Taste of Home: Normandy Chicken

We both like cooking. There is no day in a week when we don’t cook no matter how busy we are. We just love our food!

On Thursday morning while I was busy about work my man cooked Normandy Chicken for our lunch before he left for work in the morning. It is a French dish. I would say, this Normandy Chicken is just irresistible and hearty!

Ok, so this is what Alan told me about his way of cooking:

He either tastes, hears of, or reads the recipe of a dish and gets the names and proportions of the basic ingredients. Then he tries to balance the ingredients in his mind and to add/subtract ingredients that may or may not fit. Then he cooks. With experience on his side, the result is most times above most those of the restaurants experiences he has enjoyed/suffered so far. Back when he lacked experience of course, the results were disastrous as often as not, cook-wise.

As far as he is concerned, here is the root of the recipe and Alan’s personal take on it. Normandy is a region of France famous for its orchards and strong apple liquor named Calva. The recipe is basically a mixture of button mushrooms, apples, lemon juice, fresh cream, mustard, salt, pepper and Calva. The idea is that the strong and earthy taste of mushrooms will be balanced by the sugar of the apples, the bitterness of the lemons, the spicy flavor of black pepper, the acidity of the mustard and the sweetness of the fresh cream. He buys and cooks the ingredients when they are fresh, he has a strong dislike for tin and ready to go food, it just tastes too weird to him.

The original recipe he read called for veal, but local chicken is his favorite for the meat. The cream is fat enough for the dish, as far as he is concerned, so he goes for chicken as opposed to veal or pork. He also goes for Cognac instead of Calva, as for his taste the Calva’s flavor is too strong and spoils the pleasure you get from the other ingredients. Cognac still adds the tang this dish needs but without taking over. When he marinates the chicken, he also adds a bit of ginger to it, it goes down well with lemon and pepper, he says.

Please keep in mind that, as he puts it “I cook for my own pleasure and that of my friends and family, so feel free to disagree, make changes, improve or, why not, approve.”

Ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 2 lemons
  • 3 apples
  • 300g of mushrooms
  • 400g of chicken breast
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • mustard
  • 15 cL of cooking fresh cream
  • Ginger
  • Cognac

Method:

  1. Cut the mushrooms into thin slices and cook them very gently.
  2. Do the same with the sliced apples. They should be cooked but not too much.
  3. Put those two in a separate dish to cool off when they are ready.
  4. Get the juice from the lemons and add it to the mushrooms/apples mixture, then add the fresh cream.
  5. In a separate dish, put the sliced chicken, mustard, black pepper, squeezed ginger juice and salt together. Leave it alone for about one hour.
  6. Stir-fry the meat marinade, add a bit of water if need be, and then mix it with the other ingredients in the saucepan.
  7. When the mixture is ready, heat up about 15cl of cognac quickly in a small saucepan, pour it over the dish and then flambé the mixture (He does not know of any equivalent term in English, it means setting the mixture on fire for a very short period of time so that the alcohol evaporates and only the tang of it remains, be very careful when you do so, and never do that anywhere near a fan/AC, etc).
  8. We like to eat this dish with rice. Et voila, as English people say.
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A Day Strolling Around Cebu City

I hadn’t been to Cebu City (Philippines) myself until Alan and I decided to stay there for a very short while, just long enough to go around the city before we headed to my hometown in Mindanao. We didn’t really plan to stay long as the main purpose of our holiday was to spend quality time with my family.

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The Philippines is composed of three main islands namely Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. In Visayas, Cebu City is a significant center of commerce, trade and education. It is known as the second largest city and the oldest city of the Philippines. While trotting around the city, we saw many distinct marks of Spanish civilization in different parts of Cebu, since the Philippines was for about 330 years under the Spanish. I have learned that about 20% of Tagalog words are Spanish. Also, according to Wikipedia, the Philippines is Asia’s predominant Christian country; the Philippines is also considered as the world’s third largest Catholic country after Brazil and Mexico, respectively. Apart from these, the American influences in every aspect of Filipinos culture are also notable, as education is the medium of instruction in every school is English. Filipinos speak in “Taglish” which means a combination of Tagalog and English and many more. The Americans, de facto, ruled the Philippines from 1898 to 1946 and helped us gain our Independence against the Spaniards.

The First Stop:
We started our visit at Plaza Independencia, one of the historically important places in Cebu. The obelisk at the center was raised in honor of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, the first Spanish Governor-General of the Philippines. I have learned that when a road tunnel was constructed there in 2006, they found several artifacts such as prehispanic human bones which are now displayed at the Museum Sugbu. Also, this place is quite famous as a dating site, couples and lovers usually meet up there, it is has a huge garden filled with trees, ornamental plants and flowers.Image

Then we kept walking towards Fort San Pedro. It is a small military defense structure built by the Spanish and Indigenous Cebuanos. The construction of the fort began on the 8th of May 1565 in order to defend the place against Muslim raiders. Miguel Lopez de Legazpi founded the first Spanish settlement when he arrived in Cebu. The fort is triangular in shape; two sides are facing the sea and one side is facing the land. Today, Fort San Pedro is one of the historical spots in Cebu City and also known as the oldest and smallest fort in the Philippines.

