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, December 29, 2011

Nectarine upside down cake

"All the world's a birthday cake, so take a piece but not too much." - George Harrison

December birthdays are always so festive.  Actually the whole world becomes festive in anticipation of Christmas, which an office colleagues declares as unfair because everyone gets side tracked, except for the celebrants themselves.  It never occurred to me but it does happen.  Every year, I take the day off on my birthday and what do I do?  Christmas shopping for everyone else!  After a few hours of self-centered activities (a spa trip or dinner), the rest of the day is spent buying Christmas presents for every one else.  Christmas is my favourite time of the year, that's why!  

But birthdays should always be special and unique every year.  And birthdays mean cake.  So this year the girls helped me make this one.  A special summer birthday cake with nectarines, inspired from a Midwest Living recipe found through Pinterest.

Nectarines are very new to us.  They're peach-like taste appeals to the girls as much as their  quirky pits.  We love the yellow variety more than the white and buy them by the box full!  There are no fresh nectarines or peaches in the Philippines.  If there are, they will cost a fortune and are usually imported from  the US or Australia.  These are the local stone fruits we've grown to love come summer here in Sydney.  Along with Australian white and yellow peaches and cherries and mangoes!  My girls love these fresh and these are lunch box regulars soon as the early signs are visible at the local fruit shops.  But sometimes, we get too excited and everyone gets over-nectarised.  So instead of throwing them away, we keep them in the fridge and this time took David Lebovitz' advice to make use of fruits in baking when they are in season!  So here goes our nectarine upside down cake!

5 medium sized nectarines, pitted and sliced
60g unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

150g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
120g unsalted butter, room temperature
150g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
125ml milk

Preheat oven to 175*C.  

Melt the butter in a small saucepan on the stove, or using the microwave.
Mix the butter with the brown sugar.  Pour and spread evenly into a 20cm round or square cake tin.

Place the nectarine slices on the brown sugar mixture and set aside.

Square cake tin.  Brown sugar and butter love!

Don't be too stingy with the fruit!  Spread them over the brown sugar mixture as much as you like.  No rules here.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl using a hand-held beater or the bowl of a stand-mixer, cream the butter until soft and creamy.

Add the sugar and beat until combined.

Add egg and vanilla and continue to mixing for about 1 minute.

Alternately add the flour and milk in three batches, slowly mixing together with each addition.

Pour into the prepared tin/pan and bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  To loosen cake, slide a butter knife on the sides of the cake pan and invert onto a large serving plate.  Cool for a further 15-20 minutes.

Cooling cake, waiting for some loving!

The cake had that slight hint of ripe nectarine (which could be a put off to some) and red skin added a tinge of colour to the caramelized topping. This looked and tasted like the festive cake that it is.  Moist and sweet and lovely addition to our cake repertoire.  Who say's upside down cakes have to be always be pineapple?  
Aahh. Birthday happiness. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A how to post - blanched almonds

Not the most exciting post there is, (but I reckon this post has the most photos!) but its something learned from Kitchen 10 so worthy of a post.  When making the almond bread recently for home consumption and as edible gifts,  instead of buying already-blanched almonds, we did the blanching ourselves.  Just because there are some things we must try.  If not develop the habit out of it, the trying part always becomes a worthy experience – whether it’s a disaster or a success.  Trying something for the first time should always be in one’s to do list.  It doesn’t have to be grandiose and adrenalin-rushing adventures.  It can be anything . Even as simple as poaching an egg, or blanching some almonds. 
Pour the almonds into the boiling water

Not much to say here as blanching is what it is – blanching.  Boil some water, add the food item and let it sit for about 5 minutes, scoop out with a spider or slotted spoon and voila – blanched food!  It can be anything from green beans to broccoli to well, almonds!

The skins get loose in a few minutes. Take off from heat at this point.

The skins easily peeled off.  Can you make out my finger prints? Think I'm giving too much away!

