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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Samal Island, Davao, Philippines

Davao is the largest city of the Mindanao, the southernmost region of the Philippines. An hour flight away from the country's capital Manila, it is strategically located in the Asia-Pacific rim and serves as a gateway to both western and eastern hemispheres of the world. Check out the official website of the city here. It is also home to the waling-waling, the Queen of Philippine Orchids, durian (the King of Exotic Fruits), Mt. Apo (Grandfather of Philippine mountains, the tallest mountain in the country), the largest eagle in the world and the King of Philippine skies which is the Philippine Eagle, Davao as one of the largest cities in the world is really worth visiting.

where is Davao?

One of the best places to go to when in this city is Samal Island. There is a pier located just minutes from the airport, where a 5-minute boat ride can be taken to get away from the busy city life. In such a short span of time, one can already feel the huge difference of the hustle and bustle, compared to the serene seas that surround the island. Try Paradise Island Resort for a service that can never be forgotten, and even a view of Mt. Apo. Some snaps in the slideshow below.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sunny Skies

seen somewhere over Port Douglas, Queensland

Philippine Fiesta at Melbourne

watch out for this :
What : Fiesta!
When : 29-30 November 2008
Where : Philippine Community Center

This year's Philippine Fiesta’s theme is "Kabalikat sa pangangalaga ng Kalikasan at kapaligiran", or "In support of the conservation of nature and the environment".

Check out the details at the website :

Sunday, November 23, 2008

William Ricketts Sanctuary Contd.

A few additional shots from here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pumpkin and Sage Risotto

A first - and successful - attempt at making this creamy Italian dish! This is based on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe, googled tips and a personal take on the spices that would compliment (not overpower) the pumpkin

This dish was made with Arborio rice, named after the Italian town where it is grown. This rice is particularly desirable for use in making risotto because of its high starch content, which makes the dish creamy. Like pasta, risotto is cooked 'al dente', literally 'to the bite', so it has a slightly resistant texture.

Luckily there was still some stock from a previous chicken roast, and the sage from the garden had a lot to offer.

This dish (serves 2 hungry adults) was made with :
400 g pumpkin, diced into small pieces
2 liters homemade chicken stock (not all would be used - it depends on the absorption of the rice)
200g arborio rice
15 sage leaves, minced
2 onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Dash of grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 teaspoon butter
Garnish :
Parmesan shavings
12 sage leaves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil/sunflower oil]

Take 350 g of the pumpkin and place on a baking tray, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and bake at 180C for around 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil the rest of the pumpkin with the stock, then keep over very low heat. This is just a personal take on adding more pumpkin flavor to the stock but not overwhelming the dish with pumpkin bits.
For the soffrito (aromatic flavor base) - In a heavy based saucepan (for even heat distribution), sweat the onions until soft but not brown, add the sage and cook a bit more.

Add rice and mix until thoroughly coated with oil.

Tostatura: Toasting the rice to seal in the starch

Ladle in around 1 cup of the simmering stock or more until the rice is well covered (but not completely swimming in it!). This is when garlic was also added. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then let simmer until most of the stock is absorbed by the rice. Then ladle in additional stock until absorbed. This process is repeated until the rice is al dente.

When risotto is almost done, fry sage leaves in oil for just a few seconds until crisp. Place on a paper towel so that the excess oil will be absorbed away.

Remove risotto from heat. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Stir in the butter, garnish with parmesan shavings and the fried sage leaves, and serve.

The purpose of the butter is to mainly add to the creaminess of the risotto, but because of the pumpkin also dissolving into the mixture, the consistency almost does not require the butter. I added a bit for extra flavor anyway. (and to adhere to the concept of "Mantecatura" - The final step in making risotto, when butter or olive oil and grated cheese are vigorously incorporated into the risotto, binding the ingredients and achieving a creamy texture. :)

risotto! from "riso" meaning rice

William Ricketts Sanctuary

Fancy a daytrip with a difference that's within easy striking distance of Melbourne? Well the William Ricketts Sanctuary may just be the ticket. Set in the Dandenongs, the park is set on four acres of bushland and contains the life work of sculpture/artist William Ricketts.

