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!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Basic pancakes

This is favourite basic pancake recipe which we use, whenever we don't have the pancake jug mix variety from the supermarket.  Which is almost always.  Mum's been trying to avoid buying these since we started using Margaret Fulton's recipe in her book - Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery, which is what it is.  An encyclopedia, which we now refer to for anything that is about food and cooking.   This recipe is great because the ingredients are basic stuff that are always in stock in our pantry.

But mum finds Australian pancakes are too thin (most recipes including this one), bordering on looking like crepes, so mum tweaks this a bit by adding just a tad bit more flour, about 1-2 tbsp more, stirring while checking on the consistency.  You want to see a thick but still light consistency.  Which comes out with pancakes that are bit fluffed and not too flat.  Just the way we love it.

To make this basic pancake adapted from Margaret Fulton's Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery:

1 cup plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

15g melted butter

1 egg

1 and 1/2 cup milk

oil for frying

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.  Make a well in the centre and add egg, milk, melted butter.  Using a wooden spoon, gradually draw in flour.  Beat well, cover and leave to stand for 1 hour. 
(Mum doesn't usually wait an hour to cook this.  We just mix it then cook away!)

Grease and heat pan.  Pour batter into a jug and pour in enough batter while tilting the pan, to coat the bottom.  Cook for about 1 minute or until small bubbles appear on the surface, then flip over using a metal spatula or toss.  Place cooked pancake on a clean tea towel, fold ends over to cover and continue making pancakes.  Drop each directly on top of the last and fold towel over to cover again.  
(Mum uses a measuring cup to scoop the pancake mix and pour them onto the pan)

Makes 10 - 12x18cm pancakes 
(we don't really care how big or small it is! Ours come out in whatever shape or form.  Sometimes, shaped like snakes and other times, as small as pikelets)

You can double the recipe to make more pancakes.  Best serve with maple syrup and fresh strawberries or any fruit in season!  When we made this for breakfast during the weekend, we tried  it with some figs and kiwi!    A super-duper-picker-upper breakfast!  You can also choose to mix some fruits in there to make: blueberry pancakes, banana pancakes, strawberry pancakes! Whatever takes your fancy!  Maybe even try a chocolate flavoured pancake (add a bit of cocoa powder) or cinnamon flavoured, or how about some savoury pancakes by adding cheese, or some bacon bits and chives!  Endless possibilities!  Same recipe can be used for waffle makers too! 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


This is a late post.  Lesson 4 from Kitchen 10 (a couple of weeks back).  Still all about stocks and soups and this is just one of them.

Winter is rightfully here and we all felt its wrath with the cold snap brought on the Tuesday that second week of June .  Layers and thick jackets, beanies, gloves and scarves were the order of the day.  The winter snap was biting and sharp, which leaves us with no choice but to embrace the winter season.  Year on and year off, it’s the same thing.  Mum (and dad) still dreading the cold snap.  Embrace the cold and warm up in the kitchen, I say!

Lesson 4 @ Kitchen 10 - Minestrone

It must be timing that Term 2 is all about soups, eh?  We learned 3 soup dishes from Lesson 4 plus 2 Sardinian dishes from the masterclass with Chef Giovanni Pilu of Pilu at Freshwater.  The timing is so good that I replicated the minestrone soup we learned on that Monday, at home.  Several times already, actually.

Minestrone is a really simple soup which I wouldn’t have ventured into on my own, because I thought it complicated.  But now I know, I can make it as long as there is white wine in the house.  Minestrone is Italian in origin and is actually a peasant dish.  There is really no set of main ingredients, according to Wikipedia, because this soup is made with whatever vegetables are in season.  And can even contain meat or meat broth.  The main ingredients of this soup are vegetables and pasta (any type of pasta will do) or rice.  However, I can’t imagine having rice in this tomato based dish.  The spaghetti pasta cut into 7cm lengths were just perfect.  But any other pasta shape would do.  The pasta in this instance, thickens the soup  and makes it a perfect pair with crusty sliced bread on a cold winter evening.

