Wednesday, September 29, 2010

British Airways, back to work in Alaska

I am on the way back to work, yes it was a long and fantastic holiday, done a lot, been in beautiful places, but now it is time to work again, earn some money......and see some more of the World. I just had a long flight from Cape Town to London with British Airways, 8 hours in Heathrow and then another long haul flight to Vancouver. That is quite a change in scenery. I am joining Celebrity again for another 4 month contract, starting here in Canada and then going over Alaska and then down the West Coast to San Francisco and San Diego. Then we will go through the Panama Canal back into the Caribbean with some exciting new ports, so there is a lot happening in the next four month with many new recipes.
As so often my journey starts in Cape Town Airport. Since the renovation it became a really beautiful and practical airport. There is plenty of parking and everything is easy to find. Check in is central and quick, there are plenty of shops, and restaurants so there is enough to do while waiting. The shops in the duty free are fine, but nothing special, after all it is not a huge airport, but has everything one need. The design is beautiful, so well done on this airport.

As a little farewell treat I went to “Mugg and Bean” for a Bagel Breakfast with smoked Salmon Trout and Scrambled Eggs, it was as usual in this restaurant a big portion and delicious. Everything here is nearly over sized, the Muffins, Scones and if you attempt a slice of cake, you will need someone to help you.
I am no fan of British Airways, maybe because I had two bad experiences quite a few years ago and am still grumbling about them; it was that they run out of drinks and bad service. Especially bad service I can’t stand. As usual the seats are tight together and one has hardly enough space to move, the flight was pretty full, so one is stuck in the seat. The food looked........not very appetizing but in its defence I have to admit that the chicken was really tasty. The pudding was straight out of the desert, just dry and crumbly and the next morning breakfast, let’s say I will not gain weight on this journey, I didn’t eat the breakfast, just not as nice as on many other airlines.
But this is only the first leg of the journey; I am now in London waiting for my connection to Vancouver. I am in terminal 5 and must say that it is very nice. Loads of overpriced shops, many restaurants and some of them are actually pretty interesting like the one of Gordon Ramsey. I am no fan of him, but like some of his cook books very much. The restaurant is called Plane Food and I just made a photo of the Menu, I think it is a really good idea, unfortunately the menu is only served from 12 lunch and that is the time I need to check in otherwise I would love to spend the 19 Pound for the three course meal, it looks very appetizing. For a Foodie, this is a place to go.
Then there is of course Prunier, Caviar House. This is another good place to eat some Seafood and have a glass of Champagne. It is very upmarket, but nice! So everything is available here, fom the quick take away to the upmarket deli dining, a good place to be stranded for a couple of hours between flights.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Abalone in South Africa

Abalone, this mystical seafood that fetches sky high prices on Asian markets (and other markets) is the theme of this blog. I was very fortunate that some friends had a whole lot of legally caught Abalone or Perlemoen as they are called in South Africa in the freezer. When they cooked some they turned out totally tough and like leather, so they wanted to know how to prepare them.
There is nothing nicer for a chef to “play” around with food, see how one can get the best out of it and that is exactly what I was doing for a whole evening. So I made 3 different dishes with the 6 Abalone I had.
But before that I had to get the Abalone ready. It is quite a bit of work to make sure they are really nice and tender. First they have to be cleaned properly, I washed them for about 10 minutes under cold water.

Then the funny stuff around them has to be cut off, careful that one doesn’t cut off too much, then I had to wash them again before cutting them in about 5 mm (sixth of an inch) slices. Hey have to be more or less gently hammered between 2 plastic bags. Too much and they rip apart, too little and they will still be tough, so take your time and patiently hammer them till you feel that now they must be tender. Only now they are ready to be cooked. Don’t forget, there are different types of Abalone, these ones were rather big, so they needed a bit more treatment than a small one would need.

For any reader in San Diego, not too far away from you there is a huge centre of Abalone and Sea Urchin, they are actually farmed in Ensenada, Mexico. So if anyone get’s there, go out and buy some Urchin and Abalone, a fantastic treat!
The one was just plain marinated with a little lemon juice, salt and pepper, then flash fried for about 10 seconds, yes 10 seconds only, you need to be fast as otherwise the Abalone gets very tough again.

The second way was a little bit Asian, I marinated the Abalone with Soy Sauce, Fish Sauce, Sesame Oil, Garlic and Ginger, and then again, flash fried for 10 seconds, again the meat was lovely and tender
The last, and my favourite way was that I made an egg batter with whole eggs and self raising flour, like a thick crepe batter without milk. I seasoned the Abalone and then put them in the batter. Then I fried them quickly on each side till golden, following the rule that the shorter the cooking the more tender they will, they were stunning as they were cooked very gently.

So the next day we all met at the friend’s house. One person made the starter, a lovely shrimp cocktail, beautifully presented and very tasty, what a great start for the evening. He really outdid himself, it was one of the nicest prawn cocktails I had in a very long time.
Then we had the main course, Abalone two ways, with lemon and Asian, I served it with lemon scented mash potatoes and roasted vegetables.

