Sunday, 27 March 2011

My Ma's Chicken Adobo (my way)

When i was a young girl, one of the dishes i'd always ask my ma to cook was chicken adobo. it would inevitably be on the menu for my birthdays, usually followed up by a german chocolate cake for birthday cake.

when i'd come home from school i'd know instantly that we'd be having it for dinner, and i'd look forward to it with anticipation. the smell when it is cooking is kind of vinegary, but with a definite cooking chicken aroma.

i remember the first time i tried making it myself. i was at uni in texas. i phoned my mother up and she rattled off the recipe quickly while i tried my best to write everything down. i wasn't very good at gauging temperature and had the heat on way too high. before i knew it, all the marinade cooked away to a sticky mess with still underdone chicken starting to char on the outside. i think the next time i cooked it i made sure my mother was there to coach me and the results were much better.

like any adobo the meat is cooked in its marinade. you can find mexican adobo recipes using this same technique, but this is a definite filipino combination of flavours -- the marinade ingredients being grated white onion, garlic, lots of soy sauce, bay leaf and vinegar. it's that sour-salty combination that makes adobo adobo to me. most online recipes you find for chicken adobo usually specify white vinegar for the sour, but my mother uses lemon juice instead, and i of course follow her lead on that. she adds an extra step at the end, by moving the chicken and it's marinade to a hot oven so that the chicken skin browns and crisps up. my variation on that is to just broil the chicken under the grill. on the phone with her today i mentioned that i had also added grated ginger which she said is definitely not what she does in her adobo!

adobo should always be served with steamed white rice. my mother prefers Jasmine rice while i usually just stock up on basmati. jasmine rice is much more aromatic and more sticky than basmati, and when you drizzle the marinade over it becomes the perfect counterpart to the chicken. to keep things on the healthy side i usually steam up some broccoli to accompany it, or, when it's warmer out just have a crisp green salad.

the recipe below should be taken as a guide. i don't really measure out quantities for this one.

My Ma's Chicken Adobo (serves 4)

4 chicken legs. (you can joint them between drumstick and thigh or keep it all in one piece)
soy sauce
lemon juice
grated white onion
smashed garlic (i use about 6 cloves)
bay leaf
olive oil
salt and pepper

  • Make the marinade. Combine the onion, garlic, soy sauce, lemon juice and olive oil in a large casserole. Note on quantities below.

  • Season the chicken pieces and add to the marinade. You should have enough marinade for the chicken pieces to be partly covered. If not enough, add more soy sauce and lemon juice.

  • Add the bay leaf, cover and put on medium heat for about 35 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. From time to time, turn the chicken in the marinade so that all the sides are coated.

  • Heat the grill. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and place under the grill until well browned on all sides.

  • Meanwhile, keep cooking the marinade, if it's too thick you can thin it down with some chicken stock, but it shouldn't be too thin.

  • Serve the chicken with some steamed white rice and the adobo marinade (gravy) drizzled over everything.

Monday, 21 March 2011

This week's lunch: Pasta e fagioli

Spring in Berlin is a topsy turvy affair. A few days of stunning warmth followed by another few days of grey wet cold. Last week it was more of the grey and i chose to make this recipe for my week's lunches.

I used the recipe from one of my favourite books Twelve by Tessa Kiros. I've been slowly building up my collection of her books. Each one is a treasure trove of gorgeous photos, mingled with personal recollections and reflections, and an abundance of great recipes.

This is one of those dishes that is a store cupboard staple, using ingredients that I usually have to hand: beans, pasta, tomato paste, carrots, celery, onions and garlic. I cut the recipe below in half when i made it, and it made 4 lunches worth.

