Ube-r Tuber!


Ir will be Christmas soon.  We are a little late getting into the spirit.  The clean up after the flood isn’t as major an undertaking as it was in the first few months afterwards but there are still a lot to do.
We lost the cabinetry in the flood so most of the knicknacks are still in storage but I did put up some of the teapots we collect on a rail, tied with ribbon.  Neat huh? : )
We lost some of the bullet ends of the curtain rods so I just pushed a stem of little fake flowers in the hollow.  I think it looked absobloomin’lutely fine!
The house is all white now. We figured white is easier to slap on than messing with more expensive tinting colors and designer paint when (heaven forbid) flooding would leach it off again.  Maybe it would make us feel like we were in Greece hehe.
Oh, the trimmings are up as soon as it looked like the dry spell will hold, two weeks into November.
I only put up half a suitcase (we store our Christmas stuff in one) of ornaments and the sparely decked out tree newly crowned with a crystal bauble so I’ll have an easier time lugging those upstairs again in case...you know.

I dolled up the miniature nativity set inside the house with sparkly twigs, lights and beads and the bigger one on the terrace with a string of mirror balls and snow tree lights we bought on sale at S&R years before.  You were supposed to stick them into snow covered ground except we don’t get snow in this here parts so I just wired them onto grid shelving cubes. The Christmas lantern of Capiz lost some of its lights but that’s no biggie. It’ll get fixed.
Today my mom and I finally got on the subject of what to cook for Christmas.  More and more we don’t want to cook so much or serve as complicated a dish as traditionally seen on our table.  I thought we could just buy a few kilos of lechon and I will make chapchae. Definitely cake, too.
Let’s see if my mom could stick to the plan. Her conscience does not allow foregoing a proper Christmas table.
It was probably nagging at her when the Universe sent a peddler bearing ube her way.  
Ube is purple yam, a tuber if you will –a huge, heavy coarsely dark skinned thing sprouting hairs here and there. Looked hideously root crop-py hehehe.  

The peddler sold her a kilo worth with the promise of true and through purple goodness.  Apparently, some ube’s purple-nality is only skin deep.  Oh, wait, you peel the skin off and that’s a brown bark affair but you could get a layer of purple meat but find the core pale in comparison, in which case the resulting yam or halaya is not a festive Christmassy color. Unappetizing.

So mom was happy the peddler called it right!  I am happy I have a colorful subject to photograph! She peeled and cut the ube in smaller chunks; boiled 'em till soft enough to mash (like you would prep a mashed potato). Then you cook the mashed yam with sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, sugar and dayap (Philippine lemon) zest.  Except we don’t have dayap handy.  It could be pretty hard to find on short notice and serendipity did not include another peddler bearing dayap. Mom was far too excited to cook and I have lemon extract so that’s what she used instead.  I also dropped a small strip of lemon rind (I don’t have enough peel to zest, almost used up for my lemon cookies).
I used to watch lola Naty (grandmother, my paternal grandfather’s cousin) use an oar (no kidding) to stir halaya in a giant wok set on three boulders hemming a wood fire.  She gives out a big llanera (flan mold) of halaya as gifts, one per family.

We cooked ours in a stovetop wok and stirred with a wooden paddle spoon.  Our halaya is also lumpy, not finely mashed. Firstly, mom missed a few chunks and second, she couldn’t stir as long and as constantly as necessary to bring the yam to a smoother finish and consistency. I couldn’t spell her: I was tired from cleaning. I like finding deep purple nuggets anyway. She told me she was forced to stop cooking and stirring when her hands and shoulders hurt.  A labor of love indeed.
Sooo festively purple! Tastes real good, too! We didn’t even put any vanilla, doesn’t need it.  It wasn’t as sweet as commercially made halaya and the lemon extract worked fairly well (dayap is more zingy minty). It is just not as creamy as my lola used to make.  Mom initially thought it needed more milk.  I didn’t think so, I like the ube flavor to show through.  Later, mom figured it needs butter folded in.  Aha!
Butter or no butter it was tops anyway.  Tops... get it?  Hahaha.
Update! Turns out, butter isn't used (the old recipe) to get that smooth consistency.  It is only used to "seal" the halaya so it will keep better - brushed on top.  Lola Naty's daughter said the mashed halaya is pushed through a sieve and cheese cloth over and over until a smooth finish is achieved.  More work!

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