11 Jun

I’ve always been proud of Filipino food.  I’ve always believed that if people tried the food that we Filipinos ate on a daily basis (ably prepared by our mothers and titas), people would be addicted too!  Filipino cuisine is influenced by the food cultures from China, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Spain.  We also have a very pronounced American influence.  These influences are due to the fact that the Malays an Indones were the early settlers on the Philippine islands and it has been historically proven that we traded with the Chinese very early on.  The Spanish (and largely Mexican food tradition) influences came because the Philippines was a Spanish colony for over 300 years (the Philippine islands were named after King Philip II of Spain).  Then after the Spanish, we had the Americans with us…for a while.

I am so thankful that there are enterprising individuals (who may or may not be Filipino) who have identified an opportunity to sell to Filipinos living overseas the food staples.  I’ve been able to cook Filipino food here in England and it helps the homesickness.

But nothing compares to the satisfaction when one is able to make something that isn’t always available in the Oriental or Filipino supermarkets.  A few days ago, whilst I was recuperating from a really bad migraine (I was signed off for a week), I told myself that I would make hopia. I had been watching various YouTube video how-to’s and I felt that I was ready to attempt the Filipino treat.  I even risked eating store-bought hopia in the name of research!  Mind you, it was a tad disappointing because the hopia I bought seemed to have shrunk!  For what I paid for, well, it was an exhorbitant amount of money for 4 minuscule hopia pieces – not at all what I remembered eating when I was growing up!

Hopia is also known as bakpia (in Chinese).  It is a bean paste-filled pastry that was apparently introduced by Fujianese immigrants in the Philippines.  It is usually filled with mung bean paste (either red mung bean or yellow mung bean), or purple yam and there is a variant that is filled with candied wintermelon (called kundol in the Philippines).  Apparently, in other countries (apparently this is a popular Indonesian treat as well!) the fillings can be pineapple, durian, cheese, chocolate, coffee and custard!  I’ve never had a cheese hopia, but it certainly sounds interesting!

I painstakingly wrote down the recipe from all the YouTube videos and translated it into metric measurements.  Then I set about making my hopia!

Hopia before baking

I was quite excited about how they looked like.  Even more excited when they came out of the oven.  I loved the smell that wafted out of the oven.  I was definitely in hopia heaven!


I need to practice some more.  I think the pastry is nearly there.  A few more tweaks with the procedure and a few temperature adjustments will help.  But what I’ve been allowing myself to eat is hopia.  It’s not as sweet as the store-bought ones, but it is, already, hopia!

More hopia

Change required

7 Jun

I have been ill for a week now.  I’ve had a massively bad migraine attack and I stayed home properly from work on Thursday.  The migraine happened on Sunday (although I felt what was probably the beginnings of it on Saturday evening) and I was suffering through a very painful head for most of the week.  It didn’t help that I forced myself to do a full day at work on the Monday.  I did the smart thing on Tuesday and stayed home and went to the doctor’s surgery.  They prescribed migraine meds (thankfully!) and signed me off for a week.  What I did next was worthy of a face-slap though.  I went back to work.  Obviously, I wasn’t allowed to stay because I was signed off and declared not fit to work.  For insurance purposes, my company isn’t allowed to have me in the premises.  I went home with the intention of going to my doctor again and getting myself signed in.

I have, however, stayed home.  Despite the hiccup of Thursday when I sent an email to a client asking them to do something that was a requirement.  I call it a hiccup because I should have, really, laid off work.  Properly.  I did on Friday though.  I haven’t checked my emails since I looked on Thursday morning.

I went to the eye doctor yesterday to get my eyes checked (I was due a check up anyway) and found out that because of my diabetes there is a bleed in my left eye and the doctor has found the beginnings of cloudiness in the lens of my right eye – which in short is the beginnings of cataract.  It’s because I have had amazingly high blood sugar in the past few months.

So I’ve been thinking.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.  I’ve got to make a lot of changes.  In my diet, my lifestyle, my life, my environment and in the way I work.  I’ve got to make changes because my future depends on it.

And the good thing about this is that the inertia I’ve allowed myself to be surrounded by is suddenly not there because I have had a huge wake up call.  If I want my life to get better, I’ve got to make changes.


5 Jun

So because I have been at home, housebound because of illness and experiencing cabin fever, I once again cracked open the Goldilocks Bakebook and baked something familiar and comforting.  I made ensaymada.  It’s a sort of soft brioche-y type of bread that’s slathered with creamed butter, slightly sugared and smothered with cheese.


And just like that I am comforted.  The recipe needs tweaking because the dough was unbelievably wet!  I’m going look up other ensaymada recipes and see where improvements can be made.  I am thankful for the ability to bring Manila to me…even if it was through several cheesy-buttery-bready mouthfuls!  What can I say – baking is like medicine!

Ensaymada bite

Migraine malaise

5 Jun

Since late Saturday night I have had a constant companion.

Nope, am not talking about Alan.  I wouldn’t mind having Alan around all the time at all!  If anything, if he wasn’t around I don’t think I’d have survived the last few days.  I’ve been visited by quite a mean migraine.  It started late Saturday night.  I didn’t really think of it as a migraine, as such.  I thought it was just a headache.  I thought that if I went to bed, it would go by the time I woke up on Sunday.  No such thing happened!

