Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Roast Beef of Old England

No, this isn't a recipe for roast beef. The Roast Beef of Old England is an English patriotic song composed by Henry Fielding in 1731.

The word beef comes from the French boeuf. Credit the Norman Conquest of England for introducing this word to the English language. Otherwise, we'll have such delectable dishes as Roast Cow, Corned Cow, and Cow Stroganoff.

The Roast Beef of Old England

When mighty Roast Beef was the Englishman's food,
It ennobled our brains and enriched our blood.
Our soldiers were brave and our courtiers were good
Oh! the Roast Beef of old England,
And old English Roast Beef!

But since we have learnt from all-vapouring France
To eat their ragouts as well as to dance,
We're fed up with nothing but vain complaisance
Oh! the Roast Beef of Old England,
And old English Roast Beef!

Our fathers of old were robust, stout, and strong,
And kept open house, with good cheer all day long,
Which made their plump tenants rejoice in this song--
Oh! The Roast Beef of old England,
And old English Roast Beef!

But now we are dwindled to,what shall I name?
A poor sneaking race, half-begotten and tame,
Who sully the honours that once shone in fame.
Oh! the Roast Beef of Old England,
And old English Roast Beef!

When good Queen Elizabeth sat on the throne,
Ere coffee, or tea, or such slip-slops were known,
The world was in terror if e'er she did frown.
Oh! The Roast Beef of old England,
And old English Roast Beef!

In those days, if Fleets did presume on the Main,
They seldom, or never, return'd back again,
As witness, the Vaunting Armada of Spain.
Oh! The Roast Beef of Old England,
And old English Roast Beef!

Oh then we had stomachs to eat and to fight
And when wrongs were cooking to do ourselves right.
But now we're a . . . I could, but goodnight!
Oh! the Roast Beef of Old England,
And old English Roast Beef!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Saciçi (sa-ji-chee)

I had this dish during my trip to Baku. It tastes like the Filipino aftritada and is a good introduction to Azeri cuisine. It's easy to prepare and all ingredients are available in the Philippines. Saciçi literally means "in the sac". The sac is the paelleri-looking dish in the picture.

bell peppers (preferrably green)

1. Heat the sac; in the absence of a sac you may use a wok or any other shallow pan. Place butter and water in the sac. Keep in mind to keep the butter-to-water ratio at 2:1 or 3:2; i.e., more butter than water. The water is there to keep the butter from burning as you cook the chicken. Bring to a boil.

2. Place chicken (slightly salted) in the sac. The chicken would be of the same size as in afritada. Cook the chicken in the butter-and-water mixture.

3. When the chicken is almost cooked, add the onions, potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, and eggplants-- again same size as if you're making afritada. Cover the sac and cook until the vegetables are done.

4. While it's hot, garnish with sliced oranges then serve.

Azeris usually serve this with greens on the side and pita bread, but I'm sure this will go well with rice.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Looking for Grechnevaya Kasha

No, this isn't a personal ad for a Russian girl-- there are other sites for that.

Grechka (гречка) is Russian for roasted buckwheat groats and kasha (каша) is porridge, so grechnevaya kasha (гречневая каша) is buckwheat porridge.

I had grechnevaya kasha twice when I was in Dushanbe-- once in my colleague's house (pictured) and the other time on board Tajikistan Airlines. The kasha is the brown-rice-looking stuff on the left side of the plate; beside it are mutton rissoles (kotleta in Russian), some mashed potatoes, and pasta.

Grechnevaya kasha is simply prepared by boiling the groats like one does to rice; in special preparations it is cooked in broth and some onions. It is quite similar in taste and texture to brown or red rice, albeit much nuttier and coarser. It is often topped with some butter and served as a side dish-- bread is the omnipresent staple-- but of course, I took to it like rice and treated the rissoles like my ulam. On the plane, I was served kasha with roasted chicken.

Anyway, I recently found myself craving for grechnevaya kasha and can't find it anywhere. So if you know where to find it, do tell me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Simple Spinach Surprise

Here's a simple spinach dish I concocted a while back. I was happy with this one because I expected very little but it turned out surprisingly well. Very easy to prepare.

spinach (and loads of it)
red bell peppers (paprika to some people)
black olives
freshly-ground black pepper
Worcestershire sauce
virgin olive oil (just enough to brown the garlic)

1. Roast the bell peppers in the convection oven, turning occasionaly, until the skin starts to brown on all sides and the peppers are soft. If you have a paper bag, put the roasted peppers in the bag and crumple the top; if you don't, just leave the peppers in the oven after you turn it off. The idea is to let the peppers steam and sweat-- this'll make the skin easy to peel later on

2. Peel the skin off of the roasted peppers. This can be time-consuming, but, believe me, it's worth it. Throw away the seeds and juilienne the flesh (yeah, I did a poor job).

