9 years ago, I once wrote about mums and chicken sopas (and how a bowl of this chicken soup elixir is like a mother’s hug). What I forgot to mention is the extent of the impact of this bowl of chicken soup in me, and in my memory. You see, every summer in the Philippines, we would go to my dad’s provincial town of Nueva Ecija, about 3 hours north of Manila. It would be the highlight of our summer holidays: waking up early on a Saturday morning; packing the car with books, games and enough junk food only a kid’s metabolism can burn for the 3 hour road trip; stopping by the petrol station at NLEX (known at that time as North Superhighway!) for a wee and Jollibee break, before heading to the San Fernando exit as we pass by the corn and quail eggs sellers along the road.
And then you get a glimpse of Mt Arayat in the distance, and you know you’re in provincial territory. You slowly start to relax, turn off the air conditioning, open the car windows, and start to inhale the fresh air laced with that distinctive fire wood smoke smell from houses cooking their lunch of the day. The road gets narrower, as the car slows down to avoid the rice grains being dried on the road. You pass by centuries-old cemeteries next to centuries-old churches, and little huts in the middle of large, rice fields. The houses get smaller, the streets reduced to one-car lanes usually occupied by a carabao lazily walking around, sleepy stray dogs, or chickens busily eating leftover rice grains. The people get friendlier – strangers who give your car a friendly wave, quickly recognising my dad who grew up in this small, small town since he was a kid. We round a corner, and you recognise this small street: the local halo halo seller on the right side, the little huts on the left, and that wooden house at the far right with the yellow timber walls and yellow gates. It’s Lolo and Lola’s house (grandpa and grandma). It’s almost 1pm, you’re hungry (again), and yet you know that there’s a reward at the end of this trip.
You get out of the car to a mix smell of fire wood burning (a promise of lunch cooking in the back kitchen!) and that distinct probinsya air, and you greet Lolo and Lola with a mano po (a respectful gesture to your elders: you take their hand, and place it on your forehead as a sign of respect) as you inhale Lolo’s distinctive tobacco smell. Their way of telling you that they’re so happy to see you is to comment on how much taller you are compared to last year, and how much weight you’ve gained (thanks Lolo!). They quickly usher you to the dining table, never mind that you only ate an hour ago, where a delectable spread awaits. Grilled native chicken, pork bbq, pakbet (mixed vegetables), green mangoes with bagoong, and that distinctive white soup with pasta and chicken – chicken sopas.
My Lola Nena cooked her chicken sopas with her own special twist. She used native chickens who grew free range in her farm. These skinny (and happy) but oh so tasty chickens bring out so much flavour to the broth. She used the whole chicken, including the off cuts such as liver and gizzards, to add depth to the soup. She also cooked this in a palayok (a traditional Filipino clay pot) over fire wood chopped from the backyard. But the crowning glory of it all is this: she finishes the soup with melted margarine. It adds richness, creaminess and an amazing finish to the soup.
Every time I make chicken sopas, I always revisit these trips to the province. And I always cook mine the way Lola Nena cooked hers: finish with margarine. I always imagine my 10 year old self, sweating in the humidity but cooled by the lovely river breeze, serenaded by the chickens in the backyard, sleepily listening to the adults gossip and catch up, with a belly full of beautiful, home cooked food and of course, Lola Nena’s chicken sopas.
Lola Nena’s Chicken Sopas
Makes approximately 4 servings
500g chicken breast*
3 cloves garlic
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded
1/4 head of cabbage, chopped coarsely but finely
1/4 celery, chopped finely
1 tbsp fish sauce
250g rigatoni or elbow macaroni pasta
Salt and freshly ground pepper
200ml Carnation evaporated milk
1 tbsp butter or margarine
Cook the chicken in plain water until tender (about 20 minutes).
Once chicken is cooked, remove from the broth. Shred the chicken once cooled.
Using the chicken broth, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta but save the chicken broth.
Meanwhile, in a deep pot, saute garlic, onion and olive oil. Add the shredded chicken, fish sauce, salt and pepper.
Add the chicken broth and carrots and put on lid. Cook carrots for 2 minutes.
Add the cabbage and celery and put on lid. Your pot might look full, however the greens will wilt down during the cooking process. Cook greens for a further 2-3 minutes.
Once everything is cooked, add pasta, evaporated milk, and butter or margarine. Stir everything gently.
Serve warm and enjoy!
*For convenience, I use chicken breast. However feel free to use other parts of the chicken including bones and off cuts – this will give the broth a richer, deeper flavour.
I cannot believe that after all these years that I’ve been baking and blogging, not once have I written about my most favourite cake of all: the hummingbird cake. I can’t even remember how I came to know this cake, but all I can remember is that it was love at first and last bite.
Fast forward to over a decade later, and here I am heavily pregnant at almost 39 weeks, uncomfortable and so over this pelvic pressure. I’ve officially started my maternity leave this week, which is a relief as I could barely move around. I also happened to have read a million articles on pregnancy, babies, and how to induce labour naturally (I have a lot of time in my hands right now… enough to Google random things from sun up to sun down). Eat spicy food, raspberry leaf tea, dates (the fruit!), a little hanky panky, and pineapples.
