July 28, 2006

Friday night pudding

I know I'm getting old when I'm home on a Friday night baking instead of out with friends. After a day of heavy traffic, pouring rain and long meetings, a relaxing and therapeutic baking session just seemed like a very good idea.

It was love at first bite for me when I tried this bread pudding for the first time at a friend's house. I had never tasted anything like it before and I haven't tasted anything like it again. I found myself thinking about it a few months later which prompted me to ask my friend for the recipe. She said she would gladly ask her mom to write it down for me, then said that I could also get it straight from the horse's mouth, our mutual tita. Which I did.

Years went by and it was never made. I couldn't convince myself that I could make it even half as good, that it wouldn't be just a waste of ingredients. So the other day, as I was leafing through the index cards in my mom's recipe box looking for her ratatouille recipe (which I am making for a potluck dinner I'm hosting tomorrow), I saw it! The unmade bread pudding. I figured what the heck, if I screwed it up I'll just drown it in butterscotch, then how bad can it be right?

Well, it turned out excellent if I may say so myself! Soft and chewy on the inside with a nice brown crust that had the right amount of crunch.

I made two sauces for it, butterscotch and vanilla. This bread pudding recipe is so good though that if you didn't want the added calories, you could skip the sauce.

Bread Pudding Marina

6 cups day old bread, chopped into small pieces
1 stick margarine, softened
1 1/2 cups fresh milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 eggs, beaten
3 tbsp mango jam

Preheat the oven to 350 deg. Mix all the ingredients except the bread. Put all the bread in a pyrex. Make sure you spread it out evenly and it only comes up to about half of the pyrex. Pour the mix evenly over the bread and bake for 40 mins.

Butterscotch Sauce

1 egg yolk, beaten
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup water
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup flour

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Cook mixture on top of double boiler over hot water until thickened, stirring frequently.

I got the vanilla custard recipe from epicurious.

July 26, 2006

Where the hell is Matt?

Do yourself a favor and watch Matt's dancing videos. Make sure you watch both 2005 and 2006.

May we all dance like no one is watching,
wherever in the world we may be.

The "about me" and "what people are saying" pages are good for a few laughs too.
Thank you, Tracy, for the link. :)

July 25, 2006

Chestnut & Lentil Soup

Beans (of the legume and pulse variety) are a staple in many cuisines around the world. They are so versatile , they can be pureed into stews and soups, scattered in salads, mashed into dips, stuffed into burritos. Some of my most favorite meals to eat and cook is made with beans: fabada (spanish white bean stew) , lentejas (lentil soup) , feijoada (Brazilian/Portuguese bean stew), dahl (indian stew which can be made from a variety of beans), hummus (chickpea dip) , baked beans, and monggo (Filipino mung bean soup).

All of the above are to me, comfort food. There is nothing like a bowl of fabada or lentejas or monggo to nourish and warm my tummy on a cold and rainy day. And last Sunday was such a day with typhoon Glenda howling outside and beating down on our tin roof. I decided it was the perfect day to try out Clotilde's recipe for chestnut and lentil soup, which is her version of Maki's recipe.

The only way I have ever cooked lentils was the Spanish way which is with olive oil, chorizo (sometimes even ham or bacon) and garlic. I loved this hearty dish so much I never dreamed of having my lentils any other way. The mere thought seemed almost sacrilegious. But this recipe begged to be tried. The idea of mixing chestnuts into a stew just sounded too good to brush aside. Here's the recipe as I made it:

Chestnut and Lentil Soup
250 g green lentils
100 g chestnuts (should be 200g but this is all I had)
2 onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
6 cups hot water
2 pork bouillon cubes
1 tsp thyme
2 dry bay leaves
olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
1 tsp honey (optional)
1 tsp yoghurt (or creme fraiche)

In a large saucepan, heat up some olive oil and cook the onions and garlic on medium heat until translucent, for about ten minutes.

Add the water, the bouillon cubes, the lentils, the herbs, a bit of salt and a bit of pepper. Bring to a boil, and let it simmer gently for 20 minutes. Add the chestnuts and cook for another 40 minutes, or until lentils are soft.

Remove the bay leafs then transfer some or all of the soup in the food processor and mix it slightly or to your desired consistency. I prefer my soup chunky so I did a couple of quick pulses on the blender.

Return the mixed soup to the pot, add the yoghurt, and stir over low heat until it is nicely blended.

(Serves 4.)

It turned out wonderful served with some sourdough bread. Even my folks enjoyed it. It has a nice sweet, creamy taste that just soothes the grey away. I only wish I had more chestnuts to add.

