Thursday, September 18, 2008

My P1,000 Morning Food Trip

It started benignly enough. I woke up earlier than usual to bring my Dear to her office in Greenhills, a mere 25 minutes away including mild traffic. On my way home I decided to look for Pasteleria Mallorca which I knew was somewhere along Sct. Fuentebella in Quezon City-- also 25 minutes from my house but in the opposite direction.

Pasteleria Mallorca's products are actually available in supermarkets-- I've tried (and like) their lenguas de gato, palillos de Madrid, and galletas San Nicolas-- but I've always wanted to visit their shop not only to buy their pastries but also to try their old-school ensaimadas, which are supposed to be the best in town.

So there I was, driving down the length of Sct. Fuentebella looking for a pastry shop, thinking it should stand out in what's mainly a residential street. No luck. After seeing the same houses four times I decided to call it quits and go home. So as not to let my detour be a total waste, I thought I might as well pass by Estrel's on the corner of Sct. Tobias and Sct. Limbaga.

Estrel's, established in 1946, is actually famous for its caramel cake which is I should say really superb-- it's one of those cakes in which everything is actually good: cake, filling, icing, flowers, etc. But since I wasn't in the mood for cake I decided to buy a box of food for the gods, at P360 for 20 pieces. They're very delicious and you can tell they only use premium ingredients, but I find it quite pricey since I'm already happy with those generic versions you can buy in any supermarket. But if you want food for the gods that is worthy of, well, God, then do buy a box from Estrel's. As for me, next time I'll stick to the caramel cake.

Heading back home, I impulsively parked at Santi's Delicatessen along Timog Avenue, unable resist rummaging though a well-stocked grocery. They did have a good selection of cheeses, canned goods, meats, sausages, etc., but I could find 90% of them (or equivalent substitutes) in other supermarkets at a marginally cheaper price. I was also looking for some Russian sturgeon caviar which I can't find anywhere in this country, and neither did I find it there. I ended up buying two links of pork cervelat, two links of veal bratwurst, and three links of Italian garlic pork sausage for a total of P295.40. This amount is actually enough for at least six meals so at around P50 per meal it's a pretty good deal.

While on the Santi's checkout line I met Mrs. Tess Morato-Lazatin, a daughter of Tomas Morato (yes, the street's namesake). She mentioned that, as a hobby, she makes morcillas and chorizos and cooks made-to-order paella (10 people minimum), using recipes from her home in Spain. Obviously she didn't have any products on hand so I got her contact info and I'll surely order some chorizos when my current stock runs out, maybe even some paella if I feel like splurging. I mentioned I was in the area looking for Pasteleria Mallorca, and lo and behold, she knew where it is-- 18 Sct. Fuentebella.

So back I drove to Sct. Fuentebella, looking for No. 18 which I'm sure I've seen before. And yes, I've seen it before-- that green-gated house that looks like the other houses beside it with nary a clue that it makes Spanish pastries on site. Well they do have a sign on the gate, if a plastic-covered piece of paper with words you'll only be able to read if you step off your car and walk up to it counts as a sign.

And there I was, at the first cause of my detour, the home-based factory of the Pasteleria Mallorca line of pastries as well as the Mega Mexicana line of tacos and dips (never knew they were made by the same company). First order of business was the ensaimada-- they had none. They make them only during the afternoon, freshly baked at around 2:30pm. Sigh. I guess I'll have to order some in advance then. But since I also went there for the pastries, particularly the lenguas de gato, it wasn't a total let-down. Besides, they also had some frozen sans rival and tarta Madrid, but they were too much for me at the time. I ended up buying a jar of lenguas de gato (P210), a jar of palillos de Madrid (P135), and a pack of argellanas (P60).

So that's P1,060.40 worth of various food stuffs bought on a whim. And it wasn't even lunchtime.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ay, Pottage!

Remember that ginisang munggo dish our moms made, usually during Lenten Fridays? That green, beany, savoury, soupy dish that's the perfect side for plain rice and fried anything? What do you call it in English? Soup? Stew? Porridge? dr.sbdink and I were discussing this recently and, well, we were stumped.

After some research, I can confidently say the answer is pottage, which is basically a vegetable soup or stew and is the root of the word porridge. The granddaddy of this word is the Latin porrum which means leek-- a common ingredient in soups and stews. From there it became the Old French potage meaning soup and then the current English pottage. Pottage and porridge were originally interchangeable terms, both basically meaning boiled vegetables or cereals. In the 17th century, however, the terms started to have the distinct meanings we have today, with pottage keeping its original association with vegetable soups and porridge referring to cereals (primarily oatmeal but also encompassing rice, corn, barley, etc.) boiled in water or milk.

Pottage is actually mentioned in the Bible, in Genesis XXV 27-34 where Esau sells his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of lentil pottage and some bread. The Hebrew says וּנְזִיד עֲדָשִׁים (naziyd 'adash), which literally means boiled lentils, and is translated as pottage of lentils in the King James Version. Esau eventually regrets the trade with Jacob and this becomes the nucleus of their (and their descendants') endless conflict. Jacob, after wrestling with a mysterious man, later thought to be God himself, eventually became known as Israel (literally he who wrestled with God). Thus, Jacob's lentil pottage set the stage for the Arab-Israeli troubles we see today. But I digress.

Therefore, since our munggo dish is thickened by legumes rather than cereals, the precise English term would be mung bean pottage. Hopefully our mung bean pottage won't start any wars.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Delicious Russian Dish

The recipe is for Russian-style plov (плов) made with chicken, onions, and carrots. Plov, also known as pilaf, is a rice dish of Persian origin which reached Russia and Eastern Europe through Central Asia.


1 lb chicken breast
1.5 cups rice
1 tbs tomato paste
3 cups chicken stock...

Better yet, just watch the dish's recipe:

Friday, September 5, 2008

Deep Fried Everything and Azeri Cuisine

For my birthday my Dear gave me a deep fryer. I usually avoid deep-frying stuff to show some concern for my health, but I do like fried foods like everyone else so this was a welcome gift. I'd feel too guilty to buy myself a deep fryer, even if it would make a good addition to my galley gear. It requires at least 750mL of oil to start cooking-- not exactly frugal, but it does go a long way.

So two weeks ago I finally used the deep fryer, frying everything I can put my hands on. I began with a lunch of deep fried sausages and eggplant. For dinner, I fried potato wedges, Vienna sausages, and some canned salmon. The following day, I fried some Thai-style chicken wrapped in pandan leaves bought from SM. After which I had to reluctantly throw away the oil-- I don't usually consume 750mL of canola oil for just three meals.

This week I tried my hand at making saciçi, that afritada-like Azeri chicken dish I had in Baku. I departed from the original recipe though-- I used olive oil and butter instead of pure butter, I added a lot of garlic, and I cooked it with orange juice and slices. Also, I used bigger cuts of chicken and vegetables in my saciçi so I had to use more water while cooking; thus, the ensuing dish had a lot more sauce. It's quite greasy due to the copius amount of oil and butter, but the orange cuts through it a little bit. It was quite close to the saciçi I had in Baku, though I wish I used less water so the chicken and vegetables could've fried more. Next time I'll use smaller cuts of chicken.

Finally, just saw a video on Azeri cuisine:

Now I'm officially looking for a good Azeri (i.e., Turkish) restaurant in Manila.