It's about 5 in the morning and it has been pouring rain for days outside. We patiently waited for the the 'signal' to inform us whether it was a 2 or 3. If it was a 3, that meant that there would be no school for that day. On my 5th birthday.
What exactly is this signal we kept our ears open for? During the rainy season in the Philippines, typhoons and tropical storms come and go. The storm signals let the public know the strength of the storm, the severity of the winds, and the amount of rainfall. Signal 2 was a common occurence, but 3...well, 3 was our equivalent of a snow day. But not once did I ever get a 'snow day' or Signal #3 on my birthday.
Every year, I remember dreading my birthdays because it always rained. I remember never letting myself be excited for them because something would always ruin it. Sure, I love the rain now, but to a little girl, rain might as well have been the end of the world. The end of the world until I got my hands on my cake, that is.
Today, as I look out the window, I did not watch out for heavy rain nor waited patiently for a storm signal. Instead, I looked at the smoke billowing from the city buildings - a sign that it was bitterly cold out. I curled up in my bed, nursing homesickness, quite happy that I didn't have to be out in the -30 Celsius weather. It's been so cold that even I, the prairie girl, have cocooned herself in her apartment.
I thought to myself, nilaga would be the perfect for this weather. Nilaga is a meat soup (usually beef) that is so simple, yet so amazingly good. Its basic ingredients include beef bones, onions and scallions, and whole peppercorns. Then a combination of these vegetables are added: potatoes, cabbage, saba bananas (or plantains), sweet corn on the cob, cauliflower, carrots, and/or sweet potatoes. It is eaten with rice and with a sawsawan (dipping/side sauce) of something salty and sour. We use either fish sauce (my fave) with kalamansi or soy sauce with kalamansi. If only I could just go downstairs and find a potful of it steaming already in my ma's kitchen! But alas, I am a world away from home.
This month's Kulinarya Cooking Club's challenge is to create a dish that we would love to have on our birthday. Well, since I seem to call on the rain gods one too many times, I figured they might be less angry with a bowl of nilaga, no?
So it's not exactly party food, but I'm trying to get over missing the comforts of home and appease the winter gods here. Besides, I dislike pancit (typical Filipino party food) and I've already posted on lumpia shanghai. I peeled myself from my bed, bundled up, and braved the elements for some ingredients so I could slurp on some steamy hot soup!! Now tell me, who wouldn't welcome a nice bowl of warmth on their birthday?
1 lb beef marrow bones or beef neck bones or a combination of the two
stewing beef (optional)
1 medium onion, quartered
4 scallion stalks, cut into 4-inch lengths (save a few for garnish)
1 medium russet potato
1 medium sweet potato
1/2 cabbage head, sliced into 3-4 inch pieces
1 cup cauliflower, sliced
3 carrots, cut in 1" pieces
Fill a large stockpot or dutch oven halfway with water and add the beef (bones and meat), quartered onion, scallions, carrots, peppercorns, and some salt (about 1 tbsp). Cover and let it boil for 2 minutes. After the first boil, lower the heat to medium-low and skim the frothy scum (as per Jezebel) that have risen to the surface. Let it simmer for at least 1 hour (longer if you have time..I didn't).
Once the meat is tender, taste the stock and add salt/fish sauce to taste. Add the potatoes first, as they will take the longest to cook. Simmer for another 15-20 minutes. If you are using saba bananas, plantains, or sweet corn, add them with the potatoes. I couldn't find sweet corn, sabas are a rare find here and I forgot about the plantains. Add the cabbage and cauliflower right at the end, as they'll become soggy if overcooked (blech!).
Serve with rice and whatever salty sawsawan you prefer.
Who needs presents on their birthday when you got bone marrow? Now, this I can get excited for, rain or snow :) That and my birthdays no longer await storm signals :P
"Kulinarya was started by a group of Filipino foodies living in Sydney (Australia), who are passionate about the Filipino culture and its colourful cuisine."
"Each month we will showcase a new dish along with their family recipes. By sharing these recipes, we hope you find the same passion and love for Filipino Food as we do."
You don't need to be Filipino, nor in Australia (clearly) to join. Only requirement is passion and excitement over this wonderful cuisine that's more often misunderstood by outsiders.
The current members are:
Kath - http://www.acupcakeortwo.com/
Trisha - http://sugarlace.com/
Trissa - http://trissalicious.com/
Olive - http://www.latestrecipes.net/
Caroline - http://whenadobometfeijoada.blogspot.com/
Ninette - http://bigboldbeautifulfood.blogspot.com/
Asha - http://forkspoonnknife.blogspot.com/
Malou - http://www.impromptudiva.com/
Cherrie - http://sweetcherriepie.blogspot.com/
Acdee - http://acdee.blogspot.com/
Valerie - http://www.acanadianfoodie.com/
Sheryl - http://crispywaffle.com/
Divina - http://www.sense-serendipity.com/
Anna - http://www.anniesfoodjournal.blogspot.com/
Dahlia - http://www.energychef.blogspot.com/
Joy - http://joyjoycreativeoutlet.blogspot.com/
Maribel - http://www.foodgeek.webs.com/
Jen - http://www.jen-at-work.blogspot.com/
Pia - http://bisayajudkaayo.blogspot.com/
Malaka - http://thegrandinternational.com
Mimi - http://lapinchecocinera.blogspot.com
Erika - http://ivoryhut.com/
Kat - http://twitter.com/alanokat
Lala - http://thislittlepiggywenttothemarket.blogspot.com/
Selfie - http://eats.sefiebee.com/
Connie - http://homecookingrocks.com/
Oggi - http://oggi-icandothat.blogspot.com/
Katrina - http://lardonmyfrench.blogspot.com/
Rochelle - http://www.whydiss.blogspot.com/
*if I am missing anyone, please feel free to leave a comment so I can update the list*