To make the minestrone (in class), we used, roughly cut (mirepoix in culinary terms):

The onion, leeks, celery and carrots are sautéed in oil and butter combined, until golden.  
Tomato paste is added and stirred until the vegetables are thoroughly flavoured and coloured (the colours from here on, turn from golden brown to bright red/dark orange and the aromatics are released into familiar fumes that is so inviting, dad wanted to partake of the vegetables already at this point ).

This is then de-glazed with white wine and simmered until the wine has evaporated.  Water is then added just right to cove r the vegetables, and simmered for 5-10 minutes. (Wine when heated and used in cooking releases its alcohol and leaves a unique essence and subtle flavour to the dish.)

Tip: which I heard from random places from cooking shows to magazines, that you should never ever use wine that you would not drink.  Because if you don’t want to drink it, you wouldn’t want to eat it.  (More on cooking with wine found in http://whatscookingamerica.net/WineInCooking.htm)

 The beans and turnips are then added and stirred and simmered for another 2 minutes.  

Finally, pasta and added, bring to a boil and then simmer until pasta is cooked.

Serve topped with tomato concasse (diced tomatoes de-seeded and skin peeled off) and finely chopped basil (or parsley).

This is the best fail-safe kind of soup, as long as you have the basic flavours of the vegetables, tomato paste and white wine in there.  There are no possible ways this soup can be messed up.  it is a fool-proof,  glorious peasant dish soup. 

The recipe may look like a bit mishmashed in instructions, as mum was a bit flustered at the time we did this in class  with so much soups to do (including a cream of corn and basil soup, cream of mushroom soup and a beef consomme) and we still had to attend the Masterclass with Giovanni Pilu, which was of course, a must-see.   It takes a bit of discipline trying to remember all the processes and tips during class.  Must make sure to write it all down ASAP.  Following the recipe in the book doesn't always cut it.  Especially Chef S has more unique tips and tricks up his sleeves every lesson.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Suman sa Lihiya

For two weeks, mum and some friends have been planning on a cooking session for Suman sa Lihiya, which was delayed because of the sheer lack of banana leaves around.  Over the weekend, it rained!  Of banana leaves! And the cooking class began.  Despite the disorganised start, it all ended with plenty of laughs, stories, recipes and suman to share around!  Mum is ever so grateful for Tita D for opening her kitchen to us, two Tita C’s for all other ingredients and plenty of banana leaves and wrapping prowess, to the three of you – J A S, for showing exemplary skills in tying the suman with bows like presents, and of course, the taste testers and critics.  Without everyone’s generosity, this suman would not have made its way here.

Suman is an indigenous Filipino delicacy which is cooked rice wrapped in banana leaves.  The variety of the suman you can count with your fingers, but this specific variety – Suman sa Lihiya, Mum can only guess, originates from Batangas.  Why?  These were the kinds of suman that Tatay (your great grandfather)  would bring home every time he makes his regular trips to Lipa Batangas. All the grandchildren would be having this for afternoon tea and we aptly called this - sumang magkayakap, which translated would mean  "hugging suman" because they look like two things hugging each other.  Batangas is one of the towns in Southern Luzon in the Philipines, and this sweet delicacy is commonly sold in the local markets within the Batangas township, accompanied by the sauce and the latik.  All this time, mum thought that making suman was difficult and left to those who have the muscles and stamina to stir through hours and hours to make the sticky rice then wrapped meticulously with the banana leaves. And when mum found this from A Cupcake or Two, it just had to happen.   And so this suman worshop started, and Tita D has generously offered her kitchen for the next cooking sessions!  Next masterclass – Sansrival!!

Here is our version of the Suman sa Lihiya adapted from A Cupcake or Two

2 kilos glutinous rice

2 tsp bi-carbonate of soda mixture – 1 cup water with 1 tsp bicarb soda dissolved
(Katherine’s recipe called for lye water.  Mum found through Google that lye water can be substituted bicarbonate of soda.  We substituted the lye water for this because we couldn’t find it anywhere.  In future suman adventures, we might just omit the lye water altogether.  Lye water is used as a preservative for the food, and since usually, this kind of dish will not last, there’s no point of adding a preserving solution.  Right?)

