Monday, September 21, 2009

Birthday buko pie

Happy happy birthday to Michael, my awesome brother who turned vegan the same time I did and has been my animal-rights fighting buddy ever since. I can honestly say that vegan life would've been more difficult if not for him. He was the only vegan I knew for the longest time (until the vegans started coming out of hibernation when they heard about my bakery) and the person I'd rant to when I'd get angry about an AR-related issue. He also convinced me to adopt our cats when I was still hesitant about keeping pets.

Here he is with my mom, my 2 other brothers Gabriel and Antonio, and the birthday pie I made for him: buko pie. Ever since my triumph with my first vegan pie, I've been dying to make buko pie.

Buko pie is one of those Filipino desserts that is usually not vegan and something that I've missed eating. Usually the pie crust is made with butter or dairy margarine, or it's got eggwash brushed on top, or the filling's made with milk. Michael requested buko pie for his birthday instead of traditional cake, and so I went on a mission to make my first buko pie.

Quick lesson: buko is the young version of coconut. While the coconut looks like a hard ball of brown hair, buko is a hard green ball. The coconut's meat is used to make coconut milk while buko meat is softer and is used fresh in fruit salad or other Pinoy icy desserts. Also, it's from the buko that we get one of the best juices in the world: buko juice.

I immediately turned to my mom's favorite cookbook when it comes to all things Filipino: Let's cook with Nora, by Nora V. Daza, the Julia Child of the Philippines. As you can see in the photo it's been well used. A lot of the newsprint pages have been splattered with sauces and the book cover had to be wrapped in plastic because it was in a serious state of disintegration. My mom bought this in 1996 for a whopping P85. For the foreigners out there, according to this site the peso was around P26.25 to the US dollar in September '96, so the cookbook would've costed a whopping US$3.24! I believe this edition was the 1969 edition with retro drawings of the dishes.

The recipe was easily veganizable. Actually I'm surprised that buko pie isn't naturally vegan. The recipe for the pie filling called for buko meat, sugar, coconut water (aka buko juice), cornstarch, and evaporated milk. Why do people insist on using cow's milk when making a coconut dessert? What's wrong with coconut milk?

I made the 10" pie crust from The Joy of Vegan Baking (you can use VeganYumYum's pie crust recipe here). The buko pie filling recipe was for an 8" pie so I just added 1/4 more of the ingredients.

You can buy buko meat and buko juice from your local coconut purveyor, usually found in markets /
palengke. I bought mine from the market in BF, Paranaque, along Palanca St. for P17 per buko. The coconut guys sell both adult coconuts and bukos -- fresh as they hack open the fruits right in front of you. For this recipe, just ask your coconut guy for the juice and meat of 3 bukos. Get the meat as a whole, don't get it slivered up. While waiting for them to prepare your order, enjoy a glass of buko juice.

Buko pie
adapted from Let's Cook with Nora by Nora V. Daza

1 prepared 10" pie crust (top and bottom)

2 1/4 c. buko meat, sliced into chunks
3/4 c. + 3 tbsp. raw sugar
1/2 c. + 2 tbsp. buko juice
1/2 c. + 2 tbsp. coconut milk
1/3 c. + 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. cornstarch

Preheat your oven to 400 deg F.

Place the buko meat and sugar in a medium saucepan. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the cornstarch, buko juice, and coconut milk together. Add the cornstarch mixture to saucepan.

Heat the pan on medium heat and cook, stirring continuously until thick. The consistency of the mixture should be like thick gravy. Add the mixture into the prepared crust and top it with top crust. Crimp the edges with your fingers or with the tines of a fork. Make slits on the top (or use a fondant cutter to make cute holes like I did).

Bake the pie for 30-45 min or until golden brown. Cool the pie in room temperature for several hours, then place in the refrigerator to cool down further. The pie is best served cold.

Notes on making buko pie:
  1. If you want a pie with more "bite", get your buko meat malakanin. This is thicker than the usual mala-uhog type, which is softer and better suited for buko salad.
  2. Keep the buko meat and buko juice in the refrigerator at all times!
  3. I used canned coconut milk -- in fact I think I used light coconut milk. If you want a richer pie, feel free to use regular coconut milk or even coconut cream. If you're feeling domestic, why not make your own coconut milk?
  4. I used raw sugar to keep things white-sugar free, but feel free to use white sugar. This pie isn't super sweet so it's perfect for people who aren't into desserts. If you'd like a sweeter pie, you can increase the sugar to 1 to 1 1/4 c.
  5. The proportions of the ingredients was 1 + 1/4 of the recipe in the cookbook. The pie could actually use more filling, so if you want a meatier pie, try these proportions: 2 1/2 c. buko slivers, 1 c. + 1 tbsp. raw sugar, 3/4 c. buko juice, 3/4 c. coconut milk, and 1/3 c. + 2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. cornstarch.
Happy pie making!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A day for the animals, a hearty Indian-ish dinner, an attempt at homemade vegan cheese

