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!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cabernet Sauvignon - Wynn's

I’m not sure if at this point this is an appropriate post, but you will soon all be grown up and would have to have a bit of red and with that I don’t mean eye shadow.  Red, white, sparkling, Riesling, champagne, beer, or whatever it is that will please your palate.    But please, do it in moderation, or you’ll end like mum – laughing like there’s no tomorrow and talking non stop about Kylie Kwong.  You may not recall this but this was the time we had dinner at our family friend’s place and mum must have lost track of the wine glasses that she was spilling Kylie Kwong like their the best of mates .  This was related to a plan to visit the SMH Growers Market the next day where Kylie was to showcase some of her dishes on stage and a book signing for fans.  Of course the trip did not make it through as mum (and our family friend!) both had massive headaches the size of the outback the next day.  Don’t get me wrong.  Mum’s only an occasional drinker, but when she gets loaded she’s trigger happy.  Not that animated I tell you.  Just happy and having fun.  Nothing grand or dramatic.  Usually a laughing fit, or a case of an intellectual guru, but mostly mum gets high with having fun.  Just don’t get me started on when mum was in her 20s.  That can be for a more personal dialogue, or better yet, never!  Who would want to know?!
Going back to reds, this is a favourite.  I was introduced to Wynn’s Vintage Cabernet Sauvignon during one of the welcome barbeques at school via a fundraising table showcasing wine!  Are you not surprised?!  A family affair with little kids and there’s a table for wine orders!  Only in Australia I believe!  Well, anyway, as it is Tita C’s birthday yesterday, mum bought a case of 6s!  Nothing exciting here.  Just an introduction to the world of reds.  As mum is not a wine connoisseur, this is just a personal recommendation.  This one’s great – for that steak dinner or after dinner drinks.  Lovely!  Just remember, reds are served at room temperature. No need to chill! 
If ever we’re in SA, there will definitely be trip down the wine yards of Wynn’s for some taste testing!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Spaghetti carbonara

There’s a massive tree adjacent to the parking lot where mum works.  Well, there are several within the grounds but this one I’m referring to is the same one which Ate said she wanted to climb, and you all did too. I think.  That time you spent with me in the office in the school holidays in April?  Do you remember?  Well, lately, it seems to be speaking to me. Inviting me, to “… come, climb me and see how far your eyes can view beyond the waters of the Parramatta River!”.  I would actually. If it were not too awkward and embarrassing to be seen by other folks from the other buildings.  It would be weird to see a grown woman climbing up a tree, triggered by some random thought, or maybe the woman is just plain crazy.  And here I am thinking, why the hell not?!  What’s wrong with climbing trees?  Nothing wrong there.  Except that if you’re 40 and you find yourself dangling from a tree amidst the grounds where building abound full of government and private sector workers, it becomes a little bit interesting and probably news worthy.  I guess what I’m saying is, as people grow older, inhibitions start to come in and being sensible becomes the order of the day.

I always have this conversation with you guys. Always be sensible. Act your age, blah blah blah blah.  At 8yo I expect the three of you to use your dining utensils instead of your hands and fingers to eat.  At 13yo I expect Ate to be responsible enough to do chores and to actually remember them without mum constantly doing the reminding “like a broken record” – an expression I never use with any of you as then the conversation will manoeuvre into, “what’s a record”, and if I answer that, we will all be out of topic. 
Now back to food – I realised mum has not posted our regular pasta dish which is Spaghetti Carbonara in myadobo so here it is, minus photos.  We had this for dinner last night, and as it’s a usual dinner dish I didn’t take photos.  I’ll just post a photo of it the next time this is the menu for dinner.
1 pack spaghetti 500g – cooked according to package instructions
1 onion, finely diced
7-8 strips bacon, diced
1 cup thickened cream
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 c frozen green peas
1 c parmesan cheese
Mixed herbs for flavour – fresh as basil and oregano chopped and sprinkled in the last minute would do wonders
In a saucepan (usually where I cook the pasta), drizzle 2 tbsp olive oil. 
Cook the onions until translucent then add the bacon.  Cook until brown (doesn’t have to be crispy as they lose their crispness when you add all the other liquid ingredients together.)
Add the cooked pasta and stir on low heat.
Add the cream and beaten eggs and stir until thoroughly incorporated, stirring continuously in low heat, making sure the eggs are cooked, add the green peas and the parmesan and stir until mixed through.
Add fresh or dried herbs and turn off heat.

