Archive for the ‘El Comedor’ Category

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.

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Cocido Madrileño

Cocido Madrileño

I’ll be honest, it was a bit of a struggle to come up with a “dish that I would most like to have for my birthday” for this month’s Kulinarya Cooking Club challenge. I have been so busy with the new job and getting everything ready for the sale of our old house, I hardly had anytime to cook.  Luckily, my Mom came to the rescue when she found out I had to make something for January’s theme. She declared that she was going to make Cocido Madrileño for Sunday lunch.  So this month’s Kulinarya Cooking Club dish is brought to you by:

Jen (www.jen-at-work.blogspot.com)
Maribel (http://www.foodgeek.webs.com)

and of course… The Blog Monster.

Growing up, I don’t think I knew any other Sunday activity than to go to my Grandmother’s (Mama) house for Sunday lunch.  The house was constantly full of people from my Mama’s seven children, their spouses, all the grandchildren (fourteen), and other uncles and aunts.  Of course, overseeing the daunting task of feeding us all was my Mama.  I remember there was the “big” table where all the uncles and aunts would sit and the “small” table for all the children.  At a certain age,  the kids would eventually graduate to being able to enjoy sitting at the “big” table depending on who made it to lunch that day and whether there was space for them…  But, at the head of the table was always my Mama who meticulously oversaw the menu.

Cocido Madrileño was one of my favourite dishes that easily fed the throng of hungry people that made it to Sunday lunch.  The dish is essentially a medley of meat and vegetables that is simmered for hours resulting in a rich broth or  caldo, that is served alongside the dish.  In my Mom’s version, the meats she uses includes pork belly, beef ribs, chorizo, chicken and these meatballs or pelota (my favourite). If you can find it, adding some blood sausage or morcilla would be a welcome addition too.   As a kid, I remember the hardest thing about having Cocido for lunch was having to sit at the “small” table and waiting for all the adults to serve before we could have our share.  The wait was pure torture.

So if I had to pick a dish that I’d like to have on my birthday – it would be this one. Because birthdays are all about being with the ones your love and if you’re going to be inviting lots of people to help you celebrate, then you might as well make sure you have enough good food to go around.

Cocido Madrileño

Cocido Madrileño

Cocido Madrileño

Cocido is a very flexible dish so feel free to add or change the meats and vegetables you use depending on your taste or what is available. For example, instead of the beef ribs, you could use beef brisket, instead of the smoked ham hock, substitute a slab of bacon or jamon. My husband and I once went to a famous restaurant in Madrid called La Bola that served Cocido with fideos (Spanish noodles)… you could also add that to the soup as well. You will notice I haven’t given exact quantities to this dish as the quantities depend on how many people you are serving this dish to. I always make sure to make more than I need anyway, but that’s because I like dicing the leftover meat and vegetables to make a hearty soup with the rest of the broth for another day.


  • Pork belly
  • Beef ribs, or chuck
  • Chorizo
  • Smoked ham hock
  • Chicken, cut into pieces
  • Pelota (recipe follows)

Vegetables & Aromatics

  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Peppercorns
  • Bay leaf
  • Garbanzos (Chickpeas), soaked overnight
  • Pumpkin
  • Potatoes, cut into large chunks
  • Carrots, cut into large chunks
  • Stringbeans, tied into little bunches to make it easier to remove from the pot when done
  • Cabbage, cut into eights

Tomato Sauce

  • 2 Cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed


  • 500 grams pork
  • 2 slices white bread, crusts removed, diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. For the pelota, mix all the ingredients in a large bowl, shape into balls and set aside until ready to use.
  2. Place the meat and chickpeas, (exclude the chicken and the pelota) in a large pot and fill with water, making sure to have enough water to cover the meats. Add the onion, garlic, peppercorns and bayleaf, take the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Once it has reached a boil, turn the heat down to the lowest possible setting and skim the surface of the pot for any scum. The meat will need around two hours to soften.
  3. After two hours, add the chicken, chorizo, pelota, vegetables and continue to simmer another thirty minutes.
  4. For the tomato sauce, saute the onion and garlic in some olive oil, add the diced tomatoes and cook for around 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
  5. To serve, separate the meats and slice them. Then remove the vegetables, place them in platters. Serve with the caldo, tomato sauce and warm crusty bread.

For more great Kulinarya Recipes – check here.

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Mango Natilla

Mango Natilla

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but growing up, I certainly enjoyed the many perks of my family owning a Spanish restaurant.  Probably top of the list was being able to order anything I wanted from the menu.  With each visit I’d try to order a different dish  for my main course but dessert would always stay the same.