Pinch away and voila - naked almonds central!

To peel the skins off, simple pinch the almonds and let it slide from your grip away from the skin.  The girls loved helping out taking the skins off which had us left with just enough almonds to bake with.  One of life’s simple pleasures – spending time with your kids in the kitchen, helping out as much or as little as they can, eating as you merrily along before a distraction such as TV and DS games breaks the scene and you’re back to your own quiet measures.

Naked almonds and their skins.  Yin and Yang.

Skins!  Off to your compost bin if you have one or straight into your garden bed!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Green happiness. Buko (coconut) pandan sweet salad. Festive Favourites Blog Hop

Sweet coconut and pandan salad

I got excited when the hostesses of the Sweet Australian Adventures announced another blog hop with the theme Festive Favourites early this month (with this month's host 84th and 3rd).   So excited that all visions of sugar plums danced in my head.  Well, not quite exactly those but all these Filipino festive favourites - bibingka (native rice cake topped with  cheese or salted eggs), puto bungbong, leche flan, buko pandan and the Filipino tropical fruit salad.  But getting carried away is my middle name.  I had bought all the ingredients to make the bibingka but  never quite got to make it after my macadamia obsession and the endless caramelizing demand got the better of me.  It's the silly season after all.  So after careful bibingka planning even to the extent of buying 3 packs of banana leaves, I've taken the easier route.  To spread  some green pandan happiness. No baking involved.  Just a lot of chilling and stirring.  Cool, right?

This is a favourite in our home but I've never quite gotten to actually making it.  In Manila, my brother in law has a special supplier where he gets tubs of these for parties.  And its totally the best there is.  But we don't have Nathaniel's here so making the salad dessert was the challenge of the day.

If you're keen on making this, you'd have to make a trip to your local Asian or Filipino shop, if there's any close by and get some: nata de coco , buko pandan essence and Alsa Green Unflavoured Gelatin.  And while you're there, you can also check if they have frozen pandan leaves and frozen young coconut strips. Otherwise, you can take the challenge further and get some fresh coconut from the market. 

Nata de coco - more green love

2 - 90g box of Alsa  green unflavoured gulaman (or any unflavoured green gelatin)
3 pandan leaves
few drops of buko pandan essence
1 900g jar nata de coco (doesn't have to be green), drained
4 packs 454g packs  frozen young coconut strips, thawed and drained
300ml thicken cream
1 395g can sweet condensed milk

More greens - buko pandan essence, pandan leaves in knots and the Alsa Gulaman (gelatin powder)

Frozen young coconut strips

To make:  First stop - gelatin.

Prepare according to packet instructions and quantity - using a small pot boil the water with 3 pandan leaves.

Add the gelatin mixture and continue to mix until gelatin has dissolved.  Remove pandan leaves and pour into molds.  Chill for an hour or until just set.
Once ready, gently cut into small cubes. Set aside.

Pot with the green wonder - gelatin and pandan leaves

Setting in the traditional Filipino llanera - aluminum oval pans

Assembling the salad
In a large bowl, pour the drained young coconut strips.  Add the nata de coco, condensed milk and cream. Stir gently to mix the ingredients together. 

Add about some drops  of the buko pandan essence (about a teaspoon but not too much as it can be overpowering) and the chilled gelatin. 

Gently stir as you don't want to ruin the pandan gelatin.

Pour into plastic recyclable containers and freeze overnight.
Thaw in the fridge for an hour or more before serving.

The gelatin added last - stirring gently

Ready to freeze in recyclable containers

One can't get enough of green happiness, I reckon!  Especially during the silly season!  A very merry Christmas to you all!  I wish you all a festive feast shared with family and friends!  And if you're in Sydney during the Christmas break, why not drop by and share some Filipino festive favourites.  You might also like to belt out a few songs with the karaoke/videoke.  We do have a magic sing at home!    

Maligayang pasko  sa inyong lahat!  
(A merry Christmas to everyone!)