Dessert was a traditional Roly Poly pudding. It was actually the first time that I had a Roly Poly pudding and I think I need t make it once myself, it was just divine. Unfortunately I have no photo of it, but boy, it was really good. So with the great company, the good food and wine, we had a wonderful evening at the friend’s house. Thank you so much again for the hospitality and the Abalone, a treat one only has very seldom.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sinigang Baboy, Bohol, Philippines Part 4

We have gone away for a break to an island called Bohol. It is a good hours flight from Manila and easily reachable with either Philippine Airways or with Cebu Pacific. Bohol is the home of the Tarsier, the smallest primate in the world and has a national park with the “Chocolate” Mountains.

I checked the net a bit about information of Bohol and found a lot. I can see that most people stay for just a short while and do one huge day trip, writing proudly that they have seen 14 sights in one day.......where is the holiday feeling?

We stayed for two nights at the Bohol Bee Farm. It is close to Tagbilaran, the capital of Bohol. The accommodation is simple but nice, there is a lovely restaurant and everything is organic and grown on the farm. There is free wireless, if anybody is interested and needs to check on Face Book or can’t get away from the busy everyday life. Our flight left at 5 AM in the Morning, so we were awake the whole night, luckily we could check in a 8 AM already and actually just slept and relaxed the first day. 

We had room service and just organized the tour for the next day, at 8 AM as we thought we rather go earlier than later. We had only 6 sights for the day, we really had no intention to rush from site to site.
So we were ready at 8, but there was no driver and we were told that the tour only leaves at 9 AM, shame, could have had another hour sleep. But then shortly after 9 we went off on the tour. First we would drive to Chocolate Mountains as it was the furthest away, about 1 and a half hours drive. During the drive we would pass all the other sights, all of them lovely but the highlight is the chocolate mountains, just the shape is already incredible. As we had nice time we could stay for long and just enjoy the view. It is an amazing site to see.

Then we went to the river cruise with lunch, traditional Philippine fare wit loads of prawns, which means here that they are generous, prawns are expensive. There is nothing European on the buffet, so one needs to like the local fare which I do. There is live music and cool drinks are included. It is not a booze cruise, but a very relaxing time sailing up the river till one comes to a small waterfall, there the ship turns around. The river is beautiful and it is definitely something one should do while on Bohol.
Then the third highlight is the Tarsier, the smallest Primate on the world. Unfortunately it is just a small place, tourist attraction; make a photo of the Tarsier, then buy a souvenir and good bye. Compared to the butterfly sanctuary it was not great, but it is just nice to see the Tarsier even when captured. As I have mentioned the Butterfly sanctuary is really great, very informative and one has plenty of opportunities to see beautiful examples.

Back in the hotel we just relaxed a bit, had a lovely dinner, of course as everything, there is honey on all the food, lol, even the dip for the French Fries.

The next morning we could check out late as the flight only went in the afternoon. I have to say that they were extremely accommodating here on Bohol Bee Farm and I can only recommend them. I have put a link to their website if anybody is interested.

Yes Bohol is worth a trip and don’t do too much on one day, relax, have 2 days of exploring, hire a bike and travel around, enjoy the beautiful beaches and take it easy. Life is still normal here, not like in the big tourist centres, and so are the prices. There is accommodation for any budget from the simple room to the fancy resort, anything one is looking for, you find in on Bohol. There are plenty of flights and the flights in Philippines are very reasonably priced.


450 g (1lb) boney pork
3-4 medium tomatoes – sliced
1 big onion – sliced
1 Tbsp sea salt
1-2 green chilis – pointed ends cut off [optional]
6-8 cups water
souring agent (tamarind puree, lemon and/or lime)
1 aubergine (eggplant) – sliced 1 inch thick and quartered
1 bunch long string beans – cut into 2 inch pieces
2 taro roots (gabi) – peeled and quartered
spinach leaves or kangkong – washed and plucked from stems
• Combine tomatoes, onion, and sea salt in a big pot. Mix and mash them a little bit with your fingers. Add chilis and pork.
• Pour just enough water to cover them and bring to boil. Cook for about 3 minutes. Mash the tomatoes with a cooking spoon.
• Pour in the rest of the water, bring to boil and simmer until pork is tender (about 1 1/4 hours). Add taro, aubergine and sitaw. Bring to boil and simmer until taro is almost cooked (about 5 minutes).
• Add the souring agent and spinach (for tamarind puree I use about 1/2 cup of it plus a squeeze of lemon/lime). Cook for 1-2 minutes. Taste soup and adjust seasonings accordingly.

There is ready mix Sinigang available in specialty shops, one can use that instead of Tamarind

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pork Afritada, Philippines Part 3

Like I said, food is very important here in Philippines and people eat out often. Generally it is cheap to eat out, especially in the fast foods and local restaurants. As soon as one goes to a special restaurant it can get costly, but still cheap compared to the US or Europe.

One of the best known fast food chains here is JolliBee and Chow King. To feed 4 people it will cost about 10 USD in total, which is nothing. The fast foods are very popular and often one just orders and pays the food at the till, then gets a number and the food gets brought to the table, even if the restaurant is pumping.

