Coconut, Lime & Mint Granita


It’s dark at 0730 am when we are about to start our day … and its gets cold and chilly at night.

Summer is slowly fading away but at least at mid day we could still feel the heat.

Where did the summer go?

It went too fast I guess… sailing in Greece, returning via Malta.

Hectic but we had fun.

I know we worked long hours, but this has been one of the best crews with whom I have worked.

No one bickered, everyone just put all their energy to make the best of our trips.

That made our days sailing and working hours more enjoyable.

I involved the boys with my provisioning, they would send me early to bed and they would clean up the galley and above it, although they were exhausted, we did have fun sailing with our boss.

So now that work is not so hectic, I have time to test new recipes.

I managed to take a long weekend off and flew to London to visit my family. My Jamie magazines were waiting as usual.

Flipping through the pages, this granita recipe caught my eye…

I love anything with coconut… after all I grew up in the tropics and our house was well still is, surrounded by coconut trees.

So as soon I got back to Spain , I made this as soon as I could do it.

The temperature that day soared to almost 30Cs again and I gave the boys this granita by tea break.

But I know it won’t be long; soon the temperature will drop.

Oh how much I wished summer will linger on while my mind drifts to our summer trip.

All the crew seems to agree… we did have a fun summer.

As for the granita?

Easy and fun to do… The coconut made it creamier than just a plain crunchy flavoured ice

Well its like having a frozen pina colada with out the pineapples and mojito sans alcohol. . Surely this will be on my wish list to do next season.

Coconut Lime, Mint Granita

serves 4

200g golden castor sugar
500ml water
grated zests of two limes, a juice of 4
200ml coconut milk
a bunch of mint, leaves picked

1. Put the sugar and water in a large heavy based saucepan and warm gently until the sugar has dissolved.
2. When you reached this point, add the lime zest and juice.
3. Turn off the heat and allow the liquid to cool , then carefully pour into a blender.
4. Add the coconut milk and mint leaves and blitz until smooth.
5. Pour the liquid into a chilled shallow dish a metal dish is the best if you have one. And put in on the freezer.
6. After 2 hours , remove the granita and rake through the surface of the ice with a fork, working from the outside in, until you have a tray of fluffy, ice flakes that are little paler than when frozen solid.
7. Pop the granita back in the freezer for another hour.
8. Serve the granita in shallow dishes or martini glasses garnished with small mint leaves.

What is your adobo story?

If you were to ask my London born nephew what his favourite Filipino food is, with out missing a beat, “Chicken Adobo” is his answer.

Wasn’t it just last week that I cooked squid adobo? And this week a mix of chicken and pork adobo.

Adobo is the national cuisine of the country.

This has not to be confused with the Spanish adobo in spite of the fact the country was a Spanish colony for almost 700 years.

It was just named adobo when the Spaniards discovered the indigenous cooking by stewing meat with vinegar and garlic , naming it adobo to mean marinade.

The best thing about this is you can keep this dish without refrigeration and this is always cooked in a clay pot way back home.

The ingredients you need are basic:
salt , peppercorns, bay leaves and a lot of garlic.

Authentic adobo recipe did not include soy sauce, in some parts of the country it is often called adobong puti.
(blond abodo).

But the secret of good adobo is slow cooking, a good 2 to 3 hours will enhance the flavour.


Pork & Chicken Adobo

1 small chicken cut into portions
500 g pork belly
10 cloves of garlic, mashed
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 to 3 bay leaves
½ cup white cane vinegar (if not available use the apple or grape vinegar)
1/3 c rock salt ( do not use salt if you use soya sauce)

Put all the ingredient in a pot, thick heavy one if possible,
I suggest put the pork belly at the bottom if using so the fat melts nicely
Add the rest of the ingredient.

Put the pot on the high heat, and add a bit of water.
Once it boils, lower the heat to simmer but do not stir.
The vinegar taste should have evaporated by now and keep it simmering until tender.
Mine wold happily bubble for almost two hours.

Taste and tweak it to your taste.


Well now if you grow up in Central Philippines , in our island the cooked meat is fried giving it kind of caramelized taste.

