Devastations and Tarte Tatins

December 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

Last month was a month of total devastation in my part of the world,  devastation that is unexpected by many, me included.   The most powerful tropical cyclone of the year hit our shores on November 8.  Super typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda, smashed into most of the Visayas and some parts of Luzon in central Philippines, affecting more than 10 million people.

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Survivors stand among debris and ruins of houses destroyed after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 10, 2013.  Credits:  Reuter: Erik de Castro 

With winds that clocked in at average strength of 196 mph (314 kph), Yolanda’s rampage left a city and many islands in ruins, a population with no homes, and countless bodies still being found almost a month after.

I am writing this in the safety of my home, 850km away from the disaster zone.  I shuddered at the thought of what it would have been like if it had hit the metropolis and I count my blessings.  I do my best to help in every little way I can – donations, feeding the volunteers, and eventually feeding the survivors that found their way to Manila.  Not enough, if you ask me, but what is enough?

This turn of events has left me heavy-hearted and shaken, and I turned to one thing that always calms me.  I baked.

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I’ve always wanted to make Tarte Tatins – a killer sticky sweet caramel-topped French treat that was originally made with apples.  Many, through the years, have twisted the recipes to use different fruits – pears, bananas, peaches, pineapple – I chose to use guavas.  Guavas are heavenly when preserved in sugar.

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It is one of the easiest to make but likewise one of the hardest.  This tart is made upside down by cooking the fruit in butter and sugar in a heavy-based oven-proof skillet, then topped with pastry before baking.  That’s the easy part.  The hard part is flipping the tart (down side up) without making a mess and burning oneself.

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I used two large guavas, which, I think could use more.  So depending on the size of the guavas, you may choose to use three large guavas.

Guava Tarte Tatin

(recipe adapted from Deb of Smitten Kitchen)

What You Need:

  • 2-3 large Guavas (I used Apple Guavas)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) butter
  • 1 1/3 cup (266 grams) sugar, divided
  • Puffed pastry, chilled
  • A 9-inch ovenproof skillet, heavy enough that you fear dropping it on your toes

What You Do:

  1. Peel guavas, cut lengthwise into quarters and core (you don’t want the seeds). Then cut a bevel along their inner edge, which will help their curved exteriors stay on top as they rest on this edge.
  2. Toss guavas with the lemon juice and 1/3 cup of the sugar. Set aside for 15 minutes to help release the guava’s juices.making-caramel
  3. Melt butter in an oven-proofed skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle in remaining (1 cup) sugar and whisk it over the heat until it becomes a pale caramel color.
  4. Off the heat, add the guavas to the skillet, arranging them rounded sides down in one layer. Lay any more guava wedges left rounded sides down in a second layer, starting from the center.cooking-the-guava
  5. Return the pan to the stove and cook in the caramel for another 20 to 25 minutes over moderately high heat. With a spoon, regularly press down on the guavas and baste them with the caramel juices from the pan. If it seems that your guavas in the center are cooking faster, rotate guavas. The guavas will shrink a bit by the end of the cooking time.
  6. Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F). Roll out your puffed pastry to a 9-inch circle and trim if needed. Cut four vents in pastry. Remove skillet from heat again, and arrange pastry over guavas. Tuck it in around the guavas for nicer edges later. Bake until the pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  7. Once baked, use potholders to place a plate or serving dish (larger in diameter than the pan) over the pasty and tip over the pastry and guavas at once onto the plate. If any guavas remain in the pan, nudge them out with a spatula.
  8. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped crème fraîche, or lightly sweetened whipped cream.

 Sliced

Tips:

  • Try other variations:  bananas, pears, apples (of course) — although I haven’t tried making any of these yet.
  • If you don’t have an oven-proofed pan, cook the fruit in a heavy based frying pan, then transfer them into a similar sized pie dish and top with pastry before baking.
  • You can cook this one day ahead, keep it in the mold and reheat in a preheated oven at 150°C for 20 minutes but it is best 1 hour after cooking when still warm.
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Eggs…

June 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

Is it foe or is it friend?  The great egg debate persists.  They say eggs are bad for the heart and have been the subject of criticism and scrutiny for the last few decades.

