Category: Marag

Just Tomato & Salt

Salty Tomato, Photo by JMorton

Vine tomatoes, photo by JMorton

Just Tomato & Salt

There is some truth about the best things in life are the simplest things.

Like this recipe for instance.  A few ripe tomatoes, sliced and then drizzled with a bit of salt is delicious with boiled rice and some fried fish.

Sometimes though, this salted tomatoes is a complete meal with a plate of fried rice.

I remember when we were still children, my mother would serve us rice with some viand of vegetables and fish and this recipe of salty tomatoes. I would watch her not bothering with a knife to slice the juicy ripe tomatoes.  With dexterity she you would pull a tomato apart with just one hand and it was the loveliest memory of delicious childhood.

I have to say that when I first came to the UK, the tomatoes did not taste like the Philippine tomatoes.  They looked the same but the UK ones are bland.

It was some few years later that Sainsburys started selling flavoursome tomatoes.  It tasted slightly like the good tomatoes of the Philippines.  But why has a tomato has to be flavoursome to taste like the real thing?

The Recipe:

Ripe firm tomatoes, sliced

a pinch of salt

  • Sprinkle the salt to the sliced tomatoes.
  • Stir
  • Serve
  • 🙂  Yummy

 

Kangkong (Water Spinach)

Kangkong, photo by JMorton

Kangkong (Water Spinach)

I love kangkong, or water spinach as its English given name.

Kangkong is a green leafy aquatic vegetables which is rich in vitamins and nutrients.  They have a long slender leaves attached to a hollow tube stem which is crunchy or there is bite to it. Yummy

They usually grow in anything watery plot, in fields, swamp, lakes, river or even in bogs.

I remember that they grew near a dyke in the middle of your rice field when we were still living in Marag.

Kangkong can grow rather vigorously and needed a good trim to prevent them overpowering the water surface.  Good thing they are so delicious.

I remember going into the waist-high water in our field to gather the kangkong sprout.  I almost had a near panic attack after a carabao leech decided to attached itself to my stomach. It took ages to remove it and it seems the more you pull at it the longer it gets.  That still gives me nightmare to date.

My father did smoke whenever he plowed the field.  He would use the burning ember of the cigarette to unhook any pesky leech.

Oops, back to kangkong, they are delicious in sinigang as were as blanch and made into a salad.

Croton Punctatum

Punctatum, photo by JMorton

Croton Punctatum

The above plant grows profusely in the Philippines, where the photo was taken.  It is apparently called punctatum of the croton family.

As a young girl, still living in Marag my sister and I would go to our neighbours, who grew the plants in their garden to give us cuttings.  The neighbours were so good to us that they would allow us to turn their once beautiful shrubs hedging their yards into stringy sorry sight of bald shrubs as if a ravenous swarm of locusts had been.  🙂 🙂 🙂

With our treasure of twigs of beautiful narrow verdant green leaves speckled with golden dust, we would dash home and plant these twigs in our front yard.  We would religiously water our new plant for at least a few days and then we forget as by then we moved on to another hobby.  Some of the twigs would live and some dries up and shrivelled under the punishing sun.

I must say that they do make a lovely hedge.  Their bright leaves have golden dusting and they are just beautiful under the sun.

 

Sautéed Marrow & Minced Beef (Ginisang Patola & Giniling na Baka)

marrow minced pork

Sautéed Marrow & Minced Beef (Ginisang Patola & Giniling na Baka)

The trinity for sauteeing in the Philippines is the combination of garlic, onion and tomatoes.  With these three ingredients many a food are cooked to perfection and one of these recipes, also a great favourite is marrow with minced beef.
Having said that, in this recipe minced beef can be substituted with minced pork, minced lamb, minced chicken or oven minced turkey.  But I prefer beef or pork 🙂

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced finely
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled & chopped
  • 500 g minced beef
  • I large marrow or two large courgettes, peeled, inner sack of seeds removed, then sliced as per photo above
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce or 1 tsp salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Using a wok or a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the garlic and onion and stir fry for a minute.
  3. Then add the tomato and sauté for a further 3 minutes until tomato had softened.
  4. Stir in the minced beef and cook until it has brown.
  5. Mix in the in the marrow slices, then add the water.
  6. Add the fish sauce.
  7. Turn down the heat slightly and leave to simmer for five minutes.
  8. Check the seasoning.  Add more fish sauce or salt if required.

Delicious with freshly boiled rice.

Yummy

Ginataang Kuhol (Escargot in Coconut Milk)

Escargot in Coconut Milk, Photo by Rosie Reyes-Barrera

Ginataang Kuhol (Escargot in Coconut Milk)

I love and miss eating snails!  That doesn’t sound right!  That sounded too full-on with too much yucky factor 🙂 .  I think I would call it with the more exotic French word for snail, escargot, instead.

When I was a young girl living in Marag, we used to eat a lot of escargots, which are called bisukol in Ilocano `(and kuhol in Tagalog).

My memories of bisukol (escargot) is deeply embedded into my happy family nostalgia.  Eating these little critters bring back memories of strong family bonding.

In our province of Marag in Kalinga-Apayao, Philippines, dining with bisukol involves both hand and arms actions.  To prepare the bisukol, prior to cooking, get a fairly heavy ladle or metal spoon and tap to break the bottom of each snail.  This will allow the snail flesh to come out easily.  And the most fun way of eating a bisukol is to pick one up with your right hand ensuring that the snail opening is facing down onto your plate, then banging your right wrist into your slightly extended left wrist a la Psy Gangnam Style (the horsey bit) until the snail meat comes out and drops on your plate.  It was very satisfying watching everyone doing the arm action at the dining table.  LOL

In the West, every paraphernalia seems to be available for most food, exotic or otherwise.  Like with escargot, when eaten in fine restaurant, you will get a snail tong (like the ones with Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman) and a two-prong snail fork.

Snail fork or arms action, escargot is exotically delicious!  Below is a very satisfying recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs escargot (kuhol)
  • 3 cups coconut milk
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoon ginger, cut into fine strips
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp shrimp paste (1½ tbsp fish sauce)
  • 2 green long chilli pepper
  • Kangkong leaves (Swamp cabbage/ water spinach), cut and trimmed into manageable size for comfortable dining 😉
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Cooking procedure:
  1. Tap each of the snails’ bottom to break, then wash the escargot thoroughly, removing all the grits.  Did you know if you live in the UK, those pesky snails in your garden are edible.  According to Gordon Ramsey,  intrepid gourmets can go to the garden to gather up the snails. As an added bonus, these wild garden snails taste far better than those which are farmed.  However you cannot just put garden snails directly to the pot and eat them.  There are steps to be taken first for health, taste and safety reasons.  First leave the snails watered but without food for two days to get rid of any toxin they might have ingested.  On the third day, give them carrots; watch their droppings.  If they start to poop orange substance, wash them again and put them in a sealed container into your fridge.  when they are soporific, they are ready to cook.  Thank goodness you can get snails, which have been purged and ready to cook.
  2. Heat up the cooking oil in a large pan or better yet a wok (kawali),
  3. Saute the garlic, onion  and ginger.
  4. Drop in the escargots followed by the coconut milk.
  5. Bring to a boil and then lower down the heat and continue to simmer until the coconut milk turns slightly creamy.
  6. Stir in the shrimp paste or fish sauce.
  7.  Add the Long chilli peppers and Kangkong ( water spinach) and simmer for 5 minutes.
  8. Check and adjust the seasoning by adding more fish sauce or salt and pepper if needed.
  9. Serve with freshly boiled or steamed rice.  Arm wrestle your way to a delicious escargot.  It is fun.

Charcoal Grilled Tilapia

Tilapia, photo by PH Morton

Tilapia, photo by PH Morton

Charcoal Grilled Tilapia

I really find it very sad that tilapias have been having a bad press lately when in natural fact, they are one of the best tasting fish there is.

They are also very versatile, they can be cooked with just a bit of ginger and a few tablespoons of vinegar or can be fried, and be made into fish balls, etc.

Whilst growing up in Marag, where we had a farm,  tilapias used to grow naturally along the dykes that run in between our rice-field.

At lunch time we would go and catch them by hand or with the help of a rattan woven like a net.  After cleanign and de-scaling the fish, the would then be pushed into a bamboo skewer and set over an open fire to grill.

We then have a delicious lunch with boiled rice.  We also have a home-made sauce made from small amount of water, a dash of salt and a few siling labuyo (bird’s eye chili).

 

Beef Lauya Recipe

~Beef Lauya, Photo by JMorton

~Beef Lauya, Photo by JMorton

~Beef Lauya, Photo by JMorton

~Beef Lauya, Photo by JMorton

Beef Lauya Recipe

Lauya is an Ilocano (people from Northern Luzon in the Philippines) dish, which is much loved by our family.  It was a special treat as meat was rather a seldom ingredient to our family meals whilst still leaving in Marag, Luna, Kalinga-Apayao in the 70s.

We kept pigs, geese, ducks and chicken, but they were more like well loved pets rather than the ‘fatted calf’ for feasting or everyday food.

There were no markets either.  You planted what you would eat or go foraging in the forest, go fishing in the nearest river. lake or lagoon for subsistence.

We lived on a healthier diet of fish, shrimp, prawns, bisukol (escargot) and vegetables though.  Although once in a while, my father would come home with wild boar or wild deer after going hunting at night with his brothers or friends.  It was a tradition or accepted etiquette to share the meat to your friends, neighbours and relatives and therefore, not a great deal was left for the family; I supposed it was only right as there was no working refrigeration then.  To preserve the meat, it had to be salted and dried like tapas.  It can then be stored and then fried when needed.  I did not really like them much as they were so tough, I might as well be trying to gnaw a leather shoe.

What I did enjoy is a dish called lauya.  The meat, which usually come from wild boar (baboy damo in Tagalog language or alingo in Ilocano) was so delicious.  The meat is boiled for at least a couple of hours until the meat is coming of the bones and the sweet, fat marrows can be sucked out from the bones.  This brings back childhood memory.

The lauya process of cooking can be applied to most meat.  With spices, you can sweat out flu and cold.

Lauya is a good recipe for cheaper cuts of beef.

Recipe follows below:

INGREDIENTS
3 lbs beef shank (bone-in), cut into serving pieces
4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and crushed (the amount is according to your taste; I love spicy lauya so I tend to add sliced ginger from a big chunk)
1tsp whole black peppers
1 small green cabbage, halved and cored
1 bok choy
Fish sauce or salt to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

Put beef in a big pot and cover with water.  Add salt and bring to a boil over high heat.

Skim off the scum on the surface.

Add the ginger, garlic, onion and whole peppercorns (black pepper).

Reduce the heat and cover the pot and leave to simmer for at least two hours or until the meat is tender. Check on the meat once in a while to ensure that it has not boiled dry. Add more water if necessary. Remember this dish is soupy, the soup will be so heavenly.

Increase the heat a little and then add the potatoes or any other vegetable you fancy, even plantain; cook for 10 minutes.

Add cabbage and bok choy or pechay and cook for another 5 minutes.

Season with more salt or by adding fish sauce, if using.

Serve with freshly boiled rice or if several types of vegetables, like carrots, sweet potatoes, and yams have been added, this soup can be a one dish meal.

If eating it with boiled rice, a little dish of fish sauce generously drizzled with calamansi or lemon is a delicious side.

Enjoy.

Trees and Forest

Trees and Forest

Kew Garden, Photo by PH Morton

Kew Garden, Photo by PH Morton

 

Aren’t these trees beautiful?  Aren’t we lucky we have them?

We should look after them, the best we can.

