Monthly Archives: December 2014

Enjoyable reads must be accompanied by good eats

some of the best things in life...!

That’s today’s lunch. And Rhys got me that book, because it was less than A$20 in Kmart, which we were lucky to get. They didn’t have any more left on the shelves and luckily there was some in the back. Interestingly enough, Reilly’s book was the ONLY one who was ‘out of stock’ from what we could tell.

I am eagerly awaiting the release of the next Jack Ryan Jr. book.

(reposting this comment I made over here)

Matthew Reilly is my favorite recommend for thrillers / technothrillers. He cheerfully admits that he’s not out to write deep, meaningful stories, but fun, action-packed ones. Reading his books is like reading something that I’d expect to happen if Michael Bay and John Woo put their heads together and decided to write a book instead of make a movie.

He has a number of stand-alone books as well as a couple of series. His attempt at a historical mystery, The Tournament had me intrigued because it revolved around the game of chess of all things.

He has a fondness for unlikely heroes. His first book, Contest has a single dad with his kid as the hero. The latest book, The Great Zoo of China has a traumatized herpetologist. Reilly also isn’t one I’d accuse of making weak female characters – and he uses all sorts of definitions for ‘strength’ to help build his characters to be more than ‘tick box feminism.’

Oh and he has fun with playing with cryptozoology. He’s very clearly inspired by Indiana Jones, and has no problems whatsoever with being so.

The other one I’d recommend, but he’s really hard to get outside of – and inside of – Australia is Greig Beck. Much like Reilly in thriller style, but with more horror-feel than Reilly’s ‘lots and lots of things explode and get destroyed.’

I also find myself enjoying Mark Greaney’s continuation of the Jack Ryan novels. He isn’t afraid of dropping the characters into ‘oh shit’ situations and occasionally, and realistically, ‘I hate my life that was retarded’ moments – it’s quite clear that he DID write with Clancy, not ghost-wrote for him. The styles are quite distinct, and I think they worked well together.

In fact, I enjoyed pretty much everything in the Jack Ryan Jr. set of stories, but I guess for some that would be a Mileage May Vary sort of thing. But Greaney’s style is fun and fast and I wouldn’t mind trying out his own books outside of the Ryanverse as a result.

Chicken and Pork Adobo Modena Family Style v2

I get requests to share my family’s adobo recipe fairly often, so I figure this is easy to drop in.

This dish can take up to two days of advance preparation, but only if resulting in the crispy Adobo version at the very end – something that doesn’t happen very often in my household because by the time the adobo is finished cooking and falling apart tender, everyone’s starving, Rhys comes home to delicious cooking smells and everyone wants to EAT IT NOW.

If making this for dinner, I start at about 10 AM and leave it simmering on the stovetop for the whole day on the lowest fire possible. At about an hour before dinner, that’s when I remove the chicken bones and gristle, and add the soy sauce and final seasonings. The long cook time results in incredibly flavourful and tender meat. Rice is cooked about half an hour before dinnertime.
This recipe can result in two different types of adobo: the usual Adobo stew, or Crispy Adobo Flakes.

Stew-consistency adobo, when cooled, has the sauce turn into a jelly. This makes it ideal for taking along on school lunches to be eaten even unheated with rice or bread, on road trips and picnics, as the vinegar and salt content of the dish helps preserve the meat against spoilage, even in the hot tropical Philippine climates. Adobo-style cooking of meat has been traditionally one of the favoured methods of preparing ‘travelling food’, especially when the only way to get around was via water buffallo or oxen pulled cart. The versions for such old-style travelling tended to be heavier on the cracked peppercorns and had a higher amount of fat and bone to result in more of the preserving jelly, and the meat was not cooked to falling-apart softness, but cooked through and left on the bone for ease of serving and eating while on the road.

Cooling the adobo to remove the extra fat can be done if desired, but I feel some fat should be allowed to remain for flavour.

If you wish, you can also use stewing cuts of beef – either in substitution for pork or in addition to the meats already listed.
Ingredients:
At least 1kg each of:
Pork meat, cut into cubes. Some fat is recommended, but if you have only lean cuts of meat, go with adding chicken with skin on. You can skim the fat off later if it’s for a dinner and not a picnic. (See above note about resulting travelling/picnic adobo) Additional note: you are very likely to get a lot of rendered oil from the fat.

Chicken with skin and bone (thighs or drumsticks are good. Make sure feathers are fully removed from skin!)

For every kg of meat 1 cup each of
Marca Pina, Maggi, Knorr or Silver Swan brand soy sauce
Marca Pina or Datu Puti brand brown cane vinegar
(The brand is important, as this results in the flavor sought. Do not substitute Kikoman or other soy sauces, as the flavor of Kikoman is very different from the soy sauces named above! The brands named should be available in either Asian or Filipino food stores.)