Thank you Maki and Clotilde for sharing this yummy recipe with us. :)

By the way, if you are having difficulty finding chestnuts in Manila this time of year, I got mine at Lord Stowe's bakery in Market! Market!. They come in foil packets of 100g.

July 23, 2006

Polly's brown derby

I had recently mentioned in Mila's blog that I grew up with Polly Garilao's chocolate cake. It was always present in all our family functions whether they were held in our own home or taken to somebody's else's. For many years, it was the most convenient, not to mention delicious, choice for dessert as the Garilao's lived only 3 blocks away from where we live.

I don't normally like chocolate cakes because most of those I've tried are dry and fluffy and I'm usually just disappointed. But Polly's chocolate cake is so moist and dense, with the perfect chocolate icing.

Because it is simply one of the best chocolate cakes in the city (even earning a sweet spot as one of the 10 best desserts in Manila by Lori) and was rapidly gaining popularity, we were always asked to bring it to potluck parties. It became known as the 'Merville cake' or among Merville residents it was simply 'the Garilao cake'.

What many don't know though is that it comes in another version: with mocha icing. Polly calls this the Brown Derby (P375 for the 8x8, P490 for the 8x12). It is the same chocolatey heaven but with a slight twist. This is perfect for people like me who have gotten a little tired of the original cake after all these years and crave for something different.

The brown derby gets mixed reviews from my friends...there are the staunch loyalists and purists who possess an unswerving devotion to the original cake; then there are those that prefer the complementary flavors of mocha and chocolate.

I personally love having both options to bounce back and forth from!

Incidentally, they have other goodies like: Crisp-top apple pie, food for the gods and prune bars, bread pudding with spanish cream sauce, christmas pumpkin loaf, mango cream layer cake, peach walnut pavlova, lemon squares, and sans rival.

Polly's specialty cakes:
02 824 7612
also available in Shell Select Magallanes and Shell Maya

July 21, 2006

That nifty library thing!

If you're anything like me, well, *snicker* poor you. Seriously, if you're like me then you love to read and you treasure your books. You are quite anal (heehee I said anal in my blog) about organizing them on your shelf.....and on your bedside table, in your magazine basket in the bathroom, in the backseat of your car, and on your desk in the office.

if you are even more like me you also have a horrible memory. Case in point: Just recently, I bid for and won Bella Tuscany by Frances Mayes from avalon. So after I received it with other books I purchased in the post, I walked over to my bookshelf looking for it's cousin 'travels-to-italy' books and lovingly slipped it in between Extra Virgin by Annie Hawes and ummm, Bella Tuscany by Frances Mayes. Well, they did have different covers and I read it waaayyyyyy back in 2002!

So anyway, I decided it was time to catalog my books. If I did it for my CD's on an excel sheet why should my books get less attention? I used Amazon's Wish List feature to create my virtual library, this way it was easy for me to transfer books from my online wishlist to the other list which i called 'in my library' as I bought them. That worked fine, until!....until I serendipitously chanced upon The Library Thing.

It's perfect! It's chockful of wonderful features like:

- you can import the list you already have in amazon with just a couple of clicks ( this feature saved me a lot of time)
- you can arrange the books in different styles
- you can connect with other people who share the same books on your library and see what else they're reading
- it comes up with suggestions for what to read next
- you can write notes for each book - this will come in handy when i lend them out
- you can choose to make it public or private
- it is free up to 200 books. (unlimited for a year is $10, and $25 for a lifetime)

I see many hours spent exploring other people's online libraries in my future.

July 18, 2006

Guess who's coming to town?!

No no, I'm not talking about the Blackeyed Peas or the Pussycat Dolls, or the Fab5 or David Sedaris (which I'm quite excited about , btw) . I'm talking bigger!

I'm talking about those high-carb, melt-in-your-mouth, glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts!

According to the PDI's Business section today, development rights for the Philippines was awarded to The Real American Doughnut Company, Inc. which is owned and operated by the principals of Max's. The first location is scheduled to open by the end of 2006 with approximately 30 in all to open in the next 5 years.

I was still living in London when KKD opened only their 2nd international branch inside Harrods in October of 2003 (first branch outside the US opened in Canada in 2001). I made a beeline for that exclusive building in Knightsbridge and wasn't surprised to see the queue snaking it's way through the food court.

Determined to have my first taste of the kremes that day I fell in line and waited. I didn't have to wait long. They were giving out FREE glazed doughnuts to those waiting in line! How nice of them.

I was not disappointed. They were exactly how I dreamt they would be. It was freshly baked, hot, taken straight out of the greasy conveyor belt and no sooner had it landed on my tongue did it dissolve into syrupy goodness. I was thinking of getting a half-dozen box, but after that experience, I ordered a dozen! (Nice marketing strategy there). Half of which were the original glazed and I sampled some of the flavored ones like chocolate iced glazed, maple iced, creme-filled and a few others I don't remember.