What sets this particular display apart is that the sculptures were designed to fit in with the natural surroundings; displaying the artists’ views on nature, feelings towards the native people of the land, his mother and indeed himself. All set within a leafy tree and fern surrounds. Whether you're an art lover, curious or just fancy a quiet stroll among the shady glade this may be one to add to your ‘to do’ list.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

One Little, Two Little, Three Little....

three stooges at the Nobbies Center, Port Philip Island
(previous day trip here)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Soda Bread - Seeded this time!

More on homemade breads - quick and tasty, and this one is also a healthy take on the white soda bread.

the seeds that made it to the mix -
poppy seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds, 2 1/2 tablespoons each

the dough - 3 cups plain flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, a pinch of salt
sift dry ingredients together, add seeds, pour 2 cups buttermilk and mix into a dough
pour batter into a buttered loaf tin
drizzle melted butter on top and bake for 30minutes in a 200C oven
then reduce heat to 150C, and bake for another 20-30 minutes, or until hollow when tapped

cool on wire rack for about 30 minutes (if you can wait that long)

usually, soda breads are best served the day after it is baked, but this one just tastes as best right out of the oven!

Stout Punch

One lazy TV evening, there was an episode on Take on the Take-Away with Ainsley Harriott cooking up Caribbean recipes, and finished off the meal with an Irish Stout Punch. It was just composed of Guinness, condensed milk, some cinnamon powder and ice cubes blitzed on the blender/ As an official stout fan, this recipe was definitely not going to get off easy, and hence came a trip to the nearby liquor shop to fetch the Guinness, and the supermarket to get the condensed milk (there is cinnamon in the spice pantry!).

After two versions (one with more stout than milk, the other a bit more milk added to make it a slightly predominant flavor), the verdict was - we would leave the Guinness alone.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Coffee Braised Beef

Braising this tasty piece of beef with this tasty drink was a first, but will never be the last time.
I found the recipe after following links to a health web site - so it must be good for you!

Being a typical recipe breaker, this version was made only with an additional ingredient - chili. Most of the other steps were followed accordingly - as this was the first attempt, it was thought to be best to stay on the safe side and follow the instructions.. at least if it doesn't turn out very well, then blame the recipe! :) Fortunately it turned out to be very good. A must try.

1 4-pound beef chuck roast , trimmed of fat
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced (4 cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 fresh red chili, minced
3/4 cup strong brewed coffee (in this case it was a Dominican blend)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
2. Season beef with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook, turning from time to time, until well browned on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
3. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil to the pot. Add onions, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until softened and golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add chili, garlic and thyme; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in coffee and vinegar; bring to a simmer. Return the beef to the pot and spoon some onions over it. Cover and transfer to the oven.
4. Braise the beef in the oven until fork-tender but not falling apart, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Transfer beef to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest for about 10 minutes.

Option to create gravy - i skipped this part, but will probably try next time :
Meanwhile, skim fat from the braising liquid; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water and cook, whisking, until the gravy thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Season with pepper. Carve the beef and serve with gravy.


chili flowers

more chili (future) flowers

delicate tomato

Turkish Coffee

There was an event at the nearby park where there was a great variety of stalls (quite an international selection!), but this post is not about the event - it is about that much needed dose of caffeine that came from a $3 Turkish coffee.

It was made by lady who looked like she walked out of her kitchen to come to the event and make coffee for people. Nice big smile under the sign that said "Turkish Coffee", the idea was already sold instantly. The coffee is not at all instant, but because of the event, was designed more for quantity. It was made using a (non traditional, electric) pot (because it had to be done fast), but the lady was quick enough to know when to turn it off. The key, she said, was to use cold water. What was requested was that the coffee be made as though it is at home - and the sweetened coffee was delivered.

The device of choice was forgivable at this instance, as the coffee was delightful with a slight chocolate taste. Would have been best to have the truly authentic Turkish coffee experience - but probably some other time.

Check out this link for the steps on how to make Turkish coffee.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tokyo Teppanyaki

Continuing on the theme of Japanese restaurants Tokyo Teppanyaki is billed not only as a restaurant but a complete night of entertainment, and it was....well for a few hours at least :)

If you haven't been before then Teppanyaki is well worth the experience (perhaps once as it ain't cheap :)). Seated around a large hot plate the customer is treated to their own personal chef who not only acts to cook and serve but also provides the evenings entertainment in the form of jovial conversation and a number of party tricks such as food and egg tossing as well as bowl throwing and all manner of utensil twirling.

