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!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Martini Friday

A friend of mine in Canada suggested this. She and hubby have this nightly bonding they call martini nights (I actually asked her, how can you possibly do this every night?). She suggested I do the same, just for kicks. And try I did!

Although there have been a lot of variation on the classic martini, her Lychee Martini is a simple concoction of vodka, lychee syrup and lychee for the garnish. I bought canned lychees and used a little bit of the syrup into the mix and garnished with the lychees. Brilliant results!

Cheers and thanks to my mate RC, from down under! Hic!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Chicken Sotanghon with Shitake Mushrooms

Chicken Sotanghon is a Filipino dish, which probably was taken from the Chinese influence in our kitchen. It is prepared using chicken, garlic, ginger and some rice vermicelli noodles. Although there is the more common variety of the Chicken Sotanghon recipe which is in dry form - more like a stir-fry noodle dish, such as here from Burnt Lumpia, and here and here, this version of mine is in soup form, and this dish is definitely one of those classified as "chicken soup for the soul" kind of food, as it does wonders to the body especially in cold weather, when our bodies turn numb from the chills.

Although this recipe is one of those familiar ones in our family, this one has a new twist as I came across a similar recipe from Immunity Foods for Healthy Kids where the addition of Shitake Mushrooms made it one of those immune booster broths. Aside from the ginger, which is known to be have a hundred and one medicinal benefits, the added medicinal properties in the shitake mushrooms have been researched to provide immunological benefits. So clearly, this is one great dish with heaps of good stuff for the insides.

rice vermicelli noodles (I only used half of the 200g pack)
2 garlic clove, crushed
1 onion, chopped
Shitake mushrooms (I used half of the 40g pack. Instructions to soak the mushrooms at the back of the pack)
1 pair chicken breast fillet
1 sm fresh ginger, sliced
bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped

To prepare, simply saute 2 gloves of garlic, ginger and the onion in a little oil. Add in the breast fillet strips and stir fry for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth (Store-bought in tetra packs works well too, or you may choose to boil the chicken breast first to save the broth will work fine too. You may lessen the cooking time if the chicken is already cooked from boiling.) and simmer for about 15minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Add the rice vermicelli noodles (which you have earlier in boiling water for about 30minutes).

Add the soaked shitake mushrooms, and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Turn off heat and top with the chopped flat-leaf parsley.

Serve warm in bowls.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Juan's Pork Ribs Adobo

Juan Tamad is a Filipino fable. A tall tale that exemplifies a lazy person, in mind and body. Adobo on the other hand, is an original Spanish word for seasoning or marinade. The roots of the adobo in the Philippines must be traced from from the time when the country was conquered by the Spaniards, from which they left a lot of influence in the way food is prepared in the Filipino kitchen. Although we do also have Chinese and American influences.... like the pancit (or stir fried noodles), fried rice, hotdogs, etc..... Anyways, back to the adobo....

In any (must be every) Filipino household, the Pinoy adobo is prepared and each family has its own special way of preparing them. But however and whenever the preparation will be, the basic ingredients of the adobo dish is this: soy sauce, vinegar and garlic. Some may add a few ingredients here and there, such as dried bay leaves, or hard-boiled egg for topping, or add a few potatoes for extenders. It can also prepared with pork, chicken, squid or maybe even beef (although I have never tried this yet). However it is prepared and served, the Pinoy adobo is a staple dish for most Filipino households (henceforth, my blog name - adobo). Here is another recipe on the classic adobo with a different twist.

I say my particular version is Juan's (no pun intended to any Juan's out there) because this is my lazy version of the pork ribs adobo.

For starters, the pork rashers are marinated in soy sauce, vinegar and garlic for about 30 minutes. And then fried in a little oil. Just to add some starch to the dish as a side, I chopped some potatoes and pan fried it together. (Lazy I say, because this should actually be done separately. But I am pressed for time most days).

After the pork and potatoes are done. These are transferred to a serving dish. The hard-boiled eggs are not a usual adobo topping, but I sometimes prefer to do this for the additional fanfare.

Adobo is best served with rice, and still good eaten the next day. Shredded as a rice topping, or sandwiched in pandesal (Filipino bread rolls).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Illicium verum / Star Anise

The star anise has been alien to me until we moved here from overseas. Not that they weren't available where I came from. But from the plain fact that we weren't personally introduced. One of the things I learned from moving overseas was to be independent, in the sense where even when it came to challenges, I had to create them myself. Routine can actually kill a person's spontaneity (as if having 4 kids isn't spontaneous enough eh!?), not to mention it can really drag you to boredom. And so, after doing the same familiar dishes over and over again, I gave myself the challenge of embarking on a culinary adventure. And to start, I borrowed tons of cookbooks from the local library. From baking to preparing sushi at home. Now I am a voracious reader. I thirst for new information, but for cookbooks I prefer the ones with the colourful photos as it gives me an idea of what to look forward to.