Every time I cook adobo though, I always experiment with something. Let your tastebuds wander and adapt the basic adobo into your own version.
There are times, I add garlic bulbs , spring onions or even a bit of ginger.
You can also add a bit of brown sugar towards the end.

And yet the best part is left over adobo mixed into fried rice.

This story has been submitted to: The Chef Walk: The culinary social network.

Khana Khanu Bhayo? Meera’s Momo


(steaming momos)

I asked her for a recipe.
She giggled as if I asked for the moon.
Then she shook her head sideways…
By then I understood that head wobble.. it’s a yes in Nepal , shaking her head side by side.


(Donkey Express at the Annapurna Region)

We decided to stop at Meera’s Guest house , by 3pm the temperature was dipping .
I could feel it was going to snow overnight, the chill was gnawing my bones, my very tropical bones are struggling with the Himalayan coldness.

So I asked if she can make momos.
Meera is of the Pun clan and has a lovely Mongoloid facial feature. When she smiled her eyes smiled widely too.


(My first attempt at making momos, not so bad.)

Luckily the inn was not yet busy. So I followed her to her kitchen where she started preparing the dough.

I asked for chicken momo though I would have preferred the buff momo. Buffalo meat is actually very tasty.

So with her hand chopping like a hand blender, the chicken was mixed with cilantro, onions, bit of chilli, garlic, graham masala, salt.

This was when I asked for the recipe and she giggled. But first she and her son had to teach me how to roll the dough and fill it , this was when the tricky part came in. the creative crescent shape, the folding and the pinching.

Meera’s Momo

½ kilo flour
1 tsp baking powder
and a half cup water (she did not measure) but she said just add water slowly until the dough is pliable.

Filling.
Finely chopped the chicken breast and add chopped coriander, onions, crushed garlic, graham masala and salt.

Put a dollop of the mixture and seal.

Boil water and put a steamer on the top, wipe it with a bit of oil so not to stick.
Steam for 5 mins .

(Meera’s mother peeling garlic)

Meera still thought I asked for the moon and it was not till hours after we left her inn the next day when I actually went through my bill.
She only charged me for 100rupees ( €1, yes a euro) for the room instead of 200 rupees.

Momos are dumplings of Tibetan origin and one my favourite Nepali food.
In Kathmandu I found a place in Patan run by Tibetans where I would order buffalo momos and lemon teas with honey from the Himalayas.

I would eat them with such gusto while I contemplate how beautiful life is indeed.
Khana Khanu Bhayo in Nepali means , ” Have you eaten?”. This is much more a greeting not merely a question.

The Art of Plating

I have submitted some photos for food photography competition, winning photos will be announced next week and I have been asked if the photos were set up.
I am afraid not, those food were plated and just about to be serve.

Looking back the past 2 seasons at work, I must have driven the stewardesses crazy with my obsession of plating everything we serve perfectly. There were times we would discuss how we would serve the food, made sketches on the board or visually discuss with them how the plate should look like.
The fun we had, though I am afraid they might have thought of me as kooky but I truly believe on visuals and art of plating is one main key of making guests happy.

While archiving some photos, here are some I created but have not blogged about. So enjoy and do not lick the screen.

Irish Apple Cake


I was reading the Guardian few days ago, before St Patrick’s day and came across with this recipe.

To bake or not to bake?

Yes why not, not because I want to celebrate St Patrick’s but much more after a few days waiting for the tests from the doctor and was told there is nothing wrong with me, perhaps just some virus that caused me to slump on bed for days with high temperatures and dizzying spells, I was cleared.

Besides I was invited for lunch at some friend’s house, so why not bake indeed.
And Athens has been gloriously warm the whole week that brings out the best of me, in spite of the shocking thing that happened to my neighbour, physically attacked by thieves few steps from my own door.

Yes, crime is up and I found myself in a state of shock for the whole evening. I did not realised it much that I actually sat on the sofa for hours and barely moving.

I know as well I could not let fear paralysed me, so off I went to the farmer’s market. I came back with bunches of freesias and some some discounted bruised apples which would be perfect for baking.

