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, June 28, 2010

Foodie meets Maccas, Carrie meets Manolo Blahnik

I consider myself a foodie - a food enthusiast who takes on culinary challenges as adventures. I like trying on new cuisines, eating at new places. Straying away from the normal and experimenting with the new. That's me - a free spirit who once upon a time thought that I will be one day be swept away from my feet by a knight in shining armour (Well ok, I was swept off my feet. But not in shining armour. More like khaki shorts and polo shirt and some Marlborough Lights and San Miguel Beer) and still believe that there are indeed pots of gold at the end of every rainbow. With the little knowledge and skills I have about food I try to pass on and share with you guys. We cook and bake together, try samplings at the supermarket, and as much as we can, eat at proper restaurants. As a foodie, I try and enjoy food as much as creating the dish itself. Even though I have not dived into a lot of vegetable and salad dishes, we have tried several other cuisines at home with great success, but with a small following. It doesn't always get a thumbs up from the younger judges, but Hubby loves whatever I cook. And to prove that, when I'm too lazy to cook, he will only take 2 routes: either KFC or McDonald's. At home, his tastes are simple. Its either what I have cooked and prepared or: Filipino store favourites of tinned sardines, dried herring (tuyo) or smoked mackarel, salted eggs or even plain rice with drips of soy sauce. My hubby is the no nonsense-plain-hamburger-kind-of-guy. No need for cheese or lettuce. Plain as it is.

How did this happen? When I'm craving for Tom Yum Gung, he's content with a McDonald's hamburger. When I'd like to get my hands on some Gourmet pizza with greek lamb, tatziki and olives for topping, he'd rather drive to the nearest KFC and get some hot and spicy chicken. This simple taste shows in his lack for enthusiasm to even try to cook. Hmm. Let me see. He did try to make some pancakes from the supermarket variety and managed to make every single pancake look like crumpled card board - not that it tasted like one. He does try an occasional fried rice and can manage to heat some hotdogs in the microwave and fry some bacon and eggs. When I told him about my trip to Adriano Zumbo's Cafe Chocolat, he shrugged and asked who he was and what a macarron is? He doesn't get to watch Masterchef, that's why. He also did not share my excitement when I explained the gastronimical play of Zumbo's creations when in the palate. Homer? Is that you? Would you rather have a doughnut?

We are complete opposites when it comes to food but share the enthusiasm to EAT. Which makes a lazy Friday dinner easy. Its a matter of who calls who first!

While the girls also enjoy hubby's fastfood choices, I think I am slowly pulling Bianca away from the boring to the exciting. Last week, their tutor group went out to dinner to a Thai restaurant. Asked what she can have that's not spicy? I recommended the Pad Thai which she loved immensely. It will take more effort and coercion to convert an old dog but it is every bit fun and exciting. We're starting with Curtis Stone Masterchef recipes from Coles!

While in the subject of food and eating, I recently literally came across The Essential Ingredient shop in Rozelle. Crossing Darling Street from Balmain, there it was. I was with Tita Chacha and we dropped by and said hello to the bright and colourful display of my dream-Kitchenaid-stand mixer, arranged in complementing fashion across the window. We went in and I was like Carrie Bradshaw in an upscale Manhattan shoe shop. In awe and mesmerized by the variety of tools and equipments, ingredients, condiments, massive blocks of dark chocolate couveture, icing mixtures and heaps more. Everytime I come into a food-deli-kitchen-equipment-shop, I manage to get something not necessarily needed in the next decade or so. I did buy something useful for the next 7 days and managed to control myself from purchasing anymore gadgets that will only see the light of day in the next century. But Carrie will definitely be back.

Meantime, with the school holidays looming like the cumulonimbus clouds over Sydney, it was time to check up on some old favourites that's great for a winter afternoon tea or coffee. Sister requested a masterclass on a Sunday and we baked some cinnamon rolls which I have already tried here. It turned out better than the first time, but I reckon it still needs to be perfected. Which can only happen if we bake it regularly.

We also tried another round of David Lebovitz Easy Jam Tart using bottles of jams in the refrigerator relegated to the back corner for what seemed like ages - orange marmalade and mango-passionfruit jam. Turned out quite alright with enough pastry to for topping compared to the previous attempt here . Still too sweet for my taste. But isn't that why its classified as dessert?

Let's see. What else can we try? I'm dreaming of Donna Hay's chocolate mousse cake and some winter comfort in DH's oregano and garlic roasted lamb. I'm thinking meringue, that long-ago mentioned quiche. Maybe experiment with some bi-carbonate of soda to make some honeycomb and the most procrastinated dish of all - pavlova! Did I say winter makes me hungry?