One of the dishes that my hubby and I both love is the Chinese spicy beef noodle soup. Similar to the Vietnamese pho noodles minus the bean sprouts and the mint, this one is a simple dish but full of aromatic flavours and spices. There is a favourite noodle place we miss in Manila which is called the Northpark (there are several of these but we frequent the one in Banawe in Quezon City). Now because Chinese dishes maybe simple, the ingredients and preparation of Chinese soups are not. A typical stir fry wil only take you less than hour to make - tossing in a few veggies, garlic, onion or ginger and a few strips of chicken or beef or pork, plus soy sauce and voila! You can claim glory for a common Chinese stir fry dish. But their soups and noodle soups are another story. It takes more effort, ingredients and preparation. There is the hours of boiling and tenderizing the meat with an assortment of spices, and then the straining of the broth. Believe me, I've tried it at home, despite the common knowledge that I know I could've just gone to the local shops and got me a take-away for less than $10. But we need to challenge ourselves once in awhile, to shake up our bones and bodies and prove that we are indeed alive. So when I tried to prepare the authentic Chinese Beef Noodle Soup at home, I met the star anise.

It is a bit intimidating at first as I haven't a clue what to look for. But when I got home with my produce, it was like mana from heaven (well ok, I'm exaggerating just a little bit). The smell and aroma combined with cinnamon sticks is what retail therapy is to a shopaholic. Seriously. I loved the aroma coming from the kitchen! It was authentic Chinese dishon the menu, and I'm walking down the streets in Chinatown.

Recently, I was taken to preparing another favourite of ours, the Korean Kalbi Chim (Beef Spareribs) recipe from the Filipino Kitchen Library Asian Cooking by Aileen Jaraza, Christine Aquino and Hector Jaraza, of which I have done a separate entry here. It was this time that I found the use for the "star" once more. Although the recipe did not call for the herb, I simply included it for the added flavour and aroma. Once more, the star has proven to me its worth. Five stars to you - anise!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My version - Creamy Prawn Risotto

This is a simple no-fuss risotto recipe, which I learned from my brother in the early months when we arrived here. Having been on rice diet all my life, it was time to succumb to other members of this grain family and my first introduction to Arborio Rice. It is traditionally an Italian grown grain which originated from the town of Arborio in the northern part of Italy in the Po Valley. But as the advent of technology continues, this kind of rice is now grown locally in Australia. But the Italian tradition continues, as this is the best grain to use in risottos.

There are tons of varieties to prepare risotto, and this was a good introduction as it involved our favourite - prawns. To prepare, the following ingredients are a must:


2 cups arborio rice
750g prawns
frozen peas
red capsicum, diced
parmesan cheese
onions chopped
butter- for cooking

As I am novice in the kitchen, my measurements are simply based on hunch, intuition and the actual appearance of the dish.

For starters, the prawn is cooked (boiled) until it has changed colour. Drain and save the prawn broth. Peel the prawns, saving the tail and set aside.

In a large wok or skillet, put in the butter and the arborio rice. Stir until the rice is all coated with butter. Then add the prawn broth (bit by bit and as needed). Let it simmer until the rice is tender, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking on the wok/skillet.

Once the rice is tender, add in the prawns and vegetables (red capsicum and frozen peas). This shouldn't take too long to cook.

Lastly, add about a cup of parmesan cheese. Then give a little stir until the parmesan is all mixed with the rice.

Traditionally, risotto is served dry with the parmesan as a topping or mixed just before serving,a and is usually dry. But for our version, we like it a little creamy.

Now you have a simple prawn risotto dinner. Alternatively, prawn may be altered with chicken, or just some plain vegetables (e.g. asparagus, brocolli, etc).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Muffins for the Emu's

I baked some muffins for the girls' preschool last Friday. It was a delayed birthday treat for their classmates as I hadn't had the chance last week to prepare them.

These are the two versions we took to school, both taken from The Clueless Baker. Baking from Scratch. Easy as Pie by Evelyn Raab.

The first was the Beautiful Buttermilk Muffins, with chocolate chip variation.

1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla zest (I substituted with vanilla essence)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips (I used Nestle Dark Choco Bits)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 12-cup muffin pan.

In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla and lemon zest until light(ish).

