The beauty of being a host on a television cooking show that showcases farms and their produce is meeting the farmers. Their hard work and love for their livestock/produce is the key to a great product. These guys are the unsung heroes of the food world. I have always been a firm believer that the quality of the end product is a result of their love and passion for what they do.
There is no better example of this than Carlos Tamayo of Tobee’s Apiary.
For those of you who are not familiar with the word apiary, it a place where beehives of honey bees are kept.
Carlos and his wife have taken over reigns from his father Toby at the bee farm. We featured them in one of our episodes in Baguio for Market to Master.
As I was interviewing him for the show about his bees and honey production, I could see the passion in his eyes. I listened as how he told stories of how as kids they grew up around bees and how it has always been a part of their lives.
He also explained to me how the bees created the honey and how their attention to detail creates honey with the same moisture content every single time, how each scent is so crucial to each hive of about 5,000 + bees, and how important the queen bee’s role is in each hive.
So it was no surprise to me that his honey was really smooth and probably one of the best honey I have ever tasted. The sweet sunflower honey, the velvety narra honey and the dark rich mango honey are the three main honey that they produce at the farm.
Thanks Carlos and Kristine for a great day and hope you guys enjoyed the lunch I cooked for you.
Keep posted for the episode that features Tobee’s Apiary on Market to Master, Lifestyle Network on Monday’s 8pm.
A couple of weeks back I got asked to cater for the South African Manila based community Christmas party … with me being South African, how could I say no?
As I was writing their menu, I started getting excited about cooking South African desserts again, as the last time I did this was as a young kid sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table helping her bake.
As I scratched around for recipes in my food stained recipe book that I have had since I started cooking ( it’s hardly legible anymore so I think digitalising it needs to happen soon), I found my grandmother’s recipes which brought me back about 28 years to her kitchen table with me helping her braid the koeksisters, teaching me all her little cooking secrets.
One of the desserts I made was Koeksister (pronounced Cook sister), a South African classic that gets served at every cake shop up and down the country. It’s braided dough that is deep fried and then immediately dropped into cold syrup.
This recipe is all in cups and teaspoons (shows you how old it is)
1 kg Sugar
1.5 cups of water
2 cinnamon sticks
1 whole lemon Zested
5 cups Cake Flour
1 tsp Salt
4tsp Baking powder
8 tbls Butter (roughly 130g)
1 cup water
Before making the dough, you need to get the syrup going, mix all the ingredients together and bring to a boil. Turn off and cool it down completely in the fridge.
Sift your cake flour, salt and baking powder together in a bowl. Sifting helps to remove impurities in the flour but more importantly aerates the flour to make the koeksisters just that little lighter.
Add the softened butter to the dry ingredients and work in till it looks like breadcrumbs, add the water slowly and mix for about 10-15 min till it forms a ball and is silky smooth.
Place it in a bowl and leave to rest for about an hour or so. What this does is help to relax the glutens in the flour. It won’t double in size because there is no yeast.
After about an hour, roll the pastry out to about 1/8 inch thick and cut the dough into rectangles (mine was the thickness of the ruler and 3 inches long)
Starting from just below the top, cut the dough into three even strips and start braiding or plaiting them. My grandmother always told me to try and get the outside legs into the centre and then just carry on doing that until you get to the end. Surprisingly, this came naturally to me after not doing it for about 12 years
Now deep fry those bad boys in oil at 180deg C. Now is a good time to get your syrup out the freezer and place it on ice. It is crucial that your syrup is ice cold when the hot koeksisters go into it.That will help it soak up loads of that cinnamon and lemon syrup.
Leave them in there for about 10 mins or so, take them out and put them on a rack to drip off all the excess syrup.
You can then pop them in the fridge or even freeze them…
Last week one of our dear friend’s mom was in Manila for a visit from the States, so we decided to take her to Salcedo market to have a little lunch. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t participate with our plans as it was a drizzly, overcast kinda day.
So we decided to skip across the road (under umbrellas) and have lunch at Apartment 1B… I had never been there before but heard a lot about it.
I really liked the look of the restaurant as we walked in, it was simple yet elegant at the same time.
My wife ordered a watermelon shake, it was probably the best shake I had ever tasted… it was like biting into a perfectly ripened, juicy watermelon (I guess thats the aim, right?)
After having a look at the menu, I decided that because of the gloomy weather it was gonna have to be the beef pie (properly made, is one of my favourite dishes) I am still looking for a decent place to have a pie, and I think I just found one…
When the pie was put in front of me, I immediately thought of London. It came with mash potato that was silky smooth, well seasoned and buttery. The actual pie was great, the beef inside was fork tender and jam packed full of big beef flavour. Mushy peas were as good and as sweet as any pub in England could’ve made. To me, the beauty of this dish is in its simplicity, it is simple food done properly.
