, JANUARY 24, 2008  (STAR) e EAT’S EASY By Ernest Reynoso Gala - “Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.” — MFK Fisher, An Alphabet for Gourmets

My grandfather Lolo Pepe was a brilliant architect, builder, and a proud family man who loved to eat. One of his favorites was Portuguese sardines, whether for breakfast with hot pandesal, lunch or snack. He would always have a flat tin can with him.

One day, his much loved brand of sardines ran out and my aunt, Leni Reynoso Araullo, a culinary genius and food chemist, decided to formulate her own recipe for homemade-style sardines and made some for Lolo Pepe to make him happy. She stored them in sterilized bottles to preserve them, allowing the rich flavor to develop more and creating a culinary masterpiece.

The difference between the Portuguese and Spanish version is that in the former, the fish is cooked in oil, while the latter is tomato based. Sardine (sardinas), herring (three- to four-inch-long galunggong), salinas (fresh or saltwater tawilis)) or smelt are used as long as they fit into the bottle.

The secret to making good bone-soft sardines is by pressure cooking. Pressure cooking allows the flavor to permeate into the fish fast, using pressure that has built up to push the sauce into the fish. It also softens the hard fish bone, making eating easier and worry-free.

If you plan to buy a pressure cooker, get the biggest and thickest type that you can find, so that it will last a lifetime. To pressure cook, place all ingredients inside, mix well, close the lid, turn on the heat to high and wait until you hear a hissing sound. Once you hear the sound, lower the heat to low, get a timer and start timing 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, turn off the fire, and cool for 15 minutes. Check the safety valve for steam and sound; if there is no steam or sound, it is safe to open; otherwise, wait 10 minutes more and check the valve again with a spoon.

The second part is bottling. After pressure cooking, transfer all the contents into a sterilized bottle. Close the lid, invert the bottle cover side down, place in a steamer with boiling water, and steam for 20 minutes on high heat. Do not open the sterilized bottles unless you are ready to transfer the contents and steam.

These recipes are great for home use to share with your loved ones and also for home business.

Leni Reynoso Araullo’s Homemade Portuguese-Style Sardines

1 kilo small fish (two to three inches long, leave the scales)

2 cups olive or vegetable oil

2 bay leaves (laurel)

6 pieces cloves (clavo de comer),

2 small red chili (siling labuyo)

2 pieces six-inch-long carrots (peeled, sliced thinly into rounds)

1 tablespoon rock salt

1 teaspoon whole peppercorns

1/4 cup brandy (optional)

Put all ingredients in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 20 minutes. Cool before opening the pressure cooker. Serve.

Or carefully transfer the sardines to clean, sterilized bottles, arranging the fishes standing up. Cover and close bottles. Invert on a steamer. Steam over high heat for 20 minutes. Turn off the fire. Leave to cool for one hour, cover side down.

Where to order sterilized bottles (in large quantities):

San Miguel Packing Plant, 45 Muelle de Industria St., Del Pan, Binondo, Manila., or call Roberto “Rusty” Ocampo at 242-8641 to 60 local 2175.

Vincent and Charley Braga’s Spanish-Style Sardines

1 kilo small fish

2 cups Hunt’s tomato sauce

1 big head garlic, peeled, but not pounded

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon McCormick Spanish paprika

1 tablespoon rock salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon peppercorns

Put in a pressure cooker all the ingredients. Close the pressure cooker and cook on high heat. When the pressure cooker sizzles, put the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes. Cool. Release the pressure. Serve as is, or put in bottles.

Cool pressure cooker cover before washing to prevent rubber gasket from being deformed.

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Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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