Welcome to adobo-down-under!

Musings. Family. Food. Stories. Cooking. Recipes. Eating. A recipe journal. From simple Filipino dishes to challenging recipes and exciting gastronomical failures. This is for my girls to look back on for comfort, memories, laughs, love and lots of food!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Butterscotch brownies

Its my favourite month!  Not only because December signals the beginning of summer in AU, but because it always brings lots of festive cheer in the air.  As soon as December steps in, the merriment is everywhere.  From the first day of December to the eve of the new year.  On the home front, it means a few more weeks till the last few lunch boxes are packed.  Everything coasts along by the second week, and then YES!  School holidays!  .  At our home, December signals a lot of celebrations.  Birthdays and anniversary are there. All those in between school events: performances, carols, fun days, etc.  And then comes Christmas.  Christmas always take centre stage that sometimes, the birthdays and anniversaries are set aside to make way for more Christmas shopping.  Hubby and me always go through extreme lengths for our girls.  Not that we get them the most expensive gadgets, but we try to fill in their stockings to the brim.  With little things and treats which always bring the biggest smiles and surprise come Christmas time. Its priceless.  All those efforts and time spent searching always pays off.  Besides the merriment of gift giving, we also take part in the Christmas eve mass to celebrate the true spirit of the holidays.

With only a few family members here in AU, the gift giving becomes extends to friends – from office colleagues to neighbours.  And for these lot, edible gifts are always the treat.   I’ve started giving edible gifts last year with these mini chocolate cakes with chocolate ganache icing and topped with candy canes.  They were easy to make and a treat to receive.  But as edible gifts are always nice, the timing of preparation and the giving and delivery has to be perfect.  

While last year’s  treats were round, this year, Santa’s treats came in the form of squares.  Butterscotch brownies (or food for the gods as they’re called back in the Philippines) are a usual treat come Christmas time. These treats are always sold in boxes and bags back at good bakeshops back home.  I’ve never tried making them before, but now, I think its going to be our traditional gift every Christmas.  They’re easy to make – you can make them ahead, put it the fridge, and slice them when ready to package or box.

This Santa's treats are making they're way to this month's SABH theme hosted by Christina from The Hungry Australian.  There are a lot of recipes online for food for the gods, but I found this one (from Casa Veneracion) the best to follow.  I also have referenced to a recipe from a Filipino cookbook but as always, the tried and tested ones works best, 101% of the time.  

To make these yummy Santa's treats
Print the recipe here.

200g pitted dates, coarsely chopped

200g walnuts, coarsely chopped

300g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

5 cups light packed dark brown sugar

450g all purpose flour

5 teaspoons baking powder

2 and 1/2 teaspoons salt

5 eggs

2 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 175-180*C.

Line your baking sheet or cookie sheet with baking paper.  (I used 2 shallow 30cm x 25cm 2.5cm pans).

In  a bowl, whisk (with a hand whisk) together flour, baking powder and salt.

 In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and smooth.  

Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.

Stir in the vanilla extract.

Add the flour in three batches, stirring with a wooden spoon after each addition.

Stir in the walnuts and dates.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and level off with a wet spoon.

Bake in the preheated ovn for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  DO NOT OVERBAKE or the brownies will turn out hard.

Cool in the pan for 20 minutes before turning onto a wire rack.

To cut into squares, lift the baking paper with the brownies onto a chopping board, and use a large knife to cut into squares.

(If you have time, I usually bake them one day, then refrigerate them when completely cool, and cut them into squares the next day.  The brownies will be firmer and easier to cut)

This recipe yielded 2 trays of 2.5-3cm x 25cm x  30cm (48 squares) of butterscotch brownie goodness.  This is not for the faint at heart.  I tell you, this has butter written all over it, so if you’ve got butter-fear-factor, you can browse through my other recipes.  You can try my homemade caramelised macadamias which we also packed in jars and gave away.

From my family to yours, I wish you all lots of Christmas love!  Enjoy the holidays!  xx

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Purple yam (Filipino ube) cake for the November SABH


The colour purple signals the middle of spring in Sydney. When jacarandas are in full bloom and every nook and corner is just alight with these purple beauties.  They’re gorgeous from afar and up close.  The downside is that these purple beauties don’t last long.  A few weeks after they bloom, they’re already down on the ground wilting away.   But never mind. Jacarandas are beautiful no matter what.

And so it goes without saying, my inspiration for this month’s Sweet Adventures Blog Hop hosted by JJ from 84th and 3rd, is inspired by this Australian flora.  The colour purple.  And its timing that it is my mother’s fave colour, and the weekend of the SABH coincides with my mom’s birthday.  And even though she’s in the Philippines celebrating with my dad and other family members, we celebrated her birthday here too.  With a cake that’s her favourite colour.  Purple yam cake (or Ube cake in Filipino parlance).


