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Mussel Kinilaw

Mussel Kinilaw

A few years ago I planted a little calamansi fruit tree in our balcony… and then I waited… and waited… and waited some more. My tree never seemed to bear much fruit. If I was lucky, I would get three or four calamansi and I was ready to give up – the tree was taking up space but not giving me much to work with. I was ready to uproot the tree and plant something else.

A few months ago I noticed a few calamansi budding from the branches and so I waited a little bit more (after all, what was another month after waiting all those years) and suddenly the fruit just kept coming and wouldn’t stop! I managed to collect over 3 large bowls of the fruit, much more than I would immediately need so I juiced them and froze them in little ice cubes to be used in the future.

For those who are unfamiliar with calamansi, they are a native citrus very common in the Philippines. When I lived in the PHilippines I used to enjoy an ice cold glass of calamansi juice (sweetened with a little sugar or honey). I’ve also seen some people use it in desserts like a calamansi curd for macarons. Me? I prefer to use it as part of a “sawsawan” or dipping sauce. Usually the “sawsawan” will be some sort of combination of fish sauce, soy or vinegar which we then use to flavour our dishes. Think deep fried crispy piece of fish served with a dipping sauce of calamansi and fish sauce… or pork belly grilled over charcoal and served with soy, vinegar and garlic. Now you get the idea!

The recipe below is as simple as it gets. I’ve used the juice of the calamansi in a “Kinilaw” which the Philippine’s version of a ceviche. The dish is served a “pulutan” (which means to “pick up”) or appetizer and is usually made with fresh fish (I like to use snapper). For this recipe I’ve made it with some mussels which I’ve cooked first and then doused in the kinilaw marinade right before serving.

Calamansi

Calamansi

Mussel Kinilaw

  • 1 kilo mussels, cleaned and debearded
  • 1 long red pepper
  • 1 long green pepper
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 cm ginger, finely grated
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic gloved, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons coconut milk or coconut cream
  • 2 tablespoons coconut vinegar or cane vinegar (any Filipino brand will do)
  • 2 tablespoons calamansi juice
  • salt to taste
  1. Place the mussels in a pan and a splash of water. Gently heat until the mussels are cooked (careful not to overcook them)
  2. Once the mussels are cool enough to handle, remove them from their shells and place in the refrigerator until they are cold.
  3. Mix the rest of the ingredients together and pour over the mussels right before serving.
Chocolate Covered Almonds

Chocolate Covered Almonds

I have never understood the art of tempering chocolate. It’s one of those things that has been explained to me, that I’ve read up on, watched videos etc but I still don’t understand the science behind it. When someone starts to clarify the process, I can feel my eyes glaze over and even if I nod my head and say all the right things (i.e. “ah so that’s why!” “oh, now I get it!”), I’m still as confused as ever.

One thing I do know, is that if you don’t temper chocolate, you don’t get that beautiful shine and nice crisp…. which is why I love this recipe, because you can cover up the fact that you don’t know how to temper chocolate properly and still make something pretty damn impressive!

I like to serve these chocolates with coffee or tea. I usually coat them in cocoa powder but have also coated them previously in a combination of cocoa and orange zest.