This recipe is easy the only change I did was add an extra apple but just when it was baked that I wished I grated some nutmegs too.

225g (8oz) plain flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
110g (4oz) butter
125g (4½oz) caster sugar
1 egg, free-range if possible, beaten
50–120ml (2–4fl oz) milk, approx.
1–2 cooking apples –
2–3 cloves (optional)

Beaten egg, to glaze
To serve:
Barbados (muscovado) sugar
Softly whipped cream
24cm (9in) ovenproof pie plate

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl.
Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles the texture of breadcrumbs.
Add 85g (3oz) caster sugar, then make a well in the centre and mix together with the beaten egg and enough milk to form a soft dough.
Divide in two. Put one half on to your greased ovenproof plate and pat it out to cover.
Peel, core and chop up the apples.
Place them on the dough with the cloves, if using, and sprinkle over the remaining sugar – the amount you need will depend on the sweetness of the apples.
Roll out the remaining pastry and fit it on top. (This is easier said than done as this “pastry” is very soft like scone dough. You may need to do a bit of patchwork if it breaks.)
Press the sides together and cut a slit through the lid.
Brush with beaten egg and bake in a moderate oven (180C / 350F / gas mark 4) for about 40 minutes, or until cooked through and nicely browned.
Dredge with caster sugar and serve warm with brown sugar and softly whipped cream

Thank you Anton and Eva for such lovely lunch and stimulating conversations.

Anthony and I met at school in Athens, he is originally from Sri Lanka with a Greek citizenship.
Like me, he left his country during the conflict of the civil war, while we left Philippines due to political grounds during the country’s dictatorship.

Writing on Food & Travels…My 7 Links Challenge


(Dumre, Nepal a bazaar town where we hopped for our trip to Bandipur, Here a guy sells Churu-Muri or spiced puffed rice.)

I have read two of her books… the first one,Sea Fare , she actually came to see me in Cannes, the first time we met. That very weekend, I went with my Captain’s family for a picnic. It did not take long till I found a shade to read and I was giggling with her hilarious experiences scouring for fresh goods and getting hold of local recipes. I was not even cooking professionally yet, but I could easily get carried away as her stories pretty much what my passions in life. Cooking and travelling.

Then her 2nd book, SEAsoned, was published, she sent me a copy and used some of her recipes. I admit the hilarious situations a chef or a crew face on trips was so amusing to read.Cramped spaces,grumpy tired crew, unpredictable guests and her delectable recipes make this book worth reading.


( A Travelling Salesman up above nearly 2000m at the Annapurna trek)

And now she challenged me to a project as she calls it.
Oh dear I am suppose to finish the next Nepal story but gets got caught up with other things.
But if she wrote this piece that I am one of her inspiration to go on blogging.

“My biggest inspiration and support in creating a blog about being a yacht chef and photographing food has been a close friend, Shalimar Orlanes, whose blog, Wanderlust for the Love of Food and Travel, was one of the first blogs I ever read and remains, to this day, my favorite site for delicious looking food and stories of travel.”

Well, why not then?
I realised I actually have to dig my archives. It all goes back January 2005 so this is indeed a challenge.

The rules of this challenge are simple.

Rule #1 You are supposed to go back through all the posts you have written on your blog and find the one that fits best for each of these seven categories. Here are the ones I have chosen:

1.Your most beautiful post:
When I wrote about cooking professionally for the first time.
Figs, Prunes & Mascarpone Tart – Cooking on the High Seas.

2.Your most popular post:
My “homecoming”…

3.Your most controversial post:
Not really so controversial but rather a culturally challenged post how the Brits and the Americans prefer their apple pies.
MITseaAH’s Apple Pie


4.Your most helpful post:


Spitzbube

Who would have thought such a fancy naming cookie is so easy to bake?
And I reposted the recipe again here..


5.A post whose success surprised you:

There are a few but I just love how the readers interacted to this post.
Sticky Rice Pudding , A Filipino Breakfast. February 2006

6.A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved:
The Norwegian lunch..