No dramas as I have the best kitchen helpers and an excellent recipe tester in hubby. I'm just glad Maccas and KFC don't offer delivery service.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Honey, I shrunk the meatloaf!

Not sure what happened. What I did or did not do. But the meatloaf shrunk. Sure, I did not have a recipe. Sure I did not measure. Sure I did not have breadcrumbs.

This is a classic Masterchef Invention Test - ingredients, mixed all together = end product.

I was intending to make the Filipino Embutido, but took the shorter route. Instead of wrapping individual logs in aluminum foil, I poured the mixture onto 2 loaf pans ala meatloaf. And voila! A shrunken piece of meat that looked more like the classic French terrine. Appearance did not compromise the taste though. It still tasted like embutido. Better follow a real meatloaf recipe next time. Or maybe its time to take some French lessons and make a real terrine. As the French would say it - C'est la vie!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Basic sponge cake

June whooshed by so fast that I barely had the chance to breathe and do some therapy in the kitchen. Yup. Baking is actually therapeutic. All that kneading, and mixing, and folding and whisking. Measuring, and pouring and melting and tasting. Cooking and baking something somehow gives me a sense of fulfillment that I've actually accomplished something worthwhile - right there sitting patiently on the table waiting to be devoured.

As the first week of June we had the dynamic double B - Uncle Bob and Ate Bea, we haven't had the chance to actually sit down at home and prepare something in the kitchen. For most of June, the kitchen was not quite busy. The irony is, I hibernate from therapeutic kitchen duty everytime we have guests. Just when there will be more mouths to feed, and more palates to challenge. Chinese take-away is my best ally. The Oriental Wok - Chinese Take Away in North Ryde is the quickest with value-for-money dishes. Easy Char Kway Teo and Crispy Skin Chicken, Salt and Pepper Squid delivered in just half an hour. Our Jindabyne stay had me prepare our regular home favourites of pork ribs sinigang, adobo, sautéed vegetables and the usual sausage on the grill. Baking was limited to 2 pans of Hershey's Perfectly Perfect Chocolate Cake for Bianca's 13th birthday which she brought to school, and a pan of walnut-free brownies for the U14 Ryde Bulls team. Overall, I got a bit of a rest which is not good, if my intention is to improve my culinary skills to partake in the next Masterclass audition. But seriously. Its therapy I'm looking for.

And so when our guests sadly left, we were up to our usual devices. Reality set in slowly. It becomes stressful when reality stares at you in the face in the form of a 5-foot high chunk of soiled clothes. And as OCS (obsessive clothes sorter) it took time to settle my debt with Whirlpool and Duo. But I'm good. It's all good. We had a fantastic snow holiday and that's all that matters. Everyone had fun.

The other good thing is there's only 2 weeks left till the winter school holidays. Oh yeah. And now that we've settled, its time to start warming up the kitchen. For a few days, I was frantically and thoughtfully searching for what to create in the kitchen. How about something new? I found a simple sponge cake recipe online here, which required the use of cornflour. I have been thinking of making sponge cake since the Multicultural Food Fest at church last month, alongside making some honeycomb and cream cheese butter frosting.

Sponge cakes to me should be called angel cakes! They are sweet, soft and purely divine! Oh, to be able to create an excellent sponge cake. That would be heaven!

But sometimes the simplest things can sometimes be the most daunting of tasks. Procrastination after all, is a human characteristic. Do ants wait until the weather is sunny before they go out to stock up on their seasonal hibernation? While there have been gourmet moments in our kitchen, concocting with Louisette Bertolle’s chocolate almond cake, I have never ever tried my hand on making the simple and yet versatile sponge cake.

The frenzy over making the sponge cake was when I decided to do a Julia Child recommendation to whisk the egg whites by hand. And halfway through I had my right arm uncontrollably stiff, my neck and face flushed in red and my mouth yelling out SOS! Ate had to quickly get the hand mixer, frantically plugged it in and dramatically rescued me from my whisking episode. Aaaahhh! What a relief. And never again. At least, I can say I have “experienced” it.

Anyways, it turned out well because just about 5 minutes out of the oven, you guys were already drooling over the cake and asking for seconds. We managed to save some to pack for morning tea in school the next day. And so I’m off to the shops again this afternoon to get more corn flour! Never realised it will be good for anything other than schnitzels and thickening sauces! Oh, what a feeling! I hope you don't get tired of sponge cake. We have about 5-500gpacks in the pantry. Not that I'm excited.

