Dads Cook Good Food

For dads who enjoy cooking for their families

Yummy Mie Ayam!

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A month ago over lunch, Lina, a colleague of mine from Indonesia, saw me enjoying a bowl of Filipino chicken noodle soup (or chicken mami) complete with a garnish of carrots, Chinese lettuce and sliced boiled egg. Curious, she asked what the ingredients were and mused that it was very much similar to the chicken noodle soup she enjoyed at home.  If one thinks about it, chicken-based soup has variants the world over: Congee soup with shredded chicken, Pho Ga from Vietnam, Arroz caldo from the Philippines, the classic chicken noodle soup, and the Ethiopian Doro W’et, to name a few.

And so, about a week or two had passed, Lina showed me a photo of Mie ayam, a Chinese Indonesian noodle soup, which is apparently popular in Indonesia and sold in small restaurants, street vendors and hawker centers. It’s easy to prepare as I’ve cooked one for my family. My kids love the sweet and salty flavor. Hope that you enjoy this simple dish as much as I enjoyed cooking it! Selamat makan!

Mie ayam
(Chicken noodle – Chinese Indonesian style)

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Ingredients:

200 gm. yellow wheat dry noodle, boiled al dente
A quarter of a chicken, diced small
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 whole medium white onion, chopped
1 tbsp. light soy sauce
2 tbsp. kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce) or oyster sauce
1 tbsp. cooking rice wine
8 heads of bok choy, blanched
4 cups of chicken broth
1 tsp. sesame oil
Fried garlic slices, mushrooms and chopped scallions for garnish
White pepper to taste

 

Directions:

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1. Stir fry white onion and garlic until fragrant.

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2. Add chicken, soy sauce, kecap manis or oyster sauce, and cooking wine. To enhance flavor, add diced fresh mushroom (or dried mushroom that has been soaked for at least an hour).

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3. Prepare chicken broth. Add chopped garlic and white pepper to taste.

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4. Blanche vegetables and noodles on a separate pot.

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5. Finally, assemble everything on a soup bowl. First, pour one tablespoon of sesame oil and about two tablespoons of light soy sauce.

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6. Add noodles and toss.

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7. Top it with diced chicken and bok choy. Garnish with scallions and fried garlic slices.

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8. Chicken broth is usually served in a separate bowl, or you can add the broth to the noodle bowl directly. Serve piping hot.

 

 

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Yummy Pikelets!

“Once in Australia, I ate 33 pancakes in 20 minutes, and I only did because they said a girl could never enter a competition…but I’d never do it again.” – Olivia Wilde, Irish-American actress

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I reckon that Ms. Wilde can still eat 33 pancakes if it were smaller and of the feather light pikelets variety. “They’re cute, Daddy!” was what my daughter said when she saw me flipping of what appeared to her as miniature pancakes. I wasn’t so sure whether cute would translate to delicious. 🙂

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Pikelets are defined as small round thick pancakes baked on a griddle and traditionally served on Christmas Day in Great Britain (Pikelet.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2018). It is believed to be of Welsh origin where pikelets are referred to as a “poor man’s crumpet”, where it would be dropped freely into the pan.

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The recipe below was adapted from what looked like an old free recipe from a bag of White Wings flour, a famous brand of flour in Australia founded in 1898. A friend, Peter who is an Australian himself, emailed me the recipe after tasting my classic buttermilk pancake (which was featured in an earlier blog) during one of our coffee Sundays that my family frequents. He said that the pancake I cooked, which was smaller than the regular-sized pancake, reminded him of pikelets.

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The recipe calls for a self-raising flour (also known as self-rising flour), which is simply a mixture of all-purpose flour and baking soda (See recipe from Nigella here).

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As soon as the pikelets were ready, my family enjoyed making the toppings. Jam, fruits, cream or even maple syrup goes well with it. “It makes it more fun to serve with a variety of food toppings and also a chance to assemble your own food,” my wife said.

So grab a feed and bon appetit!

FEATHER LIGHT PIKELETS

1 cup self-raising flour
A pinch of salt
½ teaspoon of baking soda
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 cup of milk
1 teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice
3 teaspoons of melted butter

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1. Sift flour, salt and baking soda into a bowl. Stir in sugar.

