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 21, 2014

Coconut tapioca with mangoes

So.  I made this for an office birthday lunch Thai cuisine theme.  And everyone fell in love.

I have made this at one of our street BBQ parties and it was a hit.

Hubby loves this and eats portions of it every day when its in the fridge, slowly partaking of the sweet dessert controlling himself.  Otherwise he could eat it in one sitting.

I posted this on FB and was asked the recipe.

Sometimes, what seems easy can be complicated when specific details are amissed.  For example. A friend of mine in Manila asked me for the recipe and so I told her what I did - boil and cook the tapioca, warm the coconut milk and add sugar, mix the tapioca with the coconut milk, pour into pyrex or tray, chill then top with mangoes.

Seems easy, right?

Of course, I didn't realise that she buys the tapioca from the markets cooked already.   
Was she suppoesd to boil and cook them again?  
Of course, this will make things a little less starchy as cooked tapioca bought from the markets has been washed.

Nor did it occur to me that of course absolutely, fresh grated coconut is available and that she will squeeze the milk out of them to come up with, say... 400ml.   
How many cups per squeeze can you get from one whole grated coconut?  Does she use the first extraction or the second extraction?

If she had followed what I said, she would have missed a few points.  Lost in translation. Or in this case, lost in ingredient translation.

And in other news - we are on our way to a new parenting challenge in the guise of the HSC.  As migrant parents, we obviously did not go through the High School Certificate (HSC) in Australia and now that our oldest daughter is going to take it next year, there's a lot of learning and understanding that is going on in my head and hubby's.  With all the media attention during HSC and the unnecessary stress that is highlighted in the news, kids can get easily swayed into the axiety parade.  HSC is somewhat similar to the NCEE that hubby and me took in high school going to college.  This is now known as NSAT (National Secondary Achievement Test) which is a goverment initiated as well.  The difference is that the NSAT is a test based on all general subjects taken during high school which becomes a factor when applying for a place in university.  Whereas the HSC is a test for subjects which the students have chosen from a list by the Board of Studies including general subjects, and which they are preparing for from Year 11 to Year 12.  The HSC exams result per se, is not the be all and end all of the assessment.  The results is a 50/50 mark of 1) school based assessments tasks, and 2) examination marks.  It seems pretty straightforward, until they introduced another acronym called the ATAR - Australian Tertiary Admision Rank which is a basis for acceptance into some universities.  Or so I think....  as you may already noticed, we are still learning.  And HSC is part of it... learning to be Australian.

If you're a migrant like us, or a Filipino family with young kids, I'll keep you updated on what have we learned from the HSC as a family.   And if you're a parent who went through HSC, please send me some encouraging thoughts. 

For now, here's a fool proof recipe for this sweet and easy dessert.


1 cup mini tapioca pearls

10 cups water

 2 cans 400ml coconut milk

1 1/2 cups raw sugar

1 mango, sliced into thin strips


Boil 10 cups of water.  When rapidly boiling, add the tapioca pearls and continue to boil.

Once the tapioca pearls are half way through cooking - the outside part of the pearls are transparent but the middle part is still white, turn the heat to low and simmer the pearls until cooked through, stirring occasionally to prevent from sticking to the bottom.  This can take from 30-45 minutes on simmer.

Drain the cooked tapioca pearls through a sieve under cold running water.  Set aside.

In a medium sized pot, boil the coconut milk then add the sugar, stirring to make sure the sugar has dissolved.  Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly.

Add the tapioca pearls and stir distribute the pearls throughout.  

If the sauce looks too much, scoop some of the sauce into a bowl and set aside.  The pudding should have enough sauce to tapioca pearl.  Reserve the extra coconut milk mixture.

Transfer to a pyrex or dish and chill in the refrigerator overnight, or 8 hours.

Top the pudding with the mango strips and served.

Tips and tricks:

*If you are using already cooked tapioca, simply drain the store bought pearls before adding to the thickened coconut milk.