Banana leaves – cut into approximately 30 x 25cm squares
(doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as it can fit a scoop of rice)

Kitchen twine

Prepare banana leaves.  Wash in running water, pat dry with a kitchen towel then run through stove top (turned on to medium heat).  This will make the banana leaves soft enough to be folded, but make sure not to heat them to much because then they will be crisp and not usable for the suman.
Wash the rice in running water to get rid of grit, then drain into a large bowl.  Add the bicarbonate of soda solution and mix.
Scoop about a quarter cup of the glutinous rice onto the banana leaves.  Fold both the long side then roll or fold back to wrap the rice.  Then fold one side of the parcel.  Tap the rice then fold the other side.

(English Patis has an excellent step by step instructions on how to do this, including photos). 
But to take you through this – imagine you’re wrapping a long cylinder shaped object.  You first hold both ends of the long side and fold them up, holding them together, you tuck them around the object in a snugly wrapping action.  Then you take the right end side, fold and tuck under.  Then the left end side, fold and tuck under.

Tie the wrapped rice with kitchen twine (we decided it doesn’t matter how, just as long as its snug as a bug, tied together and no bits of rice peeking through.  But maybe in future suman workshops, there will be a more standardized process of tying the suman to make it “just like it is in Batangas)

The wrapped rice are then placed in a large pot with boiling water and cooked for 2 hours.  (Making sure to check every now and then and refill the water so that we don’t have uncooked suman in the end)

While this is cooking, prepare your sauce and latik.

Coconut jam/sauce
 2 cans of coconut cream (standard size about 375-400ml)

1 and ½ cups brown sugar

 Place in a sauce pan and mix together until golden brown.  The sauce needs to be stirred occasionally to avoid sticking on the pan.  This will reduce to about 80-90% and have a thick consistency.

250g shredded coconut (bought frozen from Asian supermarkets)

 Place in a shallow pan and mix and stir until golden.  This will come out crisp and smelling nutty.

Serve the suman on a plate, drizzled with coconut sugar sauce and topped with latik.

This is the ultimate comfort food for mum.  Took me back to those years spent in Inay’s dirty kitchen – eating “suman magkayakap” brought by Tatay. Despite some of the suman had uncooked portions, everyone raved about it and had more than seconds!  A very productive weekend afternoon, spent with family and friends and suman to share.  Hugging suman that is!  Who doesn't want hugs?!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pandan chiffon cake

Mum's seeing green!  And so are you!

Mum’s got a confession to make.  Been obsessed lately with trying to look for a pandan chiffon cake recipe, which was featured in the one of the episodes in Masterchef where a favourite contestant was booted out because of this infamous cake. Fortunately found a recipe (not from the Masterchef website) which looked so appealing mum’s just had to bake it!  And mum did!  Over the weekend.  Twice. With 2 different results.  One was as bright green as a luminous green caterpillar  (so bright green it would’ve hurt someone’s eyes) and plumped down resembling a deflated green basketball.  It did smelt of the sweet pandan aroma but with a heavy texture rather than a light fluffy sponge.  This was expected as mum did not fold the batter properly and realised this when pouring the batter into the pan, there were bits of the batter still in a darker green hue  in the bottom of the bowl.  Plus mum forgot to invert the pan immediately as instructed in the recipe.  Tsk. Tsk.  The next cake looked so much better.  Upright and tall, and had that tinge of light green.  Not overpowering.  It also had this slight hint of pandan smell and a super light spongy cake texture.  A success on the second try!  Yay! Or you’d have seen mum messing with green again!

Pandan is a widely available plant in the PI.  It is used mostly for flavouring sweet dishes and sometimes also used to add aroma to cooked rice (the whole pandan leaf is added into the rice before cooking  and once cooked leaves a pandan-infused rice that is so sweet you’d want to eat more).  A Filipino dessert using pandan is the buko-pandan salad which is made of fresh strips of coconut, gelatin flavoured pandan, cream and some coconut milk.  This is a sweet dessert which is also one of our favourites.  We will do a post on this next time.  Another favourite is the Pandan Cake which is a sponge cake infused with pandan flavours, juice or essence which is exactly like this chiffon recipe.      Locally, you’d have to scout around for the pandan leaves here.  I’ve tried several fruit shops and Asian grocers and only found this from the Miracle Supermarket in Macquarie Centre.  The pandan essence or paste was bought from Sakura Supermarket in Eastwood.  The bottle had Chinese or Korean wordings, and I only assumed it is essence because of the thick consistency.  It does have the word pandan in there.

