Hello, hello, hello!
It’s been decades since my cookbook “The Secret Is In The Sauce” was published and awarded by the Manila Critics Circle, the Best Cookbook and Best Book Design of 1997. During the past 22 years, I followed the flow of life and found my bliss. At this stage of my life, I would like to share once more my creative talents.
I have noticed that the Filipino has spread its wings to countries far and wide, myself included. Living in Australia, my Filipino friends gather together and have Ladies Lunch and spend a good one third of our conversation talking about food and reminiscing about Filipino food experiences; sounds familiar? We Filipinos have adapted quite well to our new countries but occasionally long and crave for Pinoy delicacies, specialties, or what mama, lola, tita, tito, ate, or kuya, used to cook for us. That gave me the idea to make a site and share my recipes and research with all Filipinos far and near.
I am of the belief of being true to the original flavor of food; but then because of the Lands we now reside in, finding that particular ingredient might be a real challenge. Gata (coconut milk) comes to mind; although coconuts can be found, extracting it’s juice is quite a challenge. Back in the Philippines, all one has to do is go to the local palengke (wet market) and ask the vendor to grate one for you. The common canned coconut milk is found in most Asian stores, even in the local supermarket; but the flavor is a far cry from the freshly made coconut milk.
Another fact is, there are now several methods to improve and standardize the old ways. In my grandmother’s recipes, there were no exact amounts leaving the outcome to a hit and miss dish. One clove of garlic can be as little as half a teaspoon to half a tablespoon depending on the size of the garlic; some garlic bulbs can nowadays be as big as a small fist or the Ilocano ping pong ball sized one. Lola’s one taza (teacup), or one cucharita (teaspoon) depended on her silverware/dinner set. Therefore setting standard measurements is a valuable tool with coming up with a recipe that can be used over and over with very slight variations.
Another fact is, food is now a dining experience and people have done lots of experiments to bring out the best in food. Nowadays we sear meat before we boil or simmer them; they hold the shape of the meat and lock in the flavor.
I will try as much as possible, to bring to your kitchen the flavor that makes Filipino food the way it should be, using more suitable methods and ingredients and to bring that delight on your salivating palate.
I also believe that ‘cooking is an art and baking is a science’. Cooking is more flexible and an opportunity to express one’s creativity and near disasters are more redeemable. With baking, because it’s more like a chemical formula, we need to be more exact and careful with the ingredients and procedures.
Cooking being a creative process, I highly suggest that you be not afraid to try your hand at it. Venture into your ‘inner palate’ and express your imagination; of course just learn some of the basics and make sure Rover (the family dog) is around to finish things off just in case it does not come up to your liking; our dog Joe does that for me. When trying your hand at baking, think ‘science class’; all ingredients must be exactly measured; buy yourself a digital weighing machine and proper measuring spoons and cups (glass for liquid and metal or plastic for dry).
Words of advice – just go for it and express yourself!
— Maria Ana (Marianne) de Leon