Gentle recipes

What are French Style Scrambled Eggs?” a friend of mine asked via SMS after reading my article last Sunday. “Is it just some way sush-yal way to call the lowly scrambled egg?’” Yes, I text her back. It sounds sosyal but no, it is not lowly. Scrambled eggs are far from and will never be lowly, at least in my book. It is one my favorite snacks. I can eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or midnight snack, with or without milk, on toast or with rice, or just by itself, and I will never feel deprived. But make it the way the French do and it will taste even better than it already is, royal almost, a snack you would want to serve to a troubled king, or very simply someone you are besotted with, or devoted to.

French Style Scrambled Eggs are almost like your regular scrambled eggs, except that it has a creamier consistency, as if you poured in a little sauce, either as an afterthought or a secret step, right before serving. There are no elaborate or sophisticated techniques required, just fresh eggs and butter and salt, your hand and a good whisk — all together they will make a quivering and trembling mound that almost pleads to be eaten and enjoyed immediately. Happily for the non-chef, it is very simple and easy to make. The whole process will take only 10 minutes, give or take. Here is how you do it:

1. Melt a small square of butter in a tiny bowl. (I like to use the unsalted kind so I have more control over the amount of salt I use).

2. Break about two large eggs or three small ones in a deep, bigger bowl, pour in the melted butter and season with salt. I use less than an eighth teaspoon of salt.

3. Get the eggs all excited by whisking quickly, and well.

4. Pour the mixture into a non-stick pan.

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5. Start whisking again, keeping at it till the mixture coagulates, resembling the texture of old-fashioned oatmeal, clumpy and moist. In fact, lift the pan off the heat right when you think a few more minutes would do. Feel free to, at some point early on in the process, lift the pan, putting it back on the heat again, only to lift it off yet again, as if you were playing a delicate game called “Please Do Not Overcook Me,” all the while whisking devotedly.

I promise you a most delicious snack, comforting in a sunshiny yellow way. It will look and taste like it came straight from some five-star hotel kitchen, except that it didn’t and you are most likely in pajamas in the comfort of your home, using chipped bowls and mismatched spoons. This snack does much to quiet a growling hunger, or a soft craving. You can pour some truffle oil over it but that would be a step closer to divine already, not that there is anything wrong with that.

I think the secret is in the whisking, more during the cooking than before. Who would ever think a small thing could make such a big difference? You can add a splash of milk also, but it is perfect even without. What can I say. Trust the French to play with eggs in style.

As for the recipe I disappeared into our kitchen with, and that I promised to share with you last Sunday, it is milk toast. A treat I do not treat myself to enough, sadly and regrettably. Not because I do not like to cook, but simply because I forget, as it is buried under the more usual suspects in the same category of quick — bacon, ready-mix pancakes, a tomato and salt sandwich. But here it is, a recipe someone gave me that I pasted inside my black and white gingham-covered recipe book many moons ago. Unlike scrambled eggs, this one is best eaten when you’re not supposed to be eating — at midnight, say, when the whole house is asleep. You tuck the warm bowl in your hand, curl up in front of the TV while Laura Calder or Nigella is cooking. This is good in a soupy, innocent way that reminds me of a mother or grandmother’s love. Both a child and a big man will love it just as much.

Milk Toast

1.Tear off in big chunks 2 fat slices of good, slightly stale white bread.

2.Sprinkle the bread with some sugar, about 2 teaspoons will do.

3.Warm some milk in a pan, about 1 cup, flavoring it a little with vanilla if you feel like it. I don’t anymore because I use vanilla sugar (I always tuck inside the sugar bottle in our kitchen a vanilla bean stick because I love the scent). Otherwise you can just put in a teeny-weeny drop of vanilla extract in your milk.

4.Pour the milk over your dry bread and sugar mixture.

5.Enjoy immediately, please; it is best eaten very warm.

And finally, Birch Tree Polvoron.

Here’s a story. I have many friends who are polvoron monsters. But I know three who actually make polvoron and sell it by the hundreds week after week. They each have their favorite brand of milk powder to use. Okay, truth be told, they shift between two brands of milk powder. Juliana and I made our own batch of polvoron using Birch Tree milk powder. Pleased with the results after our first try we then sent them off as happy from-our-kitchen-to-yours presents, prettily packaged. One went to an aunt and uncle of mine, another pack went to Kris (Aquino) as a thank-you from Juliana after she received a most wonderful birthday loot bag of pretty clothes. A lot I brought to Shall We Dance taping; the rest I divided among two of my polvoron-making friends. I still owe the third one her batch.

They have become happy converts. And I am smug because that was the whole point, actually. They now agree with me that Birch Tree is perfect for polvoron because it has a natural creamy sweetness, it is cheaper than the brands they were using, and it is full cream milk powder without extenders and/or artificial flavors. I felt like I had stumbled upon some precious recipe, except that of course I did not because it is just polvoron, in all its homey goodness, and it is the easiest thing to make!

We have made four big batches in a week (we triple the recipe below per batch) and we are still at it. Juliana has decided it will be her star product in their annual bazaar at school (she made very pretty bookmarks the last time). And she once again thinks I am such a mighty mom, all because we made polvoron that turned out to be so good. I will not do or say anything to burst her happy little bubble just yet.

Here is the recipe. Please try it yourself, preferably with children. They always double the fun of doing it.

Birch Tree Polvoron

1/2 cup Maya cake flour

1/2 cup Birch Tree Milk Powder

2/3 cup white sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

1. Toast the flour in medium heat until light brown, stirring constantly. You will need lots of patience here because it feels like forever before the fine white powder that is the flour even starts to turn remotely brown. You will know when this starts to happen because you can smell it. And there will be a shift in taste also, an almost nutty, quite good even on its own. We like ours really toasted but not burned; the flavor is just better that way.

2. In a bowl, mix very well together the flour, milk, sugar and melted butter.

3. Shape into rounds or ovals using a polvoron molder.

The third step is the most fun for kids, the first is the one they dread the most because it really does take a long, slow time. But it has to be that way, lest you burn the flour. Once molded let it sit for a while for each one to settle and come together, otherwise it will still be too crumbly to handle. We wrapped ours in bright pink and yellow Japanese paper but that tore easily under our inexperienced fingers when we tried to twist it on both ends so pretty soon we shifted to using cellophane. But I think I will still persist in using Japanese paper because not only is it obviously prettier, it is also more eco-friendly.

I hope you will enjoy these gentle recipes over and over again, especially with another long weekend just looming up ahead.

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