My wife ordered the Vongole (this is one of her favourite dishes). Again, this dish was spot on because of simplicity and proper execution of this dish. The pasta was cooked perfectly, it only had olive oil and lemon juice as a sauce and loads of chopped parsley just to freshen it up and garlic with nice big clams and plenty of them! I can’t understand how some places can mess up this simple, yet classic dish. My wife loved it and said it was one of the best vongole that she had ever had. I would have to agree with her on that (even though she likes to put parmesan on top of her vongole ; ) ).
We also ordered the New Zealand mussels to share. Again, the flavour was great with paprika and bacon running through the cream sauce. I just thought it was a little pricey for what it was and for how many mussels you got.
All in all I loved this place. It was not trying to be pretentious in any way (It basically did exactly what it said on the tin). It was good food made it should be made and that is what I like in a restaurant. I wish there were more places like this kicking about in Manila.
On Sunday morning, the family decided to go for a lazy Sunday lunch … We stumbled upon Mr Jones Diner.
I had been to this posh diner a few times before but have just recently discovered that they have expanded the restaurant space as well as the menu (I think the manageress said they added 43 more dishes)…
This then kicks off my first point, I have found that many restaurants have such a large and extensive menu that it feels like I’m reading a book. Then in many cases (Not with Mr Jones though), half of the items on that menu are “out of stock sir” … Hay nako.
As we sat down, we asked for a kids menu for my son. It was lunch time for him and he was getting a little cranky … to my utter surprise, they don’t have a kids menu! Now there were two cranky people at the table. I’m in a little disbelief that a ‘diner style’ restaurant that serves kid style food already (mac and cheese, hot dogs and burgers) couldn’t just put half portions on and *boom* you have a kids menu…
Now because of the sheer size of the menu, the table unanimously decided to order a ceasar salad to nibble on while we get stuck into our respective ‘novels’.
As it arrived, the first thing that struck me was the nice presentation. We were all expecting a well seasoned kick to the dressing thanks to the two key players in caesar salad (anchovy and parmesan) but as we all dug deeper we noticed there was a lack of dressing and what little dressing there was! It was bland and tasted just like lightly seasoned mayo. Unfortunately, this one was way short of that mark!
After going thru the menu, we all decided to order burgers (cause it felt like a burger kinda Sunday I guess). We must of waited about 45 min for our food with a restaurant that had 12 guests in it.
I ordered a Superman Burger, and wow, was it a Superman! I was very impressed in the presentation of the burger and the plate overall. The coleslaw was a little dissapointing as it was wilted and soft and tasted like it was made a couple of days earlier. But the burger on the other hand had really good flavour packed into it. I was just a little confused how to get this towering double pattied burger into my mouth, it got in eventually (thru years of burger eating experience and careful planing). It was messy but hey is that not what burgers are supposed to be???
My soon to be sister-in-law ordered the gourmet blue cheese burger, which in my mind had great potential to be a gem of a burger (blue cheese and apple is a wonderful combination). Unfortunately, the tequnique let it down again.The blue cheese sauce that was meant to smother the burger was just plain white sauce and had no traces of blue cheese in it.The only thing that made the burger blue cheese was the few bits of crumbled blue cheese scattered on-top.
Overall, I think everyone at the table was a little disappointed with their lunch, especially when it came to the service. However, the food had good intentions, I think only small things let it down.It will be a while till I return there I think…but I will return.
The exact date of this Culinary masterpiece is still a bit of a mystery to us,but what we do know is that it was named after and created for Arthur Wellesley -the first Duke of Wellington, he was the commander in the Battle of Waterloo that brought down Napoleon in 1815.
My theory is that the beef must of been covered with a paste to keep it moist while it was roasting and then the paste turned into a crust in the oven…
A dish that was hugely popular in the 60’s and then came back in the 90’s and slowly clawing its way back now I feel.It was classically made with Beef,Pate,Crepe and with Mushroom Duxelle and of course pastry
This is my version of Beef Wellington:
Beef Tenderloin (I used 1.8kg)
400g Mixed Mushroom(I used Button,Shitake and Potabello)
8 Slices of good quality Parma Ham
400g Good quality Puff pastry
20g Foie Gras (optional)
The First step is to sear your beef. Key points here are to get your pan really, really hot, add tablespoon of butter to your pan and place your well seasoned beef in. The butter will help give your beef colour and also enhance the flavour. I added a couple of garlic cloves in my pan to help flavour (you can also put a sprig of thyme or rosemary). Make sure its brown on all sides and still rare in the middle, take it out of the pan and cool it down as fast as possible by placing it in the fridge (maybe 20min)
While the beef is cooling down in the fridge, cut your mushrooms up in quarters and place them in the blender. You just want the mushrooms to look like they have been roughly chopped. You could do this by hand but it is a huge time waster…
Place your blended mushrooms with salt and pepper in a pan with no oil or butter, what we are trying to achieve is to extract all the water from the mushrooms by cooking them. Fry them till there is no visible water left in the pan and the mushrooms have turned a nice brownish black colour. I like to add a little bit of foie gras to the hot pan at this stage, just helps to give the duxelle a nice richness. Place in a tray and cool down completely…
Now that all the “hard” work is done its time to assemble the Wellington. Take your beef out of the fridge and brush it liberally with English Mustard all over (this will act as a “glue” and give the beef loads of flavour). Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on the table and lay out your slices of parma ham on top of the plastic, making sure the slices overlap each other. Take your mushroom duxelle and spread it over your parma ham with a spatula until it’s even (making sure not to go over the parma ham border). Make sure it’s large enough to wrap around the beef.