This is a blog hop.  Click on the links below to see all amazing festive desserts created by other food bloggers arounds the globe!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Macadamia and maple sticky cinnamon rolls

In one of the office morning tea a few weeks back, someone brought in sweets from the Bourke Street Bakery.  2 things shook my world – the macadamia honey caramel sticky buns and the chocolate tart and have never been the same since.  After that week, I’ve been obsessed with recreating the sticky buns (will settle the chocolate with raspberry tart later).   This created serious obsessions with buying packets of macadamia nuts, attempting to caramelize them. And along the way adapting the Pioneer Woman's fool proof recipe – cinnamon rolls.
This fool-proof cinnamon rolls is exactly that.  Simple and fool-proof and so the challenge left was to create the sticky sauce – where honey was substituted with real maple syrup. 

 Recipe for cinnamon rolls from here or Ree's hand-holding-step-step 101 on cinnamon rolls here or you can use whatever rolls or bun recipe you're familiar with.

 While your rolls are proving/rising, make this caramel macadamia topping inspired by a Sticky Buns recipe from the Taste of Home

60g butter
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
63ml maple syrup
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Combine all ingredients except nuts, into a sauce pan and stir until sugar has melted.  Stir in macadamia.

Gently pour onto the prepared rolls. 

Bake in the preheated oven as you would the cinnamon rolls - 180*C 15-20 minutes or until golden.

*This sauce was good for three 8cm aluminum trays of cinnamon rolls.

The result – a gorgeous looking pan of cinnamon rolls with crisp macadamia topping.  The taste: ho-hum and definitely not mind blowing.    It tasted alright like a regular cinnamon rolls bun with some nutty macadamia, but it was a bit dry and not as sticky as it looked.   Although my work colleagues consumed the contents of the 2 pans in one sitting, I thought another attempt would be a worthy challenge.   Maybe after the silly season.  And maybe use that actual Sticky Buns recipe?!

Meanwhile, I’ve got heaps of macadamia nuts to caramelize.  The girls and hubby have been infected with my macadamia obsession, they’re raving and ranting for more.  The demand is just crazy!  I need to find a wholesale supplier!  Seriously!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Maple caramelized macadamia nuts

Kitchen accidents that turn out successfully are a thing of beauty. Take for instance our mixed berry jam that started simply as a kind of experiment which has now become a basic necessity in our home. And this caramelized macadamia nuts are no exception. The initial intention was to create a kind of sticky topping for some rolls recreating a Bourke Street Bakery treat. The first batch was out of 100g pack which after caramelizing and cooling, turned out to be so amazingly good and addictive, there was nothing left to top the rolls.  And so our obsession to caramelized macadamia began.

To make these we used:

100g pack or 1 cup natural macadamia nuts
(you can chop them in half if they’re whole nuts)

½ cup caster sugar

1 tbsp maple syrup

Place sugar and macadamia in a sauce pan over medium heat and let the sugar melt, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking on the pan and burning the sugar and nuts. Once sugar has melted, add the maple syrup and continue to stir until nuts are covered by the sugar.

Pour onto a tray lined with baking paper and let cool.

You can transfer them into jars and keep for when you want to use them. Great for those in-between snacks or while watching your favourite DVD or serve alongside some ice cream. I promise you, they won’t last long.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mini chocolate cake with chocolate ganache frosting - edible Christmas gifts

Christmas is a favourite time of the year in our home.  The girls are always counting the days as soon as any early signs of Christmas is up – whether its at the shopping centres, mail in catalogues or ads on TV.  At times my thoughts turn to how commercialise it has been over the years.  Children making never ending lists and parents succumbing to the temptation.  Must admit I can get dragged into the commercialism and get carried away myself, but economies of scale always dictates what is just and practical.  Which means B will not be getting her own Iphone 4S at the age of 14 even though most of her friends at school have them. And not every single DS and Wii game will be bought because we’ll be sharing some love with the local Rotary Club’s annual gift appeal and this year, we’ve opted to get some pencils and school supplies through World Vision.  Not much in the grand scheme of things.  But it spreads the real essence of Christmas – appreciating your own blessings and sharing them.