This Pandan Chiffon Cake is adapted from Christine’s Recipes, who also went on a search mode trying to find the same recipe from the Masterchef episode.  Anyways, she made this conveniently available in  her website which also contains thousands of lovely Chinese and Asian recipes which were sure to try in the future, like this Hokkaido Milk Toast and these cute Nutella Cream Horns!  The site is full of useful tips and information, such as “How to fold in egg whites” which mum had to refer to after the first cake attempt.

These are the overly luminous green cake.  The first try.

And this is the second try - lighter green and sponge cake as it should be!

Mum brought some of the’good’ cake to the office for a taste test!  And the verdict!  9/10! Almost perfect, but may need more of the pandan flavours in there.

You will need an ungreased round tube pan with removable base.

Egg yolk batter
5 egg yolks

20g caster sugar

100g cake flour

1 tsp baking powder

100ml coconut milk

2 tbsp pandan juice
(which is 10 leaves fresh or frozen pandan leaves, processed with 1 ½ tbsp water and strained with a muslin cloth)

The pandan leaves (frozen), processed and the finish product: pandan juice!

A few drops of pandan essence
(This was optional in Christine’s recipe but mum decided to use them.  You can tell how much I’ve used in both cakes, so don’t get too excited when using the essence. One drop and add as you continue to see the result you want)

3 tbsp olive oil

Egg white batter
5 egg whites

60g caster sugar

½ tsp cream of tartar

This is the egg yolk mixed with the pandan juice and essence (the first try as you can see by the bright vibrant colour), the egg whites mixture and then the two batters mixed together

1. Preheat oven to 170°C (338°F)

2. Beat the egg yolks with a balloon whisk and mix in 20 g of sugar.  Add coconut milk, pandan juice and a few drops of pandan paste/essence. Combine well.

3. Sift in cake flour and baking powder in three batches into the egg yolk mixture.  Mix well.  Lastly, add oil oil. Set aside.

4. Using a large clean bowl, beat in the egg whites with an electric mixer until bubbles form (its important not to wait for the egg whites to bubble, not foam,  to do the next step).  Add the cream of tartar.  After mixing well, add the 60g of sugar in three batches, about one-third at a time, and beat well between additions.  Continue to beat until stiff peaks form.

5. Spoon out 1/3 of the egg whites mixture and fold  into the yolks batter. Lightly fold in the rest of the egg whites mixture with a spatula, until just combined.

6. Pour into the un-greased cake pan  (Un-greased please!  Why?  Because this is a light sponge cake, you need that ungreased sides for the cake to rise and hold on to the pan) and bake in preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes.  After the first 15 minutes and you find your cake already brown, reduce heat to 150°C (320°F), and continue to bake until cooked through.  A skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle.

7. Remove cake from oven and invert the pan immediately (on a plate).  Allow it to cool completely.

This was the all important step that Mum missed the first time!  IMPORTANT to turn the pan IMMEDIATELY!

This is an excellent sponge cake!  It can represent  the sweet side of the Filipino food culture, as influenced by the other Southeast Asian countries.  Next stop, to find that Ube (purple yam) Chiffon Cake recipe!

Here’s an important tip when baking!  Read and re-read the recipe and instructions before embarking head on. It usually avoids any disastrous results, more often than not.  Baking is truly an art and when you feel like baking, set the mood and prepare your mise-en-place with a calm mind set.  Baking after all, is almost always, therapeutic.  Aahh.  There’s something about the colour green that is truly calming. Just not too bright.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Double chocolate tart

How is it that birthdays just swoosh by when prepping for it feels like years. Getting the right presents, decorating the house, making the cake, etc. etc. It has been a tradition now for dad to spruce up the house every time there is a birthday with his creativity and this year it was all about the “Beiber fever” which Ate has been going gaga of late, while mum exaggerates the excitement in the kitchen with flour, butter and sugar. Cupcakes for school (yes even at high school, it becomes a proper birthday when you bring treats to your friends) and the traditional chocolate cake which is a breakfast treat.