Chocolate Covered Almonds

Chocolate Covered Almonds

Chocolate Covered Almonds

  • 50 grams water
  • 150 grams sugar
  • 500 grams blanched almonds
  • 25 grams butter
  • 350 grams dark good quality chocolate, chopped evenly
  1. Lightly oil your kitchen bench top with a neutral oil like grapeseed.
  2. Place the water and sugar in a heavy based saucepan. Heat until 110c then add the almonds and coat with the syrup.
  3. Take the almonds off the heat and stir vigorously so as to separate the almonds into pieces. Then, place the almonds back on to the heat and continue to stir over a low heat until the almonds are caramelized, around 15 minutes
  4. To test if the almonds are done, take a piece and cut in the middle and see whether the inside of the almond is a nice golden colour.
  5. When done, add the butter and stir through the almonds. Remove from the heat and place on your kitchen bench top. Using two forks, separate the pieces of almonds carefully so they don’t stick to each other.
  6. Allow the almonds to cool then proceed to coating with chocolate.
  7. First temper the chocolate. Take around 2/3 of the chocolate pieces and place in the microwave. Heat in 20 second intervals until the chocolate has almost all melted, making sure to stir the mixture every now and then (especially if your microwave heats unevenly) and then add the rest of the chocolate and let the heat from the chocolate melt the remaining chocolate, and ensuring to stir constantly.
  8. Once the chocolate has reached around 31c, pour 1/3 of the chocolate in to the almonds and stir vigorously again, with the goal of separating the almonds into pieces (try not to have too many clusters of chocolate almonds).
  9. Place the bowl in the fridge and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Now, add another 1/3 of the chocolate (if it gets cool, you can again microwave for around 10 seconds or so before adding this to the refrigerated almonds.
  10. Once again, mix the chocolate vigorously, aiming to keep the almonds separated. Place the almonds back in the fridge for another 5 minutes.
  11. For the last time, pour the remaining chocolate and stir to keep the almonds apart. Place the almonds in the fridge to set for 5 minutes.
  12. If the almonds have stuck together, carefully separate them.
  13. To finish, dust the chocolates in cocoa powder.
Chilli Crab Pasta

Chilli Crab Pasta

My sister once asked me to babysit her son, my two year old nephew. Somehow, I had this impression that she would only be gone a few minutes, 30 at most, little did I know that she would take advantage of that window of freedom and was gone for over two hours.

The first half hour was easy – I sat him infront of the computer and we spent the time watching Mickey Mouse Club House. After awhile he started asking for his Mum (I was secretly wishing she was around too!)… I was in a bit of a dilemma as I wanted to start with my homemade pasta but I also had to babysit. So I asked him if he wanted to help me make some pasta, expecting that this would pre-occupy him for at least a few minutes. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

My two year old nephew was a natural! In fact, I was so impressed that I took a video of him working with the dough, laminating it through the pasta machine, flouring the sheets and so on. We ended up spending a good hour making the pasta and I was so sure that it would turn out perfectly and that no one would believe that he had made it all by himself (with some supervision of course)… so I decided to video the experience. Just in case he gets to be a rockstar chef one day, I’ll have proof that I gave him his first pasta making lesson.

If you’d like to watch him, the clip is below. Apologies for the lousy editing – I clearly cook better than I do make a video!

Anyway, the recipe I’m sharing today is one where fresh angel hair pasta is best used. A few weeks ago we took a friend to the Hunter Valley and had lunch at one of the restaurants there, Roberts. This was my by far my favourite dish and the fact that I didn’t order it (I only managed a taste from my husband), meant that I had to try and copy it at home. I’ve always known that crab, garlic and chilli go well together, but the addition of lemon zest was a brilliant idea!

Angel Hair Pasta with Crab, Chilli and Lemon

serves 2

  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 30 grams butter
  • 2 large red chillis (leave the seeds and pith on for a spicier sauce)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 250 grams fresh crab meat
  • 200 grams fresh angel hair pasta
  • Zest of one lemon
  • salt to taste
  1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta, if using fresh, around 1 minute, if dry, follow package instructions.
  2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a sauce pan. Add the chillis and garlic and saute for a few minutes over a low heat until fragrant, around 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the crab meat and lemon zest. Season to taste and toss in the pasta. If the pasta seems a bit dry, add some of the pasta water to the sauce (around 50 to 100 ml)
Best Ever Granola

Best Ever Granola

There’s a granola movement happening in our family nowadays – we can’t get enough of it. It started innocently enough. I had been wanting to try the granola recipe from Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison restaurant ever since I saw an interview where he said that he loved to run every morning and made his own granola. He thought it was a great idea to give a jar of granola to each person who dined at his restaurant. Apparently, his granola is legendary. I think… mine is better. I know it’s a big and bold statement but the beauty of this recipe is that you can adapt it to your taste.

