24 September 2008

Apple Trifle with Apple Doughnuts

Apple Trifle (with title)
This is my entry to Art You Eat #5: Autumn Edition, founded by Holly of Phe/mom/enon-- do check out the round-up this November, and maybe even make your seasonal dish and join!

Last Sunday I found out (via a text message from Kittymama) that I had won the 2008 Philippine Blog Award for Best Food and Beverage Blog. There was actually an awarding ceremony in Pasay that I couldn't attend. I immediately began to wonder if she was pulling my leg, before realizing that the only reason she'd do that is to be uncharacteristically cruel. You see, the other three blogs that were nominated are all really fantastic blogs: Market Manila, Table for Three, Please, and Kubiertos. It was really such an honor to be counted among these greats of Philippine food blogging.
Apple Dougnuts (small)
The problem then was my mind. It races at the speed of light at such exciting news. The most predominant among them was, "I really wasn't expecting this." and similar strange thoughts that you think would be taking the humble route, but really turn out to be more douchey than anything. Gratitude-- a simple "thank you, you're all very kind," is really the nicest thing to do. It gives respect to the judgment of those who believe in you and believe your work is worth something.

Before you guys came along (yes, I mean the food blogging community), I really never could handle a compliment. In this society, people (okay, maybe my medical school classmates) think that men have incredibly thick skins and like a camel can go on for years on a single compliment while we take the heat of comments that are meant to be friendly but when you add them all up are pretty huge blows to one's ego. After all, I am the guy who usually gets the "Oh, I didn't realize you were kind of fat!" when a girl accidentally jabs my midsection (I have a totally different appearance with or without clothes, I'm sure you know people like that). So it's kind of a shock when someone actually says something nice. I laugh about it in bed like a maniac.

The strange thing is, I never really knew how to give a compliment before you guys came along, either. I don't know when I started to withhold gushing, or believed that people didn't want to hear once in a while that they look good or did a good job. So all in all, visiting all your fantastic blogs, getting my mind blown, my saliva drained, and my stomach grumbling-- it has been a pretty wild and wonderful experience for me. Made me a better person, natch. Thank you for coming here and (hopefully) enjoying my blog, as I (surely and definitely) enjoy yours. Thanks for making me realize there's all this wonderfulness (gastronomic or otherwise) out there, all over the world!

Apple Trifle with Apple Dougnnuts from Maze (serves 6)
Do you ever wonder why the French give such beautiful names to their original desserts-- "Jolie", "Envie", "Satine", "Opera", "Ardechois", "Grenobloise"-- while the English give such long-winded and boring names to theirs? I suppose the latter would be more descriptive, but that's what menus are for! Let's be romantic! Oh, whatever. I was planning on calling this "Pomme de mes yeux" but it's still too long and this is not my original dessert. It's one Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton's dessert from his restaurant, Maze (part of the Gordon Ramsay empire), which also has a cookbook, which I am thoroughly enjoying. This is a light and elegant dessert with the lovely flavors of the fall. You can opt to just make the individual components instead-- serve the Apple Jelly on its own, eat the Caramel Custard as a pudding with some biscuits, or the Apple Doughnuts on their own. Originally this has a topping of Cider Granita but I didn't have cider and I was not too keen on making a granita for now.

Apple Jelly

  • 250g (1 cup) apple juice (alternatively you could extract the juice of 3 Granny Smith apples)

  • pinch of vitamin C powder (or 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice)

  • 75g (5 tablespoons) water (A)

  • 83g (6 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) granulated sugar

  • 83g (5-1/2 tablespoons) water (B)

  • 4 teaspoons powdered gelatin

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water (B) and bring to a boil over low heat. Let it bubble for a minute to thicken slightly. Cool until it comes to 40°C (105°F), then divide into two and sprinkle the gelatin on top of one half and set aside. Mix the apple juice with the vitamin C powder or lemon juice, water (A), and the half of the sugar syrup without gelatin. Place the half of the sugar syrup with gelatin over very low heat (a double boiler if you are not confident), swirling until all the gelatin is dissolved. Take off the heat and stir in the apple juice. Divide among 6 small serving glasses and chill for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Caramel Custard
  • 83g (6 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) granulated sugar

  • 75g (5 tablespoons) heavy cream

  • 188g (3/4 cup + 1/2 tablespoon) whole milk

  • 1/2 split vanilla pod, seeds scraped (optional)

  • 12g (1-1/2 tablespoon) cornstarch

  • 2 large egg yolks

Heat a heavy-based saucepan until very hot. Gradually add 50g (1/4 cup) of the sugar a little at a time so that it melts on contact with the pan. Swirl the pan as the sugar caramelizes. When it becomes a dark amber (I find that this point occurs a few seconds just after it foams), pour in 60g (1/4 cup) of the cream, stirring with a wooden spoon to combine. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely.

