While other restaurants would frisk their chefs when they leave the premises, the reverse happens in the restaurants owned by chef Robby Goco.
The chefs are frisked when they report for work. That’s because Goco has a stringent policy of preparing everything fresh and without shortcuts. The frisking is to make sure the chefs aren’t bringing in any instant broth or flavoring that would make their work easier.
During his recent cooking class at Maya Kitchen, Goco said he makes it a point to buy local and organic ingredients, especially for his newest restaurant, Green Pastures, at the East Wing of Shangri-La Plaza. He gets his supply of leafy vegetables from local farmers whom he has persuaded to plant kale.
Kale, not previously available locally, is a member of the broccoli family and is high in fiber and vitamins A and B, said Goco. In his restaurants, he uses kale not just for salads but also for the lamb ragout.
Goco has likewise convinced Rizal Dairy Farm to make buttermilk, which wasn’t available locally until four years ago. Now he uses its buttermilk to make fried chicken.
Even the salt he uses, said Goco, comes from a special supplier in Zambales, who puts the salt in bamboo, then roasts them in a wood-burning oven. The result is salt that has a hint of sweetness. It’s the secret of his lamb dish, Goco revealed.
He also makes his own ricotta cheese, patiently simmering fresh cow’s milk and cream until the curds separate from the whey. That way, he said, he can be sure of the quality of the cheese.
He warned the students against buying ricotta cheese made with powdered milk because this would most likely have a lot of preservatives.
Sometimes, he said, his chefs would complain about the tediousness of the work and suggest faster ways of preparation. But Goco remains firm about freshness and the merits of slow cooking.
One of the dishes he demonstrated at the Maya Kitchen was Bolognese pasta using goat meat. “Goats are actually cleaner than chicken,” he pointed out.
In keeping with his culinary philosophy, he uses organic tomato juice and organic bacon for the Bolognese sauce. But he concedes that in this recipe, beef can be substituted for goat meat.
Here’s Goco’s recipe for pasta Bolognese (with measurements adjusted for the home cook). With sauce made from fresh native tomatoes, and cheese, wine and milk all simmered patiently, this pasta sauce has a bold, substantial flavor.
For the tomato sauce:
1 kg fresh tomatoes
Water, for boiling tomatoes
Prepare the tomatoes:
Carve out the “eye” or the stem ends of the tomatoes. Cut an “x” on the bottoms. Put the tomatoes in boiling water and let boil for around three minutes or until the skin of the tomatoes start to wrinkle. Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and transfer to a bowl of ice water. This will make it easier to peel off the skin. When the tomatoes have become cool to the touch, remove them from the ice water and peel off the skin (the skin should come off easily). Set aside.
For the Bolognese sauce:
½ c extra virgin olive oil
½ of a whole bulb of garlic, chopped
125 g bacon (about six to eight strips), preferably organic (See tips.)
¼ carrot, finely diced
½ c chopped onions
½ c diced celery stems
Salt and pepper
½ kg ground goat meat or ground beef
1 pc laurel or bay leaf
1 c fresh milk
200 ml (a little less than one cup) red wine (use fruity variety)
¼ c Parmesan cheese (whole, not grated)
1 bay leaf
1 kg peeled tomatoes (see procedure above)
1 c organic tomato juice (See tips.)
Pinch of cinnamon powder
Pinch of allspice
Pinch of nutmeg
Cook the Bolognese sauce:
Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the garlic and season with salt to boost the flavor of the garlic. Remove the garlic and set aside. In the same pan, add the peeled tomatoes and mash with a potato masher. Cook until the tomatoes turn mushy.
Slice the bacon into bite-size pieces. In a large pan, sauté the bacon until bacon fat is released. Add the cooked garlic, carrots, onions and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the ground meat (goat or beef) and mash all with a masher. When the meat is almost cooked, add the milk and continue mashing until the meat separates. Simmer until liquid almost evaporates. Pour in the red wine. Continue simmering until almost all of the wine evaporates. Add the whole cheese, bay leaf and the mashed tomatoes. Pour in the tomato juice. Bring to a gentle boil. Stir in cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg and continue simmering, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Serve with cooked spaghetti pasta.
500 g spaghetti pasta
Prepared Bolognese sauce
1 c grated cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano)
3 tbsp fresh mint leaves
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Cook spaghetti pasta according to package directions. Toss with the prepared Bolognese sauce and sprinkle with the cheese and the mint leaves. Top with olive oil.
For more tips, recipes and stories, visit author’s blog, www.normachikiamco.com, and Facebook fan page, www.facebook.com/normachikiamco. Follow on Twitter @NormaChikiamco.
Cooking lessons are held monthly at the Maya Kitchen and Culinary Center, 835 A. Arnaiz Ave., Legaspi Village, Makati City. For inquiries, call tel. 8925011, local 108; or visit www.themayakitchen.com.
For the red wine, Goco recommends using a fruity variety.
Goco uses organic tomato juice in his restaurants, but if you can’t find it, you can use any good-quality tomato juice. Likewise, you can use ordinary bacon if you can’t find the organic variety.
Goco adds the cheese whole, not grated, and lets the cheese melt into the sauce.