Welcome to adobo-down-under!

Musings. Family. Food. Stories. Cooking. Recipes. Eating. A recipe journal. From simple Filipino dishes to challenging recipes and exciting gastronomical failures. This is for my girls to look back on for comfort, memories, laughs, love and lots of food!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Pandesal (Filipino sweet bread rolls)

So.  I have been amiss with the blogging and the writing. And in my last post, I forgot to mention the newest addition to our family!  We got a dog!

Late last year we got an 8 week old Labrador Cross and it has changed our lives immensely - from our daily routine to everything we eat at home.  The puppy was from an office colleague who's pet Labrador gave birth to 9 puppies!!  Of course, when she asked if we wanted one, it was a big fat YES please!  Eleven months on and our home is now double the activity - noise, mess and everything in between.  Lucky is a bundle of mess and joy! We've lost shoes and slippers and towels and old toys from biting and gnawing and every little budding plant in the backyard dug up, twigs and branches scattered about and the smell of stinking poo and pee!  But....... we are happy.  He brings us unconditional love and the happy yapping and tail wagging that welcomes everyone at the door every day is just priceless.  When you get a pet, I think there's that extra dose of tolerance, patience and generosity that comes out of you. Walks have turned into running because we're chasing him more, and play time at home has become more frequent.  Hubby is happy he's got a running buddy and an extra testosterone in the house and the girls are loving the play time - a much needed break from their gadgets and laptops.

I read one of those memes circling around my social media feeds - when you have teenagers, get yourself a dog. It seems apt with the girls now donning high school and teen hats!

Back to food and this pandesal.  This has been a fave recipe of ours since I started experimenting on making bread at home about 6 years ago.  Pandesal is a Filipino bread roll, it has subtle sweetness and saltiness and is a staple in most Filipino breakfast tables - even afternoon tea, really. Pandesals are sold by every corner bakeshop in the Philippines and they are delicious warm with slathers of butter or margarine.  This can be made by hand, using a stand mixer, and most recently, I converted the recipe for the Thermomix (recipe is in the Recipe Community), if you're interested in that method. But here is the traditional one with pictures to guide you along the way.


500 ml luke warm water, 37*-38*C 

2 teaspoons dried active yeast

1 teaspoon caster sugar (to activate the yeast)

75 grams (or 1/3 cup) caster sugar (for the dough)

55 ml sunflower oil (or any neutral smelling oil)
900 grams (6 cups) strong bakers flour

1 adn 1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes*
1-2 cups bread crumbs (store bought or homemade for coating the rolls)
In a medium sized bowl, combine the water, yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar and stir with a spoon until the sugar is dissolved.  Rest for 5-10 minutes to activate the yeast.  It should appear bubbly.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the remaining sugar and oil and mix until smooth.  
Replace the attachment with a dough hook, then add 1 cup of flour first, and the yeast mixture.  Turn on the mixer to combine.
Add the salt, and the remaining flour, one cup at a time, and knead until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 3-5 minutes.
Take the bowl, cover with cling wrap and set aside to prove.  Minimum of 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
Prepare and line two baking trays with parchment paper. 
Place the breadcrumbs into a medium sized bowl and set aside. 
Sprinkle some flour onto a clean kitchen bench and take the dough from the bowl. 
Divide the round dough into quarters.
Roll each quarter into a log and cut using a sharp knife or dough scraper into 5-6 cm pieces.
Dip each pandesal/roll piece into the bread crumbs bowl to coat.

Place the pandesal/roll onto the prepared baking tray, leaving about 2cm in between each piece.  Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Cover the tray with a tea towel and place in a warm spot to prove further - 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until the pandesal/rolls have doubled in volume.

Preheat the oven to 180*C.

Once the pandesal/rolls have rested and doubled in size, place in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

Serve with butter or margarine!
* when using iodized or fine salt, just use 1 teaspoon
* for the second proving, the longer you rest the dough, the more you'll get fluffier and soft rolls when baked
* the pandesal/rolls are best eaten while still warm, but can still be served the next day toasted or warmed in the oven. 

This will be your dough, resting and risen after proving.

