Saturday, February 17, 2018

Next in the galley: Tass Kabab e Aremaneh

From: https://arianabundy.com/tass-kabab-e-aremaneh/

TASS KABAB E AREMANEH
AROMATIC LAMB CASSEROLE WITH TOMATOES, PRUNES AND CINNAMON

My mum makes the best Tass Kabab. I don’t know what it is about hers. It is such a simple dish yet hers has all the juices and fragrance that can come out of cinnamon, meat, tomatoes and prunes. She would layer all the raw ingredients – including the meat, so no searing involved – then let it cook slowly while we did all sorts of things around the house. We knew the dish was done when the air was filled with the scent of caramelised onions, cinnamon and meat.

Tass Kabab is similar to a Moroccan tagine with its sweet and sour combination. Serve with crusty bread to soak up the juices left on your plate and some sharp torshi (pickles, page 84).

2 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, sliced in 1cm (1/2in) whole rings
1kg (2lb) de-boned leg of lamb or stewing beef, cut into 5–7.5cm (2–3in) cubes
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 5cm (2in) discs
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 7.5cm (3in) pieces
4 tomatoes, sliced
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsp salt
few twists of pepper
10–12 Persian unpitted golden dried plums or pitted prunes
2 tbsp butter
juice of 1 small lemon or 1 rounded tsp powdered Omani lime (or more, to taste)
1/2 tsp saffron threads, pounded and dissolved in 2–3 tbsp hot water

This recipe works best in a heavy cast-iron pot, but a regular casserole will do. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to the pan. Begin layering the ingredients. Start with the sliced onions: spread some out on the bottom of the pan. Then add a layer of meat, onions again, chopped garlic, carrots, potatoes and the tomatoes, sprinkling the layers with a little cinnamon powder, turmeric and salt and pepper and adding a few plums or prunes as you go.

Once all the ingredients are used up, add the rest of the oil, the butter and the lemon juice or powdered lime.

Cover, place on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, then lower the heat to its lowest setting and let the casserole cook gently for about 45–60 minutes or until the meat is fork-tender. Add the saffron liquid 10 minutes before the end of cooking time.

I like to put the pot on the table and let everyone help themselves. Serve with some bread – and watch out for the plum stones!

TIP: If you don’t have any plums or prunes or want to try a variation, substitute fresh apples or quince (with their skins on). Cut them into large chunks or wedges so they keep their shape while they cook. They will become soft, aromatic and add a sweet tang to the dish.

You can also substitute 1½ tbsp green advieh mixture (page 204) for the individual spices.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Chill, man. Chill!

First came this: Ode to Halo-Halo. Then came the angry social media reactions from "insulted" Filipino food enthusiasts, this article featuring some of them. They're comparing it to Bon Appetit's pho pas (heh) as well as Jamie Oliver's jollofgate.

Let me start with some personal context: I am a Filipino who is very proud of Filipino cuisine. I love to eat it, study it, and convert people into it. Whenever possible, I look into regional variations and histories behind famous dishes. For a small sampling of how much I like food, and Filipino food in particular, take a look at my IG page.

I needed to get that out because of what I'm going to say about the Bon Appetit halo-halo article: chill out, folks. They did not pretend to be experts in halo-halo as they did with that pho video. They did not imply that their recipe was anywhere near approaching authentic like Jamie's jollof rice. They said what halo-halo was, and presented their recipe. They called it their "ode" to the dish, their own version of halo-halo.

Now as halo-halo versions go, let's just say I won't be tucking into theirs. I mean, gummy bears on ice? It's hard enough to chew those bears if you store them in the fridge, just imagine chewing on them after being under shaved ice. They could use a bit more textural balance too. The popcorn also won't hold up well in liquid (cornflakes or crisped rice might fare better). A lot things could have been improved.

But I see no insult to Filipino cuisine. It's not something you'd find in Manila, yes, but halo-halo is about adaptation. Razon's halo-halo would fail many of the "authentic halo-halo" recipes floated on social media-- horrors, no ube!-- but people from Guagua will argue otherwise. Halo-halo is also about personal taste, with some stores allowing customers to customise their own halo-halo: more leche flan, less beans, more nata de coco, less macapuno. Like adobo or sinigang, there are common elements to making halo-halo-- crushed/shaved ice, sweet condiments, cream-- but its spirit is about making it your own. Bon Appetit made halo-halo their own using ingredients their American readers can easily find (try finding macapuno or kaong in your local Safeway).

Bon Appetit could easily have called their recipe their ode to Japanese kakigori, Korean bingsu, or Malaysian ais kacang, but they went with Filipino halo-halo. I say set aside the indignation, thank them for putting Filipino cuisine front and centre, and teach them a better halo-halo recipe.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Adios, Don Alba

'Paella king' Alba dies at 89

Just read that Don Anastacio de Alba passed away yesterday, 31 July 2016. He was one of my defining culinary icons, up there in my pantheon with only Keith Floyd. While Bourdain, Ramsey, and Zimmern give me lots of inspiration (and envy), Don Alba and Floyd have influenced my palate and cooking so profoundly.