The traditional Italian carbonara usually only has eggs which creates the creamy texture of the sauce, but in American and other countries such as Australia, the use of the cream has replaced eggs either of dietary restrictions or simply to enhance the flavour of the sauce.  I use both in mum’s carbonara recipe as I favour pasta sauce to be heavier than most.  The creamier the better.
This dish can be prepared in 30 minutes flat, if all the ingredients are prepared and ready for cooking.  This is the fastest dish that can come out your kitchen.  It’s the only dish that I can think of when I’ve ran out of ideas to whip up, or when mum’s  just running out of time with so many other errands to do, such as on a Thursday when after your tennis lessons, we only have about 2 hours of rest then off to Ate’s basketball training.  It’s the most sensible thing, really.   Besides opening up a can of Ligo or Rose Bowl sardines.   Thursdays are toxic if we let it, but we’ve managed to be able to relax and conform to the routines of life in the suburbs that mum’s quick and easy meals such as this carbonara becomes the hero of the day.  Now, do I need to remind you to use your fork for the pasta instead of your fingers!!  Aarrgghh!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Demi glace, peppercorn sauce, red wine sauce and more stocks

 Lesson 2 - Stocks, soups and sauces @ Kitchen 10

Weird as it may sound, I love Mondays.  And mum’s classes at Ryde TAFE just makes it all too easy.  Some people dread Mondays.  Because for them, it is the start of another work week.  Most people come out from the weekend not really refreshed but instead still longing for the weekend to stay.   We all have the same amount of hours given to us in a day – 24 hours each.  No one gets more.  No one gets less.  Its up to us to make the most of it.  And that includes weekends, however long it may be.  On the one side, I think you guys love Mondays too.  It’s the only time in the week that Dad picks you up from school (unless he’s off work of course), and dinner means concocting whatever is appropriate for the day – by that I mean what’s in the freezer or what mum has thawed out and written instructions on.  I find it comforting that because of these Monday classes,  Dad has actually taken effort and time in the kitchen.  Doesn’t matter if its coloured pancakes or corned beef, the positive aspect is the interest into preparing something other than a peanut butter and jam sandwich.  And I thank you guys for that.  Because of your keen interest in the kitchen, Dad and Ate are both slowly grasping the idea that cooking comes before eating, and that not all quick meals can come from KFC or Maccas.  Dad has even requested me to teach him the Beurre Blanc sauce that accompanied the snapper fillet from last week’s lesson.   Food and family does take on a natural connectivity.  If it were not for meals shared in the home or in other places,  how and where else would people connect and share thoughts and laughs and stories and make new memories in one sitting?  That’s discounting the availability of the web of course, as that is putting connectivity out there in the wide world of technology.  No warm bodies there.  While its so different here. At this table.  Warm bodies laughing, sharing a story, arguing, talking, exchanging ideas…. So I hope that when you’re all grown up, you will find the time to get together, share a meal or two, and connect through food!

Today’s recipes were not spectacular.  The exercise was not so much about the core ingredient but focused more on the accompaniment – the sauce!  We’ve  made stocks again today, and I tell you making stocks is a lot of hard work – boiling, skimming, simmering, skimming, skimming, skimming.  And then onto the sieve and paper filter to strain the bones and vegetables.  And the result is a good stock – clear and full of flavour.  Ready to take on the derivatives of the day!

Derivatives (sauces) means they are derived from a previously prepared stock.  (Found this fantastic illustration of sauce derivatives from Canadian Chef and teacher Chef Rohner  thanks to Google).  In the case of today's lesson, the green peppercorn sauce for the rump steak was derived from the demi glace, which was a combination of new ingredients using the previously (last week's lesson) prepared veal stock, in culinary terms half estuffade and half espagnol.

It was quite a surprise to prepare the chicken with red wine sauce.  But it went well with the chicken, so it became a welcome surprise.

