Charcoal is the most ancient cooking fuel on earth. In the Philippines, it dates back to the pre-Hispanic era. The Malays introduced us to this primitive way of cooking- Inihaw !
The traditional method of producing charcoal or “uling” was to set fire to a pile of wood, cover it with sand and allowing it to simmer till it blackens into coal. Among cooking fuels, charcoal is inexpensive and readily available in the local market. The length of time charcoal will burn is determined by the amount of oxygen available, so if you can control the air you control the burning time. All other disadvantages of cooking with charcoal (such as its Greenhouse Effect on the atmosphere) are set aside in places where it is the sole means of cooking. More often than not, when we are enjoying the succulent Inihaw na Baboy and Charcoal Broiled Chicken, we forget about all else but the smokey aroma rendered by coals.
One of my childhood food related memories in Laguna is the sight and the aroma of simmering caldereta or menudo in a huge “talyasi” over a charcoal fire during family feast and town fiestas we relish the rewarding taste of the slow-cooked stews! And who could ignore charcoal baked bibingka—made fragrant with burnt banana leaves that were singed on coals.
The Upside/downside of Cooking with Uling
Undoubtedly, the most popular use of “uling” is for grilling. As you walk through the side streets of Manila, you can catch the wafts of delicious smoke from the barbeque pit: pork or chicken barbeque, IUD, helmet, adidas, walkman, betamax, etc. being grilled over the glowing embers, powered to stay on fire by electric fans directly focused on the pit.
And of course there are the sprouting Inasal chains that got rich due to highly sought after burnt-caramel taste that we salivate in anticipation of that first juicy bite. The great thing in grilling in charcoal is cooking low and slow. The secret is that one should keep a close eye on the fire and have some patience while it takes its time to cook from within and develop a cooked crust on the surface.
Two of the downsides of grilling over charcoal should likewise be a concern. Firing up coal will produce hydrocarbons that pollute the air which can aggravate heart and lung problems. Secondly, when the fat from the meat drips onto the charcoal, polycyclic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines form which are carcinogenic compounds that produce cancer
When you think about it, the use of “uling” has almost gone full circle—once being the only source of heat in the days of the cavemen, up to the present lifestyle cooking methods of the coal-rendered barbecues. Some would say the smoke has a discomforting smell while others would argue that it whets the appetite. Either way we’d all say that food cooked over, under or around that pile of warm “uling” just tastes so incredibly good finger-lickin’ good!
As a practical approach to cooking with coal, try this recipe which I do with freshly caught Kanduli. But if you can’t find this fish, you can always substitute it with Hito or Catfish.
Inihaw sa Gata Na Kanduli (or Hito)
Kanduli or Hito 3 pcs
Coconut cream 500 ml
Garlic(chopped) 4 cloves
Onion(chopped) 30 g
String beans 100 g
Squash(sliced) 100 g
Eggplant(sliced) 100 g
Guava(semi-ripe) 4 pcs
Salt and Pepper
Grill Kanduli or Hito over charcoal, set aside.
In a clay pot, sauté garlic and onion. Add guava, squash and coconut cream. Simmer until squash is cooked and coconut reduced. Add string beans and eggplant. Season with salt and pepper. Add the fish and simmer for 2 to 3 mins.
Published Cook Magazine, October 2010.
This is a Southern Tagalog dish.
Serve with hot rice !
FOODS I CAN’T RESIST
(Healtful eating isn’t about deprivation. It’s about deliciousness !)
Whenever we want to/or need to take a healthy stand, there are foods we are tasked to give up. Do we really have to? When you eliminate foods you love, sometimes it can bring you to the point of intense craving..and feeling “kawawa”. Take my case – I believe that a feel-good diet includes both eggs and bacon. Having an occasional treat is better than depriving yourself!
Experts suggest setting some time aside to slowly savor your favorite food so you get the most out of every last bite. (In other words, indulge in the food but chew it ever so slooowly and enjoy it only sparingly.)
All this talk about B-A-L-A-N-C-E! Yeah, right! For me a balance diet should be like this: half would be good foods I’m supposed to eat and the other half, the foods, I can’t resist, or my eating sins. Please let me be… try my recipes and join the club !
BACON – According to the book called FAT, 45 percent of the fat in bacon is monounsaturated, the good-for-you fat that can help lower bad cholesterol levels. Better still, bacon’s monounsaturated fat turns out to be oleic acid, the same fat found in olive oil. So, that means that some could argue that bacon is about half as good for you as olive oil and about 100 times more delicious. Of course, moderation is key here, and you should seek out artisanal varieties without preservatives. One of the best things about bacon is that a little goes a long way!
EGGS. Nutrionists previously thought that eggs raised blood cholesterol levels — one of the main causes of heart disease. But remember, saturated fat and not cholesterol substantially affects blood cholesterol level. Eggs are actually quite nutritious. They are not just fat (yolk) and protein (white). In fact, they contain Vitamins A, D, E, B1, B2, B6 and B12 and Minerals (Iron, Zinc, Calcium, Iodine and Selenium).
WHOLE MILK – Are you still drinking skim milk? Good news! Whole milk can be good for you. According to a recent study, It turns out that saturated milk fats may help us absorb calcium better, and also contain big helpings of vitamins A and D. Another study suggested that one or more servings of whole milk products a day may enhance a woman’s fertility
CHOCOLATE. According to a recent study, chocolate is the most common and “intensely” craved food. Chocolate provides natural health promoting substance called flavonoids-which helps prevent heart disease and cancer. However, if you want me to tell you that a bar of Baby Ruth or Milky Way is good for you, I’m afraid that you would be disappointed—I am talking about chocolate in its purest form! The key is to find a bar with high cocoa content. According to experts, the higher the cocoa content, the less room there is for cocoa butter, sugar, lecithin, vanilla, milk, and other stuff that makes chocolate the devil candy bar. Based USDA chart of antioxidant foods measured in ORACs (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity Units). For every 100 grams, dark chocolate has 13,120 ORACs (blueberries have only 2,400.)