Ate has been anticipating her 14th birthday for a gazillion years I think. Since that day when she chose the option to get a Macbook over a party. I believe it makes more sense to have a tangible helpful learning tool over a party-at -home that will entail preparation, cooking, decorating, cleaning and the unforeseen stress of having so many hyperactive teens around. So the day came as fast as you can say birthday and the excitement fizzled in a day or two. We had a good yum cha family dinner at the Emperor’s Table at the North Ryde. Ate is still having much excitement with her new toy, plus she got to hang out with her friends after the day so everything good.

Something new on Ate’s birthday besides “the Mac” is this double chocolate tart – which mum adapted from the Gourmet Traveller website. It is originally a Triple chocolate praline tart, but mum chose the alternate praline-less route.

To make this tart, you’ll need a 21cm fluted tart pan and:
160 ml pouring cream (mum used the regular cream from the supermarket)

40 ml milk (full cream as this is what we have on ready)

200gm dark chocolate, 61% cocoa solids, fine chopped

Chocolate pastry
200gm plain flour

60gm pure icing sugar, sifted

30gm Dutch-process cocoa (mum used the Nestle cooking cocoa we had in stock)

100gm cold butter, coarsely chopped

2 egg yolks

Milk Chocolate Praline, filling
150gm hazelnuts, roasted and skins removed

175gm raw caster sugar

300ml pouring cream

400gm milk chocolate, finely chopped

1. For the chocolate pastry, process flour, icing sugar and cocoa in a food processor until combined. Add butter, until mixture resembles fine crumbs, then add egg yolks, process to combine. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and bring pastry together with the heel of your hand. Wrap in plastic wrap, refrigerate for 1 hour to rest.

2. Preheat oven to 180°C. Roll out pastry on a light floured surface to 3mm thick and line a 28cm diameter loose-bottomed tart tin, trimming edges. Refrigerate for 1 hour, then blind bake for 8-10 minutes, remove paper and weights and bake until dry and crisp (8-10 minutes).

3. Meanwhile, for praline filling, spread hazelnuts on an oiled baking tray, set aside. Combine sugar and 60ml water in a small saucepan, stir over medium high heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, cook until dark caramel in colour (4-5 minutes), pour over nuts. Stand until cool and set (8-10 minutes). Process in a food processor until finely ground, set aside.

(The recipe in the site had some other instructions after this step regarding the cream, which mum assumed must be a typographical error, because Step 4 is about the cream, again so mum omitted that line here)

4. Combine cream and milk in a small saucepan, bring to the simmer over medium-high heat. Add dark chocolate, remove from heat, stir until smooth. Spread over tart, refrigerate until just set (45 minutes to 1 hour). Cut into wedges with a hot knife and serve immediately scattered with reserve praline.

The photo in the Gourmet Traveller page looked really, really dark and decadent.  So elegant. Ours looks a bit lighter brown and has bits of craters on the top, and the crust is not as perfect. and did not have the praline filling.  Just the same, it is a dark chocolate tart and this is what we love!  Mum’s actually wondering why it’s called filling when there was no instruction to include in the tart as a ‘filling’, and was instead used as ‘topping’ or even garnish. Maybe this recipe should be aptly called Triple chocolate tart with praline topping. Next time, we’ll try David’s version of this chocolate tart, which mum’s already too excited even before trying. Too biased and too excited! And why?! David will be in Sydney for the World Chef Showcase in October as part of the Crave Sydney Festival! Much too exciting!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chicken tinola

Since it's winter in Sydney, the wet damp weather has been bringing nothing but gloom in the air.  Parts of the upper north coast of NSW has been flooded, flights have been canceled due to the volcano ash from Peru and the latest earthquake in NZ.  Not very good news all around.  Makes you want to just turn off and head to the kitchen!

Winter seems to bring out the lethargic side in our home, not a single soul spared.  Mum's been dragging each of her leg every day to get off the bed and onto the kitchen to prepare your lunch boxes.  Almost like a zombie, without the green face and tattered clothes - but maybe the look can be as scary.  Can't help but feel lethargic in winter.  Mum salute bears for taking on winter with the cleverest of idea - hibernation!  What would happen if all humans hibernate in the winter, of course, taking turns, each part of the globe?!  That's interesting!  But how about those in the northern and southern hemisphere?!  Aw.  They'd be hiding more than half of the year!   I guess hibernation isn't that so clever after all.  Good thing, there are such dishes as chicken soup!  Warms you up in all the right places!