3. In a skillet (or wok), heat the oil and fry the black pepper until you can smell it. Sautee the garlic (I just halve or quarter the cloves) until it starts to soften but not yet brown. Add the roasted peppers and olives. This'll cool down the pan, so allow the heat to build up to sauteeing heat.

4. Add the spinach and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and cook until it starts to wilt, then turn off the heat. Don't let them wilt totally-- the remaining heat will do that. You'll see that the spinach will be a small fraction of the original bulk. You can see from the picture that I underestimated my endpoint remaining spinach.

Goes great with grilled meat or fish.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Dagupeña Bangus Belly

One of my favourite ulams these days is bangus belly made by Dagupeña. I usually buy it at SM or Shopwise, and one bangus belly costs around P120. Relatively expensive considering that a kilo of pork liempo (good for at least four meals) costs only P150+; however, if you like bangus belly (which I do) it's really worth the price given the size. Their bangus bellies come in four flavours: (a) honey mustard, (b) pesto, (c) teriyaki, and (d) Thai green chili. Notwithstanding my reservations about the stability of preference relations, I'd say my ranking of the four flavours is b > a ~ c > d (> reads "is preferred to" and ~ reads "is indifferent to").

It's very simple to prepare and very bachelor-friendly. First I thaw it in lukewarm water-- this takes around 20 minutes-- but instead of frying the belly I broil it. Since broiling doesn't give even heat (all from the top), I fold the belly in half and broil each side (both of them skin side) for around 10 to 15 minutes until the skin is browned and crisp. Finally, I reopen the belly and broil the meat and belly until it's browned. I often add granulated garlic to the pesto and Thai green chili bellies, while I add unagi sauce on the teriyaki belly.
While searching the web I found Anne Castro's blog. Perusing her appropriately-named blog and IP address, I gather that she (or her family) is the owner of Dagupeña Bangus. Nice food blog too, I should say.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Galley Gear

Before I go into the stuff I've cooked (and reheated), let me first describe my kitchen. I have what could be described as a typical single-person-household kitchen. This would be the kitchen of a bachelor (or bachelorette) who's living alone and mostly cooks for himself (or herself) plus the occasional visitor. Space is of a premium, so most equipment will have be stowable (thus, a galley), and a lot of the items would be hand-me-downs from parents. Here's a rundown of my gear:

1. convection oven (Imarflex Turbo Broiler, c. early 80's)
2. microwave oven (Chefmaster, 1988)
3. rice cooker (3D, c. early 90's)
4. single-coil electric stove (Asahi, 2004)

That's it. As you can see, my equipment is very limited and most are more than 15 years old. It's true what they say though-- the older models are sturdier. And even my electric stove is old-school: all metal and just one coil that turns red.

So anyway, all the stuff I make is bachelor- (bachelorette-) friendly, with few equipment requirements. I also limit myself to stuff that can be made quickly (with minimal technical skills) and amenable to reheating. Therefore, you won't see souffles or baked cornbread here. Also nothing that has anything to do with making my own dough.

If you have recipes which I can do using the gear I have above, please feel free to send them my way.

My first post

Ok, so I started a new blog (as if the previous one weren't neglected enough). This'll be significantly less serious than Nontrivial Pursuit. Well, it has to be, considering that it'll be all about food. Food I ate; food I cooked; food I want to taste. Food-related shows I watch. Even articles and books on food that I've read.

About the title-- it's actually an inside joke with a few friends. I'm a good cook-- in theory. I've read enough recipes and viewed enough cooking shows to know how stuff is cooked; problem is, I've never tried my hand at them. I also have a stockpile of spices in my pantry-- from chile arbol and Madras curry to shichimi togarashi and Kyrgyz caraway seeds-- but don't really know how to use them properly. But I guess being a theoretical chef makes me a practical foodie, and that's what I'll try to reflect here.

So anyway, here's my new blog. Bon appetit.