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, January 28, 2013

Coconut panna cotta with mango salad

A week or so ago we took the girls to their first ever late movie (way past regular bedtime).  And this was to watch the much acclaimed Life of Pi.  The whole family watched the 2 hour spectacle of amazing film graphics and an absolutely heart warming story.  As summer’s been pretty hot, it was a good weekend option to hit the cinema on a warm night.

As there have been mixed reviews about the movie – some raved how great it is.  While some ranted about the movie missing some of the details and made up with colourful graphics.  I’m on the other camp.  I loved it.  The story, the visual effects, the music background.  The whole lot. It was a superb movie that helped spruce up sales of the book once again.  The book published in 2001 has gathered a good following after its release and has even been awarded the Man  Booker Prize – a prestigious international literary award.  After watching, I now got hold of the book and have been glued.  It is indeed amazing and the memory of Richard Parker makes me smile as if I shared that journey with Pi on that boat. 

Now back to to reality and the monotonous routine of the school holidays.  The girls are kept enticed thanks to technology and TV during the days of the week that I'm working.  On most days, its just the same.  I can't seem to pull them off these supposed distractions and push them outside in the sunshine.  Sometimes I wonder if getting those hours of silence and no-bickering actually good.  Either for them, or for us - the parents.  But then, I try to sit back, sigh and think. Oh well.  It's the school holidays after all.

This dessert was originally made for the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop for this month, but was quickly replaced when I discovered this new cookbook that I'm dying to get my hands on.  The maja ube (purple yam and coconut pudding) proved to be more visually inviting and was tropical in every sense.  But this is a simple and delicious dessert that is also worth the effort, and so here it is.  And while it's still summer, make use of the season's bounty.  Mangoes!  This recipe is adapted, from House (a local retailer of kitchenware, cookware etc) in-house magazine Christmas 2011 edition. 

To make this coconut panna cotta with mango salad:
(Print the recipe here)

300ml coconut cream

300ml single cream

2 gelatin leaves (gold)

120g caster sugar

2 vanilla pods

3 mangoes, diced

zest of 1 lime

juice of 1 lime

mint leaves or toasted coconut (optional for garnish)


In a small bowl, soak the gelatin leaves in cold water to soften.

 In a medium sized pot, combine the coconut cream, cream and caster sugar.

Slice the vanilla pods and scrape the seeds into the pot with the coconut cream mixture.

In medium heat, bring the coconut cream mixture to a boil.  Set aside to slightly cool.

Add the soft gelatin leaves and whisk.

Strain using a fine sieve into a jug.

Pour into prepared glass bowls (we used about 4 small plastic flutes and 3 ice cream bowls).

Let the panna cotta cool in room temperature then place in the fridge to fully set and cool.

Prepare mango salad.  In a small bowl, mix the diced mango with the lime juice and zest.

To serve, top the panna cotta with the mango salad and garnish with mint leaves.


* Do not substitute thick cream/double cream to the single cream.  Single cream is lighter and thinner in consistency and has minimum of 18% milk fat.  Usually used for pouring on desserts. You will have a  heavy panna cotta if you use this.
*Do not add the gelatin leaves to a HOT mixture or the gelatin will simply melt and the panna cotta will not set. 

* You can leave the panna cotta in the fridge overnight if serving the next day.  Place on a tray and cover with cling wrap. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Maja ube (purple yam coconut pudding)

I've been following SBS' feature on island feasts by Peter Kuruvita when they started airing last year.  And with the encore episodes showing this month, I am again glued to the TV.  It was a nice surprise when a feature on Filipino food was showcased. Its amazing how watching something familiar can bring you close to home.  Of course most of the dishes featured are not new to me, but just because I am of Filipino heritage does not mean I know how to make every single dish.  There are a lot of them, and one dish can have a thousand and one ways to make.  Depending on which region you are in the island, and what ingredients are on hand.  Sometimes, there are also quick, cheat tricks using readily available ingredients.  Like using canned coconut cream for the actual milk derived from freshly grated coconut, frozen grated purple yam in lieu of the real thing.  

