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, March 26, 2013

Hot apple tarts (Tartes fine aux pommes)

Time flies when you're having fun!  Do you believe that saying?  Is there truth in it? Absolutely.  I realised a month ago my blog is already on its 5th year.  Hooray!  What started out as a personal journal to keep and remember recipes has evolved into something more. 

Through this blog, I've met the most wonderful people who share the same interest and passion that I have in food, both personally and virtually. 

Through this blog, I developed a keen interest in cooking and baking that I've decided to take Commercial Cookery and I'm onto my last semester.

Through this blog I have learned more about photography and food styling and op shop/prop shopping!

Through this blog I've created a happy place for myself - for those times when parenting, domesticity, work and all other things become frustrating.  Yes.  This has become an outlet of some sort.  Therapeutic as cooking and baking can be, writing brings a different sense of calmness.  Through this blog, I become a story teller.  And as it has been my initial intention, through this blog, my kids will read about their own stories and learn to cook along the way.

Now rewind five years ago, my first blog post was all about a trip to the Blue Mountains with some friends and we went apple picking.   I remember we had so many apples that after getting tired of juicing them and making apple crumble, I went on to make my first ever cake from scratch.  It was one Easter long weekend.  

On a recent trip to the Blue Mountains with the inlaws (hashtag #inlawsarehere) we did the same thing.  Despite the heat and the long drive (actually 2 hours is not that long, except when you have kids perpetually asking - are we there yet? ), we had great fun.  This time though we managed to control our pickings and harvested only what we can consume responsibly.

Bilpin Springs Orchard is 1.5-2 hours drive towards Western Sydney via Richmond. They orchard is open to the public for fruit picking most weekends with a variety of fruits to pick on offer.  It's a different kind of experience for our overseas guests especially apples, plums and pears are not locally grown fruits in the Philippines.  And while we were there, of course we showcased the famous Three Sisters at Echo Point in Katoomba and walked around the local shops.

So.  Five years of adobo down under in the blogosphere sounds like a celebration to me.  Not bad at all.  And to celebrate five years of food blogging, musings and story telling, let me share a simple recipe that embraces the coming of autumn. It is a simple, easy sweet dish that's a crowd pleaser any time of the day.  Its easy because you can use store-bought puff pastry.  Its simple because you only need a few basic ingredients.  But the result is something that looks really fancy.  And then you can say you made tartes fine aux pommes.   This recipe is inspired by Margaret Fulton's Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery.

To make these simple but fancy looking Tartes fine aux pommes:


2 sheets puff pastry
4 apples (with enough to munch on while making)
50g butter (25g for brushing and 25g cubes to put on top)
1/4 cup raw sugar
cinnamon to sprinkle (optional)

I used a small 3-4cm cake pan to cut out the shapes from the puff pastry.  If you have pastry round cutters you can use that.  Or otherwise, do other shapes.

The layers.  Puff pastry, apples, brushed with a little bit of butter, raw sugar and a tiny knob of butter on top.

Golden crispy pastries with soft cinnamon scented apples.  Divine!


Sprinkle some flour on your bench top or table.

Using a rolling pin, roll the store bought puff pastry to slightly thin them.

Cut the pastry out to size - rounds or squares or triangles. Whatever you fancy.

Place the cut out pastry onto a lined baking sheet and place in the refrigerator to chill for 20-30 minutes.

Wash, peel and core the apples.

Using a mandoline or sharp knife, cut the apple into thin slices.

Once the pastry has chilled, layer the apples slices onto the pastry.

Brush some of the melted butter on the top of the apples. 

Using your fingers, sprinkle some raw sugar on the apple slices then place a tiny cube of butter on the top.

Sprinkle some ground cinnamon on the tops.

Bake in a preheated 180*C oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden.

Place on a wire rack to cool.


* We've made these as squares and triangles and it works just the same.  

* When brushing the butter on the top of the apples, don't use to much.  You only want to wet the apples so the sugar will stick to the slices.

*The tarts are best eaten still warm and crispy a few minutes after baked.  

Happy 5th year adobo down under!  Even though there's no cake in this party, there is a big space to say Maraming Salamat. Gracias. Merci.  For being a part of this celebration.  Cheers! 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Strawberry-limoncello slushie (for adults only)

If you've been following me on IG aka Instagram, you'd know that we've been busy the last couple of weeks with the inlaws in town (yes, hashtag #inlawsarehere).  We've been doing the touristy thing - you know, Sydney icons - Opera House, Manly, Bondi, Blue Mountains, Harbour Bridge, The Rocks, etc. etc.  We even managed a trip down the South Coast and showcased Hyam's Beach to our guests.  We stayed at the hidden peninsula that is Callala Beach - a lovely little coastal town.  Our weekends were full on.  We shopped non stop (they love shopping!), ate non stop (food's always good anywhere), and just had great fun overall.