Divide the dough into quarters, then roll each quarter into logs then cut into pandesal/rolls.

The pandsal/rolls cut into 5-6cm pieces.  The size will depend on your preference. 

Coat the cut pieces with bread crumbs, then place onto the tray with the cut side up. 

The pandesal/rolls will have doubled in size after second proving, and they will be touching each other, side by side like here.

The pandesal/rolls baking in the oven.

And this will be your freshly baked pandesal!

As with all baking experiments, there will be times when the bread will have unexpected results - bread too hard, or burnt or doughy.  It always pays to try again.  We have had numerous fails before we nailed this recipe.  One version was even so tough the birds visiting our backyard were not even half interested in the crumbs we put out for them.  Just try until you get the results you want.  And if you have any questions, just let me know.   I'm doing a sour dough project at the moment, experimenting on starters and baking artisan sour dough breads.  I have posted photos on my Facebook page and will write a post about my sour dough adventure in upcoming posts.

And going back to our much loved Lucky, who will be turning 1 next  month! We are looking at making a special savoury birthday cake - meatloaf! What do you think?  Should we make something sweet?  Do you have pets at home who have overtaken your lives in the most joyful way?  Share your stories here!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Prawn curry laksa

I have been neglecting the blog for a while now. Actually a year now since my last post. I've been planning a lot of writing but nothing seemed to have appeared on paper (except for the weekly grocery list!) or even here.  Life happens.  But it's always great if I can document parts of it here.  Musings and random thoughts, along side a recipe or experience or something that made me excited in the kitchen.

It has been hectic in the home front with the girls starting high school this year, and my eldest finishing HSC last year.  The latter which has excited me the most, purely at the thought of having a daughter starting university came to a halt when child 1 decided not to pursue higher education.  It may not be every parent's dream but it is mine.  Having moved to Australia with so much more opportunities open to our children, education the foremost, it is disappointing to hear this. But.... as we are parents who respect our children's choices, we try not to push the "university" option at this point.  I hope and trust my faith, with the little "seeds" I've planted over the years and months over conversations with her, leading up to this moment about the benefits of having one.  I have loved learning as a child and as an adult.  Over the course of several years, I have enrolled myself in short classes in Sydney purely out of love for learning - to write (an online course on Freelance Journalism), to cook (a Certificate III in Commercial Cookery), of other languages (a term learning Spanish!), and other pockets of learning from elsewhere, whether its volunteering at the local art sculpture event, short council sponsored workshops on composting or gardening or reading books that arouse my creativity.  Not necessarily implementing everything learned but the idea of being in a new environment, meeting new people, doing new things excites me.

Another exciting adventure came in the form of the Thermomix.  I have to say this post is not about how good it is (besides that), it is also how much fun I am enjoying having it in my kitchen and taking it as a part of a business.  I've decided to be a Thermomix Consultant to earn myself one, because really, it blew me away when I first saw it.  I heard about it way back 5 years ago and never thought anything of it.  Since I became a consultant early this year, I have been to meetings and events that were as stimulating as it is enjoyable.  Meeting new people and helping them learn another method of cooking is very satisfying.  Anyways. 

Back to the swing of things.  My last post was when I did the Bridge Run last year. And my new post is also an ode to the running event I did yesterday - the Sydney City2Surf: a 14k run/walk from the Sydney CBD to Sydney's most iconic beach that is Bondi.  This time the walk was a little bit further and took more effort as the route took us to steep roads and hills.  It took me 3 hours and 21 minutes,  to walk the stretch - all good with the sunny weather Sydney put out yesterday plus I had some company walking. After the 8k mark it became tougher mentally, as the hills seemed to becoming endless plus the lack of proper training and the need for sustenance were cries for pausing, to stop and sit and wait it out.  But motivation endures as endless hordes of families with kids, senior groups of women, of old couples pass us, it was a fitting inspiration to soldier on and slowly make it to the finish line. The prize is a medal plus the feeling of accomplishing something that is a feat in my dictionary.  It was also motivation to be a part of the a team that we were supporting - the NSW Organ and Tissue Donation, the Donate Life project.  Which was worth all the effort!