The green peppercorn sauce was an absolute delight. The peppercorns we used were kept in a container filled with water.  The peppercorns were soaking in them which I guess is the best way to keep them from drying out as the green variety is picked while young and best kept to preserve their green colour.

And another excitement came when Chef S announced we can watch the Masterclass with Colin Fassnidge from Four in Hand - whom you know from the previous week's episode of Masterchef Australia, where Colin did a masterclass on the humble potato.  At our own masterclass with Colin, he demonstrated how to make a dish which is featured at the Four in Hand pub and restaurant - pig ear schnitzel and some pig tail dish.  He said that at his restaurant, they buy meat in whole and he finds lots of ways to cook every bit of piece of meat.  At Four in Hand they change their menu every week, as he declares, a bored chef is not going be a good chef. 

In my mind, mum had her own recipe for pigs ears, and that is the Filipino sisig. Sisig is a dish usually served as appetizer before drinks and is cooked with pig's ears and pig's cheek, and in some cases, including pig's liver.  Served with a drizzle of calamansi (or lemon), it is something that is uniquely Filipino.  I don't know how to make this but in our next trip to the PI, maybe we can go out and have some sisig in one of the most famous restaurants in Manila that is known for this dish.

Going back to the derivatives, for Lesson 2 on Soup, Stocks and Sauces, we made 1) Chicken in red wine sauce and 2) Pan fried rump steak with green peppercorn sauce.

This is based on mum's recall of how we did it in Kitchen 10, as it is not included in the textbook!

To make 1 serve of the green peppercorn sauce,  poura bit of oil and cook half an onion until translucent.

Add some demi glace and 1/2 tsp of crushed green peppercorn. 

Deglaze (to deglaze would mean to add some liquid into the pan to dissolve the caramelised bits of food and add these flavour to the sauce) the pan with some brandy and reduce for a minute or until the alcohol from the brandy has evaporated.

 Add 1/4 cup cream and simmer while stirring. Turn off heat.  Drizzle on the steak and serve. 

To make the Chicken in red wine sauce (based on the textbook)
2 chicken pieces 
(we used half of the breast each cut into portions including half part of the wing)
4 bacon pieces
150g onion, diced

350g button mushrooms

250ml red wine

250 ml chicken jus (reduced chicken stock)

5 g cornflour

1. Season the flour and dredge in the chicken pieces.

2. Shallow fry the chicken pieces for 6 minutes on each side, then place on a plate and set aside.

3. Using the same pan, fry the bacon pieces and onions.

4. Add the button mushrooms and saute, then add the wine.  Simmer and reduce by 1/3 and then add the jus.

5. Bring to the boil, then add the chicken pieces and place a cartouche and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

6. Take out the chicken and then reduce the sauce further.

7. To serve, place chicken on plate and pour red wine sauce over.

There is definitely room for that peppercorn sauce in our future cooking projects!  So many exciting things to try and create!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dark chocolate cake + chocolate butter frosting = gorgeous!

This is the cake from Mother's Day which, according to my friend who is a self-proclaimed chocolate cake connoisseur, is the bestest cake ever!  And she didn't even get to taste it, she just saw the photos.  Who wouldn't proclaim such!  This cake is just gorgeous!  It ticks all the chocolate cake points!  Chocolate, dark, icing, sweet, moist, yum!

This cake was made with the recipe from your 888 birthday, but using an entirely different kind of frosting!  The kind that makes one jaw drop in awe.  Just like I did, when I saw the cake from What Katie Ate, where at first sight, I vowed I would make, in sickness and in health...  and mum did.  On mother's day, of all days. And why not! 

What Katie Ate posted the recipe in her site, which I  hope will stay there for long as its just something worth sharing out there.  In the world.  For world peace!  

 Just a small point in the recipe.  In the ingredients section, Katie stated icing sugar, but kept referring to caster sugar in the instructions.  I'm sure its a typo error and I'm meaning to write Katie about it too.  Soon as I get over this gorgeous looking cake.  I'm still in awe!  

