper towels and used my BBQ tongs to reach in. Of course, as soon as the paper towels touched the heating elements, they ignited and I had to run to the sink to douse them with water! So there I was, trying my best not to keep the oven door open too long so my cake could bake properly but at the same time trying to get all of the spilled batter cleaned up and prevent things from catching fire. Whew! The lengths we go to for chocolate cake, eh?

In the end, despite everything, the cake turned out fine. More than fine, actually. The edges were a tad bit over cooked but the center was chocolatey and tender. I really liked the frosting, even though I wasn't expecting much from the recipe. This recipe will see a repeat performance, but I'm going to use a bigger cake pan. And I will have a fire extinguisher nearby.

Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature
3 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 1/4 cups cake flour
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup cocoa powder (not dutch processed)
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. baking soda
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp. white vinegar
3/4 cup boiling water

1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Add eggs one at a time until incorporated.
3. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, sift together flour, salt, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk mayo, milk, water and vinegar together.
4. Add the dry ingredients alternating with wet ingredients to the butter, starting and ending with the dry. I did 3 batches of dry and 2 batches of wet.
5. Add boiling water last and mix batter until smooth.
6. Bake in a 13x9 pan (that's what the original recipe called for, but keep my (mis)adventure in mind) in a 350 oven for 50-60 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
7. Cool in pan and invert onto a serving tray.
8. Frost with chocolate frosting.

Chocolate Frosting

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup milk
1 tbsp. butter

1. In a saucepan, whisk ingredients together until there are not lumps.
2. Heat over low-medium fire until mixture begins to thicken.
3. Remove from heat and add butter.
4. Whisk occasionally until mixture cools.

I'm going to try this next time with a caramel layer in the middle of the cake. Just like the "Cookie Monster" chocolate cake of my childhood.

Short Cut Kare-Kare

Kare-Kare is one of those uniquely Filipino dishes. A rich stew of oxtail, ground rice, ground peanuts and vegetables, eaten with shrimp paste...it doesn't sound like much, but every special occasion back home would be incomplete without this family favorite.

Normally, when this dish is made, it takes almost a whole day. The meat needs to be boiled until tender, the rice needs to be toasted then ground, the peanuts need to be ground finely into a paste, etc, etc. In this busy world, having that much time to make a single dish would truly be a luxury. Thankfully, there are ready-mix packets of sauce that one could easily tweak. With a bit of adjusting here and there, a more than adequate kare-kare is mere minutes away.

Short Cut Kare-Kare

3 lbs. oxtail, cut into 2-inch pieces
6 cups water
1 onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tbsp. salt
1 1/2 packs Mama Sita's Kare-Kare mix
2 cups long beans/sitaw, cut into 2 inch pieces
10-12 pcs. okra
3 cups bok choy
1 cup smooth/creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup sugar
fish sauce to taste

1. Boil oxtail in water with onion, garlic and salt until tender. I used a pressure cooker for 20 minutes. Set aside meat. Drain and skim fat from stock.
2. In a bowl, mix 2 cups of stock with the kare-kare mix and peanut butter. Set aside
3. In a heavy pot, simmer rest of stock and cook okra and long beans until almost tender.
4. Add the kare-kare mix/peanut butter mixture and the meat.
5. Add sugar and fish sauce to taste.
6. Put in the bok choy last.
7. Simmer for a few minutes until bok choy is done and sauce has thickened.
8. Serve with bagoong/shrimp paste.

Other veggies that normally go into kare-kare include eggplants and banana hearts. Tripe and other internal organs can be used too. But my kids just like the oxtail, so oxtail it is.

Monday, October 22, 2007


I posted about my first sisig attempt a few months ago but I never really got to jot down the recipe. I often cook without a recipe and so it becomes a problem when I attempt to recreate something that I cooked a long time ago. Such was the case with this dish.

This is actually why I decided to start blogging anyway. I figured that I had better start writing down my "burst of inspiration" creations lest my memory starts to fail and the dishes get lost in oblivion.

So here's the recipe (or at least my approximations)...