Of course, after the more than 3 hours of walk, then having to leave the beach via buses and then train to get me home, I was craving for some good laksa to tide me over, to get my mind off the sore legs and aching soles of my feet.  I didn't get to eat some but it's fitting that I share this recipe now that I'm at it.

This one is a fitting recipe that is adapted from SBS Food for a Malaysian curry laksa recipe.  I made the chicken stock with chicken bones bought from my butcher.  I could not find candlenuts so I didn't add that to the paste, as well as using a Filipino brand of wet shrimp paste. This is a pre Thermomix recipe so I made the paste in a food processor which made the paste a little bit more grainy. When I made the soup, I strained all the grits before adding in the rest of the ingredients (prawn, fish balls, tofu etc).

The usual suspects for a laksa paste - shrimp paste (use the dry one called belakan), dried shrimps soaking, dried chillies, galangal, ground spices - turmeric, cumin, paprika, coriander and lemon grass.  

Ground spices!

Laksa paste - still a bit grainy with small bits

Making homemade chicken stock

Prawn laksa

Ingredients for Laksa Paste

 8 small dried red chillies (soaked in a bowl of water for 30 minutes)
2 tbsp dried shrimp (soaked in a bowl of water for 30 minutes)
red Asian shallots, chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped galangal
3 garlic cloves, chopped
large lemongrass stalks, trimmed, chopped
1 tbsp belachan/dried shrimp paste (see post)
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
Combine all ingredients in a food processor (or Thermomix) and process until smooth.  Keep in air tight container in the fridge until ready for use.
Ingredients for the Prawn Laksa 

1/4 cup sunflower oil
2 tablespoons of laksa paste

1.5 litres chicken stock

2 and 1/2 teaspoon grated palm sugar

450 grams chicken thigh fillets, thinly sliced

10-12 prawns,shelled and tails left intact

1 can 400ml coconut milk

10-12 fish balls (see tips below)

150 grams tofu puffs, sliced (see tips)

200 grams bean sprouts

500 grams thin rice noodles

Heat oil in a large saucepan or pot. Add the laksa paste and cook, stirring until fragrant.

Add stock and stir to combine. Add more laksa paste if preferred.  Bring to a simmer then add chicken and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the prawns and cook for another minute until chicken is cooked and prawns half way through.

Add the coconut milk, fish balls, tofu puffs and bean sprouts.

Stir to combine then bring to a simmer until prawns are cooked.

Cook the rice noodles separately in a different pot. Drain.

Spoon the cooked rice noodles into individual bowls, pour over the laksa with and garnish according to preference.
 To serve - garnish with fried Asian shallots, mint leaves and a teaspoon of shrimp paste or sambal, and a lime/lemon wedge on the side


* You can buy combination packs of frozen fish balls, tofu, etc in most Asian supermarkets.

* Before adding the chicken to the stock-paste soup, strain all the grits and grains and return the cleaner stock to the pot.  Discard the paste grains.

And here are photos from yesterday's running/walking event!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Black sticky rice revisited

My muscles are recovering from yesterday’s Bridge Run, which was approximately 10k from Milsons Point ending at the Government House along Macquarie Street.  Unlike last year’s experience, this year brought more sore muscles and pain in my butt, thighs and legs. As I ran, jogged and walked the route in light rain, I kept thinking of Murakami’s book which reminded me of his experience in the many marathons that he runs around the world – how he prepares for each mentally and physically.  I constantly had to remind myself to concentrate on the breathe and focus on the path ahead, one step at a time.  This kept me focus for the whole 1 hour and 32 minutes.  The weather wasn’t as glorious as it could have been, but the view always gets to me - passing under the magnificent Harbour Bridge, the spectacular harbour and the iconic Sydney Opera House. I can never get tired of these Sydney wonders!   