PS - When you're all grown up and possibly the site will be unavailable for viewing by that time, Katie is coming with a book soon!  Mum will make sure we get it to include in our library of beautiful food, recipes and photos.

A Vietnamese food trip @ Cabramatta

There are suburbs in metropolitan Sydney (and I'm guessing in all other Australian metropolitan cities,)where certain cultures permeate.  It must start when the first immigrant families chose settling into a particular place and then followed by the next of kin and the next close relative, and close friends until settlement of  that culture and heritage becomes an imprint of the local community. There are lot of suburbs in the Sydney metropolitan areas where specific cultures shape that area that the food culture becomes like an immersion into the actual place.

It was a dream come true for mum today, together with Tita C and family friend Tita E, took the 45 minute drive to Cabramatta to experience a close encounter into the Vietnamese community of Sydney.  A dream come true as mum has had this planned for a long time. To take a drive and walk amongst the shops in Cabramatta and sip some serious Pho.  Call me shallow, but I was in pho heaven.  Not that there aren't any good Vietnamese restaurants within the 5km radius of our suburb, but it just feels a bit different sipping pho noodle soup amongst the locals whose heritage and culture shouts Vietnam.  It was a real treat.

Walking along the main centre of the suburb felt almost like we were in the wholesale shopping mecca of Manila - Divisoria and Tutuban!  The produce was also a delight as the variety was just as wide to include round eggplants, mangosteen and kang kong leaves!  We visited the famous Masterchef Dimsim where you can get frozen dumplings and prawn gowgee which you can steam at home, had some real custard cakes and haggled for some bargains. The trip was short as we simply coasted along the shopping centre aisles and admired and bought a few things to try and cook at home.  But I promise you, there must be a trip back to Cabramatta with you guys, for a full pho immersion trip.

Isn't Sydney great?!  One of the greatest things in Australia is the presence of so many cultures intertwined together which makes the food experience so much greater.   Maybe in the next Sydney International Food Festival, we can experience all of these cultures and food adventures!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Home-cured bacon

Here’s something I know I will talk about more, than the time it takes to actually do it.  Just like Ivory Hut said when I came across this project through her blog.  I have always been a fan of Michael Ruhlman after his book ratio.  I said, this is one man who has had a lot of thinking put into his kitchen.  The book is just astounding in its simplicity and openness.  But enough about RATIO and to get on with this project – home cured bacon.  Sounds nice.  Say it and fear creeps up from behind you and then you look around and feel yourself mouthing,… “really?  Can I do it?  Do I want to even do it?  And why would I do it?”  I mean bacon is just there.  In that corner of the supermarket alongside the hams and roast beefs, and hotdogs and cabanossi and chorizos, etc.   Its easier to grab a pack and just get on with life.  But why would you?  Why wouldn’t you?  Why wouldn’t you try to make your own bacon at home? 
This has now become part of mum’s (or should I say, ours as I know you guys are as giddy) list of home projects, which includes non food stuff such as setting up the worm farm, re-upholstery of the dining chairs, re-painting the kitchen, furnishing your room, etc. etc.
Are we exciting or what?!!
- - - - - 

When I came across the home-cured bacon recipe and blog from Ivory Hut and then found Michael Ruhlman's actual recipe from his website a few weeks ago, the page from Ruhlman has since disappeared or has been deleted.  But I'm still keen on making this so I'm promising a weekend before June.

And since we haven't taken on this home-cured bacon project, this has now become a foreword to this adventure.  To home-curing, and beyond!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A chef is only good as his or her stock/s

 Lesson 1 - Soups, stocks and sauces @ Kitchen 10
 Today was all about stocks, stocks, stocks!  The kind that you can actually have more uses than 
the rise and fall of the shares in the mining industry.

And we're not talking about the ASX here.  That’s what our substitute teacher/chef said.  Chef S is taking over Kitchen 10 for 5 weeks as Chef D is recuperating from an operation.  We were not privy to the details so I don’t know why she’s in hospital and for what.   I just wish her well.