The way I look at it, the basic recipe is made up of rolled oats, brown sugar, maple syrup and olive oil – from there you’re free to add whatever else you like. The original recipe calls for pepitas and dried sour cherries. I substituted macadamias and dried blueberries instead. My husband prefers his with almonds and pecans. My sister adds dried mangoes… See? I told you there was a granola movement in the family! Everyone has their own recipe which they claim is the best version. We can’t agree on which version is best. We can’t even agree on when and how to eat it. I like it for breakfast with milk. My sister likes it as a snack with yogurt. Her husband takes his with skim milk and my husband treats it more like a snack.

I’m sure as a family which version, when to eat it and what to eat the granola with will be one of those things that we will never come to terms with. But I’d still encourage you to try this recipe (or a version of it) and share it with your families as well.

Best Ever Granola

Best Ever Granola

Best Ever Granola

Adapted from Daniel Humm, Eleven Madison

  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup dried coconut chips (or dried shredded coconut)
  • 1 cup raw macadamias
  • 1 cup pistachios
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup dried blueberries
  • Note: For the macadamias and pistachios – feel free to substitute nuts of your choice (i.e. almonds, pecans, pepitas etc)
  • Note: For the dried blueberries – feel free to substitute dried fruit of your choice
  1. Mix the rolled oats, coconut chips and nuts in a large bowl.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the brown sugar, maple syrup and olive oil until the sugar has melted, around 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Remove the brown sugar/maple syrup from the heat and add the salt. Pour this over the rolled oats mixture and mix until well combined.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the granola over it. Bake in a pre-heated 150c oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden and the mixture has dried. Stir the granola once or twice while baking.
  5. When done baking, add the dried blueberries. Allow to cool and store.
Leche Flan

Leche Flan

My two sisters are great cooks and while I love to cook for everyone in the family, once in awhile I like to sit back and enjoy their great food. This weekend the family celebrated Easter lunch at my place and I asked my eldest sister to make her Leche Flan. This dessert is the Filipino version of creme caramel. I’ve always thought a great leche flan/creme caramel is very intimidating to make. I prefer one that has a very smooth texture and a dark, almost bitter, caramel sauce. My sister however thinks it’s the easiest dessert to make and hers comes out perfectly every time. The recipe was passed down from my Grandmother and it takes less than ten minutes to put everything together and around 40 minutes to cook. Very minimal effort for an impressive dessert.

Leche Flan (Filipino Style Creme Caramel)

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 375 ml evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar (additional)
  • 5 egg yolks plus 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla beans
  1. Boil the sugar in the sauce pan until dark brown and pour in a 23 cm metal cake pan and allow to harden.
  2. In a sauce pan, combine the evaporated milk, 3/4 cups sugar, vanilla beans and eggs, whisk lightly. Place over a gentle heat and mix gently for a few seconds (you don’t want the eggs to cook). Pour the milk and egg mixture into the cake pan. Cover with foil.
  3. Steam the flan over slow heat for 40 to 45 minutes until the flan is set.
  4. Allow the flan to cool. Refrigerate the flan for a few hours. When ready to serve, run a knife around the sides of the cake pan. Place a large serving plate over the cake pan and flip over. Pour the extra caramel over the flan.
Beef Ribs with Chimuchurri

Beef Ribs with Chimuchurri

A few weeks ago I decided it was time to re-organize my kitchen. The cupboards were overflowing with spices, sauces and other goods that were well past their expiry date. I also started to pack away some of the gadgets that I hardly ever used, like my blender, ice cream maker and juicer. The one piece of equipment I couldn’t part with was my stove top smoker. I can never get tired of the flavour and aroma that smoking imparts on food.

This weekend I took out my trusty smoker to make these slow cooked beef ribs. I knew that smoking the meat would make this dish extra special but the big surprise was the chimichurri sauce we made which turned out to be absolutely delicious! This was my first time to make chimichurri – the recipe is a funny one as it was handed down from one person to another until it finally reached my hands! It was dictated to me by the butcher who said his wife had tried it from a magazine. He said it would be perfect with the beef but equally good with even grilled chicken or seafood so make sure to make more than you need when making these ribs.