3 pcs. pork ears
4 cups water
1 tbsp. salt
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. whole peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 slices ginger
2 onions, 1/2 sliced and 1 1/2 minced
1 cup pureed beef liver (use a food processor)
1 cup crushed chicharon
1 thai bird chili, sliced into thin pieces
1 cup beef or chicken broth
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp. knorr or maggi seasoning
1 tsp. ground black pepper

1. Boil pork ears in water, salt, bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic, ginger and sliced onion. Boil until tender. Or you could use a pressure cooker x 15 minutes.
2. Drain pork ears well and mince into 1/4 inch pieces. Set aside.
3. In a non-stick pan, saute 1 minced onion and add pureed liver.
4. Once liver is no longer pink, add pork ears, 3/4 of the chicharon, pepper and the chili.
5. Add 1/2 of broth and season with 1 tbsp. maggi/knorr and half of the lemon juice.
6. Cook until liquid is almost gone then repeat step #5.
7. Cook until some bits have become crisp and you get good caramelization.
8. Add the rest of the onion and chicharon just before serving.
9. Squeeze additional lemon juice and seasoning (plus hot sauce as desired) on top.
10. Eat with lots of garlic rice.

I also made garlic kangkong on the side. It felt like we were back home eating in Gerry's :-)

Bang-Bang Beef Curry

I got the "bang-bang" idea from someone who makes her roast chicken with whatever sauces and condiments she has in her fridge. Bang-bang refers to the banging on the bottom of the bottle to get every bit of sauce out. Great way to use up those bottles, eh?

Anyway, I had some beef shank, half a cup of left-over coconut milk, a cup of left-over canned whole tomatoes and half a bottle of Indian curry paste. With a bit of tweaking here and there plus some hot mango chutney on top, it was another successful dinner :-)

Bang-Bang Beef Curry

1 kilo beef shank, cut into cubes (any stew cut will do)
6 cups water
1 onion, sliced
10 slices ginger
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tbsp. salt
4 tbsp. curry paste (I used Patak's mild curry paste)
4 tbsp. tamarind sauce (I had the Maggi brand)
1 tbsp. turmeric
1 tbsp. cumin
1 cup canned whole tomatoes (about 4 tomatoes plus juice)
1/2 to 1 cup coconut milk

1. Simmer beef, water, 1/2 of the onion, garlic, 5 slices of ginger and salt until beef is tender. I used a pressure cooker for 20 minutes. Reserve broth and set beef aside.
2. In a heavy pot, saute rest of onion and ginger.
3. Add curry paste, beef, tomatoes, tamarind sauce, turmeric, cumin and coconut milk.
4. Add about a cup of the broth.
5. Simmer for another 20 minutes, adding broth as needed to keep the dish "saucy."
6. Skim off fat as the dish is simmering. Adjust salt to taste. I didn't need to add any more since the broth already had salt and the curry paste was adequately flavored as well.
7. Serve with rice (or naan) and mango chutney.

The boys really liked it! The level of heat was perfect and the sweetness of the chutney went with the curry flavors very well.

This is why I love cooking...a few left over ingredients, a hint of creativity, a sense of adventure and voila...instant gratification on a plate :-)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Definitely not about food...

I haven't posted in a week. One whole week. I think that's the longest period of time I've gone without putting up something, anything on this blog. Why have I not been posting, you ask?

Exam coming up. Check.
Dental issues. Check.
Work til 6pm on some nights. Check.
Hubby enjoying his new cooking skills. Check.
And lastly...

New dog. Check.

Oh, I did make Ina Garten's lemon cake using key limes. It was "amazing" according to one of my colleagues. Definitely worth a repeat performance.

See. I said this post was not about food. But it always comes back to food. In the end, it's always about the food :-)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Pickled Peewee Eggs

I was browsing the aisles of my favorite Asian grocery when I saw a box of peewee eggs. Now, normally eggs come in small, medium, large and extra large. But they had extra small ones, and even tinier, these peewee eggs (shown beside a normal large egg). So cute!