Lesson 1 - Veal beef stock @ Kitchen 10

For today, it was all about stocks.  I find Chef S a better teacher in terms of classroom/kitchen interaction.  Besides just demonstrating the tasks, he goes around making sure we’re doing things right, tasting left and right, and cracks a joke or two.  He’s a bit animated.  Funny too.  He’s got stories behind the dishes and parts of it (in this case stocks – fish, chicken and beef/veal).  He’s also tasted our dishes (Beurre Blanc Snapper Fillet) and was critical, which is what we all need, as cookery students.  After all, perfection is always tantamount in a commercial kitchen.  How else will a customer feel if its less than perfect?

Lesson 1 - Chicken stock @ Kitchen 10

For all the stocks we made, we kept the chicken and veal stocks in the freezer/cool room and used the fish stock for the buerre blanc.  When I was making the fish stock, I didn’t follow his ratio of liquid to fish bones and managed to produce a tasteless stock, so I tried to cover up my beurre blanc with butter and lemon, and he saw right through me.  My sauce was too lemony.  Serves me right.  Its all about stocks, ratio and measurements.

Lesson 1 - Snapper Fillet with Beurre Blanc sauce @ Kitchen 10

Lesson 1 - Fish stock @ Kitchen 10

Here’s a few tips:  Use cold water start when making stock and always always use fresh quality meat.  Veal/beef stock to be perfect must be simmering for at least 8 hours.  Now that's a real indication of patience and effort.  A chef can only be as good as his stocks.  Now I'm wondering who among all those celebrity chefs and restaurants actually make their own stocks?  Maybe patisserie is the better route?

Can’t wait to use those stocks for next lessons sauces, jus and  every thing else that the simple stock can make.

Here is a recipe for the Beurre Blanc Sauce, which was taken from the textbook  - Stocks, Sauces and Soups Series 3.  This recipe serves 8, although we only prepared 2 serves each in Kitchen 10 and utilised the fish stock we prepared for the night.

300 ml fish stock
150 ml dry white wine
50 ml vinegar
300 ml double cream
50 g butter
fresh herbs (finely diced parsley)
1/2 lemon juice

1. Reduce the fish stock by half and add 100 ml dry white wine, the vinegar and reduce again by one third, add the cream.

2. Cook to sauce consistency then add the butter through to thicken the sauce.

Note: The fresh herbs should be added at the last moment to retain the colour and a fresh taste.


Monday, May 09, 2011

First practical exam @ Kitchen 10

Mum's first practical exam @ Kitchen 10 came after Mother's day.  After the Sunday's degustation comes another round of degustation with a more frantic appeal.  It was all about precision cuts, 2 mains and 2 serves of dessert.  Mum got a 67.5 score out of 80 for the whole exam, with some minor feedback which  was more hilarious that critical.  Not bad I must say.  I'm just not sure how the theory exam went. 

Apple compote with A L'Anglaise Sauce @ Kitchen 10 Lesson 12 - Practical Exam
(The hilarious feedback was not to use inedible items in the presentation. In this case, the use of the cinnamon quill in the centre)

Shallow poached chicken breast in tomatoc (concasse) reduction sauce, with carrots glace, chateu potato and buttered beans @ Kitchen 10, Lesson 12 - Practical Exam

Precision cuts : jardiniere carrots, chopped parsley, chopped garlic, brunoise onion, blanched beans, mushroom duxelle, tomato concasse, orange wedges, clarified butter @ Kitchen 10, Lesson 12 - Practical Exam

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mother's day breakfast lunch dinner and so much more

 Look how mum was spoiled on Mother's day this year! Excellent execution and planning by Dad, and fantastic cooking effort by everyone!  I was so stoked that my adobo will start featuring not only Mum's cooking but everyone's as well!  I love you guys!

Breakfast by J A S

Dark chocolate cake self made, with icing/frosting recipe adapted from What Katie Ate

Spaghetti and meatballs by Ate, recipe adapted from the Junior Mastechef recipe book

Chocolate truffles by Ate, recipe also adapted from the recipe book Junior Masterchef

Dad's sticky fried scallops with sweet chilli rice and dressed greens, adapted from Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Steamed whole bream (Asian style)

Steamed whole bream (Asian style) @ Kitchen 10, Lesson 11

This is as boring to me, as deep frying chicken pieces. A steamed fish (or baked or grilled wrapped in foil or banana leaves) is as normal to us Filipinos as adobo. This is something we do with almost any kind of white fillet local indigenous fish – tilapia, lapu-lapu, tanigue, etc. Anyways, as the subject is Steaming in Methods of Cookery, we prepared this dish individually in trays and steamed in the massive robocoup steamer cum oven in Kitchen 10.

