Email from the Philippines

This week Oren will pop up @ Abel’s House on Friday. If you would like to come, please contact me on 01286 669683, or via our new email adress orencaernarfon@gmail.com

A new email adress, yes. Last Friday hackers used my old email adress, to send around a hoax, telling all my contacts I was stranded in the Philippines after being robbed and needed them to send money immediately. Silly really. Most of my friends and customers know that I wouldnt suddenly hop off to the Philippines.  Never having mentioned it, they will also have been highly surprised of me being there as it is a total black spot on my holiday destination list.

Even as a culinary globetrotter I havent been to the Philippines. It is a  hiatus in my vast collection of cookery books, I can only think of some recipes in Madhur Jaffrey’s masterpiece ‘Eastern Vegetarian Cooking’. So in line with the email scam I thought I should blog this week as if I really had been to this pacific archipelago.

The first stall I try is Wikipedia. It says: ‘Counterpoint is a feature in Philippine cuisine which normally comes in a pairing of something sweet with something salty, and results in surprising combinations’. For example sweet cacao rice porridge with salted sundried fish. Wonder if this is one of the reasons you dont come across many Filipino restaurants in the west.

Next port of call after looking in my google guide is www.sunkist.com, because as a proprietor of an orange themed restaurant I am interested in what a citrus supplier has to offer. Not disappointed. They say:’ Filipino cooks just seem to have a talent for borrowing the best from other cuisines and turning it into something uniquely fresh and delicious’. Somebody just told me recently that a lot of cooks aboard ships are Filipino, because they incorporate easily western en eastern food in their cooking, handy for big ships with a mixed western/eastern crew.

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I also can taste an orange-flavored version of the Filipino national dish Adobo, an easy casserole in which chicken ‘speaks a tasty new language’. Now that might find its way to the Oren table!

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

3/4 cup palm vinegar or rice vinegar ,  1/4 cup soy sauce ,  1 tablespoon minced garlic , 1 bay leaf ,               1 teaspoon sugar ,   1/2 teaspoon salt ,  1/2 teaspoon black pepper ,  4 each chicken legs and thighs ,          3/4 cup water ,  2 tablespoons cooking oil  ,  zest & segments from 1 orange , 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

Getting Ready

In a 3-quart pan, combine vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaf, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add chicken and stir to coat each piece with marinade. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Cooking

  1. Add water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer until meat near bone is no longer pink when cut, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon; pat dry with paper towels. Reserve sauce and discard bay leaf.
  2. Place a wok over medium heat until hot. Add oil, swirling to coat sides. Add chicken and orange zest; cook until browned on all sides, 5 to 6 minutes total.
  3. Heat reserved sauce. Add cornstarch solution and cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens.
  4. Return chicken to sauce; and orange segments and stir until chicken is well glazed.
  5. Lift chicken from sauce and arrange on a serving platter. Pass extra sauce at the table.

Adapted from Martin Yan’s Asia (KQED Books & Tapes) Copyright Yan Can Cook Inc., 1997

www.filipinorecipes.org is a restaurant with a very extensive menu. I learn a lot of good dishes there. Some more Adobo and  most interesting Kare Kare – braised oxtail with peanut sauce. Combination of fat but somehow does sound very appealing to me! But also Paella and Empanadas – after all this was a former Spanish colony, the only one in the Far East. There is also a Filipino version of a Spanish cocido, called Pochero. Meat & vegetables cooked together, and the Filipino twist is adding bananas and sweet potatoes at the end.

That brings me back to the 70’s when my student sister brought home a recipe for chilli con carne with banana, by  far the most outlandish dish my mother added to her repertoire of very well cooked traditional Dutch food. As a real holiday this virtual trip ends with evoking good memories.

