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!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lemon and sour cream cake with raspberries

I found a new hobby.  Colouring books!  If you haven’t already noticed, adult colouring books is the trend at the moment and publishing companies are selling them by the millions.  Marketed as therapeutic and anti-stress, colouring books for adults have become hip thanks to social media.  People who are into colouring books posts their creations on social media and it just creates the pull which is making the publishers very happy.

A standard page would take me from an hour to 3 hours, glued to the page instead of watching some TV series on Netflix or browsing on Facebook and Instagram.  While it may be my own form of digital detox, it does deliver its own spell of mindfulness and calmness claims.  Indulging in a new hobby, engrossed with colour pencils sliding across the page, sticking to the lines, mix matching colours onto patterns somehow gives me a sense of fulfillment as I create something visual and beautiful.  I started borrowing colour pencils from the girls, but now that I have my own set, I can colour to my heart’s content.

Although this does not replace my love for cooking, baking and writing, it does give me something to do while waiting for dinner to cook, or the cake to be warm and the cookies to cool.

How about you?  Have you started a new hobby lately?

Now to this cake that is a revisit from the archives.  A lemon yoghurt cake dressed with raspberries.  This is my go to cake recipe when I'm asked to bring a cake.  Why?  Because it's easy as A-B-C, 1-2-3.  No need for a mixer.  Just good ol' fork and little bit of elbow grease.


1 and 3/4 cups sugar

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

2-3 teaspoon lemon juice

grated rind of 2 lemons

3/4 cup light olive oil

1 cup sour cream

2 cups self-raising flour

1 cup (or more) fresh or frozen raspberries

Icing sugar for dusting (optional)


Preheat oven to 180*C.  Line a round 20cm cake tin with baking paper.

In a mixing bowl, mix rind, oil, eggs and sugar with a fork.

Add remaining ingredients and combine well.

Add the raspberries and stir to distribute around the pan and some to sprinkle on top of the batter.
Pour into cake pans and bake at 180 degrees C for 30 minutes.

Leave to cool on a cooling rack, then turn out onto a plate.  

Dust with icing sugar (if using).

* You can use natural yoghurt or buttermilk as substitute for sour cream and the result will be the same.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bottle gourd stir fry

Filipino cuisine is making waves around the globe which makes me proud.  Just recently, I wrote a post about a pop-up afternoon stand up event in Sydney delighted the palates of the locals with the introduction of classic savoury and sweet Filipino dishes. There's quite a few of these Filipino restaurants now in Sydney and it's getting a good following from locals, not just fellow Filos or Pinoys as we usually called ourselves. 

The well known amongst the community is La Mesa along Goulbourn Street, Haymarket.  It has been around since 2002 and previously located in Dee Why.  In 2012 they moved to Haymarket and have since created a good following of locals and tourists.  The decor is reminiscent of an old fashioned Filipino home - a mix of contemporary and classic Filipiniana decor.  The serving platters are all home-grown Filipino vessels flown from the Philippines. Sizzling Fillo in Lidcombe boasts of authentic Filipino dishes served in big portions enough to share amongst 3-4 people. The place invites locals and those who will travel a few kilometres to partake of the generous servings and Saturday night karaoke.  Eating and singing - two of Filipinos favourite things to do.  Sizzling Fillo also boasts of a regular "boodle feast"- a buffet of selected classics served on "your" table on a bed of banana leaves.

My favourite is Cafe Manila in Kirribilli - a small cozy cafe serving traditional Filipino dishes suited to the western palate - leaning away from traditional starchy dishes and the portions are just right. The interior is very minimalist and the tables are quite small creating an intimate experience for the diners. Chef Ricky Ocampo is always in the house serving up dishes with a smile as if you are a guest at his home. The menu is lean and the food is well presented on the plate.  Chef Ricky is one of local Filipino featured in the SBS Food Safari Filpino Food.

Another one in north shore is Pamana Cafe and Filipino Restaurant in Chatswood.  The place is cafe style with tables for two, up to ten.  The menu is more extensive with a range dishes from breakfast to dinner, entree to desserts -  a variety of traditional Filipino dishes both savoury and sweet.  They also offer "boodle feast" on select days. Although the location is quite away from pedestrian traffic, it has since opening in 2013 gathered a local following.

Now this dish is not something you'd see in any of the menus from these restaurants.  This is a super simple dish that's not worthy of a restaurant feature but definitely worth the 30 minutes that you spend to cook it. The thing with Filipino dishes is, if its easy enough to cook at home, you won't find it at restaurants.  We (Filipinos) when at these restaurants, usually order dishes we seldom cook at home, or not at all.

Bottle gourd is an indigenous vegetable in the East Asian region.  It is commonly called "upo" in the Philippines or calabash in some western countries.  The bottle gourd has a lot of health benefits and in some countries, they juice is used to encourage weight loss.

I love the simplicity of this dish.  Almost pedestrian.  You only need 5 basic ingredients.  And can even make it vegetarian by omitting the pork.

Here goes.


250-300 grams pork, cut into cubes

1 piece bottle gourd, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, sliced

2 tomatoes, sliced

1 cup water

1 tablespoon cooking oil

salt and pepper to taste

fish sauce (optional)


In a medium sized skillet, heat the oil and cook the pork pieces until crispy.  Set aside.

In the same pan, saute the onions and garlic and cook until fragrant, not burned.

Add the tomatoes and stir until soft.

Add the bottle gourd slices and water and bring to boil.

Season with salt and pepper, or fish sauce is using. Season to your taste.

Turn down heat and simmer until the goured is soft and cooked.

Add the crispy pork slices on top.