The menu at Tokyo Teppanyaki is quite varied - Ozeki sake and the Tokyo Set were chosen on this occasion. Service began with an entree plate featuring sushi, sashimi, California roll and spring roll followed by Miso soup (no spoon :)). Then out came Eddie, as he introduced himself, who proceeded to deliver on all of the aforementioned with regular quips and some all action food and bowl tossing. In the midst of which he managed to cook and serve tiger prawns, scallops, teriyaki chicken, lamb rack, Kobe style steak and finally vegetables and fried rice. Once complete Eddie retired leaving the table to finish off the remaining sake and coffee.

The food was quite good, Eddie entertaining. All in all a good evening out.

Adobo Remix

Being one of the favorite meals due to its taste, preservation qualities (read : not getting spoiled even after a week), and ease of preparation, adobo (previous post here) is a common entry in the home menu. A big batch could last for at least 6 meals (packed lunch or dinner), but having the same dish all the time can be quite boring.

A quick way to break the monotony is to just reheat and add a different herb, or ingredient, and you'd be surprised at how it may alter the taste completely. So unless people are happy just eating plain adobo (which is the usual case anyway) then at least this would give you an idea on how to jazz up leftovers!

adobo remix

This remix is inspired by the nice bunch of coriander growing quietly alongside its brothers and sisters in the potted herb garden. It was time to trim off some of the leaves anyway to promote better growth, so the trimmings went to the meal!

the star of the remix

Basmati rice was 'fried' in a little bit of olive oil, tossed some frozen green peas, the leftover adobo, and one beaten egg, added extra seasoning of sea salt and pepper and cooked til the peas are done. The coriander was chopped and sprinkled on top before serving. The fresh herb gave the dish a new dimension of flavor (like what those chefs say on TV!). Prep time is minimal (just beat the egg and chop the herbs?) and in less than 10 minutes you have a 'new' meal!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

International Rules

Having viewed the first International Rules game of 2008 on TV it was time to take in the all important second leg at a rainy wind swept MCG.

For those unfamiliar with the International Rules game a very long ( and boring :)) in depth description can be found here.

In short, the International Rules series is a hybrid/compromise game between the professional Australian Rules football code and the amateur Irish Gaelic Football code. Mixing rules from both codes the teams are pitched against each other over two legs with an aggregate score deciding the victor of the Cormac McAnallen Trophy. With the first game in Perth finishing in a nail biting 45 to 44 in Irelands favour the second game meant there was still all to play for on both sides.

What appeared to be a small crowd turned out to be 43,000 strong, perhaps a testimony to the size of the venue. The game itself started off at a pretty fast pace with the home team doing a lot of the early running, a number of overs saw Australia finish the quarter with a 15 to 12 lead.

The second and third quarters saw the visitors come to the fore with a number of goals in either quarter seeing finishes of 21 to 36 and 33 to 50, respectively. An all action finish to the final quarter saw a number of further goals traded with Irish team running out victors with a final score of 53 to 57.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


found in the archives...too pretty to be ignored.

Moshi Moshi

Located here Moshi Moshi is a Japanese restaurant with a twist. Unlike the traditional Japanese offerings Moshi Moshi is presented in an informal cafe style setting. The menu is also a little different too, while not ignoring the expected favourites the diner is presented with the option of "Japas" - Japanese tapas. A very clever and tasty idea offering sushi rolls, vegetable and seafood tempura as well as other tasty morsels served between five and seven PM at one dollar a piece.

While the main menu specialises in seafood there are also plenty of options for the non-seafood lover. No such need here. The sushi and sashimi was great - fresh and served elegantly and non-fussed, as you'd expect from a good Japanese restaurant. Good miso soup (served with a spoon this time) and tasty wagyu beef roll, tender and juicy.

A new experience was Shochu, a Japanese spirit that can be served in many ways from neat or on the rocks to mixed in all manner of cocktails. On the rocks on this occasion it was easy to pick out that Shochu is distilled from barley with that unmistakable almost slightly single-malt whiskey taste. A little more research on this particular beverage may well be required! :)

Good food and great service at a reasonable price make Moshi Moshi worth a visit.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Season's Harvests

The previously featured sage indeed grew nicely and big enough to have the first few leaves trimmed off and cooked with one of its best mates, pork. This dish is very simple - just pork belly seasoned well with sea salt and pepper, and placed on a bed of sage leaves (and a couple on top) for a very delicate flavoring while being roasted in a 180C preheated oven for around 1 hour (depending on the size of the pork, in this case around 750grams).