* If using freshly extracted coconut milk, use the first extraction and about half a cup of water added per whole coconut.

* If after chilling, you find that the pudding is too thick, add a half cup of the reserved coconut milk mixture at a time until you get the desired consistency and thickness.

* These can be served in individual cups or serving glasses like my previous post with papaya, topped with any fruit you prefer.

* Fruit topping should be tropical like mangoes, papaya, purple yam or pineapple to suit the dish.  As coconut works well with tropical fruits.

* I have prepared this before in individual cups for my mom's 75th birthday party and topped them with purple yam / ube jam.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Prawn, chorizo and okra stew

Is there a dish or food that you've never ever eaten or tried because of some personal reasons?  Like it's wierd or disgusting?  Maybe you've seen balut? - the duck embryo that is a usual street food in the Philippines and  some parts of Asia?   How about frog legs which is a delicacy in Cantonese cuisine?  And lamb brains?  Ok, so as foodies, are we all supposed to be open to eating and trying anything and everything that is served us or is on offer when we travel ala Anthony Bourdain who has shown us in his TV series No Reservations where he tries fermented shark in Iceland (S1, Ep2), some nasty bits of sheep (S2-Ep1), and how we proclaimed the famou Cebu lechon in the Philippines (roast suckling pig) as the "best pig ever" (S5-Ep7). 

There are few that I don't eat because they are slimy (okra) and bitter (ampalaya or bitter gourd).  Hubby on the other hand, loves these two.  I usually buy them when available and then cook it, for him.  With okra, it is simply boiled then served as a side with some shrimp paste or fish sauce.  He loves them, and most any Filo I know as well.  Until recently, when I found a simple recipe on Food52 and thought why not expand his okra horizon. And also, start a long needed relationship with okra.  

And OMG!  Slimy!  But OMG!  Yum! So I'm hooked.  I love them, slime and all.  The soft texture when cooked complimented by the smoky chorizo and the fresh prawns was magical to the senses.  At first mouthful, I forgot all about the okra's fault (it's sliminess) and just fell in love.  I can't believe what I've been missing all those years!  So now, okra is my lobster (now that's not from Mr. Bourdain but from Phoebe Buffay from Friends S2, Ep14).

And oh, I forgot to mention no offense to anyone, but Vegemite is another one of those I least like.  One of those things we need to work on, learning to be Australian.

Inspired by the recipe from Food52, here's my simple version of 5 basic ingredients:


1 cup sliced chorizo

250g okra, sliced

2 tomatoes, quartered

2 cloves garlic, minced

500g fresh peeled prawns

dried chillies or flakes (optional)

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


In a heavy based skillet, heat some olive oil covering the base

Add the chorizo and stir to cook, rendering the fat.

Add the sliced okra, season with salt and pepper and stir to cook the okra until soft and the strings from the okra begin to be visible.

Add the garlic, tomatoes and prawns and continue to cook on medium heat.

Turn off heat and add the chilli flakes if using.

Serve with steamed jasmine rice. 

Tips and tricks:

* You can add thyme while cooking for extra lemony taste. 

* I have used lemon rind and added it in the last minute of cooking.

* Add chopped parlsey for garnish.

* The recipe is a take off from the classic gumbo from southern Louisiana but will less ingredients to suit our preference.

Monday, October 06, 2014

The "Baked" gluten free brownies with raspberries

I'm a sucker for brownies.  And brownie recipes.  There can never be just ONE brownie recipe and I thought that I will never reach my limit for trying new ones.   Until I found this.  345g of pure dark chocolate goodness with some espresso mixed in and voila!  I've struck gold through my social network!

I only found this "Baked" brownie recipe through Selina who I virtually met on Instagram and makes these brownies by the hundreds.  Well, hundreds of squares that is.  The rich, dense, dark look of the brownies on the photos got to me.  And I could not stop thinking about these brownies until I actually bought some espresso powder and made them.  Now I don't just think of them, I make them every so often just to eat at home.  I use gluten-free flour which makes it even more dense and rich, and also add some raspberries for that sour factor.  It's sensational! 