Pasta e fagioli serves 6
from Twelve by Tessa Kiros

300g dried cannellini or other white beans, soaked overnight in cold water
1 medium carrot peeled and chopped
1 stalk of celery, trimmed and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
200g ditalini or other similar small pasta
6 Tbs olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 small dried red chilli, crumbled
1 Tbsp tomato paste
Extra virgin olive oil, to serve

  1. Drain the soaked beans. Put them into a saucepan, cover abundantly with cold water and bring to the boil. Skim the surface of any scum, lower the heat and add the carrot, celery and onion. Cook for about 1-1/2 hours or until the beans are soft. Add more water during cooking time if necessary to keep the beans well covered and, towards the end, season with salt and pepper.

  2. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water, following the packet instructions. Drain and put into a bowl with a little olive oil to prevent the pasta sticking together.

  3. Heat the olive oil on a medium heat in a separate large pot. Add the garlic, the rosemary, the chilli and the tomato paste. Saute gently to flavour the oil until the garlic is lightly golden. Remove the garlic and rosemary branches and discard.

  4. Pass half of the cooked beans through the fine-holed disc of a food mill, or puree in a blender and add to the saucepan with the flavoured oil. Add the whole beans as well and about 1 ltr of their cooking water. Return to the heat and simmer for a few more minutes to mix the flavours./li>
  5. Add the cooked pasta and stir through. It should have the consistency of a thick, creamy soup. add a little more hot water if it seems too thick. Serve hot, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Berlin Cooking Club #1

Back when we were in London, Kelsie and I had the good fortune of connecting with The London Foodie at a few food events. At a most incredible dinner party hosted by him we hatched the idea together of forming a London Cooking Club. The format was pretty straightforward, every month interested people would convene at his home, each person contributing a course and a bottle of wine. Each month the theme would change. I'm happy to see that London Cooking Club is still doing some amazing meals and wish i was still there to participate.

But, we're in Berlin now and slowly making connections. So why not start up something similar here? We had a first meeting last Saturday with four of us at Stefan's lovely flat in Kreuzberg. There was myself, Kelsie, Stefan, and Rene.

We met in the afternoon to shop for ingredients, most of which were purchased at Marheineke Markthalle. Stefan took us on a nice tour of his kiez and our last stop was his favourite Weinhandlung just around the corner from his house. It is called "Paasburg - Wein aus Leidenschaft" and definitely worth a visit.

The menu was planned via email during the week prior to us getting together:

Baked ricotta flan with a green olive/tomato/lemon salsa
Ravioli two ways: Blutwurst and apfel with sauerkraut sauce and Spinach ricotta in brown butter with sage
Lemon meringue pie

Back at the flat we got started with the pastry for the tart. The great thing about having the meet at Stefan's house was he's got all the gear and a fabulous 6-burner gas smeg cooker. *sigh* Making the dough was so easy with his super duper Kitchenaid mixer.

After making the pastry Kels and I had to dash back up to Spandau to walk and feed the dog. By the time we got back down to Kreuzberg, Rene and Stefan had done the pasta dough, got the starter in the oven with the salsa already prepped, and also had the spinach ricotta filling prepped as well.

We got to work on the blutwurst filling, using this recipe.

And the lined the tart ring with the pastry prepared earlier in the day. Once this was done we settled to our first coures. This was paired with a sparkly Johanninger Blanc de Blancs Brut. The flan was light and i really enjoyed how the zinginess of the lemon in the salsa complemented it.

Back in the kitchen we set about making the raviolis. Stefan rolled out the sheets while Rene and I filled them. The sauerkraut sauce recipe was a bit confusing. And the end result looked like rice pudding. (*NOTE -- the next day Stefan had another go at the sauce, this time sieving it into a smooth puree. It came out much better.) Because there was not a lot of colour variation in the dish, we decided to do a garnish of carmelised red onions in balsamic vinegar.

Meanwhile i blind baked the pastry and prepared the lemon curd filling for dessert.

We decided to start the main course with the blood pudding ravioli. This was paired with a bottle of Rainer Sauer Silvaner, Kabinett trocken and a bottle of La Motte Sauvignon Blanc. I thought the sauce was a bit bitter, but the ravioli came out perfect. Nice thin pasta with the rich filling of the blood pudding and apple.