PEANUT BUTTER. Why is this good for you? Studies confirmed that eating peanuts can lower risk for coronary heart disease. According to research study, eating peanut butter or peanuts has been associated with lower total cholesterol, lower ldl or ‘bad’ cholesterol, and lower triglycerides, all of which are associated with lower cardiovascular disease risk. It is true that peanut butter is high in fat and calories, so, a tablespoon or two of peanut butter is all it takes to for us to enjoy its health benefits !
Stewed Chicken Chocolate
4 pcs Chicken thigh quarters 1 tbsp Paprika 4 cloves Garlic 2 pcs White onion(med), sliced 1 tblsp cumin seed 1 tblsp Cocoa powder (unsweetened) 1 spring Thyme 2 pcs Bay leaves 1 ½ c Chicken Stock 1 ½ c Red wine As needed Flour As needed Sugar (white) Salt and freshly ground pepper Olive Oil
Sprinkle chicken with paprika, salt, pepper and coat with olive oil. Leave for 1 hour.
In a pan, brown the chicken. Set aside.
Saute onions in the same pan until soft. Stir in cocoa powder. Return chicken and add cumin seeds, bay leaves, and thyme. Add enough flour to absorb excess oil. Add chicken stock and red wine. Make sure there are no lumps. Bring to a simmer or until sauce is thickened. Adjust acidity with sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 20-30 minutes in oven at 350 deg.
Published COOK magazine, November2010
The secret in cooking this is patience ! cook it slowly….
This is definitely an upscale adobo !
CHRISTMAS GOODIES TO SHARE
My mom, Angie, taught me to share what we make. For this month’s COOK, I’m sharing my family’s favourite cookie- the SNOWBALL! But that’s not all. I’m throwing in the Monday Chefs’ OATMEAL COOKIES recipe of the most requested cookies by our friends. You’re welcome to make the best cookies from my recipe and…..continue the cycles of sharing!
Christmas always brings me back to those long awaited pleasures. It is time we can slow down and recall the goodies of past years—goodies both discovered and then shared. When I got this cookie recipe, it has become our yearly treat—worth waiting a year for!
I don’t remember the first time I ever baked cookies, I do know that by the time I was 12, I was experienced enough to bake my Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. My first food memory is baking cookies with my mom, in particular, our family Christmas Cookies. I can’t remember a childhood Christmas when I wasn’t in the kitchen with her. At first she would only let my sister Camille and I sift flour and sugar. Then we graduated from sifting to creaming the butter and sugar. I would delicately scoop the raw mixture, making sure each was exactly the same. Imagine my delight when I could use the mixer and actually make the batter!
At age 14, I was possessive of the kitchen. My mother and siblings laughed at my meticulous ways of “managing” the kitchen—they simply ignored my bossy behavior. Whenever my sisters came to help, I barked orders at them and gave them tasks. Hhmm..no wonder they don’t come into the kitchen to help, even now.
As I got older Mom let me take on more of the cooking responsibilities, and even let me add new recipes. We gave-away and sold cookies to friends and family, at first, then to friend’s friends, making, giving away and selling more and more each year. Friends requested cookies as soon as Halloween was over. Each year we would bake hundreds! The kitchen was not only filled with the sweet scents of cinnamon, chocolate, toasted nuts and sugar, but there was a cacophony of laughter, song and good-natured heckling that filled the room. More than anything else, Christmas meant family bonding, friendship, caring and sharing disguised as the cookie-session.
1 ½ c Butter, unsalted (room temperature)
1 c Sugar, granulated
2 pcs Eggs (large)
3 tsp Vanilla extract
4 c All-purpose flour
1 tsp Salt
3 c Cashew nuts, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 F and line baking sheets with parchment paper or use a silicone mat.
Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer. Once the mixture is creamy, add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until incorporated. Add the vanilla with the last egg.
Sift together the flour and salt, and add to the creamed mixture. Mix together on low just until the flour is combined. Add the chopped cashews and mix just until incorporated. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and roll about a tablespoon of dough into a ball ( Each ball should be about one inch in diameter). Bake for 20-22 mins, until lightly golden brown on the bottom. After you remove them from the oven, let them cool slightly for about 5 mins, then roll in powdered sugar. After they cool completely, give them another dusting of powder sugar.
Makes about 48 snowballs.
3/4 cup Butter, unsalted (room temperature)
1 cup Brown Sugar, packed
1 pc Egg, large
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon powder
3 cups Old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup Dried Fruits (raisin, cranberries, or dates)
1 cup Nuts (walnut, cashew, almonds etc), toasted and chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cream the butter and the sugar in a stand mixer. Once the mixture is creamy, add the egg and mix until incorporated. Then add vanilla extract.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon powder and salt, and add to the creamed mixture. Mix together on low just until the flour is combined. Add the dates, walnuts and oats ,mix just until incorporated.
For large cookies, use 1/4 cup of batter (I like to use an ice cream scoop) and space the cookies about 2 inches (5 cm) apart on the baking sheet. Then wet your hand and flatten the cookies slightly with your fingers so they are about 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) thick. Bake the cookies for about 12 – 15 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges but still soft and a little wet in the centers. Remove from oven and let the cookies cool a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to cool.