1 and 1/4 cups gluten free flour*

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder*

345g dark chocolate 70% preferred, coursely chopped

250g unsalted butter, chopped into cubes

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

1 and 1/2 cups caster sugar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

5 eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups frozen raspberries (optional)


Preheat oven to 175*C

Grease and line the base and sides of a 9x13 pan with baking paper.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, salt and cocoa powder. 

Melt the butter, chocolate and espresso powder in a large bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Stir until the chocolate and butter has melted and the mixture is smooth.

Turn off heat but keep the bowl over the pot.  And add the sugars to the chocolate mixture and stir with a spatula or a whisk until completely combined.  Remove from heat.

Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and stir with a spatula until just combined. Add the remaining 2 eggs and continue to stir until eggs are incorporated into the batter.

Add the vanilla and stir.  Do not over mix.

Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture in 2 to 3, and gently fold with a spatula.

Pour onto the prepare tins. Scatter and press the raspberries on top of the batter (if using).

Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs.*

Tips and tricks:

* If you prefer the original version, use equal amounts of plain flour.  I used the local (Woolworths) brand gluten free flour which is a combination of tapioca starch, maize, corn and rice flour.

* I usually don't test with a skewer but when the top looks matte-like (not shiny) I take them out of th oven.  

Friday, October 03, 2014

Chicken curry - Filipino style

About three months ago, we went back to Manila to attend a much awaited wedding in the family.  The wedding was beautiful and everyone, and I mean every single person,  was in tears - (actually bawling-like-a-baby is a better description) as the doors to the church opened and the beautiful bride started her slow walk to the altar.  Right then and there, time seemed to have stopped and the march down the aisle happened like in a movie - slow motion and the camera focus is on the bride and the rest are just a hazy background.  My girls were part of the entourage as junior bridesmaids, and my oldest was one of the readers in the mass.  We knew of the wedding months back, but originally hubby was the only one attending purely for economic reasons.  He was booked for months ahead.   A week before the wedding, we took out the credit card and booked the whole family.  What the heck!  Weddings only happen once and family is important and this is a big day!  It was a magical day.

Fast forward to the trip, we also booked a few days to HK  (Disneyland included) and the girls were thrilled.  We don't often get to go on holidays because of hubby's work schedule and it was a welcome energizer to relax and just enjoy the trip.   Of course while in Manila, we ate all the food we missed, went to historical places for the girls' benefit, caught with family and friends.  A grand time doing simple things.  

Don't you love it when spur of the moment decisions become real?  Sometimes, we don't need to plan too much.  We just go with the ebb and flow of where our emotions take us and trust that everything will turn out magical.

Back to this simple recipe for a Filipino style chicken curry.  This is one that we always eat at home.  I've brought this to potluck lunches and at work and they are always a hit.  Another dish which people ask the recipe for.  So here it is.

1k chicken thigh fillets, sliced into portion sizes

2 teaspoons turmeric powder

3 tablespoons vegetable oil (or any cooking oil)

1 onion, sliced

2-3 knobs ginger, finely jullienned

2-3 teaspoons curry powder*

1 can 400ml coconut milk

2 medium sized potatoes, cubed

2 carrots, cubed

1 red capsicum, cubed

fresh corianer for garnish


In a large bowl, coat the chicken thigh fillets with the turmeric powder.  Let it sit for 10-15 minutes.

 Using a large shallow skillet or pan, heat the oil then cook the onions and ginger until soft and fragrant.

Add the chicken fillets and sear until slightly brown.

Add the curry powder and stir to coat the chicken fillets.

Add the coconut milk, stir and bring to a boil.

Add the vegetables, stir and then bring to a boil.  

As soon as it boils, turn down heat to a LOW simmer, cover with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, take off lid and continue to simmer for another 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are tender and chicken is cooked through.

Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve with steamed rice.

Tips and tricks:

* You can use other chicken parts (breast, wings, drumsticks), but adjust cooking time.