St. Dwynwen

Menu:

  • Salad of Roasted Leeks with Olives & Thyme 
  •  Cream of Swede & Nutmeg Soup
  • Matelote of Pigeon 
  • Crab & Salmon Fish Cakes with Local Chutney 
  • Vegetarian Lentil & Celtic Mead Pie 
  • Welsh Cheeses, Home Baked Oatcakes 
  • Welsh Cakes, Sloe Gin Jelly, Salted Caramel Walnuts & Cream

It is St Dwynwen night this week in Wales, on the 25th. St Dwynwen is the Welsh patron saint of lovers.  How a nun became the equivalent of St Valentine you can read on

http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofWales/St-Dwynwens-Day/

I have never really understood the stories about her. But then again, I am a convinced bachelor. To me, it looks like she was disappointed in love and then sulked for years on a forgotten corner of the island of Anglesey. I can understand why she chose that place though, because nowadays there is still an air of serene tranquility at Newborough beach. You can reach Landdwyn island at low tides from the beach. For me, there is always something magical about places like that, as if I am on a pelgrimage and the island allows me to come in, by lowering the water.

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We use Penceunant Tea Rooms (www.snowdoncafe.com) as a location for Pop Up Oren this week. An 18th century traditional cottage, on the slopes of Snowdon. It will take a little climb to get there. But it might remind the guests of the pelgrimage they are on together, lovers or not. The little effort they have to take will be rewarded with a warm fire and good food. Lowering my waters and welcoming the pilgrims in (as LLanddwyn island) is one of the nicest parts of being a cook for me.

So instead of an evening where couples stare into eachothers eyes over  pink and heart shaped afrodesiac dishes, we use this day as an excuse to comfort our ‘pilgrims’ and serve excellent Welsh food in a beautiful Welsh Cottage.

On the menu Welsh cakes baked on a griddle, this recipe is from Penceunant tearooms.

Ingredients:
   
1 lb/450g Plain Flour
8 oz/220g Butter
5 oz/140g Sugar
2 Eggs
3 oz/85g Currants
1/4 Teaspoon of Cinnamon
Method:
    
Cream the butter, sugar and eggs in a bowl for a couple of minutes. Then add the flour, cinnamon and currants.  Mix well.  Dust a breadboard with some flour and knead the dough for about 2 or 3 minutes.  Flatten the dough with a rollin pin until it’s about 1/4 inch/5mm thick. Use a pastry cutter to make 3-4 inch/8-10cm circles.  Grease a heavy pan or griddle with some butter and put over a medium heat.  Cook for 2 or 3 minutes each side until golden brown on both sides

Guided by Angels

Menu:

  • Crema de Garbanzos – Puree of Chickpea Soup
  • Carnitos of Pork with Oren
  • Fish Picadillo Tacos
  • Quesadillas with Mushrooms & Chipotle
  • Tortillas in Ancho Chile and Red Pepper Cream Sauce
  • Tortillas with Egg & Pumkin Seed Sauce
  • Corn & Black Bean Salsa
  • Salad of Greens with Grapefruit
  • Rice Flour Cake with Pineapple & Pomegranate

The day after the fire my friend Henry (a fellow Dutch ex-pat in Caernarfon) knocked on my door. To show her sympathy and – hearing my pop up plans – offer the dining room in the 14th century basement of Totters Hostel, which she and her husband Bob owns. It contains one big dining table, a perfect meeting place for the travelling guests.

dinningroom

www.totters.co.uk

I love the idea of different guests sharing one big table. The social aspect of eating is very important to me. Customers chatting to people on the table next to them is a common scene in Oren and contributes to the buzzing atmosphere. It reminds me of a restaurant in Utrecht (NL)  in my student days. Casa Sanchez was a Spanish restaurant, characterised by long tables, shouting waiters and an abundance of garlic and olive oil. It was one of the first restaurants I came across which was ‘organic’, it wasnt just about the food or the decor but about the whole experience. Looking at the reviews I am pleased to see that I have been able to create that with Oren as well.

This table shouted ‘Mexico!’ at me – I could immediately imagine it filled with tortilla’s prepared in all their varied ways.  There is something fuzz free, loving and social about Mexican cuisine which suits that table.