Ube or purple yam is an indigenous Filipino root crop.  Alongside the sweet potato, cassava or tapioca, parsnip, turnip and taro, the purple yam is a favourite ingredient in many Filipino sweets.  These purple beauties are added made into cakes, cupcakes, puddings, rice cakes, tarts or pastries,  flavoured in jams and preserves, topped in coldtreats, ice cream and even shakes!  As a matter of fact, they are used in more sweets than savoury dishes.  Considering it is infact a vegetable makes it for the perfect “vegetable” showcase for my post. Check out Jun Blog's post about this special vegetable and why Filipinos love it! 

Just some of the many purple yam products from the Philippines

To make this cake is like making any cake that uses vegetables (such as beetroot or cauliflower), you’ll need to cook the purple yam, mash them and pass through a sieve to get the finer texture.  

L: Frozen grated purple yam and R: Powdered dehydrated purple yam

But since it’s just a few of us around here, I’m sharing you a cheat version.  Sssshhhh!   I’ve used dehydrated purple yam powder, which I simply rehydrated with water, simmering for 20 minutes.  You can also buy frozen grated purple yam from Filipino stores and select Asian shops across Sydney. There is also that hint of purple yam essence which you can add for that extra bit of flavour and colour.  Otherwise, you can just use any food colouring combining red and blue till you get the perfect hue.  Without the colouring, you’ll get a very light purple cake, but still keep the purple yam flavour. So either way, you can’t go wrong.

You don't  need this much!  Just one bottle will do. I always just tend to overreact when food shopping!

There are a lot of variations on this cake around Google, but I was most inspired by this version from allrecipes.com and Pinay in Texas Cooking Corner sans the macapuno (Coconut sports) filling and using Italian buttercream as filling and icing.  Just because I like meringue-based frostings!  This cake has seen many afternoon teas and desserts and birthdays in our home.    


To make this purple yam (ube) cake
 Print recipe here

7 egg yolks

125ml vegetable oil

125ml fresh milk

1 cup grated purple yam

20ml (1 bottle) purple yam essence

2 ¼ cups plain flour

3 teaspoon baking powder

1 ¾ cups caster sugar

7 egg whites

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 178*C.  Grease and line the bottom and sides of two round 20cm cake tins.
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, half of the caster sugar and mix with a whisk.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, oil, milk, grated purple yam and purple yam essence. 
Add the egg yolk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix using a wooden spoon until they’re all combined (wet and dry combined). Set aside. 

In the bowl of your stand mixer, whip the egg whites and salt until frothy.  Add the remaining sugar and the cream of tartar and whip until you get stiff peaks. 

Gently fold the egg whites mixture into your purple batter until combined.  Fold gently to retain the aeration.  

Divide the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30-45 minutes.  Do the skewer test.  It should come out clean.

Prepare your cooling rack lines with baking paper.  Immediately invert the cake pan onto the rack and leave to cool.

Once cooled, trim off tops and sides if necessary to get a uniform round shape.  Process the off cuts to make into crumbs.  Set aside.

To make the Italian buttercream, I used this recipe.


Place a paper doily on your cake tray and spread a tablespoon of frosting. This keeps the cake from moving around.  Place the first layer of cake on the doily.

Pipe the filling onto the cake using any kind of tip, or simply use a spatula and spread the filling evenly.

Place the second round cake on the filling and continue icing the cake sides and top.  

Using your hands, gently tap some of the crumbed off cuts on the sides of the cake.

Use remaining icing to decorate around the cake or the top.

There are other ways to make this cake.  You can use a rectangle cookie sheets with sides and make thinner cakes (cooking times will be less) and make a Swiss roll type of ube cake.  For the icing, you can use cream cheese frosting (sans the lemon) or a simple Creme Chantilly recipe (cream whipped with icing sugar and vanilla).  I believe any kind of white icing will work with this purple cake.

This lovely cake was showcased for dessert last weekend.  When the skies were blue, and the jacarandas in full view.  We had backyard barbeque with the family and some friends, ate and drank some, and listened to jazz and 80s music all afternoon.  Spring, weekends, barbeque, family, friends and cake.  What else could you ask for?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Filipino-style spaghetti

Most Filipino dishes are generally a bold mix (or pair) of any two of these: sweet, salty, spicy, sour.   The combination of flavours in a dish extract these basic tastes from the food and then onto your taste buds, and the fusion becomes the standard.  The way it should taste.  Take for example, the sweet rice cupcakes or puto.  They are topped with cheese or salted egg and then served with pork dinuguan (pork black pudding). Pork adobo also becomes an example as the braised pork becomes sweeter as the pork is caramelised with the addition of sugar.  The sweet champorado (chocolate rice pudding) is paired with the salty dried herring There are heaps of dishes that are contrasting in flavour and yet complements each other as a whole. 

Filipino cuisine is unique.  Although the influence on food comes from the different countries who came to occupy the Philippines before  and after the country's independence in 1898.  From Spanish to American dishes, influences from neighbouring Asian countries - Chinese, Thai, Malay, Indian and Japanese.  And the result, is a culinary fusion that sets it apart from any other.  Filipino dishes while sometimes can taste similar to several cuisines, there's always that one ingredient that will make it stand out from the rest. 