* Option to add dried chillies when serving or fresh chillies for a spicy and hot version.

* Add more or less curry powder to suit your liking.  I have used Keen's and Hoyts both Australian brands and the tastes is always the same.  Please note that the curry powder for this recipe is the not the Thai yellow curry paste. 

* You can completely make this vegan / vegetarian by omitting the chicken and just use purely vegetables.  You can add sweet potato, cauliflower, eggplant or zucchini. 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Browned butter M&M and chocolate chip cookies (gluten free version)


A few years ago, early on in my blogging (through a different blogging platform) adventure, I wrote about my experience raising daughters and triplets for that matter.  They were still toddlers when we arrived in Australia and my eldest was 8yo.  It was a struggle adjusting to life without a nanny (called yaya back home in the Philippines) and suddenly facing the task of parenthood upfront.    Back in the PI, with a full time job and the luxury of having help around the house and with the kids, it was so easy to escape the responsibilty of being a parent, except when really necessary - taking them to their monthly pediatrician visits, attending school meetings and functions, organising birthdays, etc.    It was the standard of living for any working parent/s.   Those little milestones during the day are missed and forgotten, because we were not home.  We were both working.  

When we moved to Australia, it was not easy.  All of a sudden, I had to deal with my tween's dramas and the toddlers' tantrums, when all I had in my head was the idea of playing at home, dabbling with playdough and paint, quitely helping with homework, preparing home cooked meals, a spic and span home and all around having a grand fun time.  I must have had the idea of a 50s housewife wearing my hair in a bun and donning an apron with homebaked cookies wafting in the air from the kitchen oven.  Of course, there were a lot of dramas and crying and not wanting to go to school, not wanting to drink milk, potty training, dealing with getting sick, cleaning up after getting sick, dealing with the ups and downs of girl hormones - pre-teen and then teenhood, and more. 

Now that the girls are maturing, there is less yelling in our home and more conversations. Their beautiful personalities are coming through and they are they own person.  My eldest now 17 year old has slowly adjusted to her monthly hormonal roller coaster and there is less angst and moans and grunts and more words exchanged.  Although I missed having to lecture her about having her period and period pains and all other growing up topcis (no thanks to Healthy Harold).  And the girls while still adjusting to tweenhood, their interests is making me and hubby jump from one fad to the next - from One Direction to Rainbow Looms, to camps and sleepovers.  

Parenting, as it is - multiples or not, is a responsibility that is beyond anything.  There's a lot of hit and miss, trial and error, and even books and so-called experts tell us we're doing something wrong or right or we're this, and we're that and that our kids will grow up needing regular psychiatric meetings.  There is a lot of parenting books out there, parenting articles saying all these and before, I used to read them all, and then compare my kids developments to others.  Bad idea.  The truth is, we (parents) each have our styles and there is no cookie-cutter approach to a single child.  Each child is unique and usually, the parent style suits the family dynamics.    

These days, I wear my hair short.  There is the aroma of cookies (and cakes, and brownies) wafting from the kitchen oven.  We play Monopoly and Boggle more and watch reruns of Friends on TV.  We watch movies together (from Frozen to 100 Foot Journey).  There is the occasional groans and I-didn't-hear-you episodes, little dramas that add spice to our family, but over all, I think we're approaching a higher order of parenting in our own little way. 

 This recipe is adapted from Ree Drummond - The Pioneer Woman


225g salted butter

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup caster sugar

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups + 2 tablespoons gluten free flour*

2 (heaping) teaspoons espress powder (or coffee granules)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup mini M&Ms

1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 180*C

In a bowl, combine the flour, espresso powder, salt and baking soda.  Set aside.

Melt the half of the butter in a pan until golden (with brown bits in the bottom).  Transfer to a small bowl including all the brown bits. Do not burn.  Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the softened butter with the brown and caster sugar until combined.

Add eggs one at a time, then the vanilla and beat until mixed through.