Kinda makes you wonder though. Why, after over 60 years of catering exclusively to the US market, are they suddenly sprouting around the world? Could it be that the Atkins and South Beach diet craze knocked them off their feet? I did read somewhere that KK's revenues dropped significantly following an announcement about the high trans fat contents in its recipes. So they are forced to venture into new, undiscerning markets.

Oh well, bring it on! This is going to be a major test of will power for me.

July 13, 2006

T+L 2006 World's Best Islands & Cities

These are the results of Travel + Leisure's recent annual reader's poll for the 2006 World's Best Islands and their corresponding scores:

1 Bali, Indonesia 88.48
2 Kauai 86.47
3 Maui 86.21
4 Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia 85.97
5 Mount Desert Island, Maine 84.90
6 Tasmania 84.88
7 Hawaii 84.72
8 Galapagos Islands 84.69
9 Santorini, Greece 84.17
10 Phuket, Thailand 84.06

I agree with Santorini, as it is the only island mentioned above that I have been to. I don't know what criteria was used but obviously these people haven't been to the Philippines?

As for the 2006 World's Best Cities:

1 Florence, Italy 87.09
2 Rome, Italy 86.15
3 Bangkok, Thailand 86.11
4 Sydney, Australia 85.94
5 Chiang Mai, Thailand 85.62
6 Cape Town, South Africa 85.39
7 Buenos Aires, Argentina 85.03
8 New York, USA 84.75
9 Beirut, Lebanon 84.38
10 San Francisco, USA 84.29

That is one very interesting and diverse list!

Well, I don't know about you but I'm not taking their word for it, I need to visit all these islands myself then. So much to see, so little time! :)

July 6, 2006

Have Luxe, will travel!

When travelling, I try to learn as much as I can about my destination. I like to read up on some history, learn about unique aspects of the culture and local custom, make a list of must-sees, things to do, local food to try, learn a few key phrases from the local dialect, you get the picture.

Though I usually enjoy reading travel guides like Lonely Planet or Insight Guides before leaving for my trip, they are just too heavy and bulky to lug around while actually on the trip. And I prefer to get my info from locals who actually live there or at the very least fellow travellers who have 'been there done that'. It has become my MO to spend hours researching entries by fellow Virtual Tourists and BootsnAll members, compiling them all with some pictures, and then printing my own light-weight travel guide. I especially enjoy this because the entries are naturally written in their own words, and each one offers a genuine, unique and oftentimes quirky perspective on a subject. I'm rarely disappointed with the recommendations because I know they are simply that, personal recommendations. Not promises.

But you see, I can spend hours and hours on this type of research because I super enjoy it. I'm aware though that not everyone shares the same nerdy passion, yet would prefer a lighter and more fun alternative to the heavy guidebooks at an affordable price. And for those people, I am happy to introduce the ultra-chic Luxe City Guide.

During a recent trip to Hanoi, my friend Therese introduced me to this little treasure. I couldn't believe how this pocket size concertina-style guidebook could contain so much information. And with an attitude too!

Contributions are usually from about 20 local residents, whose recommendations have all undergone strict style and flair tests, and verified personally by the editor. The top tips are oultined in tongue-in-cheek and sometimes even downright hilarious dialogue. In some parts, even oozing sarcasm.

Here's an excerpt about the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum from the Hanoi guide: "Remember it is expressly forbidden to wear hot pants and a pointy bra, macrame your own poncho or wear anything ever!"

These hip guides, which cost $9 a piece, are packed with lots of 'secrets' that only locals are privy to. Stuff you can be sure you wouldn't find in the bigger books. It's as close as you will ever get to seeing a foreign city with a native.

At the moment, city guides are available for the following Asia and Australia destinations: Bali, Bangkok, Beijing, Chiang Mai, Dubai, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, HongKong, Melbourne, Phuket, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Sydney, and Tokyo.

After practically reading Therese's Hanoi guide from cover to cover, I bought a couple of my own city guides from the Ipa-Nima store in Hanoi and grabbed yet another one in the Duty Free bookshop of the HongKong airport on my way home. Unfortunately they aren't available in Manila yet, but you can order from their site online or from anyone travelling to any of the cities listed above.

The Luxe City Guides are updated twice a year and 100% reliable, I dare you to be disappointed. As they claim with unapologetic authority: "If it's 'in', it's in here."


Luxe goes to Europe! Paris, Madrid & Istanbul guides have now been added!

Luxe guides are now available at the magazine stand on the ground floor of South Supermarket in Alabang! Yay! :)