A famous Mexican dish is ‘Tablecloth Stainer’. It is unavoidable that the chillis in the sauce dirty your linnen with their intense colour.  But who cares when those chillis are so delicous? It is that attitude with which th food is prepared which endeares me so much to Mexican food.

The first time I ever boarded a plane was to fly me from Amsterdam to Cancun. I returned with beautiful memories, not only of all these amazing sights but above all of the food. Huevos Rancheros (farmers eggs) for breakfast and late night Margeritas. Pollo Pibil (steamed chicken) in Yucatan and Chalupines (crickets collected on the cornfields) in Oaxaca.  And in Puebla of course turkey with savoury chocolate sauce, Pavo con Mole. First time it appeared on the menu in Oren, customers were thinking I was cooking the underground digger.

In 16th century Puebla an Archbishop told the nuns in the  Santa Rosa monastery he wanted to visit them. The nuns panicked and didnt know what to feed such an erudite guest. After a bit of praying they started to mash, grind and chop everything they had in the kitchen. All kinds of chillis, tomatoes, almonds, onions, garlic, bread, tortillas, bananas, sesame seeds, sugar, raisins, lard, smoked avocado leaves and countless spices and herbs went into a sauce. And to finish it of a bit of chocolate. The result was presented to the Archbishop with their price possession, a turkey. The Archbishop was exalted and thanked the angels which guided the hands of the nuns in creating such a divine dish. Please try it yourself:

http://www.thelatinkitchen.com/recipe/turkey-mole-sauce-pavo-en-mole-poblano

I am thanking my angels for guiding my hands this way.

Adventure & Zen

This week’s menu:

  • Roasted Squash with Taleggio, Walnuts & Honey
  • Thai Pork Patties
  • Pot Roast Chicken
  • Cullen Skink
  • Persian Aubergine Stew with Jewelled Rice
  • Chocolate, Chilli & Cardamom Tart

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So I am popping up. That gave me the inspiration to pick James Ramsden’s ‘Small Adventures in Cooking’ from the bookcase. James is an influential food blogger and pop up supper club host. According to the cover of this very usable cookbook he believes ‘that cooking is most enjoyable when imbued with a sense of adventure and exploration’. Reading that is like meeting a kindred spirit.

It is funny how sometimes things seem to work together. Before picking up James’ book I just read our most recent review, which speaks of Oren as a place that ‘evokes a sense of adventure and autenticity’, the same as when you are ‘in a new country and being lucky enough to find this little fantastic place to eat’. The new pop up version of Oren ‘simply adds to the sense of surprise and discovery’.

Maybe its the Gemini in me that always will look out of the window and wonder what is there. Or maybe I have inherited the pioneering spirit of my dad that looks for something to build in barren land. But when the fire destroyed Oren’s kitchen I immediately felt it was a new adventure and started exploring opportunities where to cook now.

An adventure in cooking doesnt have to start with a new kitchen though. It can begin in your kitchen cupboard. The chapter ‘Corner Shop Capers’ in Ramsden’s book contains recipes as Spinach & Chickpea Curry, Smoked Sausage with Apple & Cream and Soviet Salmon Soup. If you are adventurous enough to cook this last dish, you can discover how a simple tin of salmon is transformed into something delicious.

In the same chapter a recipe for Persian stew with tinned aubergine, which is on our menu this week:

http://www.jamesramsden.com/2009/11/17/ethnic-eating-experiment-day-5-finally/

Throughout the book James Ramsden shares his ‘Kitchen Zen’. Cooking at Abel’s House last weekend I realised how valuable his tips are. I’ll repeat some of them:

– Keep it tidy. Wash up in beween – otherwise you end up with an unworkable workspace the size of your chopping board.

– Keep a bowl for waste. Ah, the bliss of a bucket in the corner. ‘Trying to chop an onion on a board covered with potato peelings and onion skin is a quick way to loose a finger’.

– Put some music on.

– I would add ‘Finish one job and then go on to another’. First peel, scrape, and clean all your vegetables, and then start chopping them.

I know this all sounds ‘very common sense’. But sometimes it helps when somebody says this common sense out loud.