Add the cooled melted butter and continue to beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl every now and then, until incorporated.

In three batches, add the flour mixture while continuing to beat the dough.  

Using a small ice cream scoop, or teaspoon, scoop dough onto a parchment lined (or if using silicone mat) baking tray. 

Chill in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.

 Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden.

Tips and tricks:
* I used a local (Woolworths) brand free from gluten flour which is a combination of tapioca starch, maize starch corn flour and ice flour which made for thinner and crispy cookies

* Use regular plain flour like PW if you're not avoiding gluten

* Bake in 160*C oven for longer if you prefer more golden cookies

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Baked maple pears with toasted pistachios

No more whingeing around here of being too cold.  We have been blessed with warm air and clear blue skies.  And so I am catching up on some needed writing and blogging as it is the end of September, and we are halfway through to spring.  Spring cleaning at home and the backlog of recipes and photos to post.  

We have revamped our veggie garden as the seedlings planted in winter did not survive and to take the easier route, we bought some ready-to-plant veggies from the local nursery.  Hopefully, there will be some harvest of French beans, eggplants, strawberries, Habanero and birds eye chillies soon.  Our calamansi plant is finally showing some fruits after last year's drought.  This makes me very happy as any Filo would be.

And now catching up on some blog posts, this recipe is the easiest dessert there is that you can bring to any potluck party.  The idea to make this was initially to make it for a vegan at work who was retiring.  And I also brought this to a work birthday lunch and ever since, people have asked for the recipe and they have made it at home with spectacular results.   It's really easy.  I love easy dishes.  Those that you prep and then you just wait for the magic to happen.  Be it a slow braised on the stove, or a baked maple pear in the oven.  You prep it and you wait for an hour.

The recipe is adapted from an old cookbook from my shelves - Marie Clare Fresh + Fast Simply Delicious Healthy Food

To make these baked maple pears


7 Corella pears, halved and cored*

3 tablespoons real maple syrup

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil*

1 cup toasted pistachios, roughly chopped

1 cup creme fraiche or whipped cream


Preheat oven to 180*C

Cut a thin slice from the skin side of the pears to give them a flat surface.

Place the pears onto a shallow baking dish, skin side down.

Drizzle olive oil and the maple syrup onto the pears.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 1 hour.

The pears should be tender when a butter knife inserted comes out smoothly.

Serve with the creme fraiche or thickened cream on the side, and the toasted pistachios.

Tips and tricks:

* The original recipe called for unsalted butter to rub on the pears.  I used olive oil as I brought it for someone who is vegan.

* You can use other pear varieties. Corella pears tend to be tougher than most so it cooks for an hour.  Other pear varieties are tender and may be baked for less than an hour.

* You can make as many or as little as you like, just adjust the maple syrup to your requirements.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Gluten free fudge brownies with raspberries

A month ago, we had experienced a tragic loss in the family.  An aunt who is very close to my heart was in an accident during Typhoon Glenda in mid July, which led to her passing.  It was a matter of days and everything happened so quick that we barely had time to process it all in.  And being overseas did not make it any easier.  I was constantly on the phone with my cousins, anticipating good news after the accident, and then after the sad news came, it was a matter of waiting.  There were no wounds or scars but pain can be felt from thousands of miles away.  The day she was laid to rest, I could feel a knot in my throat, in my chest and the only comfort was tears.  Tears that kept flowing sporadically.  While cooking.  I’d be sitting in the lounge and tears just flowed.   It was hard to say good bye.  My only consolation was the time spent with her when we went to Manila the last week of May.  It was brief but full of laughs and memories that I hold onto now.  She hugged me so tight and asked me not to go back to the city yet.

I look back at how she was a big part of my life growing up.  She was the aunt who let us kids browse through her records and play ABBA on repeat, The Beatles and the Bee Gees.  Later on, she’d support us with our love for Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran and Rick Astley.   Taught us dance moves that we would use for pretend beauty pageants she’d host at her place.  She was the aunt who knows secrets you’d never tell your parents.  When I broke up with a boyfriend, she was the first one on the phone – inquiring, asking, consoling. She meant a lot to the nieces and nephews she’d help and spend time with growing up, as she did not have a family of her own.  She was single.  But had a family who loved and supported her till the very end.  She was 61.