Put the milk and vanilla seeds in a small pan and bring a simmer. Turn off the heat as soon as it bubbles up the sides. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 33g (2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) sugar, egg yolks, cornstarch, and 15g (1 tablespoon) cream until well-combined. Slowly drizzle in the hot milk, whisking all the while. Pour it back into the pan and stir over low heat until it boils for 1 minute, whisking to avoid the bottom and edges burning. Pass the custard through a sieve into a bowl and cover the surface flush with cling film that has been punctured in a few places to let steam escape. Allow to cool completely. Whisk in the caramel vigorously (or use an immersion blender) until smooth. Divide among the serving glasses, layered on top of the apple jelly.

Calvados Cream
  • 125g (1/2 cup) heavy cream

  • 1 tablespoon icing sugar

  • 1 tablespoon Calvados

Whip the cream and sugar together in a small bowl to soft peaks, then fold in the Calvados. Spoon over the caramel custard in each serving glass and chill until serving time.

Apple Purée
  • juice of 1 lemon

  • 450g (1 pound) Granny Smith or Bramley apples

  • 75g (6 tablespoons) granulated sugar

  • 12g (1 tablespoon) unsalted butter

  • scraped vanilla pod from the caramel custard (optional)

Add the lemon juice to a large bowl of cold water. Peel, core, and chop the apples (1/2 inch dice), immersing them into the cold acidulated water as you go. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels. Place the apples in a wide pan with the sugar, butter, and vanilla pod. Cook over a medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes. The apples will be tender but hold their shape. Take out the vanilla pod and purée the apples (ideally with a stick blender to save on clean-up) and turn up the heat to high. Cook until thick. Cool slightly then transfer to a piping bag fitted with a slim nozzle.

Apple Doughnuts (makes about 20)
  • 250g (1-3/4 cup + 1/2 tablespoon) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

  • 25g (2 tablespoons) granulated sugar

  • 7g (1 sachet) fast-acting dried yeast

  • 40g (1/4 cup) warm whole milk

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

  • 1/2 tablespoon dark rum

  • 1/2 tablespoon rosewater (I just used... Water.)

  • 40g (3 tablespoons) butter, softened to room temperature

  • sunflower or other neutral oil, for deep-frying

  • 100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a small bowl, stir together the yeast and the milk and set aside. Place the flour, salt, and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Make a well in the center. Pour in the milk, egg, rum, and rosewater. Using a mixer with the dough hook (or your hands, as I did), stir or knead the ingredients until it comes together in a ball. Mix in the butter a little at a time until fully incorporated and the dough is smooth. If the dough still appears too wet, dust with a little flour and knead it in. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Leave to prove in the fridge overnight (it will double in size).

Bring the dough back to room temperature, then knock it back and knead lightly on a floured surface. Divide in two and roll each portion into a long log about 3-4cm (1-1/2 inch) in diameter. Cut into 20-25g (3/4 oz, the size of a ping pong ball) pieces and place on an oiled baking sheet, making sure there is space in between each. Cover with lightly oiled cling film and prove in a warm place for 1-2 hours until they are almost double in size.

Mix the caster sugar and cinnamon together in a deep plate and set aside. Heat the oil in a deep fryer or deep, heavy pan to 190°C (375°F-- I found that this was too hot and browned too quickly, or I have a bad thermometer, and ended up frying them at 160°C on my thermometer) and deep-fry the doughnuts in small batches until golden brown all over. Drain on paper towels. While still warm, pipe the apple purée into the centers and toss in the cinnamon sugar.