Then, Stefan and I dashed back to the kitchen to finish off the spinach-ricotta raviolis in the brown butter. It was a well-executed classic. We drank more wine and listened/talked about music and food. By this time we were well full, and it was already close to 11 pm.

Unfortunately Rene had to leave before dessert was served. I finished assembling the pie and popped it in the oven. The results were spectacular and i only wish now that i had two pieces of pie instead of just one! We had this with some well chilled Limoncello that Stefan had hiding in his freezer.

As a first try at cooking together i thought it went well. Probably because we all work together, there wasn't as much uncertainty about sharing cooking tasks as one would expect. In truth, that's the best part about cooking clubs -- the cooking together. Ok, the next best is of course eating together too. I like how we could bounce ideas off each other and talk about what we thought of the dishes. There was pretty much of a consensus between us of what we liked/disliked.

We've got a few more people who are interested but couldn't make it on the first night. If it grows, we'll probably have to find a bigger space. Let me know if you have a well equipped LARGE kitchen for us to use or if you're interested in participating.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Meatless Monday: My Favourite Stir Fry

When Kelsie and I met we were both vegetarians, and had been for about 10 years prior to that. It was only until we moved back to the UK and i could trace my meat from the local butcher (Aberfoyle Butcher) back to the farm, that we began eating meat again.

During my vegetarian days and even now, one of my favourite comfort foods is a big bowl of stir fry over brown rice. I tend to use the same ingredients these days, and the main thing that changes is the green. I go for what's in season and available at the market.

Here's a quick guide to how i prepare veggie stir fry. The 'recipe' below easily serves 4 hungry people.

  • Start by getting the brown rice cooking. it takes about 40-45 minutes for it to cook, so by the time you've finished prepping the veg and stir frying it, the rice should be ready. I cook 1 cup raw brown rice to 2-1/3 cup water. bring to the boil, then cover and whack the heat way down. oh, and add a pinch of salt to it as well.

  • prepare the 'hot' ingredients. i use 1 habanero seeded and minced, a 2 inch piece of ginger peeled and minced, and about 5 cloves garlic minced. i also add in 1 Tbsp black or white sesame seeds.

  • Mushrooms are ever present in my stir frys. I love fresh shitake, but if i can't get any my fallback is chestnut. I've even used reconstituted dried shitakes on occasion. Mushrooms, for a vegetarian, are a good source of Vitamin B. For a big batch of stir fry i use about 400g mushrooms, sliced.

  • Tofu is another must-have. I get fresh cakes of tofu from the local Asiamarkt. I prefer to use one big firm block for my stir fry. Cut it up into 1/2 inch cubes.

  • Seasoning: tamari or soy sauce, dried basil, rice vinegar and sesame oil. I don't really measure these, but go by sight and smell and taste.

  • Greens: One big or two small bunches of whatever you fancy. Back in the states i used a LOT of mustard greens, kale, and rainbow chard. also, purple sprouting broccoli, cavolo nero or broccoli rabe are nice. lately in Berlin i've been getting ginormous bunches of mangold (white chard) in the local market. keep the cut up stalks separate from the cut up leaves as the cooking times vary. if you're using kale leave the woody stalks out.

  • To cook: in a very hot wok heat up a couple tablespoons olive oil and add the HOT ingredients. Once brown, add the sliced mushrooms until most of the liquid has cooked away from them and they are starting to brown. add the tofu and season with dried basil and a few splashes of soy sauce. next up add the green stalks and let it cook until they start to become tender. finish up with the greens leaves and a few dashes of rice vinegar. stir fry until everything is cooked and finish off with a couple splashes of sesame oil.

  • serve over brown rice in bowls. i like to garnish my stir fry with Nutritional Yeast, another relic from my vegetarian days. it also is a good source of Vitamin B. And, if the habanero i used happens to be killer hot, i soemtime add a dollop of yoghurt as well.

