It’s 4 days into the New Year. The anthracite skies over Paris mark the beginning of the year with its gloomy winter outlook. A glimmer of sunshine breaking through a grey cloud brings hope of warmer weather to come. January promises the onset of shorter nights and longer days as we look forward to Spring.
I like to begin the year in reflection of the one that has gone by. January for me is a month of calm after the flurry of events preceding Christmas and into the close of the year. As much as I insist that I hate January, deep down inside, I really like the first month of the year. Firstly, I was born in January, bringing my parents much joy on that 14th day of the month close to half a century ago. (I said close!) Then like all children, I proceeded to bring them much grief during my rebellious teenage years. Mais, c’est normale! January is also the month when the sales begin, which, for a shopaholic like me, is always something to look forward to. This year, I made a particularly original resolution (in my opinion) – I will wait until the January sales to buy the presents that I could have bought for double the price in December and give them to my loved ones at the end of January so that they too would have something to look forward to during this month! C’est genial! That way, I would have saved a bundle and instead of one present, the kids can have two for the same price I would have paid for one! Hah! What a way to beat the crisis! C’est genial…… again! Now, why didn’t I think of that earlier?
Ahhhhh January! I love you for the hope that you bring – Spring is on its way. I love you for the presents that you promise – birthday ones and packages purchased in the sale. I love you for the motivation that you instil – it’s the month to detox from the excesses of Christmas. January, I love you for letting me start on a clean slate – to discover new adventures, to love more and worry less…..to improve on who I am, what I do and to go forth into the year with zeal and renewed energy.
I had another thing to look forward to this January. Since the children will start school on January 2, we planned to return to Paris on the 1st. We had brought in the year at an altitude of 1224m above sea level in the Italian Alps amidst melting snow and winter rain. It was warm in the Alps this year. Planning ahead at the end of 2011, knowing that our re-entry into the City of Light would bring us near dinner time, I had asked manny Ted to cook us a small supper so that I didn’t have to worry about dinner after a car journey of almost 8 hours. I was looking forward to some Asian grub. After days of Italian food, albeit delicious, my taste buds were yearning for the flavours that they know well – garlic, soya sauce and ginger.
Many journeys back and forth from the car to the lift lobby to the apartment depositing pieces of luggage, shopping bags filled with Christmas cheer from Italy and presents from Santa later, I opened the fridge to see what was for dinner.
This was what I found:
Manny Ted had been cooking up a storm of Pinoy dishes, surprising me with not only Asian flavours but flavours that I had n’er tasted before, flavours borrowed from Europe that have embedded themselves in Philippine’s traditional cuisine.
Notice that the photos show dishes that have already been tucked into, so excited that we all were to be feasting on such delights that I had forgotten to take a photo of them first. Mais tant pis! At least I remembered the camera half way through the meal.
The Italian and the girls loved the beef stew. This stew, I was told by the Italian was the best stew that he’d ever tasted. It’s hard to swallow such words (pardon the pun) when you know that the nanny, in our case the manny, has beaten you in the stew! I guess I have been two stews short of providing the Italian with the gastronomic experience and wonder of having tasted my fine stews. I noted that this year, I will cook more stews – resolution number…..100. But who’s being competitive here…. I am so lucky to have someone cook up a stew that my husband likes the taste of. Resolution number 101 – to be less competitive when it comes to stews.
The stew has been slow cooked in a base of tomato sauce, made from pureed and strained tomatoes so that there were no tomato chunks to be found. Carrots that have been added much later in the stewing process still retained their crunch. In fact, they were crunchy enough for me to persuade RN to have a bite. You see, she only eats raw carrots. SS loved the chickpeas and petit pois that added texture to the Caldereta.
Caldereta, like Bolognese has its variations. Each family has their version of Caldereta that is passed down from one generation to another. Instead of beef, one can also use goat or oxtail. I, for one, am keen to try out the variation calling of oxtail.
I loved the pancit palabok. To be honest, this noodle dish actually grew on me. Oodles of rice noodles smothered in a crayfish or prawn sauce, sprinkled on top are fried garlic, chopped scallions, chicheron (pork crackling), flaked tinapa which is a type of dried smoked fish and cubed pieces of fried tofu, just to name a few ingredients. This dish, judging from its staple carbohydrate content, hails from a Chinese background. It is not typically Chinese in anyway except for some of the ingredients used like bee hoon which are thin rice noodles otherwise also known as vermicelli. This is my favourite type of rice noodles and I especially love it added to a seafood broth.
Pancit Palabok is best eaten with a squeeze of calamansi lime juice. These limes are native to the Philippines and the only substitute for it here in France and other parts of Europe would be the citron vert or green limes.
Kawan kawan, this is a really good start to the new year for me – bring 2012 on! What a treat it is when there is someone to cook for you. What a bonus it is when you like what is being cooked.