19 September 2008

Dan's Garlic Bread

Dan's Garlic Bread (with title)
I wish I had known far in advance that just blabbering on like I usually do takes much less time than doing screen captures of television shows and arranging them neatly in Photoshop (yes, even with the grid tool). Actually, anybody with common sense and an ability to blabber would have been able to say, "duh," but today I wanted to try something different. Because it's Fall/ Autumn in the US, baybee! And that means the return of many television shows I love and love to hate, and even the start of some shows in the UK.

There's this new show I stumbled upon from the UK, "Masterchef: The Professionals." It's basically a super-simple Top Chef where the weekly winners (young professional chefs) fight each other tournament-style. The first half is devoted to making two dishes out of a theme ingredient and a few other givens, and the second half is for making a classic dish and dessert using master recipes and their own unique twist. The captures I've posted up there are from the first episode, with the theme ingredient: Scallops. The dishes are (left to right): Seared scallops infused with ginger and mango and avocado salsa (Chris), Ceviche of scallop with dressed herb salad and pancetta crisp (Chris), Roasted scallops with rocket, crushed peas and potatoes (Richard), Pan-seared scallops with cauliflower puree, roasted parsnips and pancetta crisps (Richard), Grilled scallops with pancetta in a beurre blanc (Adrian), Pan-seared scallops with carrot and ginger puree and black pudding (Adrian). If the last dish sounds disgusting, that's because it is. Two-Michelin-starred judge Michel Roux, Jr. said of it: "Never again do I want to see ginger and blood pudding on the same plate. That was, for me, a disaster." Clearly, Chris was the winner of this round. His scallop dishes look and sound amazing.

During the second round, they were supposed to make their own versions of Duck A L'Orange and Chocolate Mousse. Chris crashed and burned on this one, presenting an unrested duck the size of sabots which bled all over the plate. His chocolate mousse was flavored with Kirsch. Richard's strange plate arrangement garnered him an "are you a chef or an architect?" from Roux. They also didn't enjoy that the chocolate mousse, good as it was, was filled to the brim (above it, actually) and hidden under a pile of rubble. Adrian's traditional presentation of duck won the day, and the judges enjoyed his modern presentation of chocolate mousse, which had a layer of orange curd under it. Actually the curd looked really runny to me-- it might have worked better if he had emulsified cold butter into it or if he'd cooked or chilled it more.

However, the real reason I wanted to show you Masterchef was to have an excuse to capture Michel Roux, Jr.'s face throughout the show. Admit it: if you all were 16 year-old girls with corkboards in your room, you'd SO print this out already. I saved his 6 best looks for the bottom row (bottom-left corner: cracking his neck, getting ready to rip on the guy's technique later). Frankly, if I were a contestant, I'd be freaked out by his constant hovering and the threat of his eyes ejecting themselves into my plate. But he is a great judge, and his deadpan comments are dead-on. Come on! His name is ROUX! He's like your crazy grandpa who'd only love you if you ate his cooking, which consists of snails and wren forcemeat.

By the way, Adrian won that week.

But the scary faces are not limited to your French grand-peres; they also apply to overtanned Hollywood denizens, like Rob Estes from above. Those two captures were taken 2 seconds apart. If you're wondering what I'm doing watching 90210, then that makes two of us. Maybe I'm just waiting for the damn catfight already. Your ratings won't go up until someone slaps a bitch, CW! Thankfully, I can always rely on the idiotic bigotry and useless modeling tips of America's Next Top Model to tide me over until non-guilty pleasure shows like The Office, 30 Rock, Heroes, and Pushing Daisies return over the next few weeks.

