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!

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!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Friands for high tea - SABH October

I am currently on a macaron challenge.  A self imposed one at that.  At home, I love cooking and baking!  Its a fairly new world for me because I've only started baking from scratch a few years ago.  Discount the peanut butter cookies we used to bake when we were kids.  My desire to bake was seriously triggered by all the morning tea and bake sales at the girls' school, and only started here in Australia.  Its a challenge for a mother to come up with baked goods for fetes, morning tea, afternoon tea and other school functions.   

When we did our Pastry, Hot and Cold Desserts module early this year at TAFE,  it was pure bliss.  Making puff pastry from scratch, pate sucre, bread and all this marvellous sweet treats.  I was a kid in a Willy Wonka shop.  And I'm still learning.

My baking interests though is focused more on simple classics.  I love and admire seeing fondant covered cupcakes and cakes with truly works of art (2-3 tiered with 3D figures, Oh my!)  but I don't want to go in the direction.  My fiddly fingers will only bear disastrous alien-like forms and my patience will then get the better of me.  I'm fine with piping cupcakes and icing cakes with a spatula.  Now going back to this diva called the "macaron", I've attempted twice in the last 3 days.  The first one called for a slightly different approach (no whipping the egg whites to stiff peaks), and resulted in flat, feet-less macarons that looked like cookies instead.  They tasted great! But nonetheless, they have been renamed in my repertoire as green tea almond cookies with sesame seeds. The second attempt was following the traditional French method and resulted with itty bitty tiny feet but lots of cracks on top.  Oh well. Back to the mixing bowl I say.

But meantime, I've got a high tea to showcase and lots of almond meal and egg whites, so the classic friands became the order of the day.  These gorgeous treats are making their way to this month's Sweet Adventures Blog Hop with the theme - High Tea, hosted by Jennifer of Le Delicieux!  Check out her mouth-watering Triple Chocolate Honeycomb Cake!

I love friands.  They are simple and really tasty.  The smell of them baking in the oven with hints of orange is just divine!  Enough to warrant some friends and family over!   This recipe is adapted from Margaret Fulton's recipe book Baking - The Ulimate Sweet and Savoury Baking Collection.

To make these friands:
(Print recipe here)

175g butter

1 cup almond meal

grated rind of 1 orange

260g (1 ⅔ cup) icing sugar, sifted

75g (1/2 cup) plain flour, sifted

5 egg whites

200g fresh or frozen raspberries


Preheat oven to 230*C.  Grease 12-cup friand mould or a ¼ - ½ cup capacity muffin/cupcake tray.

Place the butter in a saucepan on low heat until golden.  Set aside.

In a medium-large sized bowl, mix the almond meal with the orange rind,  icing sugar and flour with a wire whisk.

Add the egg whites and whisk, adding the melted butter slowly (you made need an extra pair of hands to hold the bowl while you do this), whisk until the batter is mixed well.  No hard or brown solids.

Half fill the moulds or cupcake tins using an ice cream scooper or a spoon.

Top each with 2-3 raspberries, then place the pan/tin on a baking tray and bake for 5 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 200*C and bake for another 12-15 minutes.

Turn the oven off and leave the trays in the oven for another 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and turn onto a cooling rack.

And because I've been on baking spree since Wednesday, it was only timing that a spontaneous afternoon tea with family and friends happened over the weekend. Hubby had overseas guests so we also did the Australian backyard barbeque Filipino style (grilled chicken inasal which shall be for another post).   These friands were the favourite among the spread, that I'm thinking a real friand tin would be in order soon.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pork belly Bicol Express

So our laptop died a couple of week backs.  The blue screen of death emerged from what used to be a seemingly quiet and cooperative non-living thing.  No signs of slowing down from previous weeks, no puff puff puffing about, no sputtering smoke like an old car would.  Nothing. And then the blue screen.  A non living thing was infact a living being – full of all our old photos and videos and all of my food photos.  The ones I’ve been putting off to blog about.  There were about 300 photos, meant for 6 blog posts and recipes.  We had about three quarters of the family photos saved in an external drive. The rest... well.  They went with the blue screen.  Oh well.  Surprisingly  we all accepted the demise with composure and understanding.  No cursing you didn’t do this, or blaming why didn’t I blah blah blah... blah blah blah.  Well maybe in my head and hubby’s but no loud gnarling expletives in mid air.  I think its a sign that we’ve matured.  Whatever.

There's a good thing here.  There's something to be learned from this.  And I always say this to myself.  The good news is the laptop has been ressurected with a new hard drive at a fraction of the cost.  And I found some of those pictures (not all of it) still in the camera memory card.  Minus a few items.  So all is not lost.  No dramas.

And this dish was one of those saved.  A few of them photos at least.  These are a fave of mine and hubby.  Its spicy and has that punch.   A Filipino classic with origins from the southern part of Luzon which is the Bicol region where the majestic and enchanting Mayon Volcano resides. Bicol Express, the name of dish was originally coined by a local cook from a Malate Manila restaurant, after the train that runs from Manila to the Bicol - the region famous for its spicy cuisine. Like any recipe or dish, the variations are aplenty.  The base of this dish is the coconut milk and the addition of shrimp paste - something that takes a bit of getting used to, for the unfamiliar palate.  But like traditional Thai and Malaysian dishes, shrimp paste can be the X-factor that could make or break the dish.  Personally, I think this must be the next best pork dish to adobo from Filipino classic dishes. 

Cast of characters: onions, ginger, garlic, chillies

To make Bicol Express:
(Print the recipe here)

 750g-1kg pork belly, sliced into cubes

1 large onion, chopped

1 knob ginger, diced

3 cloves garlic, diced

2-3 tablespoons shrimp paste (more if preferred)

2 green long chillies

3-4 birds eye red chillies

1 litre coconut milk

vegetable oil

In a large pan or skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and stir the onion, garlic and ginger until fragrant. Do not burn.

Add the shrimp paste and stir to release oils. (this can get really smelly if you're not used to shrimp paste - it has a fishy smell)

Add the pork belly and stir to coat the meat.

Pour the coconut milk and bring to a boil.  Then turn down heat to simmer and let the meat cook and the sauce reduced.

You can chop half the chillies and add them when almost done into the dish.  And leave the rest to top the Bicol Express when serving.

This is best eaten with steaming hot rice.

And the base: coconut milk and shrimp paste

Hang on a minute. I just realised the Filipinos also have the lechon (roast spit pig) in our pork line up. Well, maybe this can be third.


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