Pinakbet in a Palayok

One of my food resolutions is to learn how to cook Filipino food. My own cuisine has always been, to me, a secret world of family recipes that I never took the time to learn. Why try to learn how to make adobo and sinigang when somebody’s grandmother or mother or aunt has already spent years mastering it? Why not just enjoy these dishes at their tables and spend my cooking-energy learning something like how to make pasta and bread and French desserts?
Shamefully, I have fallen into the trap of familiarity-breeding-complacency when it comes to Filipino food. Obviously, it’s everywhere over here! And since this old comfort-blanket of dishes has kept me warm and safe quite successfully for all this time, I hesitate to weave my own version.
But nevertheless, I pull back my shoulders and put a tentative toe in the Filipino kitchen. I’ve already started making adobo – I have come quite far from my first attempt I’m happy to report. I’m still far from setting a recipe in stone as there are just so many things you can do with it! With the arrival of this bounty of vegetables though, pinakbet was the obvious choice preamp.
Pinaktbet (or pakbet for short) is a very popular Filipino dish that hails from our Northern province of Ilocos***. Ilocos is a region with quite a distinct culinary profile, and some of its dishes, like pinakbet, have become popular all over the country. It is a vegetable dish that includes eggplant, ampalaya (bitter melon), okra, sitaw (long beans), chilli, tomatoes, ginger, fatty pork, and bagoong isda (their fish sauce). In some versions of pinakbet, squash is added – but I think this may be more a Southern move.
Another reason why I was so excited to make this dish, aside from the serendipity of having all the main ingredients delivered fresh to my doorstep, was my palayok. A palayok is our native clay pot used for cooking and I have had one for a couple of years now. It’s been sitting in my kitchen, longing to be used, but I’ve just never had the wherewithal to do so custom clothing labels.
Well, it seems like fate had all the stars aligned for a pinakbet in a palayok and who am I to argue with culinary kismet? :)
No recipe yet, since I was just feeling my way around the dish (making kapa). But in a nutshell this is what I did:
Heat some oil in the (seasoned) palayok. Add chopped bagnet (this is the fatty pork I used). Add chopped garlic, onions, ginger, tomatoes – let reduce a bit. Add bagoong (I used bagoong alamang, shrimp paste, because I didn’t have any bagoong isda). Add in layers: chopped squash, ampalaya, sitaw, okra, eggplant, and chilli. If you want to get an idea of the quantities, take a look at this photo – I used all of the squash, ampalaya, okra, and eggplant, about half the sitaw, and one chilli. I added a little more bagoong on top of the vegetables and covered the pot. I let it cook for about 15-20 minutes total, checking on it every so often to make sure it wouldn’t burn. More than one source instructed me not to stir, but try as I might, I couldn’t manage the gentle palayok-shaking needed to toss the ingredients...so, sigh, I had to stir...which accounts for some of the mushiness of my vegetables.
Other than the veggies getting a bit smooshed by my stirring, I was quite pleased with the result! Not in the least because it actually tasted like pinakbet! It was very flavourful, and with a hot steaming scoop of rice, and some fried bangus (milkfish), made for a simple yet satisfying meal .
If you need more pinakbetspiration check Marvin’s post on finding his soul and Marketman’s Palayok Pinakbet!
I sense an all-new comfort blanket of Filipino dishes steadily in-the-weaving :)
***I’ve had the good fortune of visiting this lovely and delicious part of my country and you can take a peek here, here, here, and here, if you want to learn more :)  

Posted by objects at 19:20Comments(0)


Chocolate Crinkles

How are you all holding up friends? I hope all is well wherever you are! Over here it been busier that ever. Work has been, well, work. Hopefully I haven't accumulated any more white hairs than I already have over it, because really, I honestly don't think I am blessed to be one of those people who pull off white hair with elegance and panache. As it is, it's been 38 years and I am still trying to pull off my regular hair with elegance and panache Managed Security!
The Christmas rush is also upon us. At least over here where Christmas season starts on September 1. I haven't even begun to think about that. Christmas decor is out in full force every corner I turn, but ours are still tucked cozily away, blissfully unaware that they are late for the party. This will be rectified soon. When? I can't promise that, but soon.
And the Christmas shopping! Oh boy, the Christmas shopping. Another thing that is slow out of the gates.
I've resolved, however, to try my utmost to maintain calm and enjoy this season, despite how crazy it gets over here (if you have never experienced Christmas in the Philippines I can't even begin to describe the level of crazy). It is after all the season of joy, love, and, just as if not more importantly, of hope. And that is something I can absolutely get behind (even if I'm not quite into carols in September, bling-bling decorations, and mass spending in a 3rd world country).
Another thing I can get behind....cookies. And chocolate. Never too busy for that :)
Chocolate Crinkles
(adapted from Dark Chocolate Crinkles, Yummy magazine, November 2012 issue)
3/4 cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup confectioner's sugar
- Place the oil and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whisk to combine. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well until combined.
- In a separate bowl, combine the cocoa, flour, baking soda, and salt with a wire whisk. Whisk until everything is well combined. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture. Stir until just combined.
- Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for an hour or until the dough is firm enough to handle (mine took a lot longer than an hour).
- Place confectioner's sugar in a shallow bowl or plate. When the dough is firm enough, shape into 3/4 inch balls. Roll in confectioner's sugar until completely coated.
- Place balls on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, spacing them 2 inches apart.
- Bake in a pre-heated 350F oven until puffy and cracked on top, about 8 - 10 minutes. The cookies will still look underdone and have a soft center .
- Set the pan on a wire rack to cool completely. Once cool you can sprinkle with more confectioner's sugar if you'd like.
These aren't the domed topped chocolate crinkles that I grew up knowing. They baked quite flat. The batter is very runny, and even after many hours of chilling in the fridge, is was still not firm enough to handle. I think next time I'll leave the batter in the fridge overnight and see if that makes a difference. What I did for this batch is scooped bits of batter out by the teaspoonful, dropped it into the confectioner's sugar, and formed it into a ball between two tablespoons, while coating it in the sugar. The batter still spread tremendously so make sure you do not use any more that a teaspoonful, or as the recipe dictates, about a 3/4 inch ball. Despite their flat appearance the cookies have soft, chewy, chocolate-y centers with crisp edges. Still a good chocolate cookie!
The recipe can be found in this month's issue of Yummy magazine, which is their dessert issue. If you have a penchant for sweets this is the issue for you: a step-by-step guide to macaron making, Nutella ice cream truffles (!!), ideas for homemade Christmas gifts , and a list of the best desserts in the city! In my column I share my recipe for a tropical fruit crumble :)
And the Christmas shopping? I've decided that this year I am only going to buy presents from small local businesses and self-employed people Hong Kong Cruise Terminal. We have loads of talented artisans and producers out there who deserve our support! Or I may be making some gifts myself :) We will see. If you have suggestions of small local businesses whose products would make nice presents please feel free to share in the comments!
P.S. The tree will be up this week...by hook or by crook...with or without ornaments...I hope!  

Posted by objects at 11:50Comments(0)food