The Cacao Experiment

Our first, very small cacao harvest of two fruits. The cacao tree is 3 years old, it is a bit of a late bloomer because of the poor conditions here. Since I’ve been dumping pig shit under the tree, the flowers produced many fruits, although many of the fruits rotted away before they could mature. It seems that the flies pollinated the flowers during the season of flies, that season associated with maize (in the hills) and the drying of manta ray meat (along the coast).

So I had a few cacao beans to experiment with. My goal was to learn to ferment, dry and roast the beans so that they possessed that most sought-after dark cacao flavour that seemed always absent in many commercial cacao tablets or powder available. The dutch alkalised cocoa are often the most bland.

This experiment, some 50 cacao beans, yielded less than half cup of cacao powder. With these and the wonderful aroma of the beans after roasting, I can say that my experiment is a success. Most importantly, I can now relate the flavour, and thus the importance, of fermenting the beans, with that intoxicating dark cacao flavour.

I am certain that if the beans are fermented properly, then it would not be necessary to roast the beans for too long. If the beans are roasted too long, the precious cacao butter or oil seeps into the skins of the beans – and the skins are discarded and with it, much of the flavour and healthful benefits of cacao.

Before roasting, drying is also crucial and it needs to be done within 2 days. It was raining when the beans were fermenting, and just when I needed to dry them, the sun generously made sure that the beans dried within 2 days!

To grind the cacao beans, folks normally go to a shop in the city that offers such services for cacao, corn, coffee, meat, etc. It would be ridiculous if I went there with my 50 cacao beans which will simply disappear into the grinder. So I decided I could do it at home, but without the benefit of the heated grinding that cacao really needs. For now, I tried using a Turkish coffee grinder, which proved impossible. So I opted for the osteriser which I bought a couple of years ago primarily for the purpose of grinding coffee beans.

The taste and aroma of these roasted cacao beans is distinctly pure dark chocolate – no off bitterness, no acidic or sour taste. I cannot believe my luck in achieving this on my first attempt. However, since Trevor planted the beans 3 years ago, I have been reading about the process of – perhaps the secret of – producing the perfect cacao, from the tree to the cup. That was all theory, and now if I can only replicate this practical experiment with more cacao beans. We have two fruiting trees now, and about 6 smaller ones. Perhaps in the next season …

Hens Spat

I’m sure you don’t see this very often. šŸ˜‰ This is speckly hen and one of our duck hens fighting. The duck hen has a brood of some 16 ducklings and she doesn’t like old speckly grabbing their food and pecking them. These fights are usually quite harmless because the animals can flee for safety – they are not confined in pens or coops.

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Old speckly hen has always been quite a bully, sometimes resulting in duckling fatalities because of repetitive pecking – so honestly, she had it coming.

Generally, ducks are not as bloody and violent in their fights compared to chickens. Without the sharp claws and beaks, ducks can’t really inflict wounds and can really just rely on their weight and the strength of their wings to subdue their opponents. So, this fight just ended with old speckly hen running away and mommy duck hissing at her. I doubt that speckly hen learned her lesson though …

When in Bohol …

Finally, we managed to visit the restaurant that buys our ducks! I have looked them up on Trip Advisor earlier and saw that they went up and down the 1-5 ranking of best restaurants in Bohol. I have often been disappointed with culinary experiences here but wondered if this place will disappoint my pessimism – if they appreciate the exquisite flavour of barbary duck then they must be more sophisticated than the usual folks whoĀ are happy with the same bland menu every season.

I went there with my husband and ordered: SaladĀ NiƧoise, house wine (white wine), SpaghettiĀ NiƧoise, Mexican Beef, Black Coffee and Coffee Grand Marnier. It was all absolutely amazingly good food!! Thank goodness!! The staff were so friendly and worked hard too!

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Here’s the SaladĀ NiƧoise (above) which doesn’t look particularly impressive but the taste is amazing. The salad vegetables and herbs here areĀ delightfully refreshing and flavourful, as it turns out, the place have their own herb and vegetable garden.The freshness of such simple ingredients as tomatoes, basilĀ and cucumbersĀ make such an enormous difference in the quality of this salad.

Both the SaladĀ NiƧoise and Spaghetti NiƧoiseĀ also gave me an idea as to how I can put more fish in our diet. The dressing with anchovies and the seared tuna were just perfect.

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Here is the Mexican Beef which I nearly finished before I could take a photo! I often order beef to see how good a restaurant is because a bad restaurant would often have tough pieces of meat in pathetic servings. But this beef was tender and not overcooked or over-sauced and over-spiced. If you have excellent ingredients, there is no need to be garish!

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The coffee was excellent, and in Bohol it is so easy to ruin good coffee beans! Thank goodness, this restaurant knew how to brew good coffee. The French coffee I ordered was also excellent. I was a bit nervous because I often have allergic reactions to both milk and alcohol but I experienced no discomfort with both the cream and the Grand Marnier. Often, I have associated my problems with the quality of the liquor.