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From the fort, we headed to the white building called the Malacanang sa Sugbu, also known as the Malacanang of Cebu or Malacanang of the South. It was originally built in 1910 and used to be the old Customs Building. It was then converted into a Malacanang sa Sugbu by the former President Gloria Arroyo. Now, it serves as the official house of the President in the Visayas.

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The Second Stop:
For our second stop we visited Magellan’s Cross and the Basilica Del Sto. Niño Church as they were few steps away from each other. Magellan’s Shrine was built by Ferdinand Magellan, who led the Spaniards as they landed in Cebu City in 1521. It is believed that Magellan brought Christianity (Catholicism) in the country.

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Then we continued walking to the Basilica Del Santo Nino Church, which is believed to be the oldest Roman Catholic Church built in the Philippines. It is also known as the Basilica of the Holy Child. Many people lit candles there and say the prayers. When we went there, there was a mass held at a wide quadrangle in front of the Basilica.

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The Third Stop:
We hired a taxi to explore the Taoist Temple as it was open for either believers or non-believers. It was built in 1972 and it is located at Beverly Hills Subdivisions in Cebu at about 300 meters above the sea level. The Taoist Temple is a center for Taoism, who follows the teachings of the ancient philosopher, Lao Tzu. Inside the temple we saw a chapel, a wishing well, a library and a huge balcony. We stayed for a while to enjoy the fresh air and breathtaking views of the city on the spacious balconies.

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It was a great day and we had a spectacular walk as we walked through some historic landmarks in Cebu City.

Little Lilly Travel Tip:
• Take normal precautions like you would in any large city as Cebu City is one of the biggest cities in the Philippines.

Phnom Oudong: The Holy Burial Sites of the Kings in Cambodia

During one of our weekends, even though our work eats up most of our time, we managed to sneak in a quick motorbike excursion a bit further afield and headed over to Oudong Mountain. It is a quiet town that is often missed by foreign tourists; however, we find this place interesting as it contains a valuable portion of the country’s history.

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Oudong was the former capital of Cambodia from 1618 until 1866, when the French convinced King Norodom to move the royal court to Phnom Penh.The town is situated at the foothill of a mountain which is about 40 km northwest of the current capital, Phnom Penh.

Phnom Oudong was tentatively included in the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites,in the cultural category,in 1992. It is a home to several important religious monuments such as temples, stupas, and shrines in memories of by-gone kings on a picturesque and spectacular hillside setting. I have learned that many of the religious monuments were built after Oudong ceased to be Cambodia’s capital.

We went there on a weekend and there were many people, mostly locals, and few tourists. The road at the bottom of the hill was busy with traffic; the locals came in throngs to visit as it is apparently popular as a picnic place at weekends. There were also many vendors around the area selling hand-made souvenirs and also home-made local delicacies and cakes.There were many local restaurants at the sides of the road serving Cambodian meals freshly cooked with ingredients from the neighboring farms.

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We climbed 509 stairs to the top of Phnom Oudong. The climb was pretty easy as there was sufficient shade; which kept us from getting too warm. At the top, there were majestic views of the Cambodian countryside. We observed the beautiful 16th century architecture as well as appreciated the small villages, rice farms, and palms wineries scattered across the countryside below.

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When we reached the top, we were greeted by the silver-colored PreahSanchakMonyChedai. It is a new stupa, as the construction was only finished in 2002. It houses relics from Buddha himself which made Phnom Oudong one of the most sacred places in Cambodia. It is surrounded by serpent deities, elephants and lions. I have learned that this structure holds three small pieces of the Buddha’s bones and there are also plenty of animal statues.

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South of the stupa, there were a couple of pagoda-shaped structures which were the burial sites of the past kings of Cambodia, back in the day when Oudong was the capital. The pagodas were stunningly decorated with intricate carvings displaying a cross section of Buddhist and Hindu motifs.

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Another important remnant that we saw as we walked further down south was the Arthaross Temple, also known as Temple of Eighteen Points because there were 18 points or corners built into the temple’s structure.I learned that it contains the remnants of the large Buddha statue that was destroyed by the Khmer Rouge. This statue is unique because the Buddha faced north instead of the traditional direction of east. It was believed to depict the power of the Khmer Empire at the time.

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It was a great day full of activity. We stayed in Oudong for a couple of hours in order to appreciate the majestic views and the fresh air of the countryside before we headed back to Phnom Penh.

 

Little Lilly Travel Tip:

What to bring?            Bring a camera, Oudong is very picturesque, and a bottle of water.

When to go there?      Get there early as the midday sun makes walking up the hills a little tough.

How to get there?       You can travel by tuktuk, local bus, motorbike or taxi.

What to prepare?       Take some information about the site because the signs pointing to Oudong are not written in English.

Others?                       There are some local children who will ask you to take them as your guides. I can’t give assurance how informative they are, but if you don’t want a guide, it’s best to give them a polite but firm no from the start.