The leaves then fried itself off on the natural fat - and even tasted as great as it looked as a garnish.

parsley - from the pot, into the bowl!

Meanwhile, the parsley as also been brought to the table in time to garnish this beef dish, stewed in a mushroom sauce with cracked red chili, potatoes and carrots, served with basmati rice. The smell of fresh parsley as it was being chopped is simply great - imagine it further on top of a nice hearty meal!

oregano, and the bread that it has flavored

The oregano has also not escaped the wrath of the kitchen! And with the warm weather gracing Melbourne, its fate has been decided into a leavened bread, which rises faster in warm temperatures. Unlike the corn bread last winter which had to be left overnight for the dough to at least increase in size, this experimental Chili Black Olive Bread was just left for a couple hours. To make this bread you would need :

2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon active yeast
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cracked dried red chili
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup roughly chopped black olives
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
1 cup warm water

Mix flour, yeast, brown sugar and salt in a bowl. Add olive oil and enough warm water to form a dough. Mix in olives, then knead on a well-floured surface until dough is smooth. Roll into a ball and place in an oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm, leave to rise for around 1.5 hours. After it has doubled in size, punch down and divide into two rolls. Place on baking tray, and leave to rise again for around 30 minutes, then bake for 30-40 minutes or until bottom sounds hollow when tapped.

Nice crisp crust, delicate flavors of olive complimented by oregano and a hint of chili. Best with soups, or just even by itself!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Close Encounters

hand-feeding a wallaby, a kangaroo with its joey saying hello from the pouch, and a wombat

...all up close and personal at the Wildlife Park at Cowes, Philip Island, where a bag of nibbles are given per person after paying a $15 entrance fee, and you're off feeding every possible animal within reach (would probably think twice before feeding the tasmanian devil). There is a free range area where (harmless) animals roam about freely (mind your feet if you mind poo on your shoes). Encounters of the furry kind could not be closer than this!

Probably best to have a sugar high at the Chocolate Factory in Newhaven, Phillip Island before coming to cuddle the creatures. Try the dark chili chocolate.

What else to do on this island :
- go to penguin parade and watch an entire colony 'parade' by sundown
- explore Churchill Island, one of the early European settlements
- wine tasting
- explore walking trails (from 15 minute walks to a couple of hours!)
- surfing and swimming in the wonderful beaches
- see the lazy creatures at the Koala Conservation Center

Seal Rocks!

At the south western tip of Philip Island is a mass of rocks, aptly called Seal Rocks, where around 16,000 seals live and dwell and reproduce. Breeding peaks from October to December. From the Nobbies Visitor Center (a short description from the previous visit here), the Seal Rocks can be seen through coin-operated cameras and telescopes. If you can spare $60, it is worth taking a trip with the Wildlife Coast Cruise, who specialize in eco tours to Seal Rocks and neighboring areas. It is with this trip that you can have a closer encounter with these furry, fun loving creatures, a sneak peak on their state of being in their natural habitat - even a display of mating or mothering behavior.

can you see the seals?

Gummy Shark

The fish is a gummy shark, a harmless shark inhabiting the temperate waters off southern Australia, from northern New South Wales, around Tasmania and through Bass Strait, to Western Australia.

gummy shark -before and after
Fish and chips for lunch on a Tuesday afternoon at Philip Island, while the rest of Melbourne celebrated the race that stops the nation - Melbourne Cup.

This version of fish and chips was from Harry's Bar at the Esplanade, Philip Island. Would not particularly rave about the food, because in this restaurant you pay more for the view. Next time, the 'serious wine list' may have to be taken to the test.

Those Who Stopped By

Scribe's Notes

This pitstop is where incoherent ramblings seem to have meaning, where things or events are thought of and assessed, where great things are documented and perhaps any not-so-good happenings are written down in attempt to be forgotten!

So from the diversely abstract to the intensely specific, it's off to making tracks, and it is here where it stops for a thought or two.

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