Loss is a difficult experience and it brings out humanity’s vulnerability. For days I felt really uneasy, fearful even.  My head felt literally off centre and I found myself with bouts of anxiety – while driving, while at work, while cooking.  My thoughts were filled with so much negative energies that I felt like I could just collapse while walking or doing some chores.  All of a sudden, I am back in that dark space late 2012 when I experienced a panic attack.  It’s a dreadful place to be.  My headspace was so dark that I could only see shadows.  But I’m thankful for family and friends who unknowingly pull me up from the abyss I created for myself with the simple words and actions they do every day.  As simple as picking me up for a yoga session, or calling up to say hello.  Those surprise hugs from behind and words that say “I love you” indirectly.  I am back to meditation and yoga and walking.  It clears up my headspace and puts me in a calm state.  Baking gives me that too. And so does reading.  And writing.  Coping with loss, we move on and try to grab onto distractions to keep us busy and preoccupied with new things, not because we want to forget. But because we want to mask the pain.

So I've been trying new things in the kitchen.  Pinterest and Instagram inspires me.  There is endless talent in IG alone and there's always something new to try because someone else baked/cooked/made it.  And for weeks now, I've been trying different brownie recipes - gluten free, with fruits, with more chocolate, with more nuts, etc.  And this is one of them.

As I write this post I can still feel a subtle knot in my chest and in my throat as I remember her.   She will like this for sure.  She loves dark chocolates.

This recipe uses gluten free flour and inspired from taste.com.au


 200 grams dark chocolate, 70% cacao, roughly chopped

200 grams salted butter, cut into cubes

3 eggs

2 egg yolks

270 grams (1 and 1/4 cup) caster sugar

115 grams (3/4 cup) gluten flour 
(or a combination of 1/4c corn flour, 1/4c tapioca starch, 1/4c rice flour)

1 125g punnet of raspberries, half roughly chopped the rest leave as whole


Preheat oven to 160*C.

Lightly grease and line the base and sides of a square brownie pan.

In a bowl, combine the sugar, flours and cocoa powder.  Set aside.

On the stove, place a saucepan half filled with water and bring to a low simmer.

Put the chocolate and butter in a heat proof bowl, and place over a sauce pan making sure the base is not touching the water.  

Stir with a rubber spatula until chocolate and butter has melted into a smooth and shiny consistency. Let it cool slightly - not hot to the touch, but warm.

 In a measuring jug (or a medium sized bowl), beat the eggs and egg yolks.

Using a whisk or a wooden spoon, add the eggs to the chocolate mixture and stir until incorporated.  About a minute of mixing by hand. 

Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Pour onto prepared pans.

Distribute whole raspberries on top of batter and scatter and sprinkle the chopped ones.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.  Crumbs should cling to the skewer when you do the test.

Set aside to cool for 6 hours or overnight.

Slice into equal squares.

Tips and tricks:

* I used Nestle Plaistowe dutch processed cocoa because that's why I  had at home.  Also it makes for darker brownies.  Any cocoa variety will do.

* Any kind of fruit would work well with this brownie recipe, even nuts.  So this is a great base brownie recipe.

Dilmah takes tea to the plate

Photo provided by Horizon Communications Group

It started in 2007 in Colombo Sri Lanka, with the goal of “putting tea back to high tea”, the Dilmah Real High Tea challenge initially included consumers to partake in the challenge when it was brought to Australia in 2011.

Now on its 5th year in Australia, the challenge now involves other countries: New Zealand, Macau, Thailand, UAE, Malaysia, and Hong Kong.  The 2014 challenge was opened to professional culinary teams to prepare and craft their own recipe in one or more of four categories, where each recipe must include a Dilmah tea in it.