In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Stir this mixture into the egg mixture, in 2 or 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Beat only until combined - don't over beat! Stir in the chocolate chips into the batter - then spoon the batter into the well-greased (or paper-lined) muffin pan, filling the cups nearly to the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Makes 12 muffins.

The other version was for the recipe Chocolate Chocolate Muffins.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter
3 squares (roughly 28g each) unsweetened chocolate (I used the Woolworths Select brand Dark Cooking Chocolate)
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used Nestle Dark Choco Bits)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease a 12-cup muffin pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and baking soda. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt together the butter and unsweetened chocolate (broken into chunks to hurry things up). Stir until smooth, then remove from heat and let cool for just a minute. Add the buttermilk, egg and vanilla, whisking the mixture until everything is well combined. Stir in the flour mixture, mixing just until all the ingredients are moistened, then add the chocolate chips. Mix until the chips are evenly distributed. Then stop.

Spoon batter into the well-greased (or paper-lined) muffin pan, filling the cups to the top. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick poked into the middle of the muffin comes out clean. Let cool for a couple of minutes before removing from the pan, then transfer to a rack to cool more or less completely.

The kids loved this the most (and do I wonder why?). The muffins turned out with a bit of crunchy top (I used raw sugar) and a moist muffin. It was seriously good!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Banana Breads Galore

I chanced up the NGN Banana Bread Bakeoff from the IMBB events calendar and thought... Why not?! Afterall, I do have that fruit in my blog name, and we had bananas in our fruit tray waiting to be cooked up. And so these banana breads are making their way to this bakeoff.

The first one I took from Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno's Bread - Baking by Hand or Bread Machine, for the Jamaican Banana Bread version.

The Ingredients called for:

250g plain flour (plus more to dust tin)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
60g pecans, coarsely chopped (I used walnuts)
1 egg, beaten
175ml milk
150g granulated sugar
60g unsalted butter, melted
350g peeled and mashed bananas (approximately 3 ripe bananas)

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F/Gas 4). Grease a 1kg (1lb) loaf tin with oil. Generously dust with flour, then turn the tin to coat the bottom and sides evenly. Shake out any excess. ( I simply greased and lined the tin with baking paper)

2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt together in a large bowl. Stir in the pecans (in my case, walnuts) and make a well in the centre. Put the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl and mix until thoroughly combined.

3. Pour the liquid mixture and the bananas into the flour well. Use a spatula to gently fold all the ingredients together to form a wet batter. (Over mixing can result in a heavy bread)

4. Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour or until golden and well risen. The bread is ready when the edges shrink from the sides of the tin, and a metal skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

5. Keep the bread in the tine and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edges and turn out. Cool on a wire rack.

Although I substituted the pecans with walnuts (as that was what I had in the pantry), I don't think it affected the quality of the bread. This version is good as the loaf was moist and the combined nutmeg and cinnamon made it really tasty with a bit of spice.

The second version I took from A Cook's Book of Baking. Butter. Sugar. Flour .

This simple Banana Bread recipe called for the following ingredients:

250g (2 cups) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
150g unsalted butter, softened
185g (1 cup) soft brown sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
240g mashed ripe bananas (about 2 bananas)

1 Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F/Gas 4). Grease and line the base of a 23 x 13 x 16cm loaf tin

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, mixed spice and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

3. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl with electric beaters until light and fluffy. Add the eggs gradually, beating well after each addition, and beat until smooth. Mix in the banana. Gradually add the sifted dry ingredients and mix until smooth.

4. Pour into the loaf tin and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

This was slightly different, calling for brown sugar and mixed spice. And the results were extremely different too, because it had a really crusty top and it was really sweet (I don't really have a sweet tooth, so sweet in this case is relative). It did turn out quite nice when served with a cup of coffee. The sweet and crusty bread complements the coffee immensely.

Kalbi Chim (Korean Beef Spareribs)

There is a counter kiosk in almost all mall fastfood centres in Manila called "Kimchi". It specializes in Korean dishes and the Beef Spareribs is one of our favourites. It does take a little bit of effort to prepare, but the results are guaranteed satisfaction at the dinner table, at least for the grown ups.

This recipe was taken from the Filipino Kitchen Library, Asian Cooking by Aileen Jaraza, Christina Aquino and Herbert Jaraza. It is one of the books I took with me to Sydney, as a reference for dishes that will be missed.

1k beef spareribs, cut into chunks (I used only about 600g)

3 tbsp granulated sugar

3/4 cup soy sauce

2 tbsp sesame oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tbsp sesame seeds, roasted and crushed

4 pcs Chinese mushroom (or in this case, I used what I had in the pantry - Shitake mushrooms)

2 1/2 c water

salt and pepper to taste

Score the meaty parts of the ribs and rub all over with sugar. Place in a bowl.

In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and crushed sesame seeds. Marinate the beef pieces in the soy sauce mixture for at least 1 hour.

Soak the dried Chinese mushrooms in the water for at least 30 minutes. Drain. Reserve the liquid. Slice and mushrooms and set aside.

Pour off the marinade from the beef pieces and reserve marinade.

In a wok and without cooking oil, sear meat pieces on all sides to seal in flavour. Add marinade and liquid from mushroom. Bring to a boil, then lower flame to simmering and cook covered for 1 hour or until the beef is tender.

The following are part of the recipe but I chose not to include for plain reasons - I didn't have time to buy these:

2 pcs scallions, trimmed and chopped

285g water chestnuts, canned, drained

Remove the cover and add the mushrooms, scallions and water chestnuts.

Cook for a further 30 minutes until much of the liquid has evaporated.

Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a serving platter and serve with boiled rice.

For my version, I added some chilli flakes at the last minute. And then added some chopped shallots and some sprinkle of sesame seeds when served. Plus a side dish of sauteed bean sprouts and a bowl of rice.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Excited Blueberry Muffins

I intended to practice making cupcakes and muffins for the Mother's Day morning tea at the girls' preschool on Thursday this week. While browsing through tons of cook books and online recipes, I chanced upon this site that was holding a competition of sorts showcasing "muffins". I thought maybe it'll be a good and exciting challenge to join and experience it for the first time.

And so, while chocolate cupcakes are always a good hit with my girls, I made a new batch of muffins which will be making their way to the Greedy Gourmet's challenge.

The chocolate cupcakes were intentionally plain, but my girls decided to play around with the whipped cream and 100s-1000s so we decorated some just for kicks.

The blueberry muffin were taken from Donna Hay's Off the Shelf, Cooking from the Pantry. The No-Fuss Blueberry Muffins, which were indeed, "no fuss" at all. I chose blueberry not because its in season (its actually not and was indeed pricey at the local grocer) but because blueberries are my my all-time favourite and hubby's as well.

In a bowl, combine 2 cups sifted self-raising flour, 1/2 cup caster (superfine) sugar, 2 eggs, 1/3 cup vegetable oil and 1 cup sour cream and mix well. Sprinkle the mixture with 1 cup fresh of unthawed frozen blueberries and then spoon into 1 cup capacity muffin tins. Bake in a preheated 180 degree C (350 degree F) oven for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through.
Wow! How exact can you get?!!!!

The muffins came out lovely. The smell was really enchanting. Now, these might be no fuss muffins, but they're really excited! I loved how it turned out, with the slightly crunchy top and the soft inside combined with the sweet blueberries. Yum!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Cornflake Crunch with heaps of love

With lots of time being spent in the kitchen these days, my girls are slowly loving the idea of helping and concocting something on their own as well. Aside from the usual licking of the spoon and spatula during brownie and chocolate muffin baking time, they are always keen to watch the going-ons when I'm up to my new obsession - baking.

I think its only good that they learn a thing or two in the kitchen, and so when all 4 decided to do a recipe from the Usborne Farmyard Tales Children's Cookbook, I let them. Despite the looming mess and piles in the kitchen sink, I let my shoulders drop and relaxed a bit. Ate was the head chef and the little ones were demi chefs and helpers. Here's what they decided to make.

Cornflake Crunch

225g / 8oz milk or plain chocolate (I actually let them use my dark cooking chocolate for this one)
3 tbsp golden syrup
50g / 2oz margarine or butter
100g / 4oz corn flakes

20cm / 8inch shallow round tin (or square)

1. Grease the tin with a little butter or margarine on a paper towel. Grease the inside well, but do not leave too much butter.

2. Break the chocolate into a large pan. Add the syrup and margarine (or butter). Heat the pan gently, stirring the mixture all the time. (We substituted the pan with a heat proof dish instead, and melted the butter and chocolate in it, under simmering water)

3. When the chocolate has melted, remove from heat then add the corn flakes and stir them well. Make sure that they are coated all over with chocolate. (Our version: Remove from heat then add to the cornflake in a separate bowl.)

4. Spoon the mixture into the tin. Carefully smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Try not to crush the corn flakes.

5. Put the tin in the refrigerator for the chocolate to set. It will take about 2 hours. Then use a sharp knife to cut it into little pieces. (Juliana below helping in her own little way. Cleaning up.)

My oldest daughter loved these as she remembers bringing them home every time we go to Baguio on vacation. This one is definitely one little treat that goes a long way, literally.


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