At a dollar a dozen, I couldn't resist. So I bought some and pickled them :-)

Pickled Peewee Eggs

2 cups white vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 dozen peewee eggs (or you could use 2-3 dozen quail eggs), hard-boiled and peeled

1. Simmer vinegar, sugar and salt for 5 minutes.
2. Place eggs in a sterilized wide mouth jar.
3. Pour pickling solution over eggs.
4. Keep in fridge for at least 3 days before eating (I can't wait!!!)

Toasted Coconut Cupcakes

I used to not like coconut in my baked goods. But ever since I left the Philippines, I've been craving all things coconut...coconut scented soaps (like the one by my kitchen sink), coconut flavored ice cream (Ben and Jerry's is THE BEST!), and now coconut baked goods. I saw Anna Olson's show which showcased this recipe and I just had to try it.

Toasted Coconut Cupcakes

2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 + 1/4 cup coconut milk
2 eggs, separated
2 1/4 cups pastry flour
1 + 1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

1. Toast coconut flakes in a 350 oven for 3-4 minutes, just until the edges turn light brown. Set aside and increase oven temp to 375.
2. Mix egg yolks, oil and 1 cup of the coconut milk. Set aside.
3. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and 1 cup of the sugar.
4. Mix dry ingredients into the wet and stir in 1 1/3 cups of the toasted coconut.
5. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites and 1/2 cup sugar until soft peaks form.
6. Fold the egg whites into the batter.
7. Pour batter into 16 muffin cups (or 1 8x8 pan).
8. Bake for 20-22 minutes (or 25-30 minutes for square cake).
9. Cool cupcakes.
10. Brush tops with remaining coconut milk and dip into the coconut flakes.

The cupcakes were very good! Light and coconutty. I think next time I'm going to try filling them with pineapple curd, maybe with a hint of rum. Kind of like a pinacolada cupcake :-)

Friday, October 5, 2007

Moroccan Beef Stew

This was a big hit tonight! It was so good that I've decided that the next time I have guests over, this is what I'm going to serve. With couscous, a green salad and maybe some pita, I think it would make a perfect fall meal.

Moroccan Beef Stew

4 pieces beef shank or 2 lbs. stewing beef
salt and pepper
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, cubed
2 cinnamon sticks
3/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
2 cups tomatoes (I used canned whole tomatoes with the juice)
1/4 cup soy sauce (I know this isn't Moroccan but it adds so much flavor)
1 cup raisins
1 cup green olives

1. Season beef with salt and pepper.
2. In a heavy pot (I used an enameled cast iron one), brown the beef well. Set aside.
3. In the same pot, saute onion, garlic and red pepper until soft.
4. Add the tomatoes, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, fennel and soy sauce.
5. Put beef back into pot and lower heat to a slow simmer.
6. Cover pot and simmer for 45 minutes.
7. Add raisins and olives. Cover and simmer for another hour until beef is tender.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A whole lot of chicken

Last week...

Son #1: Oh, BTW mom, I volunteered to bring chicken for our thanksgiving lunch next Thursday.
Me: Oh really? How many people will be going?
Son #2: Well, there are 22 in my class plus our teachers and the parent volunteers.
Me (trying hard to be calm): Ok then. Chicken it is.


Me: Holy cr@p! The thanksgiving lunch is tomorrow!

So what do you do when you need to make chicken for 22 kids and their teachers?

1. Run to the grocery and buy 36 chicken drumsticks.
2. Season chicken with salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder.
3. Add a cup of oil and toss chicken around until pieces are uniformly covered with seasoning.
4. Marinate for an hour.
5. Preheat oven to 400. Bake chicken for 20 minutes. Flip and bake 15 minutes more.
6. Meanwhile, mix together 2 cups of bottled bbq sauce, 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1/4 cup hoisin sauce.
7. Once chicken is cooked, toss in sauce.
8. Bake 5 minutes per side.
9. Done.

Whew, that wasn't so bad. I even had time to wrap some foil around the drumsticks. I'm sure the teachers wouldn't appreciate 22 pairs of sticky hands.