A Cook's Diary

Foraging in the garden for lunch

Chili plant

On Nat Geo People, we chanced upon a food show that started with the thesis that more and more farmers are shortening the distance between the farm and the dining table. It’s about going local — buying fresh produce from nearby farms. With less transport time, the produce reach the buyer at a fresher state. It’s more environment friendly too because less transportation means less fuel usage and less pollution.

Upon hearing the thrust of the show, I commented that I did better than buying local today because, for lunch, all I had to do was go outside, pick vegetables from the garden and use them for our meal. It’s not that way everyday but we do hope to get to that point someday.

What exactly did I pick from the garden and what did I cook? Let me backtrack to a day earlier. I had a slab of pork shoulder, I sliced most of the meat thinly and cooked it a la bistek using juice from limes I picked off our tree. The portion of the slab of pork nearer the skin, I cut into small cubes. I sautéed garlic, ginger (fresh from the garden) and shallots, threw in the pork cubes, cooked them until lightly browned then poured in broth. I meant to add sili (chili) leaves to make a simple soup but we had too much pork a la bistek already. I saved the pork cubes and broth in the fridge.

Soup with ginger and chili leaves

For lunch today, I reheated the broth with the pork. I scooped out the pork cubes, placed them on a baking tray and put them in the oven to brown. I went to the garden, picked a handful of sili leaves and added them to the broth. To finish off the soup, I sprinkled in some fried red onion slices. What a simple but tasty, tasty soup.

What did I do with the browned pork cubes?

Last month, I wrote about the vegetables that just sprouted in the garden. One of them was alugbati (Pui, vine spinach, red vine spinach, climbing spinach, creeping spinach, buffalo spinach, Malabar spinach or Ceylon spinach).

Alugbati (Pui, vine spinach, red vine spinach, climbing spinach, creeping spinach, buffalo spinach, Malabar spinach or Ceylon spinach)

Over the last five weeks, it has grown so much that I could harvest some for cooking.

Alugbati and chilies

I combined the alugbati leaves and tendrils (the stalks are too tough) with chilies (and some pechay from the fridge) and threw them into the wok with sautéed aromatics and the browned pork cubes. I poured in coconut milk, patis (fish sauce), simmered them together and we had a main dish for lunch.

Pork and alugbati with coconut milk

I wish everyday were like today when deciding what to cook is a matter of what is ready for harvesting in the garden. The vegetables didn’t cost us anything but the feeling is totally priceless.

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