7.The post that you are most proud of:

Champorado

My first year of blogging…food,politics and my story how we ended up in Greece.

Rule #2 When finished with selecting your 7 blast-from-the-past blogs, you are then to nominate at least one amazing new blogger to take the challenge. Here is my nominee:

Baby Rambutan of Boston for her love of challenges of trying new recipes and for what she does for her family… baking and cooking. For she was the first blogger who constantly challenged me to bake! Yay Stella.

And I am breaking the rule…
One interesting chef worth tagging, The Wayward Chef because other than she carries a “big knife and walks slowly”, she is one sassy writer.

Christine Kling, Victoria Allman

Namaste Nepal

Why Nepal?

It’s been over a month since I came back from Nepal and the other day I was greeted by friends; Happy Holi, a festival of colours in Nepal where people throw perfumed coloured powder. It is celebrated at the end of the winter season on the last full day of the lunar month.
I do wish I was still there and celebrating with friends who surely have become friends for life.
But when people hear my story of how chilly bone chattering the Himalayas were when I was there, and having gone through some days of no shower and nights of no heating, they still wonder why I made the choice to visit Nepal, when I could have flown somewhere more tropical and baked under the sun? Or could have gone back to the Philippines and the comfort of knowing the place, knowing the food and knowing the language? Why Nepal?


The Himalayas seemed beautiful and intriguing for me. The thought of seeing the peaks and being able to trek the base of these wonderful mountains sounded like a pilgrimage. A landlocked country of sublime beauty tucked under the shadows of the highest mountain range of the world.
No, I did not go in search of Shangri-La, nor in search of inner self with the country’s exotic blend of Buddhism and Hinduism (although I admit a part of going there was to get away from all it for self healing and discovering something new).


I had wanted to go for years, especially having met and hung out with a few Nepalis in France , listening to their stories of the country, so completely different from where I grew up. We would cook curry and rice and listen to Nepali music and I was in awe as I watched them dance.
I was sure it would be a trip I would share with someone special. So I waited for few years, hoping to meet someone worth taking for a trip to such far away place. But alas I realised there was no point in waiting and, with a friend’s encouragement, I went.


On the plane next to me was a lovely Nepali coming home from the Gulf after 3 years. Sigh, like any country in Asia, Nepal has a high proportion of its people working in the Gulf region, mostly in labour and household positions.
Entering customs and applying for a visa was chaotic and done on a paper (no computers). The queue was rather long but the anticipation of having just landed to a country so completely new banished the exhaustion.


After being delayed at the visa application for almost 40 minutes, as one would probably expect, my luggage was going round and round on the conveyor belt waiting to be picked up. I didn’t even know which carousel, I simply guessed from the Qatar airlines bag labels. This Swiss girl I met in Doha airport was on the same flight as I and we both were worried and literally giggling, wondering if our bags would ever come out. One big box after another were going round the conveyor belt and I realised that Nepalis returning from the Gulf were taking home flat screen tvs.
I could see worried faces on most foreigners waiting for their luggage. Finally, out came our bags. Heading through customs, I could see the Nepalis had to scan their luggage in one queue, but the custom agent, upon seeing the blond Swiss, told her just to pass through. Since we were together, I just followed her. That is when I was told to go back to the queue with the others. But when they saw the passport I was carrying was not a Nepali,they let me pass through. I gladly accepted, but felt a sense of disbelief at how they treat foreigners so differently.


My friend, Alex, could not pick me up, but he had given me instructions how to find him. I asked for a taxi at the taxi association as I was coming out and the guy pointed me to the taxi, an old battered car that I was afraid to close the door, sure that it would fall off. I sat down and could feel the springs of the seat under me. I was about to put my seat belt on when the driver told me not to bother.
A statue of Ganesh sitting on the front adorn his car was staring at me.

A few minutes later we were hitting potholes and caught in the middle of the crush of traffic , which included cows and goats on the other side of the road that seems ready to dash into the traffic any minute.. I thought his car would fall apart every time we hit a pothole.
I stared at the buildings and I actually asked the driver if this was the city. What caught my eye on my first day was all the gnarled electricity cables that seemed to hang dangerously low. Then shop after shop selling bright colourful saris. And just when I was dreaming of myself wearing one when the taxi screeched to a halt as man dashed in front of us.