EggsCredit:  J Sprague DIDer Lesson 4 Supplies

A more recent probe though suggests that this versatile food, the ultimate fast food, has moved from health hazard to dietary recommendation.  No food has had more high and lows for over a decade than the common egg. It is blamed as the culprit for heart disease and strokes, they now say that, yes it does increase cholesterol levels but studies also show that an egg a day for healthy men and women is unlikely to have any real change in heart disease and stroke risk.

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I happen to enjoy, no make that—love eggs—who doesn’t?  It ranks close if not equal to butter on my list.  It is an essential staple that saved many a hard-pressed, lackadaisical night.  But on the flip side, it also is muse to many ingenious dishes.

Baked Eggs with Rosemary, Garlic and Parmesan

(A recipe from the Food Channel)

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You Will Need:

  • ¼ teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parmesan cheese, grated
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/8 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Salt
  • Coarsely ground pepper
  • Toasted bread

What You Do:

  1. Preheat broiler for 5 minutes and place the oven rack 6 inches below the heat.
  2. Combine garlic, herbs, & Parmesan cheese in a small bowl.  Set aside.
  3. Carefully crack 2 eggs into small bowls, making sure that the yolk is intact.
  4. Place 2 individual ramekins on a baking sheet.
  5. Place 1 tablespoon of cream and ½ teaspoon of butter in each dish and place under the broiler for about 3 minutes, until hot and bubbly.
  6. Quickly pour 2 eggs into each ramekin and sprinkle evenly with the herb mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Place back under the broiler for 5-6 minutes or until white of the eggs are almost cooked.  The eggs will continue to cook after it is taken out of the oven.
  8. Cool for a minute and serve hot with toasted bread.

I had this for lunch, but it can be a great kick-start to the day.  If fresh herbs are a problem, dried herbs work well too.  Reduce them to at least half the amount and you will also get wonderful results.

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My take on this persisting debate:  Eggs are an important source of high quality protein, it is packed with essential nutrients, and a good source of omega 3.  The highest source of protein is in the yolk, they say.  I say the highest source of flavor is in the yolk.  So missing out on the yolk means missing out on the best benefits this tiny piece of heaven has to offer.  And besides, egg whites are really meant for macaroons, yes?

*  Source:  http://www.cholesterol-and-health.com/Egg_Yolk.html

An Adult Take on a Childhood Favorite

March 23, 2012 § 12 Comments

We used to live in a compound.  It has four houses, the main house was my lola’s (grandmother’s), one was our house and the two others were my father’s siblings’.  We lived there most of my life until we moved house after college.  There were so many memories in that compound but summers (as a child) were especially memorable as the days were spent playing with cousins in that compound – patintero, touch-taya, Chinese garter… there even was a baseball phase.  I remember catching tadpoles at the canal outside our house. Yeah those were carefree times.  I can’t imagine any parent allowing their kids to play in a canal today.   😯  We’d climb and pick santol and indian mangoes from the tree in my lola’s garden, devouring it with salt or toyo (soysauce).  I’d always look forward to my uncle’s treats to Sunshine Market, our neighborhood grocery.  I’d go straight to the snack section and pick-up Carol-Ann’s potato chips.  Oh how I love that greasy but crispy, thin chips seasoned only with salt.  To this day, nothing beats Carol-Ann’s and you don’t find them anymore.  I love Choco vim — I’d shake it till the chocolate at the bottom dissolves, such a thrill .   And there was Magnolia’s Twin Popsies, I like both the chocolate and the orange variant.  A perfect heat quencher.  Childhood memories… always make me smile.

The Kulinarya Cooking Club is a club that showcases Filipino dishes by way of a monthly challenge among the members.  And this is my first attempt on a fairly easy but so much fun challenge this month, thanks to Arnold of Inuyaki and Jun of Jun-blog.

The theme is “ice candy” or popsicle treats, which aptly signals the start of summer.  In spite of the heat, summer is always a favorite time of the year.  It means I get to soak up the sun in some remote island with some frozen delights on hand.  I usually go for fresh shakes nowadays but ice candy brought back so many memories that I feel like having twin popsies right now.

My take on the theme is an adult version of a childhood favorite.   I made 2 versions in honor of the 2 Magnolia Twin Popsies variants.  One is a delightful orange and mango flavor with a hint of ginger while the other is a chocolate popsicle made of native cacao balls and since I love a hint of orange in my chocolate, I added some orange zest to give it a twist.