This is a Filipino chicken soup, known as Chicken Tinola in most parts of the Philippines.  Mum stresses "in most parts" because in some other regions in the PI, tinola would mean a different kind of dish altogether.  Traditionally, this is the chicken tinola that mum and dad grew up with, and now you, too. 

There is also a slight similarity in the soup and texture of the chicken tinola (minus the chokos and bok choy) to the Filipino Chicken Sotanghon (which was one of the first dishes mum kept here), where the addition of vermicelli noodles make it a main dish all by itself.  

Chicken tinola is easy to prepare.  All you need is:

 1k chicken pieces (whole chicken cut into portions)

1 small ginger, cut into strips

1 onion, quartered

1 clove garlic, chopped

chokos (sayote in Tagalog), peeled and core removed or 
green papaya (you must choose the green skin with white flesh, not the ones that almost ripe)

bok choy leaves, washed and tips but off
(this is our down under version, because in the PI fresh chilli leaves are used)

fish sauce and peppercorns, for seasoning

In a large sauce pan, saute the ginger, garlic and onion until translucent. 

Add the chicken pieces and sear until browned.

Add about 6 cups water or more, enough to submerge the chicken in the stock. Add peppercorns.

Bring to the boil.  Then simmer for 20-30 minutes until the chicken is tender.

Season with fish sauce, tasting every now and then to suit your preference.  Sometimes, mum also adds a bit of ground pepper.

Add the bok choy leaves last then turn off heat.

The result!  A clear (almost) chicken soup with the spicy-sweet aroma and taste of ginger. A true chicken soup for the soul!   This is especially great now that its winter, but coming from a fairly tropical place, this dish is served and eaten any time of the year, with rice. 

One of those dishes that are quick and easy to make.  With a little bit of time and patience, plus the right ingredients, you don't really need to open a can of chicken soup, right?

Updated 27/06/2011 - Here's a related post on Chicken Tinola at Foodista by Alisa

Chicken Tinola

Monday, June 20, 2011

Spaghetti and meatballs adapted from Junior Masterchef

Ate has been eyeing Vans shoes for some time now.  And she asked mum's suggestion on the colour.  RED of course!   It comes up with every single conversation.  At the dinner table, while in the car, while washing the dishes in the kitchen, while waiting for the three of you at swim class.  The short of it is, she's saving up to buy a pair.  I can't imagine the time mum and dad were in one of those Vans shoes too.  It must be early 90s, way back in college when these shoes came into fashion.  Along side K-Swiss and  Tretorn and Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran hit the air waves. Simply, fashion comes around even after decades, it can still become in fashion and songs stay on for centuries.  Anyways, there's something about the colour red that makes it stand out. Shoes or otherwise, its gorgeous, its radical, it's foxy, it's hot! And I could go on.

In the kitchen we have something red too!  I love my La Chassueur red cast iron cookware which mum bought last year.  Not the high end brand  but it serves the purpose.  Heavy bottom and can withstand 400 degree heat, which means its great for dishes like casseroles, stews, and that No Knead Bread (the purpose of why mum bought the cookware in the first place!) that we've never had the chance to do.  Just yet. 

This gorgeous red cast iron pot was used by Ate when she took a serious oath on Mother's Day (that day when everyone took over the kitchen and mum was secretly trying hard not to be the control freak she is in the kitchen) and prepared the lunch for the day. A simple spaghetti and meatballs dish (plus her simple chocolate truffles).  The recipe is adapted from the Junior Masterchef Australia Cookbook Volume 1.  I do have a simple fool-proof spaghetti bolognese recipe which also includes meatballs, but Ate was on a roll and she enjoyed every bit of the challenge.  She now has a repertoire of dish(es) under her arms.