Disclaimer: The feature on the mentioned restaurants is a simple feedback from the writer's experience dining at these establishments.  Dining at the restaurants were to the writer's own expense.  This is not a paid feature.  The feature is written to assist locals and tourists who may be looking for Filipino restaurants within Sydney metropolitan. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sydney Markets launch of 2016 Fresh Awards

I dream of owning a farm one day, or an orchard even.   A dream my husband doesn't share with me.  I don't know where this fascination with farm living came from.  Not that I grew up in one. My parents did purchase a farming land a couple of years before but it wasn't a proper farm. While we had 500 mandarin and 300 mango trees in this farm, I never really got to spend time there.  My parents also cared for chickens and goats and 1 or 2 cows at a time.  There was even a time when we had corn planted in parts of the land.   Working in the city, having a family of my own, it was a rare occasion that a trip home was made - usually limited to holidays and birthdays.  On this rare occasions, we would go back to the city with a car full of fresh produce.  Only spent 2 or 3 days,  I never much fancied the existence of this land at the time.  I never much cared for the idea that my parents were growing their own produce, that they were living sustainably.  A few years on, the farm was sold and my parents moved to a modest house just near the town.  It was when the farm was gone that I felt some bitter resentment over the fact that we don't have it anymore. Somehow, I didn't realize the farm brought us joy.  There's a different kind of joy when you grow the produce.  To get your hands dirty and toil, and harvest when its time. 

Now living in the greater Sydney metropolitan area, we have a small raised garden bed at the back of our rental home growing our own chillies, herbs, raspberries and a calamansi plant. I still dream of owning a farm somewhere in the south of NSW.  Maybe in Mudgee.  Maybe in Orange.  Maybe one day.  With cows, chickens and ducks and some acres of fruit bearing trees, a white modest house with wrapped around porch and small swing in the front, a vintage kitchen with modern equipment where I can cook and bake to my hearts' content.   In my 40s, I can still dream right?

Now back to the Fresh Awards - a long running awards program organized by the Sydney Markets which recognizes and celebrates "excellence in fresh fruits, vegetables, and flower retailing and growing.  Last week, I'm so grateful to have been invited to the launch of the 2016 Fresh Awards which showcased a banquet of amazing fresh produce prepared by Chef Matt Kemp, and attended by producers, growers, florists and selected media.  The launch introduced new categories, including an award for bloggers "to recognize the contribution of the blogging community in drawing attention to, and encouraging support of independent fresh produce and flower retailers. "

Sydney Markets Retail Support Manager, Sue Dodd says, "we have had great success with each of the awards over the last 13 years. Through them, we have been able to shine a light on the efforts and achievements of retailers and growers, but this next evolution gives us the opportunity to bring all those achievements together and really turn it into a celebration of our industry."

With this in mind, I think it is fate that I have been invited to be a part of this launch.  As I have been amiss with blogging and writing lately, the idea of showcasing my local green grocer for a blog post has got me excited.  Maybe its far from my dream of owning that farm.  But its close enough.  Not to mention it would be fantastic to be win that prize too!      

The new logo of the Fresh Awards showcases people and the celebration of produce. 

* all photos taken with my iPhone 6

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Pork and beans

Growing up a few decades ago compared to today, there were so few choices when it came to food.  The cereal variety was maybe about less than ten.  There were no gluten free pasta or bread, no dairy free butter, no sugar free muffins.   Coffee was coffee, no soy, light, chai, etc.  A steak was usually T-bone, no varieties such as Wagyu, Angus, or labels such as corn fed, grass fed, aged, dry aged, etc.  Food was food.  There were no unnecessary labels.  Whether it was fresh - from the ground, from a tree/plant or packed - cans, boxes, plastic packaging.   Today, it's an entirely different story.  Whatever happened to simple food?  

In his 2009 book Food Matters, Mark Bittman mentioned modern agriculture, global warming, sustainability and the change towards conscious eating. These days, we don't look at calories anymore. Consumers are conscious about where their food comes from, the carbon footprint, whether its organic, grown locally or imported from half way around the globe.  This kind of mentality creates a good set of consumers. Smart consumers.  But then we also create a lot of waste.  In Australia alone, consumers waste an estimate of 4 million tons of food each year!  Because what happens is we tend to shop more than what we can actually consume.  (How not to waste food shall be for another post!)

I'm not a fan of food fads but I do believe in simple good food. Seasonal cooking is always how we plan our menu at home.   Simple food prepared at home. With love.  For family and friends.

Now growing up, we were fed with lots of food I wouldn't normally buy these days. Our parents back then fed us with what they knew best.   Powdered orange juice (Tang), canned vienna sausages... including a favorite breakfast fare a million years ago.  Canned pork and beans.  A mixture of beans covered with sweet tomato sauce and about 1 to 2 pieces of pork.  We used to eat it on toasted white bread and loved it for breakfast and even after school snack. And sometimes ate it with rice too.  It's a Filipino thing (rice with everything).

Now this is my take on the canned pork and beans I grew up eating.   A simple dish made of 2 basic ingredients:  pork and beans! 


200 grams pork belly, cubed

300 grams French beans, cut into 2 inch pieces

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

vegetable oil 

chilli flakes (optional)


Heat a shallow pan and add cooking oil.

Fry the pork pieces until crispy.  Set aside.

Using the same pan, add the garlic and cook until soft and fragrant. Do not overcook or burn.

Add the beans, and stir to cook the beans until bright green, about 2 minutes.

Add the cooked pork and stir to mix through.

Add the chilli flakes (if using) and stir.  Turn off heat.

Serve with steamed rice.


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