Category: Food Facts

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Fennel Bulb, photo by PH Morton

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Fennel is related to the carrot family and indigenous to the Mediterranean but they are now grown in many parts of the world.

It is a perennial herb with yellow flowers. It is very aromatic.

Fennel is very versatile.  The bulbs, see above, foliage (leaves) and seeds are widely used in culinary around the world.

The bulb is delicious drizzled in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and then baked in the oven.  It is sweet tasting, perfect starter or as a side dish with roast meat or even baked fish dishes.

Click here for the baked fennel bulb.

Persimmon (Sharon Fruit)

Persimmon, photo by PH Morton

Persimmon (Sharon Fruit)

Fruit Bowl, photo by PH Morton

Our fruit bowl is getting more adventures.  Early this new year, we have custard apple, passion fruit, mangoes, kiwi, several types of citrus fruits such as lemon, lime orange, grapefruit and nectarine.

We also have persimmon, which is apparently also called Sharon fruit.  Its scientific name is Diospyros Kaki.  This fruit is often seedless and sweet.  It can be eaten as a whole fruit; there is no need to peel it (but you can of course, if you wanted to.)

Sharon fruit can be eaten fresh, or cooked (in a pie) and even preserved.

Its orange colouring shouts richness in beta carotene and it is actually is a good source.

Korean Perilla Leaves

Korean Perilla Leaves, photo by PH Morton

Korean Perilla Leaves

I often see in Korean dramas that they eat their barbecued  thin pork or beef slices wrapped in the same leaves as above.  Of course they also use the standard lettuce leaf.

Anyway, Peter and I fancied a bit of change for the new year so we decided to create our on table-top barbecue dinner a la Korean. and also a delicious warming hotpot.

But first off, we went shopping for the ingredients.  We went to Seoul Plaza in Golders Green, North London.  I happened to see these leaves amidst the ready made Korean side dishes.  It was about £1.99 for a packet of 20 leaves.

We did our barbecue and duly wrapped pieces of meat with kimchi, radish and sauces into a perilla leaf.  It tasted really good.  The leaf has an aromatic minty scent with a herby taste.  I actually preferred it to the crisp iceberg lettuce.  Peter also love the perilla leaves.  I think we would use more of it in the future.

Perilla apparently is a member of the mint family.  It grows from seed and very easy to cultivate.  But where can you get the seeds?!!!  If you are from the UK  and know when to get them in London, please kindly let us know!!!

bbq pork wrapped in perilla leaf, photo by PH Morton

Pomelo (Suha) – Citrus Fruit

Pomelo, photo by Ruben Ortega

Pomelo (Suha) – Citrus Fruit

Pomelo is called suha in Tagalog and dogmon in Ilocano.

It is 3 to 4 times the size of a grapefruit and can be as big as a melon.  In fact pomelo is the largest citrus fruit that it has acquired a scientific name of citrus maxima or citrus grandis.

Pomelo is closely related to the grapefruit, but I actually prefer suha as I find grapefruit can be rather bitter.

The pomelo tree can grow really tall and when it flowers, the little cluster of white blossoms has the most fragrant smell.

Pomelo is rich in vitamin C.  Really juicy and when fully ripen in the tree, it can be very sweet.

But I actually love a pomelo that it still just before it truly ripen.  I love the slight sour taste which a little sprinkle of salt will activate the salivary gland.  Just thinking of this now makes my mouth water. Actually I prefer when the flesh of the pomelo is left to steep in a dish of slightly salty vinegar.  Delicious.

Suha, photo by Ruben Ortega

The juicy flesh here is pink but suha can also be yellowish white.

Delicious Home Made Pickled Beetroot

Delicious Home Made Pickled Beetroot

Our good friend and close neighbour Mick regularly supplies us with fresh vegetables grown on his allotment located across the road from us.

Mick has had his allotment for over fifty years, planting vegetables and even fruit trees.

One of my favourite vegetables he grows for harvesting each autumn time are beetroots. Mick grows a popular type called ‘Boltardty AGM’. Boltardy seeds can be sown at various times during the growing year and in most types of soil. It does not have excessive ‘bolting, a gardening term, which means premature sprouting of stalks flowering stem(s). Bolting can divert resources & nutriment from the beetroot and reduce it’s quality.