Don Alba's restaurants gave me my first tastes of Spanish food. Along with Mingoy's in the South, Alba in Makati and Quezon City defined the Spanish side of my palate, quickly converting me to the religion of aceitunas, chorizos, and paellas. My beloved tuhod y batoc (a Filipino-Spanish stew of ox knee cap and chuck in brown sauce), which I fell in love with at Dulcinea, was invented by Don Alba. My Dear and I held our wedding reception at his restaurant along Tomas Morato, and the Boy had his first taste of paella there shortly after his first birthday. I am learning to make paella (and soon tuhod y batoc, hopefully) using his cookbook.

Adios, Don Alba. Gracias.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

How to survive an Azeri feast

So I read an article on "How to survive a Georgian feast" over at BBC. It was about the Georgian supra, which the author said was only offered to the luckiest of visitors. I've never had a Georgian supra, but I've been invited to an Azeri sunnat celebration in Baku.

The first appetisers arrived around 7PM and dishes continued coming until 11PM such that plates and bowls were piled on top of each other on the table-- the picture on the banner is from our table. The dishes were quite similar to the ones described in the supra, but with Turkish-sounding names. Several kinds of olives, nuts, breads, dolmas, and shashliks; a few stews and salads; the best caviar I've had ever; plov; countless baklavas, pastries, and cakes. There was no pork, of course, but lots of alcohol ranging from red wines (for the ladies, according to my hosts) to several kinds of vodkas and brandies.

There were also a lot of toasts during the feast. I was asked to give several toasts at the table and, as the only foreigner in the room, was mandated to give a toast on the stage right before the celebrant's father. It was a privilege, of course, but I didn't really know what to say in honour of a boy who was was going to get circumcised the next day. There was a bit of ceremony then some dancing. They were teaching me the steps and hand movements, but by then I was piled high with food and alcohol that everything was a blur. I couldn't have danced any better if I were sober, so being sloshed was a good excuse for poor dancing.

I went back to the hotel around 2AM barely able to feel my face, but feeling very lucky to have partaken in an Azeri feast.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Back in the Galley: Paella


So I'm happy to say that I'm cooking again. I returned to the galley last week when I cooked thit heo kho after seven years; prior to that, the only dish I cooked from scratch in the last six years was that pork adobo two years ago. This week I tried my hand at making paella, a dish that has always intimidated me. I was not sure if it was going to be edible, so I was very conservative with my ingredients (especially the saffron). Well, it turned out better than I expected. The rice was nicely cooked and very flavourful-- not bad for a first attempt. I could think of several things I could've done better-- I should've pre-fried the pork; I should've used a short-grain rice; I should've managed the heat better to get  a good crust-- but overall I'm happy with this dish, and so were my Dear and the Boy. This is a gateway dish for me: plov, you're next. 

Here is the recipe I used today. There are better and more authentic paella recipes out there, but this is the one I made today. It's my #achievementunlocked moment, so I'm saving it. 

Ingredients: 

extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic, chopped
1 tomato, deseeded and chopped
1 spicy chorizo, sliced
1/2 kilo pork ribs, pre-cooked (braised or fried)
1 can chopped mushrooms
2 cups uncooked rice, rinsed (preferably short-grain like Bomba, Calrose, or Koshihikari, but I used long-grain Hom Mali and it turned out ok, quite loose and fluffy like plov)
smoked paprika
pinch of saffron
salt
ground pepper
500 mL chicken stock, simmering
water, simmering

1. On a wide, shallow pan (ideally a paellera), saute the onion, garlic, and tomato in generous amounts of olive oil. When you can smell the aromatics, add in the chorizo.

2. When you have a good saute going, add in the pork. If it's pre-cooked, just heat it up enough and get some good browning; if it's raw, slow down the fire a bit so you don't burn the other ingredients while waiting for the pork to brown. You can also season the raw pork with salt and pepper at this point. In the last minute or two of browning the pork, add in the mushrooms.

3. Pour in the simmering chicken stock and the spices (paprika, saffron, pepper, salt); any liquid you add should be hot to avoid drastic temperature changes in the pan. Bring to a boil.

4. Add in the rice, distributing evenly throughout the pan (you can also take this time to rearrange the ingredients nicely). Bring to a boil, then bring down to a simmer and cover. Do not mix the rice, lest you end up with a creamy, risotto-like paella. This is the part where it gets tricky. Ideally you'd have put enough liquid to cook the rice, but if the liquid runs out prematurely add in some hot water to compensate. I had to do this a few times-- not an ideal situation, but not catastrophic either.

5. Simmer the rice until done (about 15 minutes). Top with remaining mushrooms or fresh herbs and let the latent heat warm them up.

Garnish with lemon wedges or sliced calamansi. We ate this on its own, but you could also serve with some greens to cut the richness. Goes well with a dry white wine.

Paella #2 (a.k.a. plovella):
A photo posted by xsaltire (@xsaltire) on
Paella #3:

A photo posted by xsaltire (@xsaltire) on

Paella #4: