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!

Friday, February 26, 2010

The best ever cookies and cream ice cream

This is a new discovery for us and it is the best so far - Connoisseur Gourmet Ice Cream, Cookies and Cream. Of course not considering the gelato counter kiosks. This is comparing to all the other store-bought brands. This cookies and cream ice cream brand has chunky cookies its almost like mud cakes in there. This has become a staple in our freezer. Best serve in a cup with waffles crisps. Yum!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Cheesecakes galore 2 - Chocolate Fleck Cheesecake

This is the second cheesecake recipe from the Cheesecakes Galore Series, which hopefully will extend to more than the three I'm planning to post here. I have somehow stopped after the 3rd, as I found the 3rd recipe the simplest and yet the most creamy and filling.

This Baked Chocolate Fleck Cheesecake takes the same basic ingredients and method as the Baked Lemon Cheesecake here with slight variations .

You will need to adjust/substitute some of the ingredients with the following:

  • 250g plain chocolate biscuits (I used Arnott's Choc Ripple cookies) to substitute for the Nice biscuits
  • Increase the butter to 150g
  • Increase the caster sugar to 165g (3/4 cup)
  • 100g dark chocolate, melted
  • 100g dark chocolate, coarsely grated

And add the following steps to the original recipe:

  • Spread the melted chocolate over the chilled biscuit base at the end of Step 2;
  • Coarsely grate 100g dark chocolate and fold into the cream cheese mixture after adding the sour cream in Step 3
  • Reduce baking time to 1 hour
  • Continue as for the basic recipe.

This cheesecake made its way as a "dessert plate to share" to the December luncheon after the Filipino Mass we usually attend every first Sunday at the Our Lady of Dolours church. (This is a regular monthly lunch event after the mass composed of the Filipino community who frequent the church. But we only grace the luncheon every December. Actually with the hidden agenda of getting to eat some lechon!!)

About the cake?! Well, it was gone before I even got a chance to taste it. Literally in a flash! Not anyone from our party/group had a taste. But it doesn't matter. If its all gone, that must mean its good! Must try the chocolate fleck with a different cheesecake recipe.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cheesecakes galore 1 - Baked Lemon Cheesecake

I started trying out cheesecake recipes again when an office colleague brought a baked lemon-cheesecake for our office 2009 Melbourne Cup afternoon tea. It was a recipe from the May 1999 issue of Good Taste magazine. I've tried it immediately that weekend, served for the afternoon tea we prepared after Bianca's final confirmation mass. I've tried the different variations in the original recipe (which will be posted separately), and from other recipes as well. So this will be the first of a series of 3 cheesecake recipes.

Here is the first series. Baked lemon cheesecake. I captured the step-step instructions, just as it showed in the magazine. The cheesecake was a hit with family and friends. A cheesecake with a tangy sweet twist. The passion fruit* (my office colleague's variation) was a substitute for the lemon juice which was called for in the original recipe. The recipe featured is by Dimitra Stais.

Baked Lemon Cheesecake
Serves : 8
Preparation : 15 minutes (+2 hours cooling time and 20 minutes + 3-4 hours or overnight chilling time)
Cooking : 1 hour 10 minutes

Melted butter, for greasing


1 250g packet Nice biscuits
1 tsp ground cinnamon
125g unsalted butter, melted
375g cream cheese, at room temperature 150g (2/3 cup) caster sugar 1 tbs finely grated lemon rind 3 eggs, at room temperature 2 tbs fresh lemon juice *

1. Measure all the ingredients and have all the equipment ready before you start. Make sure the cream cheese, eggs and sour cream are at room temperature. This is especially important for the cream cheese and sour cream, so they will soften easily.
You will need a 20.5cm (base measurement) springform pan. I find it easier to remove the cheesecake if the base of the pan is turned upside down. Brush the pan with the melted butter to lightly grease and then line the base and sides with non-stick baking paper. This is more important if you have an springform pan.

2. To make the base, break the biscuits into pieces. Any plain sweet biscuits like Shredded Wheatmeal Biscuits, Morning Coffee Biscuits or Scotch Finger Biscuits are suitable. Place the biscuits in the bowl of a food processor and process until they are finely crushed. Alternatively, place biscuits in a strong, sealed plastic bag and crush well with a meat mallet of rolling pin. Combine the crumbs and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add the butter and mix well until thoroughly combined. Make sure all the crumbs are coated in the butter.

Use the back of a metal spoon to press the biscuit mixture over the inside of the prepared pan, starting with the side. Use the edge of the spoon to form a corner edge in the base of the pan to ensure the biscuit base is not too thick. Place in the fridge for 20 minutes or until the base if firm. This helps the base retain its shape when the filling is added.

3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 160°C. To make the filling, use electric beaters set on medium-low to beat the cream cheese in a medium bowl, scraping down the sides of the bowl twice, for 3 minutes or until smooth. Scraping down the sides of the bowl ensures the cream cheese is evenly beaten. Do not increase the speed of the mixer, as the cream cheese only needs to be softened and a higher speed will aerate it unnecessarily.

Add the sugar and lemon rind and continue beating on medium-low for a further 3 minutes or until the mixture is soft and creamy. This process will further soften the cream cheese, resulting in a smooth and creamy cheesecake

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition on low speed. Add the lemon juice and beat until it is fully incorporated. Place the sour cream in a medium mixing bowl and add 250mls (1 cup) of the cream cheese mixture. Beat with the electric beaters until smooth. This will help soften the sour cream and prevent overbeating to remove lumps. Add the sour cream mixture to the remaining cream cheese mixture and beat until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally during beating to ensure all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Avoid overbeating the mixture and incorporating too much air, otherwise the cheesecake will rise, crack and become too brown, then collapse and shrink in cooling.

4. Place the lined springform pan on a shallow baking tray to catch any butter that may ooze out of the base of the pan. Pour the filling into the prepared base.

5. Place in the centre of the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the centre trembles slightly when the side of the pan is gently tapped. The cheesecake should have risen slightly and turned a pale golden colour. If you think it trembles too much and needs further cooking, bake for another 5-10 minutes, checking every 5 minutes.

If the cheesecake doesn't tremble when tapped, it is overcooked and may crack on cooling. It will slightly drier in the centre and less creamy, but still acceptable to eat.

6. Turn the oven off and place a wooden spoon inside the oven door to hold it slightly ajar so the cheesecake cools slowly. This will prevent the cheesecake from shrinking too quickly. Allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool for a further 1 hour or until cooled completely. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours or preferably overnight to chill thoroughly.

To serve the cheesecake, place the cold unmoulded cheesecake on a board, unclip the side of the pan and carefully lift off the side. Use a thin=bladed knife to cut the cheesecake into wedges. To prevent the cheesecake sticking to the knife, dip the knife into hot water and wipe dry between each cut. To serve the cheesecake whole, use an egg slide or long spatula and slide it between the biscuit base and the baking paper lining the base of the pan, carefully dislodging the cheesecake. Gently slide onto a flat serving plate.


Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake: Use a metal spoon or spatula to fold 150g fresh raspberries into the cream cheese mixture after adding the sour cream in step 3. Sprinkle 150g fresh raspberries on the surface of the uncooked cheesecake in step 4. To use frozen raspberries, defrost 4300g in a single layer on a double thickness of paper towel for 3 hours in the fridge. Use instead of the fresh raspberries as directed above. Continue as for the basic recipe.

Chocolate Fleck Cheesecake: Omit cinnamon and lemon rind. Use plain 250g plain chocolate biscuits instead of the Nice biscuits and increase the melted butter to 150g. Increase the caster sugar to 165g (3/4 cup). Melt 100g dark chocolate and spread over the chilled biscuit base at the end of step 2. Coarsely grate 100g dark chocolate and fold into the cream cheese mixture after adding the sour cream in step 3. Reduce baking time to 1 hour. Continue as for the basic recipe.

Apricot Swirl Cheesecake: Substitute the lemon rind and juice with the same quantities of orange rind and juice. Chop 100g dried apricots and place in a small saucepan with 250mls (1 cup) water. Cover and bring to the boil. Cook, covered, over low heat for 5 minutes. Process the apricot mixture until smooth. Transfer to a bowl to cool. At the end of step 3, transfer 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture into a medium bowl and mix in the apricot mixture. Pour about 1/4 of this mixture into the biscuit base followed by the 1/4 plain cream cheese mixture. Repeat with the remaining apricot and plain cream cheese mixtures. Swirl with a knife. Continue as for the basic recipe.

Although you haven't tried cheesecakes yet, I'm sure you will all acquire the taste as you grow older. Cheesecakes after all, don't have that rich fudgy flavour of a chocolate cake that kids love. But they have that creamy-sweet-tangy combination that goes well with white wine, coffee or your favourite tea.

By the way, blueberry cheesecake is daddy's favourite. How to make your own blueberry topping will be posted in a separate entry.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Cooking Class 1 - Pork Sinigang

One of our (family) goals this year is to pass on our (actually my) culinary knowledge to every member of the family. This involves extending our kids' cooking skills from making scrambled eggs (via the amazing microwave) to cooking real dishes. Frying hotdogs and sausages not included, or opening tinned food.

I know that with three 6yo's this is a daunting-leap-of-faith-massive task. But with a 12yo who just started Year 7 (high school by Australian standards) and a 41yo clueless-in-the-kitchen-aside-from-the-occasional-fried-rice husband, this should be an easy enough task. Yeah, right. Aside from the basic ingredients of salt and pepper, I shall need a little bit more patience, understanding, kindness, courage, tact, and less of being a control freak in the kitchen. So help me God!

The series shall involve weekend cooking lessons - either lunch or dinner, and shall also include some occasional baking for dessert and even pasta dishes. And will also cover familiarisation with kitchen utensils, gadgets and equipments and how to use them. "Yes honey, its called a garlic crusher!" Or even, "… meet the food processor!"

The first of a long series, we tackled this goal as planned, last weekend. The apprentices requested for a simple Filipino dish. A favourite in our home - the Pork Sinigang.

Pork Sinigang is a favourite Filipino dish, usually eaten with rice and may be served for lunch or dinner. It is a soup recipe, stewed with tamarind. The dish has the similiarity in preparation and some ingredients to the the Indonesian Sayur Asem, the Korean Canh chua and the Thai Tom Yam. The sinigang soup is characterised by the sour tangy taste, attributed to the inclusion of the tamarind. There is also the option for a bit a spice, by adding fresh long chillies or jalapenos in the preparation. The uniqueness of the sinigang recipe is the variety of preparation - as it can be prepared with pork, beef (meat cuts with bones are best used), fish and prawns. And in some restaurants in the Philippines, chicken sinigang is also offered.

With the innovations in food technology, a variety of mixes are now available to make most dish preparation much easier. In preparing sinigang, while some people still use fresh stewed tamarind, the availability of different brands of tamarind mixes such as Knorr, makes this an easy enough dish to start our apprenticeship. And while the mixes are solely Philippine produced, it is locally available in Sydney through the Filipino shops in Chatswood, West Ryde and more in the Western suburbs like Blacktown.

Our simple recipe involved:

1.5 kg pork neck bones (from the local butcher) I love more bones in my sinigang dish as it adds more flavour to the soup, and the kids love it too

2 25g sinigang tamarind mix

3 pcs tomatoes, quartered

1 large onion, quartered

1 bunch snake beans (sitaw)

1 bunch ong chai (Chinese kang kong), or if not available, we use Bok Choy which is equally lovely

First step is to boil the meat to make it tender, with about 2 liters of water. With the pork neck bones, it took about 45 minutes.

Once the meat is tender, put in the onions and tomatoes and bring to a boil.

When the tomatoes have softened, mash them using a fork.

When boiling, add the sinigang mix, stir and bring to a boil.

Add the snake beans and simmer for 2 minutes.

Turn off heat, and add the kang kong and cover.

Normally, I would add some long chillies (green jalapenos), but we did not have it in stock at the time. The chillies are added whole, so it does not really make the soup spicy. Otherwise the girls would not have enjoyed it so much.

There is also the option of including eggplant and taro (gabi), and sometimes leeks and radish like Marketmanila's recipe here (with lovely photos to match!) and more sinigang recipes in Filipino Food Recipes here, and Pinoy Mix here.

And so, our project is moving forward with the success of our first series. I look forward to next weekend for the 2nd series and hopefully continue on till the 52nd week of 2010. I'm planning to prepare the simple baked spaghetti in bechamel sauce this weekend. I just hope my apprentices are as keen and excited. Or else the Donald Trump in me might just holler - "You're fired!"

* This post is written in first person, compared to the usual 2nd person style in previous posts. Just think of it as Mum, thinking out loud.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Christmas roast beef

Last Christmas (2009), I had planned to make the seafood paella I learned from the Sydney Seafood School course I took, and spread a bit of Spanish tapas for the holiday feast. But as I had to do last minute shopping and was still working till the 23rd, I had to postpone my tapas plans for another day.

And so Roast Beef had to be the mains with roasted vegetables on the side (carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes and halved onions). I did have the slab of scotch fillet in the refrigerator, as alternative to the seafood paella. For a long time, I have postponed trying on roast beef recipes for fear of the unknown. Roasting after all takes a bit of perfection - slight changes in the oven temperature can make the meat jump from being tender and juicy to being hard and jaw-breaking. The roasting made it easy and the meat was perfect. Thanks to the meat thermometer that Tito Amiel brought home "just in case". Such a great useful tool!

It was not a fancy roast beef recipe that I would have wanted to try like Jamie Oliver's Best Roast Beef featured in recipezaar.com here. Or Gordon Ramsay's recipe here, with Yorkshire pudding. Or the common roast beef with mustard marinade like the one here.

But as the holidays left me with no time to plan for an elaborate menu, I opted to follow what recipe was the quickest I could get my hands on. A clipping from Woolworth's monthly Fresh magazine.

Roast Scotch Fillet

Preparation: 10 minutes
Cooking: 1 hour 10 minutes
Serves: 4
(what it said in the recipe, but this was good for a family of 6 adults and 5 kids)


1.2kg piece scotch fillet

2 tsp olive oil

sea salt flakes

freshly ground black pepper

horseradish cream, to serve (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Place beef onto a flat surface. Tie lengths of kitchen twine around beef, every 3cm along the length of meat, securing tightly, to hold the beef in place. Place into a roasting pan. Rub oil over and season with salt and pepper.

2. Roast for 1 hour and 10 minutes for medium rare. Remove meat from roasting pan, cover and rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with vegetables and horseradish cream (optional).

Roasting Tips

  • It is important to buy meat that has some fat as the fat will keep the meat moist during cooking. If you are concerned about the amount of fat, you can cook your roast in an over bag which will also help keep the meat moist.
  • Some leaner cuts of roasting meat are: Heart Smart Roast, Roast Beef Silverslide or Beef Bolar Blade. If you use one of these, consider using a marinade as it will boost the flavour and help stop the meat from drying out.
  • Make sure you preheat the oven well before putting your roast in. This ensures that the meat is sealed which helps retain the moisture.
  • A heavy-based roasting dish is an asset in any kitchen. Although the initial cost can seem expensive, a good quality pan will last many years and give you a better result.

Roasting time for beef:
  • Rare: Cook for 20 minutes per 500g
  • Medium rare: As above + extra 20 minutes
  • Medium: Cook for 25 minutes per 500g
  • Well done: Cook for 30 minutes per 500g

The roasted vegetables were:

500g potatoes, cubed

500g sweet potatoes, cubed

3 medium carrots, chopped

3 medium white onions, halved

To roast the vegetables, the hard ones were added about half-way through roasting. The carrots and onions were added last about 10 minutes before roasting is done.

While the recipe was simple, the roast was excellent in itself, that we didn't need any gravy or cream as side. It was an absolute delight!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Macro, food and sustainability

Dad and me have started to discover the other features of our digital camera - a simple point and shoot. Although we have had it for sometime now, it must be the routine of a staycation during the holidays, or maybe its simply time to move on from doing "auto" shots, to the more complex macro, sepia and what-have-you's.
To teach sustainability and the science of photosynthesis (Well, not really. But seriously, just to show you girls how a seed grows into something magnificent), we tried to start a vegetable garden this year. We've planted potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsley, coriander, basil, rosemary, corn and tomatoes. But the snails (this is a wild guess as we never really caught the culprits) have always gotten to the leaves and the fruits ahead of us. Alice was already growing a full roma tomato when the next day everything was all gone - tomato and leaves!
Right now, all that's left is the resilient rosemary, the newly planted (about 6 months ago) corn,
the mint (supermarket-bought that magically grew roots when I placed them in a tall glass of water) and a few stems of what's left of the roma tomatoes.