All Photos By PH Morton

After harvesting, Mick then produces jars of delicious slightly sweet pickled beetroot for his family and us. We save a jar for Christmas time. Beetroot is perfect to accompany Christmas meals.  This year, Mick invited me to harvest some of his beetroot. He then showed us how to make his ‘signature’ pickled beetroot. I took various photos from harvesting to our jars filled with delicious picked beetroot. Under Mick’s tutelage and help, Jean & I enjoyed producing our own jars of this delicious vegetable. Making pickled beetroot is quite simple & straightforward. 🙂

If using home grown beetroots from garden or allotment etc., a good time to harvest is from 50 to 70 days after planting. Avoid letting the beetroot get too big. A hand or tennis ball size is ideal. Do not let the stalks/stems bolt or grow above 6 inches (15cms). Dig around the beetroot and pick up avoiding breaking the stalk/greens from the beetroot.

Thoroughly clean & wash the dirt off and trim the stalks/stems short. Again do not pull out the stems, as water can get into the beetroot and damage it when boiling prior to pickling.

Harvested fresh beetroot can be stored in a refrigerator for about seven days.

Depending how many beetroots you are pickling, you will require:-

  1. Pickling /preserve jars with airtight lids. The normal size is around 500ml, or as large as you want. Most hardware stores will supply.
  2. Pickling vinegar, which comes in 1.4 litre size. Most larger supermarkets etc supply.
  3. Brown or white sugar granules to sweeten the vinegar taste to your choice.

Place the beetroots in a suitable sized saucepan(s) and cover with water.

Boil for two hours.

Carefully strain off the water and either allow air cooling or running cold water over the beetroots then dry.

Completely remove remaining stalks/roots etc.

The boiled soft skin of the beetroot does not need to be peeled with a knife as can be easily removed by hand.

Cut or slice the beetroot to whatever size you prefer.

Pour in small amount sugar, then add a small measure of the pickling vinegar, enough to cover the first layer of the slices of beetroot into the bottom of the jar.  Sprinkle with a teaspoon of sugar (to taste) then add another layer, pour pickling vinegar, then another layer, sugar, pickling vinegar until it reaches the top of the jar.

Close the jar, gently shake it then turn it upside down and leave for about 30 minutes. This will allow the vinegar and sugar to seep through the beetroot. Top up with the pickling vinegar if needed to completely cover the sliced beetroot in the jar.

If you want you can label the jar with day & month of pickling.

Home made pickled beetroot can be kept for 6 weeks to 3 months, refrigerated.
In practice, it can be longer.

But if you store them beyond 3 months and you’re worried, check for signs of spoilage (rising bubbles, cloudy liquid, unnatural colour) and don’t eat or taste.

Know your noodles

Noodles have become a staple for home-cooking. This east Asian staple comes in various shapes and sizes. As a reference the following are some of the types of noodle which are widely available in supermarkets:

Know your noodles

Just remember that noodles dishes can sometimes contain a lot of oil to keep the strands from sticking together.

Egg Noodle

This type of noodles are available fresh or dried. Egg Noodle usually has a distinct yellow colour. Ideal for stir-frying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

Rice Noodles

This noodle is very thin and needs to be soaked in hot water before use.  This is also called vermicelli noodles or affectionately as stick noodles. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Glass Noodles

Glass noodles are also call cellophane noodles or bean vermicelli. They are made from mung beans and are good in salad.  This is my favourite noodles which is called sotanghon in the Philippines.

 

 

 


 

Udon Noodles

udon

udon

 

These are good in soup. The noodles are made from whole wheat and can be available dried or fresh.


 

Flat rice noodles or Ho fun

This is a white noodle which is available fresh or dried and in different widths.

This noodle is particularly popular in Vietnamese cooking but it originated in China.

 

 

 

 


 

Below is a recipe for a handmade noodles. If you have time, it is rather self-satisfying to roll your own.