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2. Beat together egg, milk, vinegar, and add to flour mixture with cooled melted butter.

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3. Mix to a smooth batter.

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4. Grease and heat a large pan (low-medium heat) or griddle plate.

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5. Drop a teaspoonful of batter into hot pan and cook until surface is covered in bubbles.

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6. Turn and cook other side until golden brown.

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7. Serve with jam, cream, peanut butter or chopped fruits. Yields approximately 1 ½ dozens pikelets.

Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup

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It’s the second weekend of spring and the air is still fresh and crisp. Still a good time for warm soup! Our kids are no exception as they still crave for warm and hearty soup, requesting it for their school lunch. I offered to prepare their soup the night before based on our family friend’s (Marichu) recipe. She is the same person who shared her crab cakes recipe which was featured in a previous issue of this blog.

Incidentally, I had to check with my wife whether I was doing it correctly. Despite her specific instructions, I still had a misstep. I unmindfully sautéed the potatoes with the sausage instead of adding them to the broth! Surprisingly, my kids still loved the soup and indeed, it turned out to be delicious!

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Ingredients:

3 pieces of medium-sized potatoes (Yukon variety), cubed
2 heads of scallions, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of chopped kale, stems and heart removed
500 grams of Italian sausage with casings removed
4 cups of no-salt chicken broth
½ cup of whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Prepare ingredients.

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2. Heat soup pan to medium-heat. Sautee scallions until they become clear and soft then add and sautee garlic.

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3. Add Italian sausage, break them into smaller pieces and sweat it for a few minutes until it turns brown.

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4. Add chicken broth and increase heat to high, bring it to a boil and let it simmer for 20 minutes to enhance flavours.

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5. Reduce heat to medium-high then add potatoes and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-tender.

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6. Finally, add kale and milk then stir. Continue simmering on medium-high for a few more minutes.

7. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

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A tip: Before pouring the soup on the food flask thermos and to keep your kid’s soup warm in time for lunch, pour hot water on the thermos, cover and let this stay for about ten minutes. When ready, empty the flask and add the soup, cover tightly and pack this with your kid’s lunch. Remind and caution your kid that the soup will be hot!

Crêpes!

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A busy schedule has not allowed me to cook as much as I want to. On days that I get off from work, I would find myself catching up on writing, which is still work-related, or getting some much-needed rest. However, on some days, I do get a chance to cook something easy and quick for my family.

Yesterday, I had a chance to go back to one of those easy and quick “stove-top cakes” that I unearthed from a recipe that my daughter clipped from the commuter paper, Metro, in 2015.

The crêpe recipe that you’ll find below is very easy to do. You do not need a crêpe maker, but a good non-stick skillet will do! The recipe is also easy to follow as Chef Ricardo said, “…it’s a great way to get the kids in the kitchen.”

Go ahead and essayez-le (try it)! Bon appétit!

Basic Crêpes
(From Ricardo Cooks, MetroNews.Ca Weekend, March 6-8, 2015)

Ingredients:
1 cup (140 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 pinch salt
2 eggs
1 ½ cups (375 ml) milk
½ tsp (2 ½ ml) vanilla extract
1 tbsp (14 g) unsalted butter, melted
Softened butter, for cooking

1. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt.

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2. Add the eggs, ½ cup of the milk and the vanilla and whisk until smooth.

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3. Gradually add the remaining milk, stirring constantly. Whisk in the melted butter.

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4. Preheat a 9-inch (23 cm) non-stick skillet over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, brush it with butter. Check the consistency of the batter before pouring it on the skillet.

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5. For each crepe, pour about 3 tbsp of batter in the centre of the skillet. Tilt the skillet to spread the batter evenly until it covers the entire bottom of the skillet.

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6. When the edge peels off easily, flip the crepe with a spatula. Continue cooking for about 10 seconds and then remove from the skillet.

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7. Place the cooked crepes on a plate as you go. Cover with aluminum foil to keep them from drying out and to keep them warm. Delicious with maple syrup or blueberry sauce.

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Merci beaucoup, Noelle Saplala, for some of the photos you took!