This year, is the start of edible Christmas presents coming from our kitchen.  There’s this feeling that it’s a MUST, following 2 semesters of a Commercial Cookery course.  So besides the almond bread given to work colleagues and teachers and the chocolate chip cookies for the girls’ simple class Christmas party, these gorgeous looking mini cakes made their way to friends’ homes.

These cakes were made using 9cm spring from cake tins.  The cake recipe is the fail-safe perfectly perfect chocolate cake (same one we use for the girls' 8th birthday cupcakes) from the Hershey’s Cocoa container, and iced with a simple chocolate ganache frosting.

The simple chocolate ganache frosting was made with:

1 cup thickened cream
230g/8oz bittersweet chocolate
(We used a combination of 200g Nestle Plaistowe and 30g Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips. Of course, you can use either or any brand.  I prefer dark chocolates though.)

Cut the chocolate bar into chunks and place in a bowl with the chocolate chips.

In a small saucepan, heat the cream until just about boiling point.  Add to the chocolate and whisk until smooth.

Cool to room temperature.

*The ganache will thicken once cooled which will make for easier frosting.  If its too thick or has turned hard, simply whisk (with a hand-held beater or whisk) again until the thickness is of spreading consistency.

The cakes were sprinkled with icing sugar and adorned with mini candy canes before sending off wrapped with lots of love and Christmas thoughts.   Ross Grittin has a lovely message today in the Sydney Morning Herald, which I just have to quote, " ... for it's in giving that we receive happiness."  Spread the love everyone and be happy!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Really moist banana bread/cake

Summer  has officially kicked in.  Really?  Yes, really.  But wait. Hang on.  Where's the sun?  Where's the warm breeze?  Where's the clear blue sky?  Where's the buzzing, annoying flies?  Yes, we're in cranky-ville.  Kinda got used to the anticipation of sun and heat once December kicks in.  But instead, got cooped up at home - weather changes always make me sick.  And being at home doesn't always mean lying in for this mum.   There's always something to be done.  And some bananas on-the-verge-of-browning, were not spared.

This banana bread/cake is the moistest of its kind we've ever tried at home adapted from allrecipes by Rose with some minor tweaks. These were sweet, moist and so good we made them  as cupcakes/muffins for the Filipino Christmas Lunch at our local church and bought another batch as sliced loaf to the school's celebration morning tea.

To make this 23cm x 12.5cm banana loaf
(print recipe here)

3 medium-sized bananas, mashed
2 eggs
79 ml buttermilk
125ml vegetable oil
1 and 1/2 cup caster sugar
1 and 3/4 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bi carbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 170* C.  Grease and line loaf tin.

Using a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas with a fork.  Add the eggs, buttermilk and oil and mix until all the ingredients come together. (This make take some patience as you will notice they won't like each other very much at first - oil separating from the milk, etc, but it will so don't fear).

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, bi carbonate of soda, sugar and salt.

Add to the banana mixture and gently stir with a spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture is all combined.

Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour to 1.5, depending on oven mechanics, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Btw, did you know browning, rotting bananas make the best banana cakes?  I used some lady finger bananas in the first try and it turned out just as nice.  Adding some nuts and dried fruits would make this banana bread extra appealing.  Which I'm sure you already know.   I love that the recipe uses vegetable oil instead of softened butter as in other recipes, which takes a bit of preparation time.  This one's definitely one of those fast and furious types.  And did I already say its super moist!

* These were made the first week of summer in Sydney, but have been slothing lately after catching the flu bug.  A delayed post from ADU

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Quick and easy salsa verde dressing

Using a mortar and pestle, ground a bunch of parsley, basil and 3 cloves garlic.  Once greens are almost fine,, transfer to a small bowl.  Add 60ml olive oil, juice of half a lemon, salt and pepper to taste and stir to mix through.

