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, 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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