For every kilo of meat: At least 1 head, or 1 and a half head of garlic, peeled, crushed and chopped. If using pre-chopped garlic, slightly heaping 1 teaspoon (the one you use in stirring your coffee or tea, not the measurement.) (Try to do it this way the first time. Substituting garlic paste or dried garlic powder can be done in future cooking.) The more garlic in adobo, the better.

Cracked pepper and salt to taste.

Optional additions:
a) 1-2 bay leaves, added during simmering stage and removed before serving
b) Chili peppers
Long white mild chili peppers; 1-3 per batch of adobo (usually whole)
Red or Green long chili peppers, as spicy as desired, whole or chopped
3-8 birds eye chilies, either whole or chopped. Or any other chili of choice.
Chilies are added after seasoning with soy sauce, salt and pepper.
c) Potatoes, peeled and chopped into quarters or eighths. Add just after seasoning with soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste.
d) Del Monte or Dole canned pineapples, either chunks or as slices (Brand is again, important, to achieve the sought-after flavour, as these brands are sweeter than Sun Gold or Gouburn / Australian brand pineapples.) Add 10 minutes before serving.

Method:
1) Boil chicken in just enough water to cover the chicken meat, adding the necessary amount of vinegar and garlic until the meat has just cooked, but is not yet soft.

2) Add the pork with its’ share of vinegar and garlic, adding more water to just cover the meat again. Season with some pepper and about a tablespoon of salt.  (Adding the pork later after the chicken is so that the chicken fat in the water helps soften and flavor the pork; an especially important step if using lean cuts of pork. if the cut of pork has some fat, simply put it all in the pot together, merging the steps.)

3) Simmer on low heat and allow the broth to boil down, then add enough water again to just cover, stir the pot. Cover the pot, and allow to boil down again. Keep doing this until the meat is falling-apart tender, and the broth/sauce is yellowish in hue. If you wish to remove the chicken bones and gristle from the adobo, this would be a good time to do it.

4) Add the required amount of soy sauce. Season the adobo with salt and pepper as desired (you can also add chopped bird’s eye chilies at this point, if you want a spicy adobo.)  Adding the soy sauce too soon makes the meat tough, we’ve found, so that’s why we cook it in vinegar-water-garlic/onion and pepper first. Reduce the liquid to sauce or stew consistency.

At this point, you may serve the meat over hot white rice,

or

allow the sauce to boil away so that you can shred the meat into strips and fry the meat in its’ own oils and juices for Crispy Adobo Flakes.

Fry shredded adobo meat in batches until crispy before eating with rice. The cripsy version is also popular in the Philippines as a beer-side dish, like peanuts and chips.

Crispy Adobo can also be stored and refrigerated for box lunches.

Unexpected surprises

A few weeks ago, on a whim, I looked up Luis Royo on Book Depository again, and discovered not just that the site had restocked several of the artbooks, but also listed The Ice Dragon, written by George RR Martin… and illustrated by Luis Royo. Billed as a children’s book, both Rhys and I were quite intrigued by the idea of Royo-sensei doing art for a children’s book – we’re more familiar with Royo’s sensual, beautiful art as applied to fantasy, sci-fi and erotic works. Nevertheless, as we are both fans of Royo’s work and Martin is a good writer, we ordered the book.

It arrived today.

grrm_royo_tid01

Even better, when I looked inside, it was quite clear that 1) this IS a children’s book, but as it was written back in the 1980s, it does not give the feel of talking down to the reader the way I sometimes feel these days reading some of the books assigned to my son’s reading in school. and 2) most of the book is graced by beautiful illustrations by Luis Royo.

grrm_royo_tid02

A quick skim of the book tells me that, provided your children are the old-fashioned sort, this is a book that you and your children will enjoy, especially if it is read out loud – but I’ll leave that up to the parents’ judgement. Martin weaves a beautiful, but bittersweet tale.

grrm_royo_tid04

I’ve found out since this is actually a new edition and the older version had a different illustrator. I’m very surprised at how well the artwork fits the story. The print version (I can’t speak for the Kindle version, I’m afraid since I don’t have that) has both text and illustrations tinted blue, with illustrations on the inside of the cover and the back, at the end of the book in yellow tints.

grrm_royo_tid03

A surprise awaits with this edition of the hardcover, as the dust jacket hides a larger, extended version of the cover.

All in all I’d consider this a fantastic buy, both for the appreciation of the wordsmith’s craft, as well as the artist’s. It is, in my opinion, a perfect meeting of the skills of two masters in their art.