Ganesh is revered as the Remover of Obstacles. I hope he will protect my travels as my adventure begins.

The first part of my series of stories on my travels in Nepal.
Nepal photo gallery can be seen here as well..

Happy New Year

2011 has been indeed hectic… I am off to travel a bit to discover new things and to “reboot” a little bit.

I will be back end of the month and that week too will mark my 7th year on blogging.

Happy New Year and I wish you all a fantastic year ahead. More writings and photos to share when I come back.

Vanillekipferl

If I could give these heart cookies that I have baked, who would I give ethereal pieces to?

Well surely to my crew and few close people who have been instrumental to my career switch, from being a chief stewardess to a chef.

Did I say chef?

Chef.. did I actually say that?
Who would have thought a Political Science/ International Relations graduate would end up cooking?
Did I not have my ideals to change the world?

But I ended having a job that changed my life. A passion that led me to enjoy and love what I am doing right now.


As I looked at my resume spanning from my private teaching and short stint at a newspaper to being a junior crew, then a chief stewardess to a chef, I felt my life made a jump.

I always wanted to do baking or be a pastry chef. But coming from a family of doctors, engineers, lawyer and teachers, in our Filipino culture. in not so long ago, doing something with your hands , having practical skills was not acceptable.
I was expected to follow my father’s footsteps in law but I know it was not for me.

It was a chance that I was in Antigua in early 1998 where I saw all the gleaming boats that gave me my start in becoming a crew.

On most boats I have been , I always offered to help chefs clean the galley or do some prep work for them. I enjoy helping as I learn while I help. This led to ex captains entrusting me with the galley when the boats had no chefs.

It did not take long for me to start cooking for my ex bosses too. One particular ex boss asked my captain if I could go to their house to help cook for the Thanksgiving or other occasions.

It was in April 2010 when I was in Florida and our boat was heading for New York when came a call from another ex captain.
I had worked with him on two boats first as his junior stew then as his chief stewardess.

A chef?
Kidding me?
He replied: Would I offer you the job if I knew that you could not do it?

That was it. For two hectic seasons I cooked, provisioned the boat, fed the crew, cleaned the galley and had my chance to let my creativity go on unbounded infinity.

I am actually cooking professionally in the high seas from Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey and France… and discovered enthralling markets and immersed myself to different culture through my stomach.

As I write this, my cookbooks are already in a box shipped home and soon I will leave this job. A job that has given me a chance to switch career and has given me a brighter future.

While baking some Vanillekipferln cookies last week with Holly, I felt a sadness knowing I will be going home soon and leave this lovely boat I have called home for almost two years.

As for home… a quote from a 12th century monk, Hugo of St Victor, perfectly describes my life right now.

“The person who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner,
The person to whom every soil is a native one is already strong;
But he is perfect to whom every soil is a foreign land.”


(Capri , Italy on our last leg of the trip)

This cookie is of Austrian origin but at “home” we baked this as part of our Christmas tradition, a part of me is blended with Swiss culture. Traditionally these are shaped into crescents but I left Holly play around with the cookie cutters. She shaped them into hearts, crowns, fish, lobsters and even a letter H.

I truly want to thank the crew for the wonderful time and being such a part of my life.

As a dear friend of mine, another chef, Victoria, who has been such a support , says : “To the future.”

My recipe of this cookie is at home so I searched online the closest I could find and it’s from from Simply Recipes

Almond Crescent Cookies Recipe
INGREDIENTS
1 cup of butter, room temperature
2/3 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of almond extract
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 cup of almond flour (can substitute ground almonds*)
1/4 cup of powdered sugar for sprinkling

*You can use slivered, blanched almonds and grind them up, but you will have a very crumbly, hard to work with dough. It’ll still taste good though.