Finally, while I wasn't specifically asked to answer this meme from Kittymama, it looked like a lot of fun. The idea is to answer the following questions by entering your answers into Google Image Search and posting an image from the first page of the results with as little explanation as possible. The questions are:
1. The age you’ll be on your next birthday: (the answer is 27, and I had some pretty boring ones to choose from: the other interesting one is a lamprey, and an image of a turtle that's been run over on Highway 27, which may have been too disturbing for many.)
2. Place you want to travel to: (I had to cheat and put the TWO places I wanted to go, since Kittymama already answered Paris)
3. Your favourite place: (Home)
4. Your favourite food: (Kung Pao chicken-- No Special Effects on the first page! W00t!)
5. Your favourite pet: (Dog, for lack of anything else-- isn't he the cutest?)
6. Favorite color combination: (Blue and white)
7. Favorite piece of clothing: (Pinstripe suit. Sue me, I feel sexy in one. Mine is not in three pieces like Mr. Bond, though.)
8. Your all time favorite song: (Learning to Breathe)
9. Favorite TV show: (The Office)
10. First name of your significant other: (Nobody)
11. Which town do you live in: (Quezon City-- there were results for my barangay but I didn't want to give out that information.)
12. Your screen name/nickname: (Manggy-- a pic from No Special Effects again.)
13. Your first job: (Medical intern)
14. Your dream job: (Doctor. Rockstar seemed like a stupid answer.)
15. One bad habit that you have: (Procrastinating)
16. Worst fear: (Hell)
17: Things you’d like to do before you die: (Travel)
18. The 1st thing you’ll buy if you get $1,000,000: (Trip to Europe. I thought of a grand piano and a house, but those won't be the FIRST. A Playstation 3 sounded lame.)
19. Your husband/wife: (No one)
20. What present would you like for your next birthday? (Ticket to Europe-- but of course I'm not expecting this. I wanted to make it appropriately ungiveable. In truth I don't want specific material things for my birthday, I'm happy to receive anything.)

Dan's Garlic Bread
This is artisan baker, teacher, and food writer Dan Lepard's eponymous bread: a tender yeasted dough with sweet, syrupy cloves of garlic swirled into it. I dare you not to eat one of the garlic cloves as they come out of the balsamic syrup. I only wish that I'd used a better flour to make it: mine was old. Great served with pasta, or simply toasted and eaten for breakfast. Lepard has his own picture story on how to make it here.

By the way, I found out that a great way to make sure dough slips off your peel easily is by using a mixture of flour and dry, flavorless bread crumbs.

15 September 2008

Spaghetti Tetrazzini

Chicken and Mushroom Pasta Bake
Spaghetti Tetrazzini (with title)
This is my entry to dear Susan's Blogiversary Bash at Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy-- a friend to this blog as you all probably know. Let's unhinge or mouths, point our noses at the sky, and with dangling arms, give our best Muppet "YAAAY!" for SGCC!
I think many of you would hate me if you could read my mind. And guess what, I'm sharing a little bit more of it today! Confession: each time I browse the used magazine piles, I encounter Everyday with Rachael Ray Magazine, and other titles (Bon Appetit, Cook's Illustrated, Fine Cooking) that boast meals that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less, and I think to myself, "What's with the arbitrary cut-off time of thirty minutes? Does food beyond that officially become too much of an undertaking? What about developing flavor? What about the joy of cooking? Of the process? What about skill?"

These are just some of the insensitive thoughts I think when I'm feeling pedestal-y and grumpy, like when people walk too slowly in front of me (WHAT?! They're TEXTING!!!) or when people on television bake poorly (Seriously. I saw Julia Louis-Dreyfus on The Rachael Ray Show, and they made baking seem a thousand times harder than it was. Just disorganized, and wrong, wrong, wrong. No wonder people are afraid of baking). Then of course I think to myself quite guiltily that I am between jobs and when I do get one, I'll be lucky to squeeze thirty minutes out of my schedule for a decent meal. (Hockey) moms must have it much more difficult, picking up the kids from school and getting the house in order with just enough time to slap together a decent meal that the cute young ones will hate no matter what you do (barring making a burger or pizza). I was feeling a bit under the weather last, last weekend, while hauling major ass to produce a pasta dish for my grandmother's birthday last September 8 (all birthday celebrations must have a pasta dish, which everyone must eat for long life). Hence the substandard pic. But I assure you, the taste was not substandard.

I was actually quite surprised how much I liked this pasta dish, especially since I am a sworn member of the red sauce brigade. But my grandmother loves cream sauces (ugh), so I decided on this dish without hesitation. It's also my first time to cook for a party of 50 (okay, 60) people, and I'm quite pleased with the results and how inexpensive it was. The hardest part was cooking a kilo and a half (3 pounds 5 ounces) of dry spaghetti-- no pot we had was big enough, so I understirred the pasta at the bottom.

So I'm thinking right now how much more my pictures would suck if I actually had work. Oh God, I've got to stock up on great recipes before I start residency!