Oookkk. Pineapples sound good. In a cake. With bananas. Topped with cream cheese frosting.
I happened to have in my possession 4 ripe bananas waiting patiently in the freezer, thanks to my husband who eats this super fruit everyday. One quick trip to the local IGA and voila. Hummingbird cake it is for the heavily pregnant lady who has everything cravings and ready to pop this baby out ANY TIME NOW LITTLE ONE.
I just realised this could potentially be the last cake I bake before our little man decides to grace us with his presence, so I will savour every bite of this moist, delicious, and absolutely amazing cake. Whether or not the pineapple trick does help with inducing my labour… is another thing. Fingers crossed.
Despite all the physical, mental, and emotional changes (and challenges!) of being pregnant, there are definitely some perks to this growing belly. There’s no denying my size now (yes, being in my third trimester and almost 37 weeks pregnant!), so why hide the round bump? I say flaunt it! Cravings are also another thing: from the most random food (eggplants!), the utterly weird (fresh lemons with salt, but hold the tequila!), to the most straightforward and easiest of them all… chocolate chip cookies. Dunked in milk, enjoyed while sitting on our couch, in my jammies, watching reruns of Outlander on Netflix (ohai Jamie!). I’ve also come across some pretty amazing cookie recipes, and have posted them here and here.
But who gets to lick the bowl and spoon covered in amazing leftover cookie dough? Me? Being pregnant means I have to be a bit more vigilant with what I eat, and raw cookie dough with raw eggs is a big no-no. So… goodbye swiss meringue buttercream, homemade aioli, and licking the spoon off leftover cookie dough and brownies.
Well thanks to these babies by Cookie Doh Co., I don’t really need to make a big batch of cookie dough from scratch when the cravings start, and because they don’t contain eggs – HEY MAMA IT’S PREGNANCY SAFE! Cookie Doh Co. recently released the limited edition Heartberry & White Chocolate (raspberry and white chocolate) and I was lucky enough to try them. Look at those cute, tiny red hearts. I had to check the calendar to make sure it wasn’t February (trust me, being pregnant makes you lose your focus and concentration. It also made me very gullible – true story).
These two tubs of goodness may not be the healthy stuff (especially when I added them to vanilla ice cream… oops!), but boy did they hit the spot. Hey, a happy mummy is a happy baby, amiright?
Cookie Doh Co. originated in Melbourne, and they don’t use eggs or pasteurised substitute. The cookie dough can also last up to 2 weeks unrefrigerated in room temperature, or up to 3 months refrigerated (less than 4C). Currently, you can only purchase them online, but Cookie Doh Co. delivers all over Australia – see more info here!
This post was a collaboration between Cookie Doh Co. and Sugarlace. Thanks to Cookie Doh Co. for the tubs of cookie dough goodness!
One of my favourite events in the Sydney annual calendar is upon us once again. There’s something so magical with Vivid Sydney with all the colours, lights, arts, performances, food, and the people – Sydney is just filled with this beautiful neon glow and I absolutely love it. But going to Vivid requires a bit of planning, common sense, persistence, a good pair of comfortable walking shoes, lots of patience, and a full stomach. Enjoying Vivid requires a bit of strategising, as the 3 week event usually draws a crowd of millions of people to the city (apparently in 2017, there were 2.33 million people who attended!). So to enjoy Vivid to its fullest, probably forget about going down to the city on Thursdays to Sundays, leave the heels at home, layer up the winter clothing (and brolly!), and plan where you’re starting, where you’re ending, where and what you’re eating, and how you are getting home.
We’re lucky that our offices is based in the city, and our place is just a few minutes’ walk from Darling Harbour. I am extremely grateful that I actually walk through the Vivid lights in Darling Harbour every day. One thing that’s so important for me, especially since getting pregnant, is timing my meal times and making sure I don’t get too hungry or dehydrated. Rashays Darling Harbour is just on the other side of Pyrmont Bridge, providing the perfect location for a pre-Vivid dinner before embarking into a walk around Sydney – a city that turns into a beautiful city of neon lights after 6pm. The menu at Rashays is extensive, and yet still provides enough variety for our 3 different diets – Mr J’s must-have weekly evening steak, my ribs cravings, and mum’s rule that there always has to be vegetables with meals. The servings were very generous, that mum and I ended up sharing the beef ribs with a side salad, and those drink tumblers were huge! Added bonus was the dessert menu – treat your taste buds on banofee waffle, sticky date pudding, and a souffle dessert from the special desserts menu. It was definitely the perfect dinner to start off our Vivid evening – thank you Rashays Darling Harbour!
Vivid Sydney 2018 is running from 25 May – 16 June 2018.
Thanks to Rashays for the amazing dining experience. Trish, Trish’s mum and Mr J dined as guests of Rashays Darling Harbour.
Medium rare sirloin steak from their special steak menu
Flame-grilled short beef ribs with smoky sticky BBQ sauce & chips