 

Maryland Crab Cakes

 

crabcake10Over the holidays, my family and I drove to visit our friend in Maryland for a much-needed break. It was only during this trip that I learned the state’s interesting food landscape, particularly how the brackish waters of Chesapeake Bay breeds blue crab bounty that are abundant during the summer. Alas! We only get to drive to Maryland in the winter, where part of the bay is frozen, and the crabs are obviously nowhere to be found!

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Our friend, Marichu, who is a homemade gourmet cook herself, broached the idea of cooking Maryland crab cakes for us despite the lean season for crabs. Apparently, locals still find alternatives and scramble do they when tin cans of real crabmeat are sold in local supermarkets. Admittedly, fresh crabs are better, but the tin variety is the next best thing. It’s a bit costly but the crabmeat is deliciously good.

And so, without further ado, here’s Marichu’s recipe with a step-by-step process of how she prepared the delicious crab cakes . Bon appetit!

Maryland Crab Cakes

Ingredients:
1 lb of crabmeat
½ cup of breadcrumbs (heaping)
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup of mayonnaise (do not use dressing)
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
¼ tsp pepper
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dry mustard

1. Prepare the ingredients.

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2. Mix together eggs, mayonnaise, Old Bay seasoning, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard until creamy.

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3. Add bread crumbs then crabmeat.

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4. Mix the ingredients well to blend in the flavours.

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5. Shape them into cakes.

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6. Sauté in pan with a small amount of oil five minutes each side or until golden brown.

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7. You may choose to bake the cakes on a greased cookie sheet for 20 minutes, 425 degrees in a conventional oven then broil for five minutes until brown.

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8. Serve with tartar sauce, chili sauce or with lemon. Enjoy!

 

Returning soon!

Dads will be back soon! grilling

A Happy Christmas potluck!

 

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Cheese and fruit platter

At the end of every year, our family get together would not be complete without  our traditional Christmas dinner. Most of us were raised by parents and grandparents who loved to cook so our palates have been used to eating good food. Our Christmas dinners then meant Chinese ham coated in sugar, Marca Pina Quezo de Bola, lechon, pancit, fruit salad, and fruit cake.

However, as we got older and having moved to other parts of the world, our concept of Christmas dinners have also evolved.

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Ham macaroni salad

 

Although my cousin still prepares Pinoy macaroni salad and ham, living in North America also meant adapting to some of the dishes that are usually served during special occasions. Similarly, our family has evolved from being mostly Pinoys to a multicultural clan so perhaps, the safest way to satisfying our discriminating palates is to go potluck.

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Our Christmas potluck!

 

Potluck appears to have originated in North America, where bringing food for communal meals go back to the practices of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest of Canada and the United States (also referred to as potlatch, a gift giving feast which has an interesting kinship multicultural origin) or the Irish  where anyone who comes to dinner brings food that is meant to be shared.

This practice works well for our family since we all have different needs when it comes to food (halal, vegetarian, vegan) not to mention diet restrictions (e.g., peanut and dairy allergies, no red meat and pork). Despite the seeming complicated food preparation and considerations, the variety of food allows us to learn more about the new members of our family and our new home; let alone enjoy the meals that we share.

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Roasted Leg of Lamb

 

For example, my niece’s roasted leg of lamb which she prepared for her husband who prefers only halal food was so delicious! Or my nephew’s soy chicken was so tasty that a lot of us were begging for some more.

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Apple and Mild Italian Sausage Salad with Honey Dijon Vinaigrette

 

For those who were more health conscious, I prepared Pepper Maple Salmon and Sauce while my wife made Apple and Mild Italian Sausage Salad with Honey Dijon Vinaigrette.

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Filo Pastry with Brie Cheese, Caramelized Onions and Fig Jam

 

For appetizer, my niece prepared charcuterie, a Filo Greek Pastry filled with Brie cheese, caramelized onions and fig jam and mushroom pate, which was too die for!

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Porchetta stuffed with Wild Boar Sausage

 

Of course, my chef nephew did not disappoint the red meat eaters when he cooked his version of Porchetta stuffed with Wild Boar Sausage. The crispy skin reminded me of the lechon of time past, when my cousins and I would then get bits of crispy lechon skin and dip it in liver sauce.