And since my knowledge of my own country's cuisine expands only to the corners of region I grew up, there are heaps of other dishes that I've never tried to make at home.  When an office colleague went to the Philippines for the holidays, and brought this book, I knew a challenge is at hand.   

Goldilocks Bakeshop is an icon in the Philippines.  It's fame is equivalent to NY's Magnolia Bakery and London's Hummingbird Bakery.  Despite the sprouting of new bakeshops and entry of franchise bakeries in the Philippines, this true Filipino institution is one that makes the heart of Filipinos abroad a flutter.  I just need to get my hands on a copy!  

But while waiting for my own, M kindly lent me the book for the weekend.  And voila!  A recipe for maja ube was made - just in time for SABH theme for the month of Tropical Paradise hosted by Nic of Dining with a Stud.  Check out her coconut and mango sago from the widgets below!

Maja blanca is a pudding-like Filipino dessert made of coconut milk (The Goldilocks Bakebook recipe mentioned first extract from shredded coconut.  My point on using alternative ingredients for convenience). The variety stems from the use of other flavourings such as Maja Mais (corn), Maja Pandan and and in this case - Maja Ube.  The ingredients are basic tropical island ingredients: coconut milk, purple yam, glutinous rice flour, etc. 

To make Maja Ube
(Print the recipe)

3/4 cup corn flour

1/4 cup glutinous rice flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

325ml (1 and 1/2 cup) water

750ml (3 cups) coconut milk

50ml condensed milk

1 cup sugar

1 and 1/2 cup grated purple yam

30g unsalted butter

1 tablespoon (or more) ube flavouring

banana leaves (optional)


Line a 20cm round Pyrex or baking pan with banana leaves (or baking paper).
(I used two shallow 24cm Areca palm leaf plates)

In a medium sized bowl, combine corn flour, glutinous rice flour and salt and whisk together.

Add the water and mix well with a fork.  It will form into a paste.  Set aside.

In a work or a deep skillet, combine coconut milk, condensed milk and sugar over medium heat.

Cook the mixture while stirring until it boils and starts to thicken.

Reduce heat to low simmer and add the grated purple  yam.

Continue cooking and add the cornstarch mixture and purple yam flavouring.  Stir and mix well until it thickens to pudding consistency.

Add the butter and stir until the butter has melted.

Pour into the prepared pans/plate.  Allow to cool and set.

Garnish with toasted shredded coconut (latik).


- Banana leaves can be bought from Asian fruit shops (fresh or frozen);
- You can buy purple yam flavouring/extract and grated frozen purple yam from Asian groceries and Filipino shops;
- Use (thawed) frozen shredded coconut for the topping not the dry shredded coconut from supermarket shelves. Also available from Asian grocers. Check out my recipe for latik  from this post;
- You can refrigerate the Maja Ube and serve cold.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Fresh brocolli salad

There's an email going around the office. Its been shared by a family for many years and so apparently its also been passed on to office colleagues who came and went.   And it's not a chain letter.  It is actually a really good brocolli salad.  And this is it.   Mr G who shared this salad recipe is a lovely man who's been all over the world and back.  He's like a jolly Santa always happy to share a ho-ho-ho or a recipe or two.  Even when it's way pass Christmas.

Broccoli salad
Print the recipe


3 heads brocolli, washed and cut into florets/small segments

250g diced bacon

1 medium red onion, sliced

1/2 cup sultanas/raisins

1 tablespoon pine nuts

1 tablespoon sunflower seeds

2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

sugar to taste (optional)


Cook the bacon until crisp, drain on paper/kitchen paper and set aside to cool.

Place the brocolli florets in a large bowl. 

Add the mayonnaise then all the other ingredients.   Mix until the brocolli florets are coated with the dressing. 

*Add a bit more cider vinegar or sugar to balance the taste.  Should be a bit tangy and sweet.

Once bacon is cooled, add to the salad mixture and stir.  

Leave in the fridge to cool for at least an hour before serving.