At the party, my grandmother was gifted 6 cakes. I am puzzled by this behavior. Do people really come to birthday parties thinking there might not be cake and they're saving the day? Because we had a huge sheet cake. Obviously. Over the next 4 days, we (a household of 6 people) had to eat all the cake and since I'm the designated sweet tooth, I had a bigger share, and I ended up weighing 4-5 pounds heavier and feeling very ill (seriously). Give a tiny red envelope of money containing a third of the cost of a cake. Or preserves, they keep for months. Prayer cards would be GREAT for my grandmother, she loves those. Mango chutney would be nice. Just not cake. NEVER cake. It's just not wise.

Spaghetti Tetrazzini adapted from Jamie's Italy
This is from an old Italian cookbook, I swear Jamie said that. Even if it does sound like something out of a school cafeteria. But you cannot argue with good taste. And once you've fed 60 people, you really can't argue with the results.

  • 3 small handfuls (80g or 3oz) dried porcini mushrooms

  • olive oil

  • 200g (8oz) bacon, chopped

  • 8 chicken thighs, boned (what I really got was the hind part of the chicken with the thigh and minus the leg, so they were quite large. Try deboning, it's fun just "winging" it-- chicken humor)

  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced

  • 450g (1 lb) mixed fresh mushrooms, cleaned and torn

  • 2 cups white wine

  • 1.5kg (3lbs 5oz) dry spaghetti

  • 750g (3 cups) heavy cream

  • 500g (18oz) Parmesan cheese, grated (I had no budget for this much Parmesan, so I subbed a major portion of this with whatever cheese I could get.)

  • a handful of fresh basil, leaves picked

Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour just enough boiling water to cover them. Leave to soak for a few minutes. Meanwhile, place a giant pot over medium heat and pour in a splash of olive oil (be conservative, as plenty of oil will come out of the bacon and the chicken). Add the bacon and fry until lightly brown. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, then pushing the bacon to the side, lay them skin side down on the pot (you may have to do this in 2 batches as pots will rarely be able to hold all the chicken). Once the bacon and the chicken skin has become brown and crisp, turn the chicken and continue cooking until cooked through. Once all the chicken is cooked, chop them into bite-sized pieces (I used a pair of shears) and park off the heat. Strain the porcini mushrooms, reserving the soaking water. Turn the heat up to high, and discard all but 6 tablespoons of the oil in the pot (or not... Your arteries), then add the garlic and all the mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the wine and porcini liquor, and turn the heat down to low and allow to reduce a little. Add the chicken and the cream. Bring to a boil then turn off the heat. Add the basil and 3/4 of the Parmesan and stir well. Season with salt and pepper (I find that the salt is unnecessary).

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water according to the package directions and drain well. Toss with the cream sauce and transfer to 2 or 3 large ovenproof dishes. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake until golden brown, bubbling, and crisp.

09 September 2008

Squash and Sage Risotto

Risotto ai Zucca e Salvia
Squash and Sage Risotto
Ooh, you like the 90's-style food pic? Best I could do under the circumstances.
Strangely enough there are quite a few declarations that instantly become untrue when you make them. I'm humble (No.). I'm feisty. I'm quiet. I lack self-awareness. I'm fierce (Ew.). How about this: I'm funny?

My friend Mira and I were having a heart-to-heart about something I've forgotten by now, and in the course of the conversation, I told her that I actually thought I was funny. She made this face of such disbelief: all that was missing was an impression of David Walliams' Sebastian character from Little Britain. "WOT." I actually became quite offended! It's funny now, when I think about it.

I faced up to the fact that I wasn't the most attractive guy in my group of friends (uh, just hunt for a picture if you like, it's out there), and neither was I the smartest. I don't know what made me think that being funny was my thing, especially now when I can name lots of friends who are funnier (I was going to add "in a traditional sense," but let's just leave it at that for now). Obviously I had let it get to my head when someone suggested I should do stand-up (I KNOW. It's silly. And difficult.) or when people ask me to say something witty at a moment's notice like a court jester.

It must be (even more of) the foolishness of youth, the way we flatten our personalities to fit certain stereotypes. It's probably only on television that these roles get filled out so perfectly: in your group of friends, there's the attractive one, the neurotic one, the funny one, the smart one, the secretary, and the slimy green ghost that manages to let all the evil ghosts loose (or the giant rat that teaches you martial arts). Or, in the case of other shows, the whiny one, the bossy one, the prissy one, and the slutty one. It's only after a period of self-reflection that you realize: there are no roles to fill. You can be everything you want to be, and other people won't always be there to fill in the gaps of your personality. Refuse to be defined in the context of your other friends: if you want to be funny, be funny. Don't let the fact that there are funnier people out there dim your light.

