As part of The News' new Home Cook section in Monday's paper, Benita Connelly takes us through the finer points of Filipino cooking.By Riahn Smith
When Benita Connelly arrived in Shepparton in the late 1970s, she entered a strange new world.
The newlywed was one of the first migrants to the area from the Philippines and in addition to discovering starkly different customs and weather, food too was a major point of difference.
Filipino cuisine is a fascinating hodge-podge of influences from across the globe and traces the country’s diverse trade and social history.
From Chinese and Malay to Spanish and even American, dishes found in the Philippines have been adapted throughout the centuries to reflect the changing dynamics of the Filipino people.
Although Ms Connelly was a deft hand at cooking, having learned by watching her aunt prepare meals in her hometown of Santa Ignacia, it was her now late Australian husband Gavan who took control in the kitchen.
‘‘At fi rst my husband wasn’t keen on the Filipino food so mainly he did the cooking the Australian way,’’ Ms Connelly said.
‘‘My husband didn’t know much about food, it was all just sausages and steaks and stews, but now I love them.
‘‘I adapted to Australian food, but still I crave the Filipino food, especially if we get together with other Filipinos.’’
And thankfully for Ms Connelly it wasn’t too long until there were plenty of opportunities to cook and party with friends while celebrating her heritage.
‘‘When I first came here it was only me and then gradually there was another one and two and three and we used to have nice gatherings at that time,’’ Ms Connelly said.
‘‘We’d cook at my place and the next one at one of their places and get together like that once a month and on birthdays and our kids’ birthdays.
'‘We’d bring a dish to share. It was all Filipino food, even the desserts and snacks, like glutinous rice.’’
But it wasn’t always easy to find the ingredients needed to