Let’s say NO to deforestation; No to illegal logging!

Coconut trees

Coconuts in the mountain, photo by PH Morton

There are people who are scared of the thought and sight of trees and forests. Some have pathological fear. I do understand these in some ways. When I was very young, I tagged along with my father to go to our farm. As he was doing some farm and field chores, he told me to sit under the shade of a big Narra tree. Anyway, it was so quiet that day, all I can hear was the occasional sound of wind brushing through leaves of trees around me.

As I looked up, I suddenly got very frightened of the many coconut trees. I felt they were looking at me. For some reason, I felt rather claustrophobic surrounded by trees. How strange was that – being claustrophobic in the open?!!! Probably there is another word similar to claustrophobic but that is how it felt. Luckily the experience was a one off. I love trees, I love forests as well though I find them mysterious.

I love nothing than watching horror films with a forest/woods theme. 🙂

Did you know?

Fear of trees and forest are very real, in fact, there are some official phobia terms allotted to them.

Dendrophobia comes from two Greek words, Dendro for tree and phobia, of course, is fear.

Xylophobia
is the fear of wooden objects or woods. Xylo is a Greek word for wood and phobia as before is fear.

Hylophobia is the fear of woods and can be of materialism as well. Hylo comes from the Greek for forest.

Another Birthday, Another year older

Me at 7 Months old, photo by Eligio Wamil

Me at 7 Months old, photo by Eligio Wamil

Another Birthday, Another year older

In a few minutes I will be celebrating another birthday.  I am thankful for that.  Bring them on, Lord.

Anyway, as I near my birthday, as if by synchronicity, I found this little photo, the only one of me when I was still a baby.

It was taken by my father when we were living in Marag, Luna, Kalinga-Apayao.  It is special to me because, he developed the film as well.  This is rather stupendous in my perspective because during  that time, Marag was so remote, a place where there was no electricity, therefore no gas or electric appliances to  speak of.

I was too young to remember this picture being taken 🙂  but I did remember our little sari-sari store.

I also fondly remember that we used to sell biscuits called dapan (Ilocano language term for the sole of the foot).  Well, the biscuits are made to look like a foot or the size of a foot.

When I was about 5 years old, I remember contemplating how I was going to eat the gargantuan and rather hard dough Dapan all to myself.  But fast forward 10 years later, dapan was tiny, the size of a 7 years old child’s foot.  I would need to eat at least a couple to have a filling snack.  I supposed perspective changes as one grow older!

 

Me & My Doppelgänger

My Doppleganger

Me & My Doppelgänger

 

Having seen this spooky effect photo of myself, taken by Peter while taking a walk in the park, it reminded me of a ghostly story when I was a young girl. As it is Halloween, I thought I would recount it here.  When I was twelve years old and living in the province of Marag, Luna, Kalinga-Apayao, Philippines I was told that I had a doppelgänger (spooky double).

It happened when we, my girl classmates, went to the town of Luna to attend a Girl Scouting jamboree.

We stayed at our teacher’s house in the town and as she was my cousin I was sort of given a relative preferential treatment.

All the other girls stayed downstairs and I slept in the bed upstairs.

It was a hot and humid night and it was hard to sleep because the restaurant nearby had a very noisy clientele.  Filipinos seem to sing even with the slightest provocation. LOL

Despite the uncomfortable temperature, I fell asleep all the same.  I was young then!!!

The next morning my schoolmates asked me who I was talking to outside last night? They said they saw me go out and was heard talking to someone.

This was so spooky! I told them that I did not go down after I went to bed. I would have been too scared to walk around in darkness. I never had a history of sleep walking and would have been noisy.

We were all rather spooked because they all saw me and yet I was sure I stayed in bed all night and my cousin/teacher Manang Tessie,  who was sleeping in the other bed near mine ( I was nearest the window), said she would have heard, woken up & seen  if I’d left my bed as I needed to climb over her bed to leave the room!

But my schoolmates maintained that they saw me.  Strange that!!!

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