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My cousin, Jeanne, explaining the dishes prepared by each member of the family while my other cousin, Beng, films her.

 

Like most of our recent Christmas dinners, this was truly a feast! We all capped the night with a choice of coffee or tea and traditional Pinoy panghimagas (dessert) such as pitsi-pitsi, leche flan, buko pandan or ginataang halo-halo or  North American pastries such as cranberry pie, caramel cake and gingerbread cookies.

Have a Merry Christmas, everyone!

Let’s eat what we reaped!

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Time does fly when you’re having sun…er, fun! We’re moving towards the end of summer and for us, the end of summer means that my daughter’s small garden is now teeming with nature’s bounty. Since she was five, she has looked forward to this time of the year when she would usually harvest her vegetables. I can only guess that  she gets a kick out of pulling the carrots, picking the cherry tomatoes or plucking the basil leaves.

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But more than the excitement, it is the annual ritual of sowing the seeds during spring and harvesting the fruits of her labour during summer that has taught her so many virtues. For example, she had this realization that the food that she eats entails a lot of hard work. She appeared to have gained some sense of responsibility by consciously watering her plants daily and occasionally checking for weeds. She learned to be more patient and caring (she read stories to them almost every day!); realizing that growing food takes time.

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And when I cooked our beef stew, she also knew that the delicious stew had her share when we added her fresh basil, tomatoes and carrots! Indeed, food preparation and cooking can sometimes be a family affair and teach our kids life’s important lessons!

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Harvest Beef Stew
(Adapted from Crock-pot: The Original Slow Cooker)

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ pounds of beef for stew
Fresh cherry and roma tomatoes (or 32 ounces of canned or stewed tomatoes)
10 pcs of baby carrots
3 medium potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 stalks of celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 cup apple juice
2 tablespoons parsley flakes
8-10 pieces of fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tablespoon dried basil)
2 teaspoon salt
3 cloves of garlic, minced
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 bay leaves
¼ cup all-purpose flour (optional)
½ warm water (optional)
Directions:

1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-low heat. Brown stew meat on all sides. Drain excess fat.

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2. Placed brown meat and remaining ingredients in CROCK-POT slow cooker. Mix well. Cover, cook on HIGH 6 to 7 hours.

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3. Before serving, thicken gravy, if desired. Combine flour and warm water in small bowl stirring well until lumps are gone. Add mixture to liquid in CROCK-POT slow cooker; mix well. Cook 10 to 20 minutes or until sauce thickens. Remove and discard bay leaves before serving.

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*I usually serve the stew without the gravy but my wife cooks her own gravy and adds this to the cooked stew. Her ingredients include 2 tablespoons of melted butter then add 1 tablespoon of flour. Whisk and add some of the broth from the stew. Season with Lea-Perrins Worcestershire sauce then add these to the rest of the stew and mix.

Antonio’s Arroz Caldo

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Named after Daddy Robert’s son, this chicken rice porridge is a combination of simple ingredients: spring chicken, ginger, garlic, onions, safflower, salt and pepper. My idea was to keep the ingredients basic and all-natural and avoiding the addition of chicken bouillon or fish sauce.

Arroz caldo (literally hot rice) or lugaw (in Tagalog) is a well-known Filipino dish that serves as a complete meal, a merienda (snack), or as soup. It is a comfort food for Filipinos, usually during cold or rainy weather. It is an elixir for those who are feeling under the weather. Its preparation and ingredients are akin to the Chinese congee and other rice porridge dishes in Asia.

Antonio’s Arroz Caldo

Ingredients:
1 whole young chicken (spring chicken)
½ cup medium grain sticky rice and ½ cup Milagrosa rice
4 cloves of garlic, chopped and minced
1 thumb sized ginger, cut into strips
4 hardboiled eggs
1 onion head, finely chopped
1 tbsp. safflower (Kasubha)
1 scalion, cut diagonally
Lemon wedges
Salt (kosher)
1 tbsp. ground pepper
3 tbsp. canola oil
6-8 cups of water

Directions:
1. After washing the chicken, chop the chicken into appropriate serving portions.