Now this spaghetti is unique too.  It has catsup!  And not just ordinary catsup.  It's banana catsup.  It's as Filipino as it can get.  Prepared with pork or beef mince, plus slices of hotdogs, banana ketsup/catsup and some sugar.  It is sweet kind of spaghetti with the  sauce thinned out with some water and further sweetened with the addition of sugar. 

We don't usually prepare this at home, as I find making the classic meat based ragu or bolognese easier and more convenient with common ingredients, i.e. don't have to take a trip to the Filipino shop to get some banana ketsup/catsup.  But this is something common back home.  Why it's even served at the local fastfood chain Jollibee.  And even McDonald's in the Philippines has this kind of spaghetti.    

To make this Filipino style spaghetti: 
(Print the recipe)


2 cloves garlic, finely diced

1 medium sized onion, finely diced

500g beef mince (or pork mince)

4-5 pieces cocktail hotdogs, sliced

140g tomato paste

700g bottle of passata (tomato sauce)

4-5 tablespoons of raw sugar

1 cup water

salt and pepper to taste

vegetable oil

Using a large saucepan on medium heat, add about a tablespoon of vegetable oil and then cook the onions and garlic until soft.  

Add the minced meat and cook until brown.  

Add the tomato paste and stir to coat the meat.  

Add the banana catsup, passata (tomato sauce) and the hotdogs and stir. Bring to a boil.

Add the sugar and water and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes.

Serve with spaghetti noodles and top with grated cheese.

I've made this specially for this month's theme at the Kulinarya Cooking Club.  Its not our usual spaghetti dish, but its familiar.  And it strikes close to home.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

No-bake mango ice-box cake

The heat is on!  And these sweet yellow juicy mangoes are beginning to show off their plump cheeks at my local fruit shop.  While they're not yet that cheap at $2.99 a piece, we can't help but indulge a little bit.  This is the girls all time favourite fruit.  The only one thing that they ALL love, in common - in whatever form.  Fresh, dried and even dressed up with cream and layered with some graham crackers.  Yep. Simple.  No-bake.  Fresh!  This was inspired by an old post using strawberries.

While summer is just around the corner, it is the best time to make use of some of Australia's best produce!  We like the Calypso variety better as they are not that hairy compared to the Kensington Pride kind.  But mangoes are mangoes and whenever they're in our home, they add harmony to the creatures around.

(Print this recipe)
3 ripe mangoes - halved, discard stones, then cut the flesh into strips  (see photo)
1 cup thickened cream 
¼ cup icing sugar (add more if you want it sweeter, or omit entirely), plus extra for dusting (optional) 
½ teaspoon vanilla extract 
4-5 packets of My San Graham Crackers (or any kind of flat biscuits/cookies.  Savoiardi or sponge fingers will work well too.) 
¼ cup toasted pistachios (optional)

Make straight line slits on the flesh as thin as you want.  Then scoop the strips with a spoon.


In the bowl of your standmixer, whip the cream and the icing sugar until you get soft peaks.  Add the vanilla and mix well.

Using a 14cm x 20cm rectangular Pyrex glass dish, spread a thin layer of whipped cream on the base of your dish.

Place a layer of the graham crackers (or whatever variety of cookie or biscuit you’re using) on the cream.

Spoon some whipped cream and spread on the crackers/biscuits. .  Add and layer the mango strips.  Spoon and spread more whipped cream on the mangoes. Repeat the layers until you get the dish filled.

Chill in the refrigerator to set for 2-3 hours, or overnight.

When serving, you can choose to cut them into portions.  Or give everyone a spoon and scoop away! 


  • sprinkle some toasted pistachios on top after chilling and before serving, for that added texture. 
  • dust with icing sugar 

NOTE:  If you're using thicker varieties of biscuits or cookies, you must consider as well, the size of your dish.   

TIP: Place your empty bowl in the fridge before whipping the cream.  This accelerates achieving soft peaks.  Or place a bowl of ice under your mixing bowl while whipping the cream which will work as well.

And here's a short note from an old post about graham crackers: "*Graham crackers originally are American-made biscuits made of graham flour. For this cake, we used a Philippine brand which are available at Filipino shops and some Asian grocers.  Digestive biscuits are the closest substitute to graham crackers as far as the taste is concerned, although digestive biscuits are somewhat too thick.  Ladyfinger or savoiardi  may also be used as substitute but will limit the layers of the cake and lessen the chilling time as these sponge biscuits will soften faster."

We love mangoes!  Coming from a tropical country where these babies abound year round, it takes every bit of patience to wait until they are in season in AU.  Mangoes are excellent eaten fresh, and great with anything!  And this no bake dish I promise you,  is quick, easy and so refreshing with every bite.  We made this for a weeknight dessert, with some of the crushed crackers on top.  They keep well in the fridge for as long as everyone doesn't sneak and have a slice or two.  Ssssshhhhh...... I hear footsteps!


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