The Italian food fanatics among you (let's face it, even those who aren't) will notice something glaringly wrong with the picture. I know, I know, risotto isn't supposed to... mound like that. It would certainly enter the gallery of regrettable food if it didn't actually taste good. I know people don't really care if I have an excuse for such shoddy work, but it was for Father's Day lunch and I was juggling a lot of other dishes. Apparently if you leave wet risotto alone for more than a few minutes with the lid on, the rice will absorb the rest of the liquid and give you dry, overcooked risotto. Factor in the time you take to take a picture. Oy.

This is my entry to Michelle's Thursday Night Smackdown for October, with the theme Orange.

Squash and Sage Risotto from Cook With Jamie

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1 dried red chili

  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 medium butternut squash, quartered and seeds discarded

  • extra virgin olive oil

  • 1.5L (6 cups) chicken or vegetable stock

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon butter

  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped

  • 4-5 ribs of of celery, trimmed and finely chopped

  • 600g (3 cups) Arborio rice

  • 270mL (1 full wineglass) dry white wine

  • 1 tablespoon mascarpone cheese

  • 100g (7 tablespoons) butter

  • 1-2 handfuls freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

  • a bunch of fresh sage, leaves picked

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). In a mortar, pound the cinnamon stick and chili with a good pinch of salt until you get a fine powder. Rub the squash with some olive oil and the spice mix. Place on a baking sheet and roast 45 minutes, or until soft. Set aside.

Meanhile, in a large skillet, add the 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over very low heat, then the onion and celery and cook very slowly for about 15 minutes without coloring. Once the vegetables are soft, add the rice and turn up the heat. Keep stirring the rice and after a minute it will appear translucent. Add the white wine and keep stirring. Once it has cooked into the rice, add the stock ladle by ladle, stirring and massaging the rice grains, until you've added about 2/3 of the stock (1 liter). Pour in a cup more of the stock and scoop the flesh out of the squash and add it to the risotto, stirring to break it in. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer until the stock has been absorbed. If the rice is still not yet cooked, add the remaining stock a ladleful at a time until it is. If it still isn't after using up all the stock, you can add hot water until the rice is soft but still al dente. Add salt and pepper to taste. Take off the heat and stir in the 100g butter, grated Parmesan, and mascarpone. Put the lid on and leave for a minute. Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a frying pan and fry the sage leaves for a minute, until crispy. Drain on paper towels. Serve the risotto with the crispy sage leaves and some more Parmesan cheese.

02 September 2008

Mango-Pineapple Jam

Mango-Pineapple Jam (with title)
Some of you might have noticed that I have a bit of anti-Martha Stewart sentiment. It usually surfaces when I read a blog post that used her recipe. It all stemmed from an unfortunate microwave minestrone recipe I got from Everyday Food. I know, I know, the title alone should have signaled disaster, but I was hard of head so I tried it and as a result got to taste the blandest-ass soup ever. The only other recipe I've made of hers (and her rumored not-so-thoroughly-tested kitchen) was a peanut butter swirled brownie, which was okay (on the bitter and cakey side). So since then, I've just enjoyed looking at the pictures in her magazines, even if I've stopped buying them. But I don't hate her: in fact I quite enjoy the undercurrent of bitchitude she has on her talk show and the creepy, crazy, robotic obsessive-compulsiveness. You just know, if you weren't a celebrity and your stencil or whatever didn't line up, she'd shiv you.
I haven't seen one of these things in a while, so it was pretty cool.
The thing is, I was not the neatest kid in school. I recall dumping all my notebooks (we had 13 of them, one for each subject) in my bag in grade school. One day, I found remnants of a dead rat inside (Hello! Welcome to a man's blog). Even in high school, I just piled my books haphazardly inside my locker while my classmates had theirs vertically arranged according to height and subject. In college, my friend Marga constantly criticized me for having the messiest bag ever: sometimes I'd just throw receipts inside, and if a box of staples spilled, my books would be littered with tiny metal confetti. I'm sure Martha Stewart would approve. There were times when I'd fix my locker (even go so far as to add knick-knacks to make it look good) or bag, and I've found that neatness inspires even more obsessiveness. Suddenly, there's a little space in your brain devoted to keeping things in order, because you've already established the order. I think, in the past, keeping my things a mess was my way of not using up valuable head space. I know, I'm making excuses. I've since reformed my ways. Except on my bed. I share it with Claire Clark, Pichet Ong, Pierre Hermé, Flo Braker, Jamie Oliver, and Jason Atherton (and the editors of New Zealand magazine Dish). Quite an orgy I have each night! I wake up with paper cuts all over. Just kidding.