Mango-Orange-Ginger Popsies

What you need:

  • 3-4 pcs.  Navel oranges
  • 2-3 pcs. Ripe Philippine mangoes
  • 3-4 slices of ginger
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • A dash of Cinnamon powder or stick

What you do:

  1. To make the ginger syrup:  In a pot, dissolve sugar with ½ cup water.  Add ginger slices and cinnamon stick.  Bring to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile make into juice all the oranges and 1 mango*.  Combine orange/mango juice and the ginger syrup in a pitcher (for ease in pouring).
  3. Slice the rest of the mangoes into bite-sized pieces distribute in popsicle molds**.
  4. Pour the juice mixture.  Place popsicle sticks over the mold and freeze.

Notes: 

* You may use ready to drink juices too if desired.  About 2 cups of orange juice to 1 cup of mango.

** The frozen mango makes a lot of different so fill it to the bream and then pour the juice.

Orange-flavored Choco Frozen Delight

What you need:

  • 10 balls or more of native chocolate*
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • A dash of cinnamon powder or stick

What you do:

  1. Dissolve choco balls in water, adding more depending on desired thickness.**
  2. Add a dash of cinnamon or place the stick of cinnamon while cooking the chocolate.
  3. When chocolate is ready, add the zest before turning off heat.
  4. Strain into a pitcher and let cool.
  5. Pour into popsicle molds, place popsicle sticks and freeze.

Notes:

* Native chocolates are made differently; it is best that you know what kind you’re using or follow instructions if it they have it.

** The thicker the chocolate, the richer the popsicle.  If you make it thick enough, it is like biting into a frozen chocolate bar.

Both were delightfully refreshing.  At the last-minute I decided to add the mango on the orange version and did a happy dance when I bit into the finish product.  It really made a lot of difference biting into frozen mangoes.  The ginger is a great twist to a familiar flavor.  Makes sure though not to overdo the ginger or it will overpower the light fruity flavor.

The chocolate version, on the hand is less sweet and much richer than that of Magnolia’s.  The orange zest added a fruity dimension to dark chocolate.  I intentionally didn’t add milk or cream, as I wanted it dark.  If milk chocolate is the preference, go ahead and add a bit of cream.

If you don’t have a popsicle mold, you may use disposable cups.  To hold the sticks in place, tape over a plastic wrap and bore a hole in the middle where the stick will go.  This will make the stick stay in the middle.

Stay cool everyone!

Breakfast

June 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

I remember dreading breakfast when I was growing up.  My mom would wake up each morning, prepare our breakfast and make us finish our bowl of oatmeal every single school day till I graduated from grade school.  “The oatmeal”, she said, “will keep us full till recess”.   Albeit not lacking in creativity because aside from the usual oatmeal with milk and sugar, we’d have Choco flavored oatmeal or at times the dreaded oatmeal combined with eggs, my palate however needed more than these variations to stir up some excitement in this department.

When I was old enough to make my breakfast, I stayed away from oatmeal for a very long time.  Unwittingly though, it got  me started on this breakfast obsession and had me come full circle with me eventually loving oatmeal.

My mom was right about breakfast but more than it being the most important meal of the day (I soon found out), I now love the comfort that breakfast food brings.  Time permitting; breakfast is a daily affair that I dare not miss.  My morning picks are usually

yogurt (Greek-style preferably), eggs and bacon,

French toast is a favorite too, sometimes it’s just toast, jam and a lot of butter,

and yes, most days it’s oatmeal done many ways.

Although breakfast is my comfort food, I hardly have time to slave away in the morning to make breakfasts more special – except on Saturdays, when I’d occasionally make pancakes with bacon or breakfast sausages on the side.

That makes breakfast out of home always a thrill as I get to experience new takes on all-time favorites or new flavors and dishes altogether.  Some breakfast jaunts that I had on recent trips that serves as inspiration for that day in the kitchen.

Eggs Benedict are always a favorite simply because I love eggs and bacon.  And well, this is really just a more sophisticated way of having your eggs and bacon don’t you think?

Sometimes I’d go for a fancy scramble, eggs being the top choice most of the time.

I like trying variations of something I’m very familiar with such as this pancake.  Dutch pancakes is a cross between a regular pancake and a crêpe.

Or if I feel like something local, these would be my top choices.

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