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


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