* You can omit the bacon and make this entirely vegetarian.  Alternate mayonnaise with sour cream.  You can also use other types of nuts - toasted almond slices work a treat.*

I work in an office where there's a culture of sharing food/dishes made at home, especially when there's an occasion that calls for it - a birthday, someone going away, anniversary, etc. etc.  And I've tasted this in one of those occasions.  And it just changed the way I look at fresh brocolli!   As I'm a newbie at work (about 6 months and counting), I heard so much rave reviews about this salad that I had to get a copy of that circulating email and try it at home!  

Its a great summer salad!  To bring to that party or that picnic at the park!  Why as brocolli's a year round vegetable, its great at just about any season!
Try it!  But don't tell Mr G it came from me.  Ssshhhh!

PS - I do have the permission from the owner to share this so you can all relax.  xx

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Spinach balls

After all the Christmas trimmings and tidying up happened there appears to be what now seems to be an empty space in the lounge room.  There was the tree and all the presents underneath.  A tub full of Christmas cards and trimmings.  A box of wrappers and sticky tapes.  Lots of toys scattered about and shoes and lollies if you may.  What used to be a corner full of excitement and chaos and cheer and colour is now empty.  Ah the holidays.  It brings so much excitement that its always bittersweet to part with the spirit and get on back to routine.  When's the next holiday again?

So.  Its the new year and tidying up the trimmings also meant tidying up some electronic backlog.  Photos untouched and recipes left unwritten.  And this post is one of those! I've been meaning to share after meeting the maestro of Italian cooking last October - the other half of the two greedy Italians Antonio Carluccio.

The Maestro is how he is in person as he is on television.  Jolly, unpredictable and full of laughs. He shares a joke or two through out the Sydney World Chef Showcase session I attended and was just as funny as he on stage and face to face, when I had my book signed.  This recipe which he shared and prepared on stage was something he created for a book 25 years ago, but has since used it for many other dishes, including as a vegetarian pasta dish or even layered in a vegetarian lasagna.

To make these spinach balls, I've halved the recipe to make 12 spinach balls. 
You can make 24 balls simply by doubling the ingredient quantities.

(Print the recipe)

250g spinach, washed

1 egg, beaten

pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1 clove garlic, finely diced

50g breadcrumbs

25g grated parmesan

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil for shallow frying

Blanch the spinach in a pan of salted boiling water for 2 minutes.  Drain using a colander.

Using your hands, squeeze out the water from blanched spinach.  Then chop the spinach finely.

Place the chopped spinach in a bowl and stir in the rest of the ingredients: salt, pepper, eggs, breadcrumbs, parmesan, garlic.  

Mix well until you get a binding consistency - the ingredients are binding together. If the mixture is too wet, add a tablespoon of breadcrumbs.

Roll the mixture into little balls.

Prepare and heat a shallow pan and cover the base with enough olive oil for frying.

Shallow fry the spinach balls in the hot olive oil until golden, 3-4 minutes per side.

Drain on kitchen paper and serve warm (or cold).

These little spinach balls are so good and healthy too! Eaten by themselves or dipped into your favourite sauce (mayo, catsup, sweet chilli sauce, etc) I reckon they're great as appetizers especially during this summer for those backyard parties!  Also a great dish to bring to any party.  Hot or cold, they are divine!  After all, they were created by none other than one of the greatest cooks in this century.

So when's the next holiday again?  How about Australia Day!  These would be great in that picnic basket, don't you think?

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Mango filo pastry with pistachios

It's the hottest summer on record in Sydney with a 41*C forecast today.  I sit here in the comfort of home, all fans humming, the girls slouched on the sofa with the ipods and some moving in action with the Wii console.  Its a good life.  Its still the school holidays as it is, and I love that although we are moving in our own parallel universe, we are all one in this heat.  And that's just not Sydney.  Around Australia the heat is on!  I love summer!  But sometimes the heat can just get too exhausting. 