To make this simple pasta dish, use:

1 onion, quartered

1/4 cup, flat leaf parsley leaves
250g minced pork

250g minced veal 
(Mum's not a fan of veal purely on the basis that these are quite young cattle that could have seen more days than they were allowed.  But in this occasion mum left everyone to their devices to follow the recipe)

70g (1 cup) fresh breadcrumbs made from day-old bread (see Chef's tip)
(Ate just used the store-bought variety)

40g (1/2 cup) finely grated parmesan

2 eggs, lightly beaten

500g dried spaghetti

25g (1/3 cup) grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
(we use the same variety parmesan as the one above)

Tomato Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

700g bottle tomato passatta (sieved pureed tomatoes)
(this can be bought from any deli or providore, if not available in the local grocery)

1/2 tsp caster sugar

1. Process onion in a food processor until finely chopped.  Transfer half the onion to a bowl and reserve for the sauce.  Add parsley to onion in the processor and whiz until finely chopped.  Add minced pork and veal, breadcrumbs, parmesan and eggs, and season with salt and pepper.  Process until well combined.

2. Carefully remove the blade and, using a measuring spoon and spatula, scoop out level tablespoons of the mixture onto a plate. Roll into balls (you will be able to make about 30 meatballs).  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.

3. To make tomato sauce, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the reserved onion and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until soft.  Add crushed garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes or until fragrant.

4. Add passatta, 250ml (1 cup) water and sugar, mix well to combine, then season.  Bring to the boil, add meatballs.  Cover and return to the boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for 10 minutes.  Gently shake pan halfway through cooking to ensure meatballs are covered with sauce.  Remove from the heat.

5. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil.  Add spaghetti, return to the boil and cook according to packet directions or until al dente.  Drain well and transfer to bowls.  Spoon meatballs and sauce over spaghetti, then serve scattered with extra parmesan.
Chef's tip: To make fresh breadcrumbs, start with white or wholemeal bread that's at last one day old.  Remove crusts and tear bread into large pieces.  Process bread in a food processor until fine crumbs form.  Store breadcrumbs in an airtight bag or container in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Spaghetti meatballs or bolognese is a simple pasta dish that is easy to make for any meal of the day.  Promise me this - you will not ever try those spaghetti's-in-a-can variety.  I mean really.  Pasta in a can.  Mum thinks they are just horrendous!  There are plenty of fresh ingredients around so be kind to the environment.  Lessen your carbon footprint! I don't mind two-minute noodles.  But pasta-in-a-can is taking fast food to the extreme!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pinakbet in a flash

This is one of many classic Filipino dishes and originally is Ilocano in heritage, although there are varietie from other provinces in Northen Luzon.  Ilocano would mean a native of Ilocos, or originating from that province.  But like many indigenous Filipino dishes, the variety can be endless, and this depends on the availability of the local produce in that region.  But this version is our OZ version as mum makes it with whatever is locally available in Sydney which is mostly everything (pumpkin, snake beans) and every once in awhile, okra.

Pinakbet was not a usual fare in our home when I was growing up, unlike the regularity of adobo which was more than once a month. Pinakbet was something more like a craving.  Comfort food if you may.  In our case, pinakbet is as sporadic as a lunar eclipse.  Which is why, I believe it becomes a dish which is always welcomed when put on the table.  Even though you guys aren't fans of pinakbet  yet (as with most vegetable dishes) I know that this will be one of those dishes that will stick in your memory bank.  Simply because its a true Filipino classic.  Second because you love the smell of bagoong.  Only a true Filipino by blood can actually take on the smell of this ingredient, commonly known as shrimp paste.

To make, you'll need

bunch of snake beans (sitaw in Tagalog), top and tail removed and cut into uniform 6-7cm lengths
quarter pumpkin, cut into cubes
1 onion, quartered
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tomato, quartered
1-2 long green chillies (optional if your shrimp paste is not the spicy variety)
half cup shrimp paste (called bagoong and best bet is to use the Philippine brand Mama Sita.  Some prefer to use alamang, but its up to you)
1 big eggpant (aubergine), cut into cubes
2 cups water

1. Saute onion then garlic until golden, but to not burn.  Add the shrimp paste, then the tomato and pumpkin and saute for 5 minutes.