Soaking in the light drizzle, my head was soaked from a combination of rain and sweat.  My work colleagues who joined me have dispersed into the distance as we approached the bridge, and I could only whisper in between breathes, “hey, wait up!” , each of them already zooming around other runners as they satisfy their own fitness goals.  There were moments of doubt when my thoughts turned to stopping and giving up and cheating by taking off my bib and going through the Domain and ducking in with the crowds at the finish line. The medal was not something aimed for anyway.   But there was that nagging thought inside me, pushing me to go take that extra step, take that next kilometre in stride and it’s all going to be fine.    

Running alone amidst a crowd of thousands (does that sound weird?), it was so easy to get distracted by the noise from the spectators, music from sponsor stalls along the route, the cheers from the volunteers as they hand cup after cup to the runners. Breathing in and out, slowly pacing myself, I see older men and women triumphantly passing me with their slow calculated pace and that kept me inspired.  Oooh, oooh, oooh.... inhale, ooh ooh ooh ooh, inhale.  I calculated my breaths as if I was breathing through flows in my Vinyasa yoga practice.  Although it is not a marathon by any standard, the run/job/walk was something I did not prepare for.  Except for my 2x yoga sessions and intermittent 30-minute walk around the block a week, there were no special trainings that went with the decision to do another Bridge Run this year.  It was another whim decided amongst office colleagues.  Albeit the sore muscles, I felt it was one of the most exhilarating runs I’ve ever done, as well as the longest.    

As I turn onto Macquarie Street, the running crowd from the opposite lane approaching the finish line is always an inspiring sight.  As I slowly ran my way following the course, I can’t help but get distracted and amazed at each of runner sprinting their way towards the finish line.  Their faces expressing varying degrees of intent, focus and determination. Some huffing and puffing but still eyes set forward to the finish line. Some sweating so much, red faced by eyes glued straight ahead. 

Although this is my 3rd Bridge Run experience, this year has given me a strong sense of belief in myself – where usually doubt sits comfortably.  I felt energized after the run and had so much energy even until late last night, when the muscles started tightening and soreness creeping slowly into each muscle tissue.   I went to my yoga practice with slightly stiff legs today, but as always, I come out feeling taller and calmer. 

And after a day of strenuous activity, there’s nothing that I would love more than to indulge in comfort food.  So we’re revisiting an old post with new photos! (It’s actually just an excuse to give life and new photos to posts from the archives!) Black sticky rice with coconut cream and toasted sesame seeds!  I tell you.  This one cuddles you in all the right places.  Sore muscles or not.


3 cups black glutinous rice
3 pandan leaves, tied in a knot

1 tsp salt 
375g palm sugar. grated
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
500ml coconut cream (use Kara brand in tetra pack)

Wash and rinse the rice until water is almost clear.  The water will still be a little bit dark but clean.  (This took about 5-6 wash-and-rinse)

Place the washed rice in a 6L or 8L pressure cooker.  
Add water to cover the rice, 6cm above the rice level.

Add salt and pandan leaves.  
Close pressure cooker lid tightly and bring to boil on high heat, approximately 5 minutes.

Once boiling (pressure cooker hissing loudly), reduce heat to low (hissing gently) and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool/decompress for another 15 minutes. 

While rice is resting/cooling/decompressing, toast the sesame seeds - using a non stick pan.  
 On medium heat, fry the sesame seeds until golden.  No oil needed.  
Transfer into a small bowl and let cool.

Using a sauce pan, dissolve the grated palm sugar in the 1/2 cup water.
Remove pressure cooker lid and remove pandan leaves.  Stir in dissolved palm sugar. 

Serve warm in bowls drizzled with coconut cream and toasted sesame seeds.

Tips and tricks
* Use Kara brand for the coconut cream.  I find that this brand is creamier than those that come in tins/cans.
* Be extra careful when using pressure cookers, as they can cause burns if opened while still hissing.
* Remember that pressure cookers once lid has been locked, should not be opened at any time, unless the hissing has completely stopped and the safety red button (differs in various brands and models) has completely sunk.


The real prize for running the 10K Bridge Run for me, was not really the medal. It's winning against all the self doubts inside and pushing through to the finish line regardless of the time.  And this year, I actually beat my last year's record by 17 minutes.  So that's a bonus.  The half marathon next year doesn't seem too far after all.



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