Although it can get really exhausting especially when in between these we still have to do our usual routine: school drop off and pick up, work, homework, cello/piano lessons... it's always rrefreshing to have guests around.  It breaks the routine of an otherwise monotonous existence.  Hubby and I truly enjoyed the adult conversation and catch ups after every meal and of course, the late night escapes into the city (MIL was extremely nice) and of course the extra help around the home.   It was bittersweet sending them off after three and half weeks.   Now I am back to my monologue with the girls especially when hubby is working nights.  I say its a monologue because most of the time it sounds like this:  do your homework, brush your teeth, wash already, yadda yadda yadda.  Sigh.

Now that we're back to our routine, its time to catch up on some backlog of food photos and catch up on some writing.  I missed last month's SABH License to Chill - I wanted to share some Filipino Ice Candy aka ice blocks but no matter.  Sydney's autumn scene is still a bit warm so maybe a time to showcase some summer tropical fruits is not yet too late.

The idea for this month's SABH theme (check out JJ's cocktail inspired indulgent Chocolate Caramel Tart!) came through my FB page when I saw this a couple of weeks mid summer.   They looked amazing and at the sight of it I thought, "Wow, that sure looks refreshing!"  I even bought the popsicle moulds. 

Now these challenges always make me excited.  As in giddy.  I prepared this cocktail popsicles on a warm Sydney autumn morning just after breakfast, hoping to slurp on this kick-ass popsicles by sundown.  But alas.  My hopes were let down. After 4 hours in the freezer, the popsicles were still icy and not solid enough to unmold from their cases.  Apparently, I used too much alcohol (initially it was 120ml limoncello.  I've adjusted the recipe below and added more of the ginger ale) . 

But a goal is a goal.  And a promise is a promise.  So by sundown, we've managed to get our asses kicked by this oh-so-punchy popsicle-turned-slushies.  It packs a punch, I tell you.  Maybe next time, I'll try and mix the slushies with some champagne.  Or maybe add a dash of Tabasco sauce?  Oh wait, hang on, that must the limoncello kicking in.....

To make this Strawberry-Limoncello slushie:
60ml limoncello
250ml dry ginger ale
250g punnet fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
Juice of 1 lemon

 Place strawberries in the blender.  

Add lemon juice, ginger beer and limoncello.

Process in a blender. 
Pour into 4 popsicle moulds.  Freezer for 4-6 hours.

(Since this popsicle adventure became slushies, we opted for tiny dessert spoons instead of a straw to make sure consumption is in moderation). 

The limoncello brand Chateau Hestia Limoncello (in the photo) is imported from the Philippines and is actual made of the local indigenous citrus fruit called dalandan and has 38% alcohol content.  We've had it before during our visit in 2010 and its truly something to take in moderation. Thanks to my cousin who sent them through the inlaws.


* Mixture should only have 20 percent alcohol.  The higher the alcohol content, the less the mixture will freeze.  I learned that now.

* You can use shallow paper cups and fill them 2/3s full.  Once the mixture is a little bit solid, insert wooden popsicle sticks.

* This mixture were good for large sized popsicle moulds with extra to sip on.


So how was your weekend like?  Sydney's been warm and its already autumn.  But I'm not complaining.  My tropical blood is enjoying all this sunshine! 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Gambas al Ajillo


Ok.  So today I decided to brag about this dish.  Er. I mean blog about this recipe.  This was only after I realised this dish is not yet in my blog archives.  How can that be?  It's one of my all-time favourite dishes way back when - as an appetizer usually when out drinking with mates.  Back in the day.  And yes, at home too as a main dish.  Its a simple dish without the need for a recipe, really.  Just the basics of olive oil, garlic, chillies, parsley and good ol' salt and pepper.  Its actually one of those dishes which you can re-create on your own just by tasting the dish.  You know those times when you eat something at a restaurant that looks easy enough and you try to replicate it at home.  Well, this is like one of those.  Actually just look at the picture and you will already know what to do.

Gambas al Ajillo is a Spanish dish which originates from the South of Spain and it is really a tapas dish - an entree or appetizer.  A long time ago, when I took a short Spanish cooking class at the Sydney Seafood School, this was one of the tapas dishes we prepared.  Intentionally, I enrolled to learn the basics of paella.  And it was a bonus to learn two other tapas dishes  - this one included.  An easy Spanish tapas dish which is already a hit every single time.   When I organised the Taste of Harmony lunch at work and asked everyone to bring a dish from a country they want to visit, I initially thought of making Tres Leches Cake because one of my dream is to visit South America and trek the Machu Picchu. But I also would love visit Spain and making this was easy enough on a weekday morning. 

To make Gambas al Ajillo

500g prawns - washed, peeled and deveined

3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped finely

2 birds eye chillies, chopped finely

1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons light olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


Heat olive oil in a skillet or pan.

Add the garlic and cook until soft but not brown.  
(Do not burn as your dish will taste bitter)

Add the prawns and stir until cooked through.