Place the beef in the centre and bring one side of the plastic wrap over the beef, pull back the plastic gently so as to leave the mushroom and parma ham stuck to the beef. Do the same to the other side.
Wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for a hours to set.
Roll out the puff pastry to about 1/8 inch thickness and make sure its even all over. Get 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk and mix it together with a pinch of salt. Brush the entire surface of the pastry with this egg wash. This will help the beef stick to the pastry.
Unwrap the beef and place it in the centre. Bring one end of the pastry over the beef tightly and then the same with the other side, cut off the excess pastry on the ends, egg wash them and tuck them underneath.
Let the pastry rest for 20 min in the fridge and pre-heat the oven at 220 deg C (420 F) After 20 min rest, take the uncooked Wellington and give it a brush with the egg wash and then score it gently and place in the oven for about 25-30 min or until golden brown. I like my meat rare, but if you want it more done lower the oven temp and cook it for longer.
Let it rest for 5-10 min and slice them into thick slices (Wellington should never be sliced thinly) I served mine with roast potatoes cooked in duck fat and cream spinach.
I think about this a lot while I am frantically rushing thru my kitchen at work (don’t really know why)
Which genius caveman decided to cook a tyrannosaurus rex or pterodactyl ? Put it on the fire and burn the meat to a crisp on the outside and still stone cold inside (I am just assuming this, as they would not of known how to on their first attempt) Would he of had a wife napping at his ear to say “Is it almost ready yet “or “hurry up the cave kids are starving”…Just think of the pressure this poor soul would have been under to cook for the whole tribe, once they heard that he or she were the only one who could “cook”. Welcome to a chef’s life, my poor caveman…
Just take a minute to simmer on what a monumental step this is in the development of us as humans today. There is no exact date on when “chef caveman” first cooked items but it was roughly estimated about 1.9 million years ago. And found that there was a drastic decrease in molar size as well as jaw size. Thus adapting to the softer meat with less connective tissue. Their stomachs would have had to contain a lot more acid than ours do now, so as to kill off all bacteria in the uncooked meat, so their stomachs would have had to be considerably larger.
Could this of been the start of entertaining guests? Family social bonding? The start of secret family recipes that would be handed down to their offspring and offspring to come? The start of different cooking methods and doneness of meat? (There would always be one person wanting meat well done, sad)
I think we owe a lot more to “chef caveman” than just cooked meat and veggies …. don’t you? Or was it done by pure accident? Did someone clumsily drop the stegosaurus’s perfectly trimmed and butcher tide tenderloin on the tribe’s campfire? Can you imagine the abuse he or she would of got for ruining a perfect Stego fillet? Until they tasted it, true case of zero to hero if you ask me. How far we have come in 1.9 million years, with molecular gastronomy and fine dinning. Who knows what’s waiting for us around the culinary corner?
Well done “Executive caveman chef”. You have given me an occupation I love and brought many families together at dinnertime.
There is something about food markets that makes my heart beat just a little faster than normal…the bright colours, smell of fresh produce and the sounds of the vendors trying to convince you that theirs is better than the next guys. This is where I like to buy my produce for Pi catering. Guaranteed to be fresh and also trying to help out local farmers and business. Got some good produce today and now its off to the kitchen to cook for Wednesdays dinner party…..!
Three or four weeks back I decided to start my own catering company here in Manila…The idea was to bring restaurant food into the comfort of peoples houses, equipped with trained waiters, skilled chefs, cutlery and crockery and all the tools needed for a restaurant feel at home…Ladies and gentleman, I introduce Pi Catering…
I have been a chef now for 14 very long years and have worked in a few three Michelin star restaurants in London (and it wasn’t easy) from Gordon Ramsey to Heston Blumenthals The Fat Duck. From being shouted at for about 13 hours a day for six days straight for almost a year, I have sifted through all the abuse, kept all of the knowledge and am putting it into my company. Its gonna be a up and down windy road but I have my seat belt on and I am strapped in!