I woke up with a stonking-make-me-cry-buckets-like-a-baby headache.  I moved, my headache pounded.  I shifted, I felt nauseated.  Even a faraway neighbour’s dog barking was causing me torturous pain!  Everything looked intensely bright, like everything was a huge, over-exposed photograph.  I felt like my head was going to explode!  I blubbered whilst I was talking to my parents and sister, occasionally asking them not to talk to loudly (I don’t think they were talking too loud though).  So finally, I took massively strong pain killers and burrowed under the duvet and slept.  I woke up nearly 3 hours later feeling like my head had been hit by a sledgehammer then wrapped in a turban.  I was not well.

I stupidly thought that I would be able to manage work on Monday.  I pushed myself, despite the throbbing head, to finish an entire day of work.  I went home barely able to make it up the steps without crying out for someone to carry me up to the train platform.  For the first time in a very long time, I actually enjoyed sitting in the cold wind because the cold helped ease my headache!  But I got home and I was a useless shell of a human being (I probably wasn’t but I certainly felt like it!  I felt absolutely spent!).  I didn’t go to work the following day and then took myself off to the doctors’ to get checked.

I got signed off from work for a week, but did I stay home?  Nooooo!  I got up the following day, got ready for work despite the massive headache and took the hour-long train ride to work because my sick note said “until migraine settles” and I thought that if I worked, my migraine would settle.  But I got sent home!  Mostly because I was signed off and wasn’t fit to work and my firm wasn’t insured in case anything happened to me at work on account of my current state of unfitness.

Fast forward 48 hours and I am climbing the walls a tiny bit bored.  It’s weird because I can definitely say I feel much better because my headache isn’t as bad, but it hasn’t left.  My head doesn’t feel like it’s going to explode anytime soon though.  That’s a vast improvement!

I have my fingers crossed that I am going to get better soon.  I am a bit tired of this headache…and a bit annoyed with it now.

Mongo bread!

31 May

It has been quite the stressful few weeks.  Mostly because of the changes in my work environment.  When I get really stressed I get really homesick.  And when I get really homesick I bake something that I can eat from home.

I’m really grateful my sister has bought the Goldilocks Bakebook for me.  I have had feedback from friends that the book has been discontinued due to the errors and omissions in the book.  I must agree that the book could do with a few editorial tweaks so that it will read smoother.  The recipes and baking instructions need a little reworking so that the procedures are clear, so that the users and bakers know exactly what to expect from the recipes and the steps.  But I am still thankful for the book.  It has allowed me to bake things that are familiar, things I grew up eating.  It has helped me with the homesickness, because even the act of simply reading the book makes home a little closer.

This weekend wasn’t any different.  I’ve been planning the baking of mung bean bread for a while.  Mung bean is mongo in Filipino (pronounced mong-goh).  Mongo bread is a bakery staple and most local bakeries in the Philippines have a version of this bread.  The Goldilocks Bakebook recipe called for red mung bean and red mung bean isn’t exactly something you can pluck from the shelves of the local supermarket.  I had to go to a supermarket in Chinatown in London to find red mung beans (and even now, I’m not quite certain what I picked off the shelves were actually red mung bean, but hey, they worked!).  So after having purloined the main ingredient, I studied the recipe and made certain tweaks.  After following most of the directions, I have made notes and am ready to try the recipe again with my additional tweaks.  But the first attempt has produced quite a pretty loaf!  Hopefully, when I attempt the recipe again (and post it on the blog!), it will still turn out like the first loaf.  Fingers crossed!

Presenting, my mongo bread —

Mongo bread

Mackerel and vegetables

23 May

One of my current favourite supermarket buys is mackerel fillets.  I am thankful that Iceland has frozen fillets for £4 for a pack of 5 or you can buy 3 packs of frozen fish for £10.  It’s a brilliant buy because fish is always healthy.  This isn’t an advert for Iceland mind you.  I thought it would be nice to share my supermarket find!  I used to poo-poo buying things from Iceland but now that they’ve expanded their offerings and the food range is so much better, I always go by Iceland to see what I can get!

Back to the fish, a quick way of prepping the fish is to rub olive oil over the frozen fillet, salt and pepper it and grill for 7 minutes on each side.  I usually have the fish with leftover roasted veg and sometimes, when I want some carbs, I have a few pieces of baby new potatoes (also roasted!).

Mackerel and roasted veg

The Owl Cake

13 May

I bought over 3 kilos of fondant icing because I intended to make beach huts for a bake off fundraising do at work.

But I think I overestimated my capabilities and my fondant confidence.  So instead of wimping out and wasting the fondant that I lugged all the way back to Harwich, I had to think of an alternative way to use the fondant that I purchased. I wasn’t giving up on the cake with fondant dream!  Besides, it was my birthday and bringing cake would be for a good cause.  So I had a think and regrouped.

I had a brainwave and thought, “Oooooh owls!”  I did a bit of googling and found the easiest way to make owl cake toppers.  I knew the cake would be okay (it was a vanilla sponge with a Nutella filling with a vanilla cream frosting), I just had to make it pretty.

The owls weren’t too difficult to make.  I just needed a round cookie cutter and a smarter way of looking at owls.  I must say, what a treasure trove Google can be!  After doing the cutting and a little shaping, the ingenious use of a fondant embosser and artful food colouring dotting, my owls looked cuter than I thought it was possible!

2015-05-12 23.32.09So here it is, my owl cake!  It was, truly, a hoot to make!

My owl cake


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