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It was really great to get to know this place and indeed, quite an honour that they are serving our ducks here!

Here (below) are some photos, this time of the herb and vegetable gardens that the restaurant maintains. I cannot stress enough what a difference it makes to have these ingredients fresh! Hopefully, our own garden will get better over time and provide us with our own fresh produce. It hasn’t been easy with the bad and rocky soil but over the years, it is getting better!

Anyway, when in Bohol, do take the time to visit The Pearl Restaurant at Linaw Beach Resort on Panglao Island. Cheers!

Linggo ng Pato!

 

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OK, yesterday was Duckerday, today it’s Linggo ng Pato! šŸ˜œ

This time, it’s the duck legs, breast, liver, gizzard and heart. I decided to cook the duck legs and breast ala confit. However, I didn’t bother to salt, cure or marinate the meat. I also didn’t have enough duck fat to use for the confit, so I got some palm oil and used that instead.

Cooking duck meat in oil is fantastic because oil heats up really fast, stays hot, and cooks deep into the meat. You actually save more energy than cooking meat in water like stew. Anyway, the only other ingredients I added to the oil were: salt, marjoram,Ā thyme, rosemary, sage,Ā tomatoes, black peppercorns and garlic.

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When the duck legs and breast were close to super tender, I added in the heart and gizzard (sliced a bit so they cook easier). The result, is absolutely fantastic! I should add: (1) curing, salting or marinating duck meat is probably unnecessary because duck meat (well maybe at least OUR ducks, šŸ˜„) is already very flavourful; (2) curing and salting only dries up and meat and makes it tougher so it is not necessary!; (3) those native tomatoes are the BEST tasting tomatoes, they have more flavour than those huge expensive hybrid tomatoes!

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And here’s what I did with the liver – I used a bit of the oil and bits of garlic and tomatoes from the confit, then used that to cook the liver, adding water when the pan dries a bit, de-glazing it and bringing out that delicious brown sauce!!!! I served the liver with a bit of chilli and singakamas (jicama) from the garden. This liver is brilliant, absolutely fantastic, smooth like your most expensive foie gras can ever be smooth!

Also, I think this duck liver is much larger than the usual because this duck is part of my experiment on fattening phase for ducks. I will write about that later when I get more results.

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In the meantime, I am just so ecstatic with the result of this cooking experiment! I would never find this fantastic quality of duck meat (and cooking of course hahah! šŸ˜‚) anywhere else! Cheers! šŸ˜„

Duck Weekend: Duck springrolls

Greetings, my ducks! šŸ˜œ It’s a weekend and we had a duck selected for weekend meal and here it is! I recorded a video of my amazing butchering skills but decided not to post it hereĀ — at least not for now. šŸ˜„ Maybe later! But you can see in the photos the dressed duck (thanks to the great skills of our lady butcher, Terry), and then me butchering the duck, then the finished product – duck meat, liver and heart on one side and the bones and trims on the other side.
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For today, I decided to deal with the bones and trimmings. The cats think that’s a much better idea too! The duck is not very large, a dressed weight of 1.3kg, so it will not render a lot of fat. So I thought that I can probably use the meat for confit later and, for today – the bones, skin, fat and trimmings for spring rolls and broth.

The process is simple: put the bones, fat and trimmings into a pot and heat up, simmer, boil in its own fat and juices, brown it then add water (not too much) and seasonings. My choice of seasoning is salt, pepper and 5-spice powder. Let this cook for a while until the meat is soft and can be easily removed from the bones.

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Let this cool for a bit then start separating the meat from the bones (cats are waiting…). Ā Shred the meat up,Ā you may or may not wish to include the skins. Here’s what I got from my bones and trimmings – the bones on one side and the shredded meat on the other side.

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Now that the cats are busy eating, I can start cooking. I have prepared some onion, garlic, chopped carrots and cabbage. The rice paper for the spring rolls are ready too. I use these Vietnamese rice paper. When your ingredients are ready and you’re ready to roll, you can prepare the rice paper. You don’t cook this rice paper. You just soften it by putting a damp towel over it until it is soft enough to roll. This type of rice paper is eaten fresh! I love this because sometimes I’m too lazy to fry stuff … šŸ˜œ

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Here, I’ve put duck and veggies together and cooked, seasoned, added a bit of the broth, and let it cool down a bit before attempting to start rolling!

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And here are my finished duck spring rolls!!! Served with Hoisin sauce! Now these are two ingredients you shouldn’t skip in the preparation of this dish: the 5-Spice powder and the Hoisin Sauce. Those two make such an enormous difference in the taste, flavour of this duck dish.

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And here’s the spring rolls served with a salad of home-grown singkamas (jicama). I was surprised how well these went together!!! I think that’s because Vietnamese spring rolls (duck or vermicelli or other) are often served with a dipping of sweet vinegar, and the vinegar dressing in the salad just partnered perfectly with these spring rolls. PLUS the crunch of the singkamas compliments the softness of the rice paper – fantastic!

Bon appĆ©tit! šŸ˜

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