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2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium size pot over medium heat. Sauté garlic and ginger until light brown. Add chicken pieces and stir to allow the chicken to absorb the garlic and ginger. Add salt and pepper. Cook until chicken is golden brown.

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3. Add rice and mix with the chicken and herbs until rice is well coated.

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4. Deglaze pan by adding water slowly. Once deglazed, add the rest of the water until chicken is covered.

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5. Stir occasionally to prevent rice from sticking on the pot and until you get a smooth consistency. Do this for about 40 minutes.

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6. Add kasubha for colour and flavour then add scallions and cook for 5 minutes.

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7. Finally, add hardboiled egg. Serve with toasted garlic, lemon wedges, fish sauce and sprinkle with more scallions if desired. Enjoy!

*The secret to delicious arroz caldo is deglazing and good chicken stock. As mentioned earlier, I tried to maintain all-natural ingredients (salt, pepper and herbs) without having to add chicken bouillon or fish sauce. You can make the chicken stock in advance but for this one, deglazing the pot then slow cooking the porridge allows the flavours of the chicken and herbs to blend and gives the porridge a delicious taste.

Fishin’ for a Simple yet Delicious Lenten Dish

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For Christians around the world, Lent means more time to pray, reflect and do penance or some acts of charity and sacrifices, including abstaining from meat on all Fridays and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and eating fish instead. This practice goes back to the early days of the Church when the observation of Lent began in AD 313.

The word, Lent, refers to the spring season and that the 40 days of Lent usually falls mostly during the end of the winter season and the beginning of spring. Coincidentally, the Spring Festival (or otherwise known as the Lunar New Year) is sometimes celebrated at the start of Lent and is considered a very important celebration among the Chinese. Curiously, exceptions from celebrating the beginning of the Lunar Year are sometimes even sought from the Catholic Church. Spring is usually associated with a gradual increase in temperature, including the warming of waters where life is renewed: plants begin to grow and schools of fish come out in abundance to feed and spawn. Incidentally, eating fish during the Lunar New Year is considered a surplus of money and good luck.

Similarly, because of the fish’s abundance during spring time in many places, the practice of eating fish (or seafood) among Christians during Lent was a satisfactory alternative to eating meat, except for Eastern Christians who are known to abstain from fish. With the advent of trade liberalization, places where fish used to be scarce and expensive have become easily available. This is why Pompano (Pomfret), which tastes good and is easy to cook, can even be found in Ontario! And because presumably, eating fish is healthier than eating meat, giving up meat for Lent reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases; in effect making you healthier. It’s interesting that this simple sacrifice can make a whole lot of difference to one’s life!

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BAKED POMPANO
(adapted from Kulinarya’s Fried Fish Packets, 2008)

Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 40 minutes

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Ingredients:

1 pompano (150 to 200 grams each)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 head of yellow onion, chopped finely
1 medium sized tomato, diced
1 thumb sized ginger, cut into thin strips
2 celery stalks, chopped finely
1 lemon, juiced
2 stalks of green onion, chopped
1 tbsp. lemon zest
½ tsp. dried parsley
Pepper and salt to taste
1 tbsp. canola oil

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375’F.
2. Clean the fish in cold water, ensuring that entrails from the cavity are removed. Score both sides of the fish with a sharp knife then rub the fish with salt, pepper and juice from 1/2 of the lemon including its cavity. Set aside and marinade for 30 minutes.
1. Preheat oven to 375’F.

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3. Prepare stuffing by mixing all ingredients in a bowl: garlic, onions, tomato, ginger, celery, dried parsley, green onion, and lemon zest. Add juice from the other ½ of the lemon and add salt and pepper to taste.

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4. Stuff the fish’s cavity and belly with the mixture then lay it on a greased aluminum foil.

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5. Add some of the stuffing on top of the fish then wrap with the foil and crumple both ends.

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6. Lay the wrapped fish on a baking pan and bake the fish for 40 minutes.

7. Remove the fish from the foil and serve on a platter. This is best served with a dipping sauce of soy sauce and lemon juice and steamed rice.

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