Of course I was into the Halo Halo again and we had it several times. The traditional one is with the shaved ice and all the condiments on top ( sago, sweet cooked corn, red bean paste, flan, jelly, Caramelized Bananas, Coconut and of course Ice Cream) and once we got an “organic” one with fresh papaya, mango, coconut, banana and ice cream, on the shaved ice. Instead of the condense milk they used coconut milk.

During my time here in Philippines I was fortunate to have a lot of home cooked meals, all traditional and made from scratch. During a getaway to the beach in Batangas we had another highlight; we made fresh coconut milk for a traditional dish, spicy chicken in coconut milk. It was fascinating to see how the older coconuts get peeled and then cut in half, just to get all the white flesh out. The flesh is then pressed out to get the real coconut milk. Often the rest is then mixed with some water, boiled up and then pressed out. This coconut milk is not as flavourful, but still very good for cooking.

Batangas is beautiful, very tropical and we had a house not even 50 meters from the beach, totally secluded from anybody. That means we had to bring all our food and drinking water for the three days we stayed there, that is a lot of stuff to feed the 6 of us and then we bought enough to cook with our friends who live there and look after all the beach houses. The pork stew, the recipe is below is cooked on fire, very traditional and tasted just delicious, a real treat. The ladies were cooking half the day as everybody was invited, so we ended up to have about 15 friends and family all enjoying the food tremendously. Then there was a birthday too, the little baby boy was one year old, there must have been about 30 people in total and the cooking went on and on and on.

One has to be careful as there are plenty of mosquitoes, but they are everywhere in the Philippines, especially here at the beach. With us living in the mountains (300 m above sea level) it is a bit better and the temperatures are a little cooler, just a little but one can feel the difference. The air is much better too, not like in Manila where there is just plenty of pollution.

Pork Afritada

Ingredients :
• 1 lb. pork, cut into serving pieces
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1/8 tsp. pepper
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 onion, sliced
• 1 tbsp. patis (fish sauce)
• 4 potatoes, peeled and quartered
• 1 cup water
• 1/2 cup tomato sauce
• 1 red bell pepper, sliced
• 1 green bell pepper, sliced
• 2 tbsp. fine breadcrumbs (or flour, or cornstarch)
• vegetable oil
(Cooking Conversion Chart)
Cooking Procedures :
1. Put pork in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Let stand 10 to 20 minutes.
2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir-fry pork pieces until no longer pink in color and turn lightly brown.
3. Add and sauté garlic until fragrant. Stir in onion until soft and translucent. Season with patis and then add potatoes, stir-fry for a few minutes.
4. Pour in water and tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer covered for about 25 to 30 minutes or until pork is cooked and potatoes are tender.
5. Add in bell peppers and stir to blend. Correct seasonings. Thicken sauce with breadcrumbs (or flour, or cornstarch, if using). Stir and blend and let simmer for another few more minutes.
6. Remove from heat. Transfer to a serving dish and serve hot.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pancit, Philippines Part 2

Today I want to write about a day outing to Tagaytay and the Taal Volcano which is very nearby. It is only about 25 minutes drive from where we live, so from Manila it will take about 2 and a half hours. It is a lovely day outing perfect to do a picnic.

One pays an entrance fee to get into the park, 50 Pesos per person which is equivalent to about 1 $, so not very much. The view is amazing and one can do some zip lining over a valley. A lot of fun but I still gave it a skip as I am afraid of heights. It is great to have a little thrill part on the outing.
The volcano is apparently till active; it is the smallest volcano in Philippines and has not erupted for many, many years. There are plenty of house boats on the lake with people living in them; it is like a small city. One can book a boat ride or a horseback ride, so plenty to do, nobody will get bored here.

We just took our own blanket and had a little picnic, nothing special, just sitting around with some good friends. There are little huts too, so one is protected of the sun, but as it was a little overcast we didn’t need it.

It is the rainy season here in Philippines, so one must be careful in the afternoons as the rain can come without warning and the downpours are tarantula. There are floods all the in Manila and the lower areas, so best to have an umbrella with all the times. If it doesn’t rain the sun is hot and burns, so it is very common that one uses the umbrella as well as sun protection

Pancit Recipe


• 1 (8 ounce) package thin rice noodles
• 1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken legs, cut into bite-size pieces
• 1/2 pound pork tenderloin, cut into bite-size pieces
• 1/2 cup soy sauce
• ground black pepper to taste
• 1/2 medium head cabbage, shredded
• 2 carrots, shredded
• 2 green onions, chopped into 1 inch pieces

1. 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveinedPlace the rice noodles in a large bowl, and cover with warm water. When soft, cut into 4 inch lengths, drain, and set aside.

2. In a skillet over medium heat, brown the chicken and pork until no pink shows. Season with soy sauce and pepper. Remove from skillet and set aside. Saute the cabbage and carrots until tender. Stir in the noodles, green onions and shrimp. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stir in the chicken and pork, and cook for 5 more minutes.

Oh, by the way, below you see my first meal in the Philippines, yes KFC, but slightly different than in many other countries, especially with the rice (the little packet) it was by the way very nice.

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