Beef Ribs with Chimichurri

Serves 4

  • 2 kilos beef ribs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 50 ml maple syrup
  • 1 cup flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup corriander leaves
  • 1 french shallot, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 red chili, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 60 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of one lime
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place the beef in a large pot with the brown sugar and salt, cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and allow to simmer for 2.5 hours. Remove the beef from the pot and place in the smoker. Drizzle the top with maple syrup.
  2. Smoke the beef for 45 minutes, when done, remove from the smoker and allow to rest for a few minutes.
  3. Heat a pan with some oil and sear the beef ribs, around 3 minutes on each side until nicely browned.
  4. For the chimichurri, combine the remaining ingredients and blend in a food processor.
  5. Serve the beef with the chimichurri sauce.

Note: If you don’t have a smoker, just simmer the beef for 3 hours instead. When done, sear the ribs as per instructions above.

Guava Sinigang

Guava Sinigang

The other day SBS Food Safari did a feature on Filipino Food. It’s not very often that Filipino food gets center stage, so it was fantastic to finally see our cuisine getting some attention. I am very grateful to the team of Food Safari for doing such a wonderful job! All of the dishes and cooks who showcased our food made me so proud to be Filipino. It was a pity that the episodes are only 30 minutes long – a series on Filipino Food definitely deserves longer!

For those that missed the episode, it can be found here. My recipe for Pinakbet can be found here.

It also made me realize how neglected this blog has been in the last few months. A new job and a few new hobbies have left me thin for time but watching the Food Safari episode made me want to blog again… and share more of what Filipino food is all about (yes, contrary to popular belief, it’s not all about pork!).

Filipinos love the sour flavour and Sinigang is one of the Philippine’s most loved dishes. In fact, the late Doreen Fernandez, who was one of the most respected food writers in the Philippines once argued that sinigang, rather than adobo should be considered the national dish of the Philippines, after all, Filipinos are the champion lovers of sourness…

Sinigang is a soup whose flavor is soured with fruits abundant in the Philippines like tamarind, guava, green mangoes or bilimbi (kamias). My personal favourite is the guava sinigang. The dish is easily adaptable depending on what protein is on hand, but most frequently made with pork, beef, or prawns. The soup is also rich in vegetables that are easily available in the Philippines like daikon, eggplants, snake beans and water spinach.

I had been craving guava sinigang for a few months. So much so that I bought my own guava tree but was told that it would take at least another two years to bear fruit. I search everywhere for guava only to discover it is quite difficult to source in Australia. Finally, I found a supplier of pure guava puree online and was so relieved that I ordered five kilos to freeze for future use. It you are lucky enough to source the fresh ripe fruit, that’s even better. Boil the fresh fruit until soft and then use a blender to mash the guava into a puree.

Sinigang na Bayabas (Seafood in Guava Sour Soup)

  • 12 large prawns
  • 500 grams firm white fish fillets, sliced (like ocean perch)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and sliced
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 300 grams guava puree
  • 1 long green chili
  • 1 piece radish, peeled and sliced
  • 1 bunch snake beans (sitaw)
  • 1 bunch water spinach (kang kong)
  1. Peel the prawns and place the heads and peel in a pot and add 1 liter of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. In the meantime, devein the prawns and set aside.
  2. Sprinkle some salt on the fish and set aside until ready to use.
  3. Place the oil in a large pot and add the onions and add the tomatoes. Saute until the onions are translucent, around 5 minutes.
  4. Add the guava puree, green chili, sliced radish, snake beans and shrimp stock and allow to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  5. When the soup is done, set the green chili, radish and snake beans aside. Place the broth in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
  6. Strain the soup and add it back into the pot and return the chili, radish, and snake beans. Finally add the prawns, fish and water spinach and simmer until the seafood is cooked and the vegetables are warmed, around 3 to 5 minutes.
  7. Serve while the soup is still hot.
Guava Sinigang

Guava Sinigang

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