On a busy Monday in our Makati office two weeks ago, Lifestyle had a very interesting dinner prepared by friends from Unilever Philippines. Actually, it was more like a taste-test of dishes using the best-selling Knorr Ginataang Gulay Complete Recipe Mix.
Marie Dianne de la Cruz, Unilever’s innovation chef, and Nina Aquino Abellada, brand assistant for Knorr Recipe Mixes, dressed the table with a neat piece of table runner before arranging a pile of spanking clean plates and utensils on one side of the table.
Then came the large bowl of warm Basil Cream Penne with Gata and a long ceramic tray carrying the Moringa-Cashew Shrimp in Coconut Cream Sauce in votive glasses.
“We just want you to try and taste the different ways of preparing home meals with Ginataang Gulay mixes,” said 26-year-old De la Cruz.
“What we’ve observed in the Filipino household is that we always spend time in the kitchen slaving and sweating over raw ingredients,” said 23-year-old Abellada. “We can actually cut down, speed up the cooking process and spend more time with the family.”
Surprisingly enough, cooking the pasta with gata mix and shrimp with gata dip took only about 20 minutes each, with preparation time (slicing, mincing, marinating etc.) only 5-15 minutes each.
“It’s a very tedious process when we make gata from scratch, plus the fact you always have to balance the taste and flavor,” said Abellada. “With Ginataang Gulay Mix, it’s a complete package with the right blend of seasonings, herbs and spices.”
The creaminess of the basil penne was easy on the palate. Light and smooth. You could hardly decipher the taste of the coconut cream in the mixture, but you’d know it added new taste dimension to the pasta.
“You just have to simmer the Ginataang Gulay, add the cream, fresh basil and ham. Just one pack for every 500 grams of pasta,” said De la Cruz.
For the Moringa-Cashew Shrimp, the inclusion of gata spiked the heat in the dip. The coconut cream infused a lovely flavor to the baked shrimp that should be a refreshing prelude to any filling meal. The skewered shrimp was marinated in pesto sauce, but instead of using 100-percent basil leaves, malunggay leaves were incorporated.
Malunggay or moringa lightened the flavor to complement the gata sauce. It also increased the nutritional value of the dish. Cashew nuts were also used instead of pine nuts.
“In cooking, there’s a lot of room for improvisation,” said De la Cruz. “The versatility of the Ginataang Gulay makes it open to many interpretations in such delicious ways.”
Knorr’s Ginataang Gulay has two kinds of mixes: for laing and langka (P25/pack) and sitaw and kalabasa (P15/pack). The mixes, both ideal for any coconut-based recipes, were introduced in April last year.
You can also use mixes for ginataang adobo, gising-gising, Bicol Express, pasta, sauces and dips.
You can actually interchange the two mixes or you can mix them, said De la Cruz. The only difference is in the dilution of water or the concentration of the sauce. You tend to add more water if you’re simmering langka or laing.
“We are not against the traditional slow-cooking method of cooking,” stresses De la Cruz, who finished culinary arts at the Center for Culinary Arts-Manila. “But we cater to those whose lifestyle is always on the go, fast-paced and don’t have the patience to do things from scratch. Instead, they become more productive in the kitchen because of significantly reduced cooking preparation and less ingredient costs.”
Apart from Ginataang Gulay, Knorr also has other complete recipe mixes for local favorites, such as Afritada and Menudo.
“Our products aren’t limited to sitaw at kalabasa,” said Abellada. “We think of ways to make all our products helpful and practical to most households and even budding chefs.”
Indeed, the pasta and shrimp we sampled soothed our Monday deadline blues and frayed nerves and grumbling tummies.
Here are the easy-to-do and healthy recipes you might want to try at home for your family.
Basil Cream Penne
Number of servings: 2-3
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
400 g penne pasta
2 tbsp vegetable oil
50 g ham, sliced
3 pcs tomatoes, sliced
1 pack Knorr Ginataang Gulay Complete Recipe Mix
½ c water
1 c all-purpose cream
12 pcs fresh basil leaves
Cook pasta according to package directions. Sauté tomatoes and ham in oil. Dissolve Knorr Ginataang Gulay in water, add to the pan then simmer until thick. Reduce heat then add cream, cooked pasta and basil leaves. Cook for another 3 minutes. Mix continuously.
Moringa-Cashew Shrimp in Coconut Cream Sauce
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
½ k shrimp, shelled and deveined with tails intact
100 g moringa (malunggay) leaves
60 g basil leaves
30 g cashew nuts
180 ml olive oil
50 g parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 pack Knorr Ginataang Gulay Recipe Mix
1 c water
80 g cherry tomatoes, halved
100 g lemon rind
Process moringa, basil leaves and nuts while gradually adding oil in a blender until slightly coarse. Transfer to a bowl and fold in cheese. Toss the mixture with the shrimp and let it stand in the chiller for an hour. Combine Knorr Ginataang Gulay Recipe Mix with water, mix well, and bring this to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer until the sauce thickens. Arrange the shrimp with cherry tomatoes onto skewers and bake at 375ºF for 15 minutes or until shrimp is thoroughly cooked. Serve the skewers with lemon rind and coconut cream sauce.
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PHOTOS BY RICHARD REYES