My love affair with cooking did not start at an early age. Honestly, my mom never left me alone in the kitchen, as I would not return it in the same condition. The few times I did try cooking, I was thankful for my dad, who just indulged me and never complained.
After I got married, I was forced to learn how to cook to please a husband who is so finicky about food. Thus, my culinary adventure started with Sylvia Reynoso-Gala and a handful of friends who so unselfishly shared their know-how in cooking and baking, elevating my repertoire to include kalderata, embotido and many others.
But the aha! moment came when I lived abroad in the early ’90s and was introduced to lifestyle guru Martha Stewart. Watching her daily on TV inspired me. I also watched shows and read books by Nancy Silverton, Caprial Pence, Nigella Lawson, Ina Garten and many more.
I so felt like Julie from the movie “Julie and Julia,” thanks to my little kids who enjoyed everything I made. Bake sales in schools were so fun, and with kids’ friends coming over, I was more than happy to feed these little people who couldn’t seem to have enough food.
I was so into it, I eventually enrolled myself in a French culinary school, not for anything else except that it made me happy.
Creativity and flair
When I returned to Manila, my culinary adventure continued with chefs like Heny Sison, Ed Quimson, Reggie Aspiras and many others. They all inspired me with their creativity and flair for creating memorable dishes.
Yes, food can become memorable. I remember special occasions, travels and get-togethers with food. There came a point when my friends and I would attend classes four days a week. Sourcing ingredients and cooking up a storm became our pastime.
Potlucks were a good excuse to share good food, good times and good finds. Getting a hold of those coveted culinary and lifestyle books of celebrity chefs even before they hit the bookstores was pure happiness. Lining up under the sun just to get Ming Tsai to sign our books was so fun. Leafing through the pages made me dream and smile.
Now that my kids are all grown up, gone are the days when they would devour everything I cooked and baked. My husband and I are now in our golden years. We have unfriended butter and are now more concerned with unclogged arteries. There is no more pouring of cream down our throats, and we remove the chicken skin before eating.
I now cook less. Gone are the armies I used to feed, now all grown up and into all sorts of diets and healthy living. But when there’s a special occasion, there is no excuse not to serve the best.
Being a creature of habit, I still attend culinary classes of my favorite chefs once in a while, simply because they excite me. I like to feel the adrenaline, and to smell the familiar scents. Most of all, it makes me smile thinking of the long journey cooking has taken me on.
Reggie’s Gourmet Chicken Tinola
This recipe is for one of our favorite comfort food, which I learned from Reggie Aspiras’ Gourmet Filipino Class some 20-plus years ago. The recipe has evolved through the years, but the basics are still the same.
3 Tbsp olive oil
¼ c minced garlic
2 big slices of ginger, julienned1 pc green siling pansigang2 Tbsp patis
In a skillet, heat olive oil and saute garlic until brown and fragrant. Add ginger, sliced sili and patis. Set aside.
3 Tbsp olive oil
4 big slices of ginger, julienned1/4 c minced garlic
2 whole onions, quartered
1 whole cut-up chicken
In a casserole, saute in olive oil the ginger, garlic, onions and the cut-up chicken, until the chicken pieces are browned and fragrant. Add just enough hot water to cover the meat. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add assorted chilies, red and green. Season with patis, and add in pureed sili leaves (see recipe below), and blanched/sliced sili leaves. Add crushed pepper.
Pureed Chili Leaves:
¾ kg sili leaves, divided into two portions
One portion blanched, squeezed dry and sliced; add to the chicken soup; other portion cooked in two cups of soup stock or water and then pureed, and then added to the chicken soup, as well.
Cut up: 2 pieces of regular-sized sayote and 1 medium-sized green papaya. Add to chicken soup during the last 15 minutes of cooking.
To serve: In a casserole, put in the papaya and sayote. Ladle in the chicken pieces with soup.
For garnish: Saute 1 piece sliced onion with 2 pieces sliced tomato. Spoon on top of the soup. Add the sauteed garlic, chili and ginger (from Part 1). Sprinkle more browned garlic chips if desired. —CONTRIBUTED
The author is a content housewife and former restaurateur.
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