The recipe is for 1 whole bream (which is almost like the indigenous Philippine tilapia variety), half capsicum, 1 celery stalk, small ginger, onion leaves, mushroom buttons about 20g and carrots, all sliced into strips.  

Put about 2 tbsp of sesame oil on a baking tray and lay the cleaned fish (head were cut off, but seriously prefer fish with the head), and fill the cavity and top with the sliced vegetables.  Cover the tray with aluminum foil and steam or bake in an oven for 20 minutes. 
Serve topped with peanut oil and soya sauce mixture (this was prepared ahead by Chef for everyone - peanut oil and soy sauce simply heated in sauce pan)

Here's the rest of the instructions and ingredients for Lesson 11.  

Seriously, the room smelled good once the massive steamer was opened. The aroma of sesame oil was floating in the air like the smell of spring in the garden.  Yum.  Although I wasn't a bit impressed with the dish as I made a similar dish just a few weeks before and for dinner of Good Friday.  Mine looked a bit more quirky and happy.   What do you think? 

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Steamed pudding

Steamed pudding @ Kitchen 10, Lesson 11

Here’s my take on this very English dessert or tea accompaniment. Tastes just like the Filipino “puto”. Except for the sultanas which added that English touch and the chantilly cream on the side, this steamed pudding as plain could easily pass as puto. Just add a bit of cheese on top and you’re ready to go to an honest to goodness Pinoy merienda.

The recipe, as all dishes prepared in Kitchen 10 are, adapted from the textbook, Organise and Prepare Methods of Cookery Series 3.

100g unsalted butter, softened

100g sugar

2 eggs

150g self raising flour

10g baking powder

40ml milk

60g sultanas

vanilla essence


1. Cream the butter and sugar together, once fluffy add the eggs gradually. (We used the good old bowl and wooden spoon here. It was a big feat but here's a tip. Using disposable gloves, mash the butter and the sugar together until really soft, then continue creaming using the wooden spoon.)

2. Fold in the sifted flour and baking powder, alternating with the milk.

3. Mix the sultanas with a bit of flour and work into the mixture. This makes the fruit stay evenly within the mixture.

4. Fill into greased moulds 1/2 way up

5. Place in a deep roasting tray and cover with foil. Steam for 30 minutes.

Serve with chantilly cream - or whipped cream in English culinary language, is simply: 200ml cream, 10g icing sugar and 1/4 tsp vanilla essence whipped together until stiff. This is best made by a hand whisk and a large bowl. Whisk whisk whisk away!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin soup @ Kitchen 10, Lesson 11

I was excited to take this on as I know Lola Ching has been wanting to make this for some time now. I guess its not the availability of the recipe, but the lack of equipment. Lola Ching has a blender which you guys used to make those watermelon and mango shakes when we were in Manila last Dec 2010 – Jan 2011 which she could easily use to puree the cooked pumpkin. But I’m thinking, she may want the stick blender kind which, for the most part, is tidier than pouring and transferring softened vegetables to a blender and back to the pot with the puree. All in all, I was excited because now, I can share this recipe with her, knowing that I have already tried it and then bring her a stick blender when we go back to Manila in September. Wow. The wait can be that long before this pumpkin soup finds it way in Lola Ching’s kitchen, but who cares. Its something we can keep for years and years to come. Easy as.

This recipe is adapted from our textbook Organise and Prepare Food Methods of Cookery Series 3, with quantities revised to suit the class.