I’d always have the Natilla. I loved the look burnt sugar topping provoking me to give it a good hard crack and then my spoon surrendering to the velvety custard and sponge finger mix beneath.


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Mango Cream Pie

Mango Cream Pie

This week I’m tickled pink to tell you – I’m Guest Blogging on Asha’s fab blog – Fork Spoon Knife.  To me, in the blogging cosmos, to be asked to do a guest post is one of the biggest forms of flattery – imagine, being asked to write a post on what these bloggers consider their personal journals – to me, it was like Asha gave me a pen and opened her diary and said “Go ahead, write something, join me as I chronicle my food journeys.”


The icing on the cake (so to speak) was the fact that Asha’s asked me to to a guest post.  You must know her right?  She’s the one with the lovely pictures, magnetic personality (which shows in her writing), awesome recipes with wacky yet amazing flavour combinations (check out her post on the Rhubarb and Sage Shortbread)!

I knew I had to give her a really special recipe which is why I chose my Grandmother’s Mango Cream Pie.  To find out why this recipe’s so special – please hop on to Asha’s site!

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Baked Spaghetti

Baked Spaghetti Royale

I swear, it wasn’t because I was unpopular.   (Or that’s what I would like to think)

One summer, I must have been in the  fifth or sixth grade, I celebrated my birthday with a party.  The downside of having your birthday in the summer months was that it always coincided with school holidays, which usually meant, only a handful of classmates could actually make it.

I never really thought it was a big thing until I was made painfully aware of this fact when, during this party, only three guests showed up.


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Bacalao a la Vizcaina

It seems to me that in Australia, one of the staple Easter treats, are hot cross buns. In my family, it’s Bacalao a la Vizcaina. Every Easter, particularly, on Good Friday, this is the one dish, we all looked forward to having. Growing up, the idea was that on this particular Friday, we were required to fast the whole day and the one main meal we’d have, we’d have to abstain from meat. Bacalao, being the first meal we’d have for that day, was something we eagerly anticipated.

In my younger years, I always associated Lent and Holy Week as a season of sacrifice. Which is why we had to fast and abstain from meat on Fridays, say extra prayers and go to confession. I always had this notion that part of the sacrifice was having the Bacalao dish. Not because it wasn’t any good. In fact, I thought, it was so delicious, that the “grown-ups” (as we used to call the… uhmm… “grown ups” in the family) decided to serve it but only in very small quantities to torment us. Can you imagine, fasting the whole day and only having one small serving of this dish along with a slice of tortilla espanola? It was pure torture!

Now I think the only reason we had so little of it was because Bacalao was not that easy to come by in the Philippines – at least then. Luckily, Sydney has a few stores that stock up on salt cod and last Friday we all managed to have generous portions of this dish. Honestly, it was so enjoyable, I almost felt sinful for being able to eat so much!


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Lychee Perfection

In my younger years, perfection meant a number to me. For example:

4 – was the dress size I strove to become and so I ran every morning,  joined a gym and forced myself to eat oatmeal (although I hated it) for breakfast.

5 feet 5 inches was the height I thought was ideal for a size 4 – and so I took to wearing three inch heels everyday – even if  they hurt like hell.

10 was the number of guitar pieces that I wanted to know by heart – so that I could at least say that I could confidently play a whole set if asked.

28 was the age I wanted to get married.

And so my search for perfection went…

Lychees, rosewater, and cream jelly

As years passed and interestingly enough –  I didn’t feel the expected joy when some of these numbers I met and I didn’t feel as bad as I expected to when many of the numbers I didn’t achieve.  I’m not sure why – maybe I enjoyed the ride more than I did actually arriving at my destination.

And while I hate to admit it – I am still searching for perfection – although some of the things that mattered to me years ago – either I couldn’t care less about today, or have been adjusted to a more realistic number.  And then also, other numbers have taken priority.  You know what I mean?

That 4 dress size I so desperately wanted to achieve, well I’d be happy to fit into an 8 now!

I wear 2 inch heels instead of 3 now.

I’ve forgotten all the guitar pieces I know but no one ever asked me to play a full set anyway.

I did get married at 28!

And last night nothing pleased me more than to spend time with the Blog Monster as we searched for that 1 perfect lychee dessert.

Lychee Perfection

This dessert is really called Lychee Perfection.  It is a two layer jelly/mousse that is in my Grandmother’s cookbook.  I have adapted it by the addition of rosewater to the top layer.  Lychees are in season now and we are getting the most juicy and plump fruits you can imagine.  This is one of the best ways to celebrate them.  Don’t fret though if you can’t find fresh lychees – the canned ones are fine to use too.