A day for the animals

Photos by my coworker, Jeanette Mactal

So I finally got to visit the PAWS Animal Rehabilitation Center in Quezon City 2 Saturdays ago with a couple of coworkers, bringing gifts of food for the shelter dogs and cats. After the feeding activity, Anna Cabrera, the Philippine Animal Welfare Society Program Director, gave us an orientation and tour of the facilities. Let me just tell you, WOW. It's really amazing what PAWS does to help the plight of Pinoy dogs and cats, also known as askals (street dogs) and puskals (street cats). The place was brimming with 36 dogs and 184 cats (as of September 5), all looking for their forever homes. The feline quarantine area was full of days and weeks old kittens. The canine quarantine area had its own fair share of sadness. The guy up there was rescued from the dog meat trade. A lot of them were abused and abandoned by their former owners. The rehabilitation PARC gives them is amazing. It's really different when you're sitting pretty at work and at home with theoretical veganism, and when you see animal cruelty staring at you literally in the face. Hearing their rescue and rehab stories truly is a testament to the philosophy of living compassion and non-violence in one's life.

Anyway, the day-for-the-animals was made complete when my vegan brother (who tagged along at this office volunteer activity) and I stopped for awesome practically-fast food veggie burgers at Good Burger in Pasig, across Tiendesitas. It's sooo nice to be able to eat vegan fast food! Good Burger sells veggie burgers with the option to remove non-vegan items, such as mayo and cheese. They also sell chicken burgers, which is insane... I mean, I would think meat eaters would go for beef rather than chicken when it comes to burgers. I seriously doubt their chicken burgers were any good... Oh, and after the Good Burger lunch, my brother and I spent the afternoon making:

vegan Italian sausages
Julie Hasson's Spicy Italian Sausages, recipe here.

Excellent excellent day. We hung out with the shelter dogs and cats, scarfed down veggie burgers, and made a ton of veggie sausages.

Indian-ish dinner
On the Tuesday after the PARC visit (2 Tuesdays ago), it was so nice to sit down and have a hot hearty meal after a grueling day at the office. I was supposed to ride home with my brother on that day but it was pretty traffic from his office to mine -- he ended up arriving at my workplace at around 7:30. So we headed to the nearby mall, specifically Powerplant, for a satisfying dinner at a restaurant, particularly Wild Ginger.

Asian tomato soupdal and spinach chapati sandwich

Wild Ginger is one of the few restaurants in Powerplant that has good vegan options, and I'm not even talking about tomato sauce + noodles. They have legumes! I've eaten there several times but it was my first time to try their dal and spinach chapati sandwich, which was really good. I call it an Indian-ish dinner because I'm not certain Indians would use 2 chapatis to make a sandwich. It looked more like a no-cheese quesadilla. It usually comes with a yogurt dip which is easily do-withoutable. It was topped with basil, but I think it would've been better if topped with cilantro. The cumin and (I think) coriander really shone, and the dal wasn't dry at all.

I also had the Asian tomato soup -- awesome as well. It was flavored with lemongrass, a pleasant surprise, chili, and cilantro.

Soup and sandwich -- such a Western meal, yet it was Indian.

An attempt at homemade vegan cheese

homemade vegan mozzarella
Eek, I know, what a crap looking photo.

With the success at making vegan sausages under my belt, I decided to venture out and make my first vegan cheese. "Mostarella", to be exact, from the pages of The Uncheese Cookbook. I'm glad that it doesn't taste like dairy cheese. It has cheese-like qualities -- it's savoury, slightly sour, and it melts. The sourness can be attributed to my addition of tahini and a combination of lemon and calamansi juice. I'm glad I finally experimented, although the results were just alright. I guess I don't miss cheese that much that I'd want to scarf down the fake stuff. It is a nice alternative topping on toast, which I usually have it on in accompaniment to a bowl of beans for breakfast. It actually does spectularly in vegan lasagna, together with Veganomicon's tofu ricotta. By the way, that tofu ricotta is pretty good stuff in Italian-inspired dishes.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Shelter dogs and cats deserve your love too

Nothing much up in veganland, I'm just really excited to visited the PAWS Animal Rehabilitation Center, or PARC this Saturday with some officemates. For all my vegan exclamations I have not yet set foot in an animal shelter. One day I hope to put one up near where I live, but it sure is a vocation that needs a lot of dedication, hardwork, and of course, money. A farm animal sanctuary would be heaven too... I live in Southern Manila and PARC is all the way in the north -- one of the reasons why I haven't been to a shelter. While the country is brimming full of unwanted dogs and cats, we only have pretty much 1 shelter (does anyone else know of a shelter?).

Just wanted to blog about that bit... Now if you're thinking of buying a pet, I highly encourage that you think of all the unwanted dogs and cats for a moment. These all deserve a good home just as much as that pet you're about to buy. Only that by adopting a shelter dog or cat, you're doing both of yourselves a favor. Buying a pet kills a shelter animal people, please believe me. You buy a pet, a shelter animal wallows away. Another reason why sometimes I feel like I'm about to explode when people can't understand this concept and decide to buy anyway... Or God forbid, have their female pets get pregnant and sell the babies...
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