1 quarter (of a whole) pumpkin, cut into big chunks
(Chef D said the smaller cuts will take in more water than needed, so bigger cuts are preferred)

1/2 onion, finely diced

(only half because we had those big onions in the Kitchen10 pantry)

½ leek, finely diced

1-2 stalks celery, finely diced

50g butter

1 litre chicken stock

Bouquet garni

(a bouquet of assorted herbs of you choice. I used some celery stalks, dried thyme, bay leaves and black peppercorns. I think fresh thyme would have given the soup a better flavour)

Seasoning (salt and pepper)

In the classroom, Chef would usually say something thing like, brunoise the onion, leeks and celery, which in English culinary terms, this means dice the vegetables finely. Generally, the French culinary terms are used in kitchen classroom.

2. Sweat in the butter, then add the pumpkin. Stir for about 3-5 minutes.

3. Add the chicken stock and the bouquet garni. Bring to a boil, then put stove on low to simmer. Soup is ready to be pureed when the pumpkin is soft almost mashed in texture.

4. Pour in a food processor and puree for about 1 minute. A stick blender is also an easy option as you only need to put the blender in the same pot and puree straight.

Serve the soup topped with cream. Or in my case, I just gathered a few celery leaves and some onion leaves. Serve on a chilly autumn night. Or anytime you fancy some thick creamy soup.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Chocolate cupcakes and a cake in one

For the much anticipated 888 birthday, it was once again time to road test some old recipes that will stand the test of little masterchef critics.

We have had a few different recipes tried and tested in the past, but not one has stuck like glue in mum’s memory bank. A lot of them needed revisiting the recipe when its time to bake, and a favourite convenient one was the Hershey’s Cocoa recipe printed on the back of the container. I’ve tried looking back at previous birthdays and recipes and sighed at the effort on most of them. Some required sour cream, some needed buttermilk. This is one recipe that needs basic stuff already in the pantry without having to do last minute rush to the grocery. Needless to say, we struck a gold mine in cupcakes! Dark, chocolate and moist.

When we tested the recipe during the school holidays (a week and a few days before the actual birthday), the first batch of 18 cupcakes was wiped off the face of the earth in a whoosh! Yeah. That good. (What chocolate creation isn't?!) I thought, now we have a good recipe to keep and make for those fetes, birthdays and just about any day when we want to eat cupcakes! Birthday came and what a great recipe this is, that mum used the same recipe to make the cake! Using a 20inch round spring form tin, this cupcake recipe turned into a dark moist cake in 45-50 minutes. Double whammy! Fantastic!

This was the 888 cake for the day on your birthday. The same recipe used for the cupcakes on the weekend of your movie date with mates, and the same cupcakes made you brought to school on the Monday after, for the whole 2L class (including a batch of 18pcs of blueberry muffins for those not keen on chocolates).

The photos here were so inviting that friends started asking for the recipe. Here it is – the tried and tested and eaten recipe for chocolate cupcakes, and cake in one.

1 ½ c (170g) plain flour

½ tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

¾ c unsweetened cocoa

50g unsalted butter, softened

1 c caster sugar (fine white sugar)

2 eggs (I used 60-75g eggs)

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line muffin tins with cupcake cases.

2. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cocoa in a medium bowl and set aside.

3. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

(It is best when butter is soft and of room temperature before starting the creaming process, as this makes it faster and easier. How soft? Just soft enough that when you press the butter still with its packaging, you can make a soft dent with your fingers. The butter and sugar will incorporate together faster and will make for a fluffy texture. The creaming may take about 5-10 minutes using a hand held mixer. A stand mixer may be used but I find it easier to cream with a hand held as I can move it around the bowl when necessary. Or you can also opt to use some elbow grease and use a wooden spatula and cream away the day).

4. Add the eggs one a time, beating after every addition making sure batter is mixed well. Stir in the vanilla.

5. Add the sifted flour mixture, alternating with the milk in 3-4 additions

(A tip is to warm the milk in the microwave prior, maybe while in step 3, especially when the milk came from the fridge. I found this really made a difference as it did not make the butter clump up together again. Adding cold mixture to a batter will create lumps as it cools the fat content such as butter)

6. Spoon mixture into the muffin cases

(I used a ¼ measuring cup and poured away into the cases. As a general rule, ¾ of the way will create a slight plump top and will not overflow into the sides)

7. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-17 minutes.

