Tag Archives: ex-pat cooking abroad in Prague

A Cool Salad

I’m hot! And by “hot”, I don’t mean the sexy, make you think impure thoughts, I’m going to knock your socks off kind of hot! At six and a half months pregnant, I wish. But I’m not. I am just hot and pregnant. Since the maternal powers took over, my body had suddenly turned into an oven. The weather in Prague, these past few days has grown increasingly warmer and summer-like. I am keeping my fingers crossed for a thunderstorm. We are badly in need of a cool down.

The only “healthy thing” I can eat in this weather, besides ice cream, is a salad. Our recent meals have been cool plates of tabbouli salad, egg salad and tuna salad. And just because I have had salad after salad, doesn’t mean that I am tired of them. Here is one more, my mother’s Filipino Macaroni Chicken salad.

Warning: This is a sweet salad. But oh so good! Don’t let the list of ingredients turn you away. It’s not your typical macaroni salad, such as the kind from the deli counter or the type served as a side dish with your favorite sandwich at your local diner. Seriously, the flavors do blend well. On a day when the temperature spikes to fiery levels, pull this dish out of your refrigerator and your body will instantly melt to a comfortable temperature.


Mama’s Filipino Macaroni Chicken Salad

1 package of cooked elbow macaroni (add salt to the boiling water)
1-2 pieces of chicken breast
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into small pieces
2 celery sticks, diced into small pieces
4 tablespoons of sweet relish
1 can of diced pineapples
1 scallion, chopped into fine pieces
Mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the chicken breast in salted water for 30 minutes.
When cooked, allow to cool before shredding the chicken apart.
You can use a two forks to do this, I just use my hands to thinly pull the meat apart.

After the macaroni is cooked, drain and allow it to cool.
In a large bowl, combine the macaroni with all the ingredients.
Mix well.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

I did not give an exact measurement for the mayonnaise because it depends on how creamy you would like the salad to be. Sometimes we use 1/2 to 3/4ths of a large jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise.

Refrigerate before serving.

Enjoy and stay cool!

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Filed under Pinay at Heart

Ham it Up: Filipino Style!

Filipino Hamon donning the essentials: sliced pineapple rings, maraschino cherries and a few sprigs of parsley

Uzená šunka s kostí is Czech for Smoked Ham with Bone. During the seasons of Christmas and Easter, one can easily find and track the scent of ham being roasted out on a grill in the streets of Prague. However, when I buy a chunk of  uzená šunka s kostí from my neighborhood butcher, I take it home and transform it into a Filipino Hamon. I guess that’s as fusion as I can get lately.

It’s an old family recipe. Coincidentally, this dish also happens to make a bi-annual appearance on our table during the Christmas and Easter holidays. Before preparing all the necessary ingredients, I would often give Pops a ring for a quick recipe review. As soon as I asked my father to repeat the steps on his hamon recipe, the excitement and delight in his voice was immediately transmitted over the phone as he coached me through his familiar routine. Nowadays with the help of Skype, I can even show him the piece I bring home from the butcher. Luckily, he always approves and can sleep well knowing that just because we don’t live close to one another, we can still indulge in some “Holiday Hamon” while living abroad.  This tasty, yet uncomplicated recipe provides you with a ham that is tender in texture and deliciously sweet in flavor. When you see the ingredients, you might be slightly turned off, but trust me, the results are absolutely divine!

Filipino Hamon as dictated by my father (prepare the night before serving)

1 Cured Pork Butt on the bone, with or without skin, it is up to you, so are the grams and kilos)

1 bottle of beer

1/2 container of pineapple juice

1 liter bottle of  7/up or Sprite

2 bay leaves

1/2 -1 cup of brown sugar (depends on how large your ham is)

Sliced pineapple rings

Maraschino cherries

Parsley

In a large pot, add all the liquid ingredients, ham and 2 bay leaves.

Let the marinade come to a boil and then turn the heat down.

Let the ham simmer for 30 minutes.

Then let it sit overnight. Be sure to rotate it at some point.

For the next day…

Heat oven to 200 celsius or 400 fahrenheit.

Place ham in a large baking pan.

Take a brush and glaze the ham with the liquid marinade.

Then rub the ham with brown sugar. Make sure it is evenly coated.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Garnish with sliced pineapple rings, maraschino cherries and parsley.

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Filed under Pinay at Heart, Prague Inspires!

The One and Only: La Tortilla de Patata

la tortilla de patata

I didn’t fall in love with my husband for his cooking, but fortunately he does make one delicious tortilla de patata. This is a dish that he grew up with and although my Spanish mother-in-law is an excellent cook, he is the big winner in this category. This is something she can’t truly accept. Especially after finding out that he doesn’t cook it in a similar manner.  The tortilla de patata is basically an omelette intermixed with fried potatoes and onions. It is usually served as a tapa with a slice of bread and this basic and simple, yet hearty dish is ubiquitously found and enjoyed all over Spain.

What my mother-in-law can’t seem to believe is the way her son cooks the tortilla. During one of her visits to Prague, she was shockingly surprised to witness how he fried the onions and the potatoes together!  In her eyes, he had committed a sin.

In fact, there are many such opinions about how to cook tortilla and why it tastes better if made according to a specific way or technique. This is an endless topic of conversation among Spaniards and they can go on debating for hours around what we might think is a simple potato, onion and egg fare.  There are several factors that some people believe that heavily influence the tortilla’s outcome, from the right frying pan, to the oil, to the type of potatoes, to how one should cook the onions and potatoes separately, to the plate or technique used to invert it and well, the list could go on and on. According to my father in law, cooking with high quality olive oil is the secret to a tasty tortilla. Heeding his advice we traveled back one summer, from Spain, with 15 liters of olive oil in the trunk of our car. We even purchased a special non-stick frying pan so that our tortilla would simply slip out when it came time to invert it.

Luckily, my husband’s tortilla de patata is consistent in texture, flavor and looks.  He never ceases to satisfy me and our guests with this straightforward meal. This is what he had to say about his “technique”…

“Some people are going to say this is wrong because they like to put the potatoes and onions in the egg before it goes in the pan. I developed this system because I didn’t want to get more bowls dirty. It was out of economy. Soon enough, I discovered that this completely enhanced the marriage. It’s the egg. The egg is the traveler. The onions and potatoes are fine at home. Not a half-cooked meal traveling to a raw egg” J.A.

And this is how you cook it…

Tortilla de patata (a juicy version)

1 kilo of potatoes: peeled and chopped into quarters

1 large white onion: chopped

4 eggs

1/2 cup of very good olive oil (spanish preferred of course)

salt

Heat the olive oil in the pan.

When hot, lower the flame and add the onions.

A few minutes later, add the potatoes.

The heat should be low so the onions and potatoes don’t burn.

Sprinkle salt on top (to taste)

Don’t be lenient, it really adds to the flavor.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and throw in a dash or two of salt.

When the potatoes have softened up, (this takes about 15-20 min) , drain the excess oil out into a glass bowl. (Vegetables should stay in the pan, it’s a tricky one and will take some practice.)

Then add the eggs to the onion and potatoes frying in the pan.

When the top looks almost cooked, place a sturdy flat plate on top.

Carry the pan and plate over to your sink.

Flip the omelette on to the plate and slide it back into the pan.

It should only need a few more minutes to cook.

Enjoy warm or cold with some fine bread and a tomato salad on the side.

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Filed under Flavors Abroad!