Now that Christmas is almost upon us, we have to start thinking what cheese or cheeses will grace our dining table.
Of course cheese is popular all year round but there is something special about nibbling on a selection of cheeses, wash down with a glass or few of red wine during the Christmas holidays. (Please note though that we do not promote drinking and driving!!!)
Below is my favourite cheeses, which I hope will help in making your own selection.
Ah, Wensleydale! The Mozart of cheeses.
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 is beetroot. 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). Excessive bolting can divert resources & nutriment from the beetroot and reduce its 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 homegrown 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:-
Pickling /preserve jars with airtight lids. The normal size is around 500ml, or as large as you want. Most hardware stores will supply.
Pickling vinegar, which comes in 1.4 litre size. Most larger supermarkets etc supply.
Brown or white sugar granules to sweeten the vinegar taste to your choice.
Place the beetroots in a suitably 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.
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.
This type of noodles are available fresh or dried. Egg Noodle usually has a distinct yellow colour. Ideal for stir-frying.
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 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.
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
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. 🙂
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 is a green leafy aquatic vegetable which is rich in vitamins and nutrients.
They have long slender leaves attached to a hollow tubular stem which is crunchy or there is a 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 dike in the middle of our rice field when we were still living in Marag.
Kangkong can grow rather vigorously and needed a good trim to prevent them from overpowering the water surface. Good thing they are so edible and delicious.
I remember going into the waist-high water in our field to gather the kangkong sprouts. I almost had a near panic attack after a carabao leech decided to attach itself to my stomach. It took ages to remove it and it seems the more you pull at it the longer its body gets, truly elastic. That still gives me the 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 recipes as well as blanched and made into a salad with lots of chopped tomatoes and shallots with a good dash of fish sauce.
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 has his own uniqueness and beauty, you just have to find it within you and enhance this asset
Siling Labuyo and Siling Mahaba, photo by PH Morton
Chilies – Hot & Spicy
There are many varieties of chilies in Asia, where spicy food are favoured. In the Philippines, there are a lot of different kinds of this spice but the two main ones are the siling labuyo which is the small red chilies on the above photo. They are bird’s eyes chilies, which are really hot. The above green one is the other popular one. They are used in sinigang and paksiw (both delicious recipes). They are also rather hot.
To lessen the hotness, the white membrane and seeds that run through the chilies should be removed.
As a rule of thumb the smaller the chili the spicier it is.