2. Add the water, bring to a boil then simmer for 5 minutes minutes.

3.  Add the snake beans and eggplants and simmer for another 5 mintues or until eggplant are cooked.

4. Serve with rice.

Optional: You may add some pork  cubes in the dish after sauteeing the onions and garlic, about 1 cup of diced pork belly.  Okra is also sometimes added if availalble, like in this instance.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chocolate truffles


It’s amazingly odd to see 3 shrieking 8yo because a well known chef is a guest judge at a cooking show on TV.  In yesterday’s masterchef episode, all three of you (J, A, S) in unison were shrieking with excitement, the way Ate would be screaming while watching JB’s Never Say Never on DVD.   Heston Blumenthal was on Masterchef! You've known Heston from his cooking show aired since last year called Heston's Feasts.  Everyone was fascinated by his creations and the science of his cooking. 

Ate also had this same excitement before, about 6 years ago, when all that she could ever watch on TV with mum was the Lifestyle Channel and her favourite personality was Wolfgang Puck.  So while it was interesting to watch you girls squeal, I wasn’t wondering at all where this was all coming from.  Mum only realised how much influence I have had on you all for the past 8 years.  While Ate’s interest in cooking shows and baking has dwindled as she grew each year, I’m sure the three of you will also develop your own different interests as you mature and develop your own distinct personalities.  This is already starting with J choosing the cello and was the first one who chose tennis lessons for a sport activity.  Whatever path you choose, mum and dad will always be here to support you.  Right now, I’m thrilled that you share my love for cooking and the kitchen, and hope that someday soon, we will all meet Heston Blumenthal or be lucky enough to partake of his gastronomic creations at the Fat Duck.  I think maybe just to see him in person is already a treat in itself.

Mum has been amiss with the posting as this weather is just too miserable - too wet and too cold, which is the real winter in Sydney.  I don't mind the cold, but rain is just one of those things mum loves to hate - the smell of wet damp clothes, wet shoes in the house despite having a sturdy mat outside the front door, bits of wet leaves that are left like footprints on the carpet!  Aarrgg!  Really.  I'm  hoping this weekend will be much better.  Pretty please!

This is a late post - the chocolate truffles which Ate made on Mother's Day which were so goood, that she almost ate half of it.  The looked good.  Tastes fantastic!  And I never thought they were so easy to make!

This super simple chocolate truffles recipe is adapted from the Junior Masterchef Australia Cookbook Volume 1

60ml (1/4 cup) pouring cream
90g (2/3 cup) chopped, pitted dates
100g (2/3 cup) raisins (or sultanas)
200g good-quality chocolate (at least 50g cocoa solids), chopped
20g (1/4 cup) dessicated coconut

30g Flake chocolate bar 
(we did not use this but used Hershey's Dark Cocoa as substitute)

1. Place the cream, dates and raisins in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to just boiling point.  Remove from the heat, add the chopped chocolate and stand for 5 minutes to allow the dried fruit to soften and the chocolate to melt.  Using a wooden spoon, stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is combined.  Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
(When chilling the chocolate mixture, its important to check the consistency of the truffle.  It may take more than 30 minutes in some instances.  The chocolate should be thick enough to handle, but still a bit soft)

2. Line a tray with baking paper.  Place coconut in a small bowl.  With the Flake chocolate bar still in the wrapper and the ends firmly twisted, using a rolling pin, gently crush the chocolate bar inside.  Untwist one end and pout the chocolate into a separate bowl.
(Since we did not use a chocolate bar here, we used the time while waiting for the chocolate to "chill" to roast the dessicated coconut in the oven - place them on a baking sheet and roast for about 10-15 minutes until golden brown, making sure not to burn them.)

3. Scoop 3cm potions of the truffle mixture out of the bowl and drop onto the lined tray.  Using your hands, roll into balls in coconut and other half in crushed chocolate (or in cocoa).  Return the truffles to the lined tray and chill for a further 30 minutes to firm before serving.

Mix and match: Flack chocolate bar can be substituted with grated chocolate or drinking chocolate.

More please: The truffles can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 month.  Remove from the fridge 1 hour before serving.

Chocolate truffles packaged nicely in pretty boxes are great Christmas or special occasion gifts!  Now we might have to plan and come up with great packaging ideas for December, as it is our summer time.  I am really tired of this wet weather!


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