Add the chopped chillies and stir.

Season with salt and pepper.

Top with the chopped parsley.

Serve with toasted crusty bread.

Taste of Harmony lunch feast at the Office

I'm grateful that I work in small organisation and coercing everyone to bring a dish with a theme was too easy.  Everyone had a good lunch celebrating with lots of food and stories to share.

 * Taste of Harmony is an initiative by the Scanlon Foundation whose vision is to enhance social cohesion in Australia.  TOH is an annual event which encourages workplace colleagues to share food and stories from different cultural backgrounds.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hot cross buns

I'm a stickler for tradition.  As much as possible, I'd like to create them and my family (hubby and kids) are in for the money. I'm talking about tradition which we'd all agree we'd like to keep and grow with, alongside those that hubby and me have learned from when/where we grew up.  Its a bit of a challenge when you move overseas and you're left to you own devices to create your own little circle and keeping to traditions you grew up with is part of the challenge.  In the absence of elderly folks, its up to us (hubby and me) as first generation migrants to step up to the challenge and make sure that our girls grow up, not just assimilating into the Australian way of life, but also keeping to the traditions and culture of Filipinos.

Lent always brings  me back to this - traditions and keeping them. Growing up in a predominantly Catholic environment where generally everyone celebrates Lent and the Holy Week (from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday) with rituals and celebrations, its difficult to replicate the same in an environment that is multi-denomination.   For one, churches in the Philippines are open 24hours during this time where people are encouraged to come in and do their own prayers and offerings.  In some other parts of the country, there are rituals re-enacting Christ carrying the cross up to the crucifixion (Warning - some people may be put off watching these footage - something I've never seen in person).  Growing up, our Holy Week would begin with prayers and songs offered as part of the "Pabasa" at the local church, doing stations of the cross with my mom, a late evening mass on Good Friday (where the priests would reenact the washing of the apostle's feet), and a dawn procession on Easter, then mass in the morning.   When we were younger, Easter egg hunt at home was a luxury and eventually stopped when we grew older.  As a teenager then, this was such a feat that I dreaded, to be honest.  But now, I wish I could give the same experience to my girls. 

So far, we have managed to stick to a few during Easter - , drive around the local suburbs to visit 7 different churches to offer prayers on Good Friday or Black Saturday (called Bisita Iglesia in the Philippines, this entailed doing the stations of the cross in each church visited) mass at the local church on Easter Sunday, potluck lunch at home and hubby's life-changing Easter egg hunt in the backyard. 

Now, Filipinos don't have Hot Cross Buns during Lent, and I've never in my life before moving to Australia knew of these deliciousness.  In the past, we've always bought the famous-bakeshop varieties, or the supermarket-brand ones.  But last year, it changed.  Call it a new tradition, but when I saw this from Bron Marshall's IG feed, there was this calling to make them. I love how Bron shared her family's tradition through her recipe.  Hot. Cross. Buns.  I've made these many times now and everyone who ever tasted them loved them - and gave their definiltey-better-than-any-other-hot-cross-buns-they've-ever-tasted-2-thumbs-up.  Making your own hot cross buns at home is definilty worth the time and the effort.    

I've adapted Bron's recipe here.

300ml warm water
90g brown sugar, lightly packed
1 and 1/2 sachet (3 teaspoons) Tandaco dry yeast
4 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons milk powder
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
75g dried currants
75g sultanas
40g mixed peel
50g unsalted butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup flour, extra for piping
80ml water, for piping


In a medium sized bowl, dissolve the brown sugar in the warm water.  Sprinkle the dry yeast and set aside.  The sugar will activate the yeast and this will become bubbly and foamy.

In a large bowl sift the bread flour, milk powder, ground spices and salt.  Then add the dried fruits.

Attach the dough hook to your stand mixer.

Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture, then pour in the melted butter.  Mix until the dough is smooth and comes off the sides of the bowl.
(If using hands, knead the dough for 8-10 minutes until smooth).

Cover the bowl with cling-wrap and set aside until double in size.

The dough has seriously doubled in size

Lightly grease and line a square 23cm brownie or cake pan/tray.

Cut the dough into 55-60g and shape into balls.  

Shape the dough into rounds/balls, weighed into 50-60g each

Cover with the tray with a damp tea towel and place in a warm spot and let rise for 1 hour or more.

Preheat the oven to 200*C.

Prepare your piping paste - combine the extra flour and water and mix to a piping texture and consistency.  Transfer to a piping bag and set aside.

Once the buns are ready (buns have risen after an hour), brush the tops with the egg wash.

Pipe lines across the buns to form crosses on the tops using your flour-paste mixture. 

Brushed with egg-wash and piped with the flour-water mixture

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.  

Serve immediately with a slather of butter.  Or keep some for tomorrow's tea.

How about you?  Do you have Lenten/Easter traditions you grew up and keep to this day?  What foods do you usually serve on this holy season?  


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