How do you like the picture? The brilliant stylists at the Martha Stewart institute were my inspiration. It took me a while after I'd made the jam to take it, because of the rain. Then when the sun came out, it came out too strong and I had to wait for that 10-minute window of time when it just hides behind the horizon but there's still daylight. It helps to scramble for the props early in the day, and to just wait. I'd also just bought several napkins of varying hues at Shoemart (about 67¢ to $1 each), so I'm really happy!

When I started the blog's food trajectory I told myself I would tackle on a new skill each time, but lately I've been rehashing basic skills (like cake mixing). Making preserves was altogether frightening for me. But, I thought, hundreds of Americans do this, so why can't I? Anne and Allen make wonderful preserves (Anne's I've even tasted!), so it inspired me to make my own-- I used the Ball home canning jar that Anne gave me, mangoes that were gifted to us, and pineapple leftover from another dish. I squealed with delight when I heard that reassuring pop as I took it out of processing. Vacuum-sealed, baby! Unfortunately, I didn't have any of the other tools, like a jar lifter and magnetic lid lifter, but I just used a pasta pot with removable colander, and a large spoon to fish out lids. And asbestos fingers.

I didn't just use these fruits because they were what I had-- Mango-Pineapple Jam is widely commercially available in the Philippines and is my favorite flavor hands-down (I may have to gift some, with all my raving...). As for the taste and texture? Absolutely perfect. Since my mangoes were really ripe, I didn't have to add as much sugar and as a result, they were less artificially sweet. Serve on warm rolls or lightly toasted bread (it goes well with soft, buttery bread). You can also use it to fill pastry and make turnovers. Would I do it again, though? Probably only if I have a lot of fruit that needs preserving (as in, the quantities listed below). I only made one and a half jars and it was plenty of effort, handling scalding jars.

Mango-Pineapple Jam
There are so many different recipes for making mango jam that I've come to the conclusion that it rarely can be messed up. Some call for 5 parts sugar to 6 parts fruit (!). Some more reasonable recipes call for 1 part sugar to 4 parts fruit, or 1 part sugar to 7 parts fruit. Take note that the recipes that call for smaller amounts of sugar were formulated in the Philippines, where mangoes are far superior to the ones in Europe or the US. Philippine mangoes are smaller and more elongated in shape, softer, and are yellow when ripe-- do search for them if you can. I use a very conservative 1 part sugar to 8 parts fruit, but that has to be the absolute minimum amount of sugar to use. Because both mangoes and pineapples are low in pectin, some recipes call for subbing 1/3 of the amount of ripe mangoes with green mangoes. I find this unnecessary (potential for tastelessness) and used citric acid instead.

  • 450g (1 pound or 2¼ cups) ripe mango chunks (about 5 small mangoes; you can use overripe ones)

  • 450g (1 pound or 2¼ cups) ripe pineapple chunks (about 1 large pineapple)

  • 200g (1 cup) granulated sugar (average amount; I used only 110g)

  • 1 tablespoon kalamansi or lemon juice

Prepare around 5 or 6 250mL (8oz) jars suitable for home canning. Sterilize and prepare them as directed here. Chop the pineapple finely (the mangoes as well if they are not very soft). In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, combine the fruit and the sugar and set over high heat to bring to a rapid boil. Once it does, decrease the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until it reaches a setting consistency, or 105°C (220°F), about 20-30 minutes. Drain the sterilized jars and make sure they are dry. Pack the jam into the jars, leaving 7mm (¼ inch) headspace. Use a clean rubber spatula to release any air bubbles. Center the lids on top and screw on the bands until fingertip-tight. Process in boiling water for 25 minutes. Check if it has properly sealed by making sure the central button is depressed; if not, you will have to refrigerate the jam or reprocess it.