But let's not get the heat into our head.  Let's all cool down with the summer's bounty!  Of course I'm talking about mangoes!   Before this year's harvest disappear from the shelves, there's lots of time to make this simple, quick and easy dessert.  A 15-minute meal category if you may.  Its really quick and easy to make, and quick and easy to devour.

Ingredients are at arms reach.  For starters, filo pastries are easy to come by. Frozen packets from your local grocer, fresh mangoes sliced and diced, toasted pistachios, icing sugar.  Don't fret that you'd have turn on your oven.  Its going to be quick I promise.  10-12 minutes max to turn the pastries golden and then you're off!

 To make this quick and easy mango filo pastry dessert:
(Print the recipe here)


Filo pastry - 4-5 sheets, cut into equal squares

2-3 fresh mangoes, cheeks sliced and diced

1/4 cup toasted pistachios, roughly chopped

icing sugar for dusting/decoration


After cutting the filo sheets, mould them onto your muffin pan/cupcake tins.

Bake in a preheated 180*C oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden.

Remove from oven and let cool in a wire rack.

Dust the filo cups with icing sugar

Place 1-2 tablespoons diced mangoes into the filo cups.

Top with toasted pistachios.  Serve immediately.

You can make the filo cups an hour or two ahead as they retain their crisp and crunch while cooling.  Then assemble the mango and pistachio topping just before serving.

Now tell me!  Doesn't that look refreshing?

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Steamed milk cupcakes (Filipino puto)

There's an unwritten Filipino tradition that every family observes on the eve of new year. It doesn't matter which part of the world we are, generally all Filipino families practice this.  And that is to plate or serve round types of food.  Whether its a basket full of round fruits or dishes with round ingredients, it is a custom that's hard to ignore.  Why?  Well supposedly round-shaped foods and fruits bring good luck for the new year. Everybody wants good luck for the new year, right?  Who wouldn't?

This practice is obviously brought and influenced by the Chinese. Whether its fad or tradition, we follow what we grew up with. So round fruits always adorn our table every new year.  Here's an old article mined from 2010 about this practice.

And while we are in the subject of round foods, why not a classic Filipino round sweet treat for a first post of the year!  So  here it is, a recipe shared to me by an ex office colleague for steamed milk cupcakes, or "puto" as what is locally called back home.

Puto/s are traditionally made using rice flour, hence called steamed rice cupcakes or cakes.  They're also made using banana leaves trimmed to fit the round mini cakes.  They also come in lots of colours (no flavours) and sometimes with pandan and coconut flavours.

But this particular recipe is easy.  It uses plain flour and pantry staples.  And its no bake.  I've prepared this using a make-shift steamer: a large wok, a round grill or cooling rack placed on top of the water and mini cupcake pans. Of course if you own a steamer, this will be an easier feat.  Otherwise, you can always use the oven and make this using a bain-marie: a roasting rack with a little water, your cupcake pan then covered with aluminum foil. 

To make this recipe
(Print the recipe here)


3 cups all purpose/plain flour

1 1/2 cups milk or 1 can 375ml evaporated milk

3 tablespoons baking powder

2 cups caster sugar

1 1/2 cups water

3 eggs

cheese slices/squares or grated for topping

In a large bowl using a whisk, mix all ingredients together.

Pour into muffin/cupcake pans.

Top with cheese.

Place in the steamer (or bain marie in the oven) and cook for 20 minutes.

Test with a toothpick or skewer.  Stick should come out clean.


The classic combo for this sweet treat is puto and dinuguan (blood pudding).  If you haven't tried this, just leave it to your imagination.  It may seem a odd.  Wierd even. But the combination is divine. Savoury and sweet at the same time.  Black and white.  Ebony and ivory.  But that's Filipino food for you.    It's like no other I must say.  Now I'm not going to push anyone to try dinuguan (blood pudding, why I'm the only one at home who likes this stuff!  And I'm yet to learn how to make it!), but this sweet round treat should be an easy must-try for those who are keen for something different.

So how about you?  Do you have family traditions that you follow from where you grew up?  Or are you making your own traditions?  And while we're at it, do you have any foodie resolutions and goal this year?


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