Bottom Layer

  • 1 envelope unflavoured powdered gelatin (7 grams)
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 1 can condensed milk (395 grams)
  • 200 grams cream, whipped

Top Layer

  • 1 envelope (7 grams) unflavoured powdered gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water plus 1 cup boiling water
  • 10 lychees peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rosewater
  • pinch of rose food colouring

Lychee Perfection

  1. For the bottom layer, mix the boiling water and the gelatin in a container and set aside.
  2. In a double boiler, mix together the condensed milk and the gelatin mixture.
  3. Mix the gelatin mixture and continue cooking over the double boiler until the mixture thickens, around 5 minutes.
  4. Allow the condensed milk mixture to cool.
  5. Once the mixture has cooled, whip the cream until stiff peaks and fold the cream into the condensed milk mixture.
  6. Pour into individual glass containers and allow to set.
  7. For the top layer, mix the boiling water and the gelatin in a contained and set aside.
  8. Place the water, lychees, rosewater and sugar in a sauce pan.  Add the gelatin and bring to a boil.
  9. Remove from heat, strain the liquid into a bowl and set the bowl over another bowl of iced water and allow to cool.  As the mixture cools, add a tiny pinch of rose food colouring.
  10. Cut the lychees into pieces and place them over the cream jelly.
  11. Pour the rosewater mixture over the lychees and allow to set.

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Pollo a la Naranja

We’re off! To Tasmania, that is! The whole clan is headed for a weekend trip and it’s going to be a blast! So if you don’t hear from me for a few days – you now know why! In the meantime, I’ll leave you with The Blog Monster’s quick and easy weekday meal. Pollo a la Naranja, literally translated, means Chicken in Orange Sauce.

When the Blog Monster is around (she stays in my house when she is on holiday), one of our nightly rituals is to sit down and discuss “what’s for dinner tomorrow”. Sometimes, as you can imagine, there is a long debate that ensues. We look through cookbooks, reminisce about recent meals in wonderful restaurants or talk about fine dishes we’ve had in the past. Sometimes, we nominate an ingredient and go over numerous variations before deciding on “the one”.

The other night we nominated chicken. It felt a bit like a game show where The Blog Monster would rattle off one dish that she thought would be great to make using the chicken and I would counter with another dish. The winner, would be the one who came up with the best dish.

“Chicken Imperial” (she said)

“Roast Chicken” (me)

“Chicken in Garlic Sauce (her turn)

“Fried Chicken” (mine)

…. and on and on… until she said “Pollo a la Naranja” and it just clicked!

When you try this dish you will understand why this was the winner. A deliciously braised chicken dish finished off with some white wine and the juice and rind of a few oranges. And of course, honey to give the sauce a richer flavour!

Chicken in Orange Sauce

Recipe (serves 4 to 6)

  • 6 chicken thighs
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced finely
  • 2 oranges
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper
  2. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil and fry the chicken pieces until golden. Remove the chicken and set aside.
  3. In the same pan fry the onions over medium heat until translucent. Add the chicken back into the pan.
  4. Add the white wine into the pan and reduce until you have half the liquid
  5. Remove some orange rind and juice the oranges.
  6. Add the orange juice and simmer until the chicken is cooked and tender, around 20 minutes.
  7. If the sauce isn’t enough at this point feel free to add some chicken stock (maybe half a cup or so) Add the orange rind and honey and simmer a little longer until the sauce thickens.
  8. Test for seasoning before serving

Pollo a la Naranja

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"Huevos Rotos" literally "Broken Eggs"

Tapas, Chorizo, Fried Egg, Jamon Serrano

I have to admit things were not going smoothly Saturday morning as my Mum and I prepared breakfast.  There was some debate with the Blog Monster as to how this dish was really made.

“Jamon.” I said.

“Chorizo!” She answered

“Jamon!!” I replied

“Chorizo! This is what we used to do in the restaurant” she countered.

You see we were trying to cook up a tapas dish called “Huevos Rotos” – which literally means “Broken Eggs.” Imagine a fried egg presented over a bed of pan fried potatoes, garlic, chorizo (or Jamon Serrano depending on who was making the dish).  The egg is then broken and scattered all over the rest of the dish.  It’s wonderful with a piece of warm bread.  And, while we were having it for breakfast,  you can have it any time of the day.

I first tried a variation of this dish in a Madrid Restaurant called Casa Lucio.  They call it “Huevos Estrellados” and they are acclaimed worldwide for it.  When I first saw it served to me, I said to myself  “they’re just french fries with a fried egg on top”… but I have to admit – it was out of this world.  If you want to be extra indulgent, pay a little more and you get a some Jamon on the side.