The high profile judges included German born ACF Black Hat Chef Bernd Uber, Australian celebrity chef Peter Kuruvita, Dilmah’s own tea master Dilhan Fernando - son of Dilmah founder Merrill Fernando. 

Dilhan Fernando said it’s all about “taking tea to the plate”.  He mentioned that each year, the creativity is astounding and it is amazing to be around such a passionate teams and culinary artists.   Dilhan is the son of Dilmah founder and is the Director of the Dilmah School of Tea – the first international school of tea with sessions in Colombo Sri Lanka in partnership with the Institute Paul Bocuse in Ecully, France.    Aside from the family’s passion behind the Dilmah brand and tea, they are also passionate about environmental conservation and are involved in humanitarian projects in Sri Lanka. 

This year’s overall winner from Australia is Geoff Laws and Shaun Thompson of Qantas Lounge by Pullman, who will compete in Sri Lanka in 2015 against the world’s best culinary tea masters for the chance to be crowned Global Real High TeaChallenge champions.

Dilmah founder Mr. Merrill Fernando is excited at the progress tea has made in the culinary world.  He said, “tea is really much more that what initially meets the eye – not only is it soothing to drink, both hot and cold, but is also the most versatile herb to be used in the kitchen.  I am proud of the winners, their gastronomic ingenuity and their true respect of tea and the high tea tradition."

For more information about the Real High Tea Challenge and photos of the winners, please visit www.realhightea.dilmahtea.com

Photos were here are of "tea masterchef" winner - Bloodwood Restaurant Newtown.

Photo courtesy of Horizon Communications Group

Photo courtesy of Horizon Communications Group

Photo courtesy of Horizon Communications Group

Photo courtesy of Horizon Communications Group

Disclaimer: The writer attended this event as a guest invited by Horizon Communications Group. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Seafood marinara stew

Winter is creeping up on us like an unwanted guest. It's the middle of July and of course it is cold.   I have always written many many times in the past that we dread winter. Well I do. Sans the layering of clothing and comfortable matching scarves and beanies, and beautiful leather boots, I could do well without winter.  Really.  But I’m embracing our life here in AU and part of assimilating into the Australian way of life is well, embracing winter and all the other seasons that come and go.  But you have to know that winter... is my least favourite. 

When it comes to winter cooking and food, I love simple recipes.  My favourites are dishes that shout fresh, easy to reach ingredients, simple cooking methods with delicious results.  While I do admire chefs who are into fusion and gastronomy, I’m not the type who would attempt pesto jelly, or strawberry foams.  I like simple cooking.  Time spent in the kitchen is precious, and any effort made to prepare, whether it took 10 minutes or 6 hours always spells love. 

This one, no matter what angle shouts L-O-V-E.  Ingredients are simple, easy to make and wow! It's my easy version of the French seafood boullabaisse, minus all the other ingredients.  The seafood mix is anything you get from the fish markets. 

You dive into this with some toasted sour dough or any fresh bread, and you’ll come back up feeling the love.  You’ll get lots of warm hugs from this for sure. 



1kg mixed seafood (marinara mix in shells)

1 jar 350 ml passata sauce (tomato sauce)

3-4 fresh tomatoes, quartered

1 onion, sliced

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped finely

½ cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped

½ teaspoon course/ground oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil

Tablespoon of butter (optional)


In a heavy based pan or skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Add the garlic and onions and cook until soft.

Add the tomatoes and cook until soft.

Add the passata sauce, bring to boil then turn down heat to simmer.

Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle the oregano.

Add the seafood, place lid/cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until all seafood pieces are cooked through.

Add the butter and let it melt into the sauce.  

Top with the chopped parsley.

Tips and tricks:

* I add the butter in the latter part of the cooking just to add that gloss in the sauce.  You don't have to add butter if you don't want to, but that its a secret ingredient in most restaurants - the chefs add that for the shine and gloss.

* You can also add fresh or dried thyme for extra flavour.  They add a rich depth to the stew.


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