(In the past, I often wonder why sometimes the cupcakes don’t have that dome shape like those pictured in recipe books. I realised that I have been peeking in the oven too much that my cupcakes often deflate creating that flat top look. So, by virtue of patienc e and self control, avoid opening the oven door too much!) You may use this time to wash the utensils used during the messy process, or our case, my best washer uppers always makes washing up easier. Or prepare the cooling tray on the table in the dining room, or watch a bit of TV, do some bit of laundry, read a book, browse in FB, get the icing recipe that’s next, prepare the ingredients for the icing, etc. etc… In short, do something so you distract yourself from peeking in the oven!

This recipe was downloaded from allrecipes.com. The recipe is for chocolate cupcakes, but the turn out is a very dark chocolate cupcake. Something that is a favourite at home. In our first try, we used our pantry stock of Hershey’s Dark Cocoa (specially bought from USA Foods online, and another container from an office colleague’s trip to the US). But when we ran out, we used the locally available Nestle Cocoa which turned out the same – dark chocolate cupcake. I read this as a tip from the hundreds of recipe books, that baking soda (or bi-carbonate of soda in Australian groceries) when added to chocolate cake batters, results in a darker coloured chocolate cake as it causes reddening of the cocoa powder.

This is from joyofbaking.com, “Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda (alkali) is about four times as strong as baking powder. It is used in recipes that contain an acidic ingredient (e.g. vinegar, citrus juice, sour cream, yogurt, buttermilk, chocolate, cocoa (not Dutch-processed), honey, molasses (also brown sugar), fruits and maple syrup). Baking soda starts to react and release carbon dioxide gas as soon as it is added to the batter and moistened. Make sure to bake the batter immediately.

Baking soda has an indefinite shelf life if stored in a sealed container in a cool dry place. Too much baking soda will result in a soapy taste with a coarse, open crumb. Baking soda causes reddening of cocoa powder when baked, hence the name Devil's Food Cake.

Read more: http://www.joyofbaking.com/bakingsoda.html

Proof that this recipe is easy? I’ve written this down without looking at the actual recipe! That’s how easy it is to remember. A few times you make it, it becomes a part of your inner

soul. I’m such a cupcake, right? Chocolate cupcake, that is!

To make the cake, I used the same quantities in the recipe and used a 20inch spring form round cake tin. Almost to the rim, I thought it was going to flow over like lava from a volcano. But it didn’t and the turn out was a fantastic dark chocolate cake.

To contrast the dark hues of the cake, mum decided on a quick and easy frosting and consulted Margaret Fulton (a book that I have been referring to on most days for just about anything!) and decided on the 7-minute icing. To make the icing, you’ll need:

1 cup caster sugar

1 egg white

½ tsp cream of tartar

2 tbsp water

1/4 tsp vanilla

Using a double broiler or in our case, over a sauce pan with simmering water, mix the sugar, cream of tartar, water and egg whites (a hand held mixer comes in handy) in a bowl making sure the bottom does not touch the water. Beat until the mixture can hold itself, or as the recipe is called, for 7 minutes.

Cool for about a few seconds, then fold in the vanilla.

Use the mixture immediately as this frosting hardens quickly.

Toss some hundreds and thousands and other sprinkles for decoration. Voila! A dark chocolate cake with a sweet complementing icing!

We kept the iced cake (and cupcakes!) in the fridge before the day, and found it doesn’t affect the taste and the texture.

Happy 8 8 8 birthday to my gorgeous masterchefs - J A S! <3

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Back in Kitchen 10 next week!

Exciting day but mum’s freaked out too. Theory test for a whole chapter on Organising and Preparing Food – including poultry and meat quality, fish and seafood safety, precision cuts and so on! Of course, I am exaggerating. A lot of the theory contents are common sense stuff. Things that are familiar especially if one is always working with food and in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter if it’s a home kitchen and not in a commercial environment. The tell tale signs of a good cook includes familiarity with the tools, ingredients, the cooking process and overall organisation and preparation techniques. But still, tests make me quiver. Just like a job interview. Or waiting for a cake to bake. And this cold and wet autumn weather isn’t helping. Bbbbrrrr.


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