You can imagine, two stubborn cooks in one little kitchen disagreeing about how to make a simple tapas dish.  Each of us was insisting that our own version was correct.

Huevos Rotos

In the end, we decided to put both… and it was amazing!

Recipe – Serves 2

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 chorizo, diced
  • 1 large potato, cut into 1 1/2 cm dice
  • 3 slices, Jamon Serrano, torn up
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan and and the potatoes, cook on medium high until browned, around 10 minutes or until you can pierce the potato with a fork without resistance.
  2. Remove the potatoes from the pan and now add the chorizo pieces and fry until nicely browned.
  3. Remove the chorizo and add the garlic and lightly fry until there is some colour on the garlic chips.
  4. Remove the garlic and use the same pan to fry and egg.
  5. To assemble, lay the potatoes, chorizo and garlic on a plate, top with the fried egg and lay some torn pieces of Jamon Serrano on the side.   Serve with toasted bread.

Fried Potatoes, Chorizo, Garlic Chips, Jamon Serrano and a Fried Egg

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The Spanish Pasta Dish to Rival Paella

Fideos (“Toasted Pasta” Paella)

It must be difficult being a noodle in Spain.  How can you stand up to the wonderful rice dishes that the Spaniards are known for.  Almost every Spanish cookbook I own will have a section on Paellas*, and at the back of the section is maybe one (if lucky) recipe on the fideos.  It doesn’t even get its own section!   It’s a pity that fideos tends to take second place to the Paella when I think it is just as delicious – and for me, a much more forgiving dish!

Fideos, translated into english, refers to noodles – they are thin pieces of noodles, no longer than your thumb.  Many recipes call for fideo noodles, there is no reason why you can’t use thin spaghetti or angel hair noodles, broken into 1.5 to 2 inch lengths.  In my Mom’s restaurant they used to bake their fideos with pork spareribs and sausages but today I’ve decided to share with you my version – with mussels and prawns.  A little bit healthier and just as good!

I like to think of fideos as the rebel dish.  It breaks a lot of rules!  Let me explain… with most pasta dishes you throw your noodles into a large pot of boiling water, enough water so that the pasta has enough space to float around.  With fideos, traditionally they are made in a paella pan and only enough liquid is placed so that the noodles absorb the cooking broth resulting in a rich, and flavourful dish.  When making a paella, I’ve been taught, once you add the broth, do not stir rice around.  How many of us have been tempted to STIR when we were told NOT TO STIR?!  Well, as I said, fideos is more forgiving – you stir the dish often enough until you see that the liquid has coated the noodles and seafood in an almost syrup like coating.

Traditionally fideos has been made with saffron.  If you aren’t willing to spend on good quality saffron, I wouldn’t even bother putting it as inferior quality saffron will hardly make a dent in the taste.  If you can’t get a hold of saffron, or don’t wish to shell out the money for it, I suggest you omit it completely.

Also, this is traditionally made in a paella pan.  Tonight, I couldn’t be bothered and  used a heavy based pan instead.  It turned out just as well!

As I said – this dish breaks a lot of rules!

Prawn and Mussel Fideos

Recipe (for two)

  • 120 grams fideos or dried angel hair pasta, broken into 2 inch lenghts
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 2oo grams canned tomatoes,  crushed
  • 375 ml fish or chicken stock (good quality store bought is fine)
  • 70 ml dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 large prawns, peeled and deveined
  • a handful of mussels, cleaned and debearded OR you can use clams or a combination
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat a pan with one tablespoon of olive oil and lightly fry the fideos noodles until golden brown but not burned.   This should take around 5 minutes.
  2. Remove the noodles from the pan and set aside
  3. Next, add more olive oil and saute the onion and garlic until translucent.
  4. Add the sweet paprika and the canned tomatoes and cook until the tomato sauce is thick, this will take around 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. In a separate pan, heat the stock, white wine and the bay leaf.    Once boiling, add this to the tomato sauce.
  6. Immediately add the noodles and stir frequently until the noodles have absorbed the liquid.  This took me around 15 minutes.
  7. When you can see that the noodles are almost done, add the seafood and simmer gently for a minute or two until the prawns are cooked through and the mussels have fully opened.
  8. Serve immediately.


*Interestingly enough, what we have come to know as Paella the rice dish made with all sorts of wonderful toppings from seafood, chorizo, rabbit etc., actually refers to the pan in which they are made in.  Over time however, people have started referring to the dish inself and not the pan as Paella.

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