Here are macro snaps of our backyard growing produce. Hopefully, we can revive the basil, tomato and potatoes back to life and harvest some fresh produce soon.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Mushroom Risotto

This recipe was shared by an office colleague which he got from the Boston Globe online here.

With your grandparents (Lolo and Lola Cambe) staying with us for the week, I thought it would be a welcome change to the usual rice and pasta dishes I prepare for dinner. Only Ate tried it and liked it, but as always, your taste buds will mature with age and you will try this and love it, just as we all did.

Notes on the ingredients:

  • For the mushroom*, I only used three varieties of what is locally available: button, portobello and Swiss brown mushrooms.
  • I also used vegetable stock** as substitute for the chicken stock.
  • You can buy mascarpone from any supermarket, in the dairy section.
  • I used grated parmesan as substitute for the pecorino cheese.


2 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp butter

1.5 pound mix of cremini, chanterelle, and trumpet mushrooms, trimmed and sliced *

salt and pepper, to taste

1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp white wine

5 cups chicken stock**

1 shallot, finely chopped

3 sprigs fresh thyme

1 1/2 cup risotto rice (arborio)

3 tbsp mascarpone or creme fraiche

1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese

extra parsley leaves for garnish


1. In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add 1 tablespoon butter. Cook mushrooms, salt and pepper over high heat, stirring, for 6 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of wine. Cook until the liquid evaporates.

2. In a saucepan, heat the stock.

3. In a flameproof casserole, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 2 tablespoon butter. Cook the shallot and thyme for 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir for 1 minute. Pour in the remaining 1/3 cup of wine and cook, stirring for 3 minutes or until the liquid evaporates.

4. Add stock 1 cup at a time and cook, stirring, until each cup is absorbed before adding more. The rice should be tender with a little bite. Add the mushrooms with a few more tablespoons of stock. Stir constantly for 2 more minutes (total cooking time is 15 to 20 minutes).

5. Taste for seasoning, add more salt and pepper, if you like, and turn off the heat. Stir in the mascarpone or creme fraiche, parsley and pecorino. Cover and set aside for 2 minutes. Discard the thyme and garnish with parsley leaves.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Cherry Clafoutis

I've always wanted to try a clafoutis recipe when I first saw it from 80 Breakfasts site here, dated 17/04/2008. From the name of the dessert alone, it sounded legitimately French. And from the site's photos, it looked more daunting than any kind of sweet temptation.

Now fast track to summer 2009 in Sydney. Stone fruits are abundant in the summer, and cherries were coming in big supply, fast and cheap. And so it was just timely. Summer, holidays, fun, food and family. The holiday season is always a great way to try something new. There's a lot more taste testers around, with all the picnics, barbeques and parties.

I got this cherry clafoutis recipe from the Sydney Morning Herald LIFE section, issue 18-20 December 2009. "Clafoutis is a baked custard, traditionally made with unpitted cherries. This version is adapted from the book Tartine."

The recipe actually called for baking in eight small quiche moulds, but I opted to up-size it using an 8-inch pie dish*.


1 tbsp unsalted butter, for greasing moulds
500 ml milk
150 g caster sugar, plus 50g for topping
1/2 vanilla bean
a pinch of salt
3 eggs, large
50g plain flour
340g cherries

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

Butter eight small quiche moulds or pie dishes.*

In a small saucepan, combine milk, 150g caster sugar, vanilla bean (split and scraped) and salt.

Place over a medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar until almost boiling.

Break 1 egg into a mixing bowl.

Add flour and whisk until mixture is free of lumps.

Add remaining eggs and whisk until smooth.

Slowly ladle hot liquid into egg and flour batter, whisking constantly.

Pour into buttered moulds and distribute cherries evenly.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle remaining sugar on top.

Raise heat to 220 degrees C and bake for 10 minutes.

Allow to cool slightly before serving.

While I believe (ehem ehem) the photo does not give justice to the actual taste, there were rave reviews when we brought this to Tita Doti's New Year barbeque lunch at their place. After all, it did looked a bit different amongst the leche flans, cassava cakes and buko pandan spread.


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