METHOD
1 Cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the extracts and mix.
2 Add the flour and almond flour. Mix thoroughly.
3 Take generous tablespoons of the dough (it will be slightly crumbly) and roll it into a small ball, about an inch in diameter, and then shape into a crescent shape. Place onto parchment paper and bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes or until a light golden brown.
4 Dust with powdered sugar.

Gambas al Ajillo

It was a very long season. We left Spain in April. The trip took us to Sicily, Athens, the Greek Islands, Istanbul, South Turkey , Thessaloniki, the Sporades and the Ionian Islands of Greece, before crossing the Ionian Sea to Italy again.

After dropping off the guests in Olbia, we did not wait long and immediately left for Spain. It would be nearly three days passage before we would arrive in Palma de Mallorca.

Can you imagine the excitement?

Going back “ home “ to Spain again. It would take us almost 3 days to reach Palma…
Everyone was dreaming of sitting down somewhere for vino and tapas.

Ah tapas.. at the bodegon, meson, cerveceria.

Tapas either are of cosas de picar, pinchos and cazuelitas.
Cosas de picar are normally cheeses,ham and sausage, omelette, bunuelos (fritters) montaditos , empanadas, bocadillos and boquerones.
Then you have the pinchos, food served on toothpicks.

The last, cazuelas are main dish food but served on smaller plates like stuffed pepper, fideua
(noodles with seafood) and are normally cooked in earthenware cooking plates.

One of the of my favourite is gambas al ajillo. Sizzling shrimps with garlic

A very simple tapa but full of flavour. I have done this few times on the boat and it has not never failed . With my fusion way of cooking I add a wee bit of ginger … Sometimes chillies.

One of the best gambas ajillo I had was somewhere a wee far from the sea, well not so far away that the shrimp is not fresh anymore. It was perhaps the mountain air and the company that made it a lot different

I was in Palma de Mallorca and was told we were going for a drive up the mountains. I have been to Mallorca few times for work and once a long weekend many years back and we stayed in Valdemossa. This time it was catching up with yachting friends and with Stephen who is finally back in Europe after a short gig in Malaysia and Florida with his boat, my travel buddy is just an hour flight away from me.

It was a sunny but cold day, winter is creeping in. Deia is on the north west coast of Mallorca. The drive towards there takes you along the rugged coastlines of the island which is a very spectacular view, adding to the fact that the next day we flew over with a helicopter with Stephen piloting.

Approaching Deia from Palma will take you to some bends with towering mountains of Serra de Tramuntana.. I was half asleep I admit, the fresh mountain air and just to be away from my own cabin was just so relaxing. But as soon I noticed the lovely colours of the village ; ochre, olive green, blue, , my senses woke me up and at the same time I was eyeing places to eat.

We parked at the end of the village and walked back. I guessed from their pace they were so hungry and just wanted to find a place to have lunch. I mentioned to Stephen that as soon as we entered the village, I noticed an outdoor restaurant with a shade covered with grape vines.

While the two of them , Stephen and Andy, went through the menu of the restaurant,( Il Xeline) I made sure that if we have the calamari and the gambas ajillos and they could order what ever else they wanted to eat.

See I am not missing gambas con ajillos… they ordered pardon pepper, some spicy longanisa, potato tuna salad… it was a long lazy lunch while soaking up some autumn sun.

We rounded up the lunch with crème catalan and a brisk walk up the hill to the village’s ancient church where it offers a spectacular view of the valley with all the olive groves all the way to the sea where fishermen cast their nets.

Here is a simple recipe how to cook gambas con ajillos.

Olive oil
3 to 4 cloves of garlic minced
half teaspoon of pepper flakes
sweet paprika
500g shrimps, peeled and deveined.
2 tbsp sherry or white wine
salt . pepper
chopped parsley.

In a sauté pan or heavy frying pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic , paprika and red pepper flakes and sauté for about one minute or until they begin to brown

Raise the heat to high and add the shrimp,sherry or wine
Stir well, then sauté, stirring briskly until the shrimp turn pink around 3 mins
Remove from heat and transfer shrimp with oil and sauce to a warm plate or serve right from the pan. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Sprinkle with parsley.