Basic Sponge Cake


1 cup cornflour

3/4 cup sugar (we used caster sugar)

2 tsp plain flour

1 tsp cream of tartar

1/2 tsp bi-carbonate of soda

4 large eggs, separated

pinch of salt

1. Sift cornflour, plain flour, cream of tartar and bi-carbonate of soda three times.

2. Beat egg whites and salt until stiff. Gradually add sugar and beat until quite stiff.

3. Add egg yolks and beat until thick.

4. Fold in the flour mixture.

5. Pour mixture evenly into 2 greased and lined round tins.

6. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 180 degrees C.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake

My much anticipated baking ingredient has arrived!

For some time now, I have been waiting for this to be in stock on the shelves of USA Foods - my only option for US brand food products. I have purchased from them on several occasions and it has been great. Online service, price, postage and overall service is fantastic. We have ordered Jiff Peanut Butter, Bisquick Pancakes, Ivory soaps, some Hershey's miniatures and Karo golden syrup. And finally, it has arrived! Ta da da da!

What's all this obsession with cocoa. It all started when I was searching far and wide for a good chocolate cupcake recipe - and 90% of those I read, printed, and saved from the internet required Dutch processed cocoa. It seems a lot of the recipes for most chocolate related concoctions require this type of cocoa. Although I am clueless as to how it is different from the normal supermarket variety cocoa (Nestle is the only one readily available locally), I can only rely on online information as to the obvious difference of unsweetened cocoa versus the Dutch processed cocoa. David Lebovitz enlightened me well with photos and the FAQ’s on his site relating to the third most exported crop in the world after sugar and coffee.

Alton Brown did an educational and entertaining piece on the Art of Darkness here.

It's amazing how this humble seed can become one of the most sought after crop in the world. As it turned out, the humble of beginnings of the Dutch process cocoa wasn't so humble after all. It was Coenraad Johannes van Houten the "Dutch chemist and chocolate maker who introduced the treatment of cocoa mass with alkaline salt to remove the bitter taste and make it more water-soluble" who's father is the owner of a chocolate factory in Amsterdam in 1815. So, the inclination to cocoa and chocolates was there in the beginning.

And so it goes - the circle of food shopping. See, buy, try, eat, eat, eat.......

Immediately after we received it (well not the immediate second, but a few hours after we came home, had dinner and was watching Masterchef), we used the cocoa and baked the chocolate cake recipe printed on the label of the container. Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate"Chocolate Cake . And as biased and expected, it was perfecto! Magnifico! Fantastico! Seriously, the best ever, simplest chocolate cake recipe. It is another one-bowl wonder!

In a span of 3 days, we have baked this twice already. Baked the cakes and ate it too. And we haven't even tried the frosting recipe yet! This is seriously good cake.

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake


2 cups sugar (we used caster sugar)

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour (we used plain cake flour)

3/4 cup Hershey's Cocoa

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 vegetable oil

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour into pans.

3. Bake 30-35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting.

"Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine

2/3 cup Hershey's Cocoa

3 cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Melt butter. Stir in cocoa.

2. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium speed to spreading consistency. Add more milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. Makes about 2 cups.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

My 2cents - The Laughing Ganesha

Photo courtesy of www.laughingganesha.com

Ganesha is one of the best known and most widely worshiped deities in the Hindu pantheon. While Ganesha has many attributes, it is usually represented by an elephant head.

Had a lovely dinner with a group of mums from school at the Laughing Ganesha and had great fun. Owner/Chef Munish was kind enough to prepare for us a special menu and personally went to our table to explain each and every single dish served, with a bit of history of the cuisine and spices from Northern India. My favourites were the Laal Bakra (tender pieces of goat cooked in nutmeg flavoured sauce), the Daal Makhari (black lentils cooked with crushed coriander and asafoetida (Hing) finished with cream), the garlic and butter Naans were simple and yet tasty, and the Kulfi dessert in the photo (pistachio indian ice cream) with some caramel balls on the side were divine. I’m bringing my kids to the laughing ganesha next time – because yes! They do have a kids platter. A great way to experience simple Indian cuisine, with a local touch.
They even offer cooking demonstrations for those interested!

The Laughing Ganesha is along Longueville Road, Lane Cove.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Celebrity chef star struck - Pete Evan's Hugos Manly

This is a late post. A visit to Hugo's Manly was a treat for Lolo and Lola's anniversary before they headed back to the PI. We had lunch, hoping to get a glimpse of Pete Evan's from My Kitchen Rules, the channel 7 series. Which was the intention all along. The lunch was a bonus.

As it was a beautiful autumn day, we had great time. A lovely place along Manly's shoreline, great food and a celebration of love and family.

Hugo's Manly is a great place to visit with friends and family - excellent food, great portions and stunning views.

We had the tasting plate, prawn pizza, roast snapper and the lamb roast. All superb choices. There's definitely a day to come back to feast on more of Hugo's pizzas. The have been, after all, awarded the Best Pizza in NSW at the 2009 Good Food and Wine Show!


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