Note on additional ingredients: i've sometimes added in plantain, or steamed winter squash, or diced cooked beetroot, both for the visual contrast and the variation on the standard recipe.
Hint: one of my fave breakfasts is reheated stir fry from the night before. :-)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Thyme Supper Club

When Kelsie first announced to the blogosphere that we were starting up a supper club in Berlin, one of the first people to contact us with supportive encouragement were the folks who run the Thyme Supper Club. They were just starting out too, and through emails and tweets and following each other on facebook we saw how each other have been progressing.

It's fairly well known and documented now that Thyme Supper Club is something special and having finally made it over there I can see why. The whole evening from start to finish was a memorable experience and both Kelsie and I felt that C&T from Thyme really know how to make it so for each and every one of their guests.

It's the subtleties that struck me throughout the evening. From the intercom welcome when we buzzed at the street, to T calling out to us from the stairs that there was just one flight more. We were warmly welcomed into their beautiful home and T gave us a quick tour of the house. I was particularly struck with how welcoming C was to have us linger in the kitchen while she was still doing some last minute prep. I know it's sometimes hard to focus on the task at hand and chat with guests so I appreciate that she did it with ease. Other special notes were the printed menus (in english and german) with wine tasting notes along the side. The pens laid out alongside the other cutlery, welcoming guests to doodle or amuse themselves. (more on that later)

In the span of about 15 minutes the rest of the guests arrived. A couple from the southern end of Berlin who had read about the growing popularity of supperclubs in an airplane magazine and decided to give it a try (much to their friends' amazement). A group of two couples, one of which were already friends with C&T, a literary magazine publisher and another couple. There was supposed to be one more couple but they never showed up. (NOTE to readers who plan on visiting supperclubs: please please please, if you can't make the date, phone up and cancel the reservation!)

T quickly offered each arriving guest with a welcome prosecco and there were 3 tasty canapes to choose from: Galloping Horses (carmelised shallot, satay sauce and pineapple); goat's cheese, thyme and honey crackers, and smoked salmon and creme fraiche toasts. More glasses were filled and emptied and we made our way to our seats at the beautifully laid table.

For the evening Kelsie and I chose the paired wine tasting with the food. An amuse bouche was brought out which I quickly gobbled up whilst talking to some of the english speaking dining companions. The first wine was a Riesling Spätlese.

The starter was a silky smooth parsnip soup topped with crispy lardons and a croute, and garnished with a bright green grassy olive oil. As each course was brought out the chatter would fall away and all that could be heard was the music playing in the kitchen and cutlery against bowls and plates.

Next up was a gorgeous sashimi grade tuna ceviche served with an avocado salad. The fish was impeccable and i loved the zingy citrus of the dressing.

One more small plate was brought out, this time a lovely caponata accompanied with garlic sprouts and mini pastries. For this dish the accompanying wine was a Pinot Noir.

The highlight of the evening for me was the main course. An absolutely beautiful piece of roast beef fillet served with a red wine sauce and accompanied by mushroom pastries and sweet potatoes.

I made a mental note about how wonderfully C fulfills the concept of less is more. Each plate had just enough to wake up your senses and the whole progression of course to course was more than satisfying.

The pudding a delightful whipped cream and red berry tartle was a delight. For this T brought out some dessert wine.

By now the guests were more at ease and we started mingling more. I chatted with the first couple that had arrived and C was able to come out and mingle with the guests too. Coffee and a trio of gorgeous chocolate petit fours were brought out. Time flew and i really enjoyed talking to C about the cooking side of things and what our plans were for the future. A mini art project began at one end of the table and K and I finally stumbled out the door at around 1 am.

I'm really glad we finally made it to Thyme and I think it's the first of many more visits to come. Thanks again to our wonderful, generous hosts C&T.