 

 

Handmade Noodles Recipe

Ingredients:

125 g plain flour  or all purpose flour

2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup boiling water

1 tsp vegetable oil

Method of Preparation:

  • Sift the flour, cornflour and salt into a mixing bowl.
  • Make a well in the middle of the flour mix.
  • Add the boiling water and 1 tsp of oil.
  • Use a wooden spatula the mix until it turns into a soft dough.
  • Cover the mixing bowl with cling film and leave for 5 to 6 minutes.
  • Now make the noodles by hand.  Take a small ball of dough and roll it into a flat surface with your palm until the ball elongates into long strips, i.e. noodle.
  • Repeat until all the dough has been industriously turned into noodles. 🙂

 

Bamboo Shoots


Bamboo Shoots

Photo by Haragayato of Tokyo, Japan

If you are rather partial to Chinese food, you are probably familiar with bamboo shoots.

And if you have been to the Philippines, it is possible that you have come across bamboo shoots in menus.  Probably they would have been called labong in the Tagalog regions or rabong in the Ilocos region.  They are also often called ubod.

Outside of Asia, bamboo shoots would most probably come in cans/tins or jars.

Bamboo shoots are usually harvested during the rainy season when they shoots grow profusely.  As per above photo, the shoots are like cones covered in papery, a la papyrus, brownish and greenish leaves.  The outer shell of leaves are then trimmed off leaving a yellowish tuber.

They can be cooked in variety of ways and can then be also made into a delicious if rather spicy and piquant salad.

 

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.

Alamat Ng Ampalaya (Legend of Bitter Gourd)

Ampalaya, Photo by PH Morton

Alamat Ng Ampalaya (Legend of Bitter Gourd)

Ampalaya is so bitter so it is like Marmite, you either love it or hate it.  But having said that, once you get used to its taste, you might actually love it as an ingredients to many recipes.

Ampalaya, is a Tagalog name for bitter gourd and it is called parya in the Ilocos region of the Philippines where I spent my childhood eating our own homegrown parya.

There is a Filipino legend how this vegetable got its bitter taste.

 


Alamat ng Ampalaya:

Once upon a time, there was a Green Garden, where all sorts of vegetables grew robustly and profusely.

In this verdant garden, there grew pumpkins with unique sweetness.

There were tomatoes with slight sourness but with fair, soft complexion.

The eggplants were sublime in their royal purple coats.

The lettuce carpeted the ground with their dewey leaves as they look up to the early morning sun.

The jicamas were as fresh and crisp as a new day.

Rhizomes of spicy ginger stood majestically amongst the vegetables.

The onions, shyly confident with their breathtaking thin delicate skin, that they make one cry!.

The daikon radish is the fairest of them all and knows it very well. 🙂

In the far corner stood a little gourd, waiting, watching, hoping to be noticed.

But she was different from the rest, she was wan and pale with a taste that was hard to explain . Day after day she watched the others with their boasting, their preening, their chattering, their joy.

She can’t help  but compare herself with them.  The more she does the more she thought that she cannot measure up with anyone.  As days passed, she can’t bear it anymore, she planned and plotted to carry out a most heinous scheme.

As soon as it got dark, she stealthily went from one vegetable to the next and the next until she had taken all their outstanding qualities.

Overnight the ampalaya became the belle of the Green Garden.  Everyone where asking where did she come from.  She was admired for her beauty and utter perfection.

But there is no secret that can be hidden forever.  The other vegetables start to suspect that there is something that is not quite right.

As  the sun was just setting, the vegetables covertly followed ampalaya in her corner of the Green Garden.  To their amazement, they saw her peel each of the layers of the qualities that made her so perfect.  Without much ado, the vegetables frogmarched the now wan and pale ampalaya to see the Fairy Queen of the Green Garden.

The Queen was not amused.  She looked over at the amplaya and could not believe why she was not satisfied with her beautiful pale appearance!  As a punishment, she let it be known that from the next new light, the ampalaya will wake up with dark warty lumpy skin and the bitterest of taste.  And she would always either be loved or hated for all eternity.

Moral of the story:  everyone is beautiful, you just have to cultivate your own asset!

 

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