Spoon on your grilled salmon, or chicken or anything else that you think might need some extra lovin'.

Creamy cheese rigatoni with chilli and mild salami

There's a Sydney-based blog that is so inviting with its stunning photos and absolutely mouth watering food!  I love What Katie Ate's site because of her classic and vintage food styling.  Its something that I hope one day to be able to replicate.    In our home, our pasta repertoire is as limited as the number of fingers in one's hands.   And browsing through Katie Quinn Davies' site is always inspiring.  The minute these photos came into full view, was the very moment I took off for the local providore to get some Pecorino cheese and mild salami and made this for dinner with a few tweaks.  This is a lovely creamy pasta dish that was "maginifico" in every bite.  The combination of the tomatoes and cream gave it that X factor.  And the flavour of the salami just evolves into something beautiful.

To make this creamy rigatoni pasta dish:

500g dried rigatoni pasta
1-400g can diced tomatoes
1 medium sized onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
200g salami or chorizo
150g mushrooms, quartered (we used large cup mushrooms)
1 red chilli, finely diced
25g butter
1 cup cream
1 cup grated parmesan cheese + extra to serve
1 cup greated pecorino cheese
1 bunch basil, chopped
1/4 cup sliced black olives
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the rigatoni pasta per package instructions.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat about 2 tbsp olive oil then sweat the onions.  Add the garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes over medium heat. 

Add the butter, mushrooms, salami and chilli and cook for 10 minutes stirring the ingredients together.  

Add the canned tomatoes, black olives, cream and basil leaves and stir to combine all ingredients, then add half of both cheeses.

Add the rigatoni and stir to coat the pasta.
Spoon into a rectangular baking dish and top with the remaining cheese.

Bake in a preheated 180* C oven for 30 minutes or until the cheese has melted. 

My salami slices were way too big though.  Next time, I might just dice them smaller.  What's my best gauge that a new dish tried has been successful?  When at least one requests to save some for lunch the next day!  Makes my heart go a-flutter.  Spontaneous trips for ingredients become all so worth it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mixed berry jam (or coulis if you may)

Vaccumming the fridge.  That's what I call it.  Once a week, I'll try and turn the fridge upside down (well, not literally) and bring out all left-overs for the week and we'll have a feast!  Once a quarter, I do the "check-all-expiry-dates-on-jars-and-bottles" and throw out all sad-looking things that have not seen the light of day for a million years.  But I'm not that bad at keeping food.  Usually, fruits and vegs are kept in the freezer  before they become sad and wilted. And one day, while doing a litany of tasks with the girls, we found half a punnet of raspeberry in the freezer, added a punnet of blueberries and strawberries and voila - an accidental jam was created.   The girls loved it so much they begged for it in their lunch box the next day!  Happy days!

The jam has since gone, and we've made a new batch.  This time with precise quantities of ingredients, so we can share them.

2 125g punnets raspberries
3 125g punnets blueberries
1 250g punnet strawberries
1/4 cup and 2 tbsp caster sugar
20 ml water
3 tbsp water mixed with 3 tsp arrow root

In a medium sized sauce pan, stir the sugar and water together until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the fruits and continue in medium heat until the fruits have softened.

Take off from heat, add the arrow root mixture and stir to thicken the sauce.

Return to low heat and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour until the mixture has reduced.
Allow to completely cool before transferring to a jar or container.

* While the jam/sauce is simmering check every now and then to make sure it has not dried up.
 *  We used this as jam on breads and filling in cakes.
* This mixture strained over a fine mesh or sieve can also be used as a coulis for cold desserts.

It may not be the traditional way of making jam (in the absence of pectin and other preserving agents), but it did serve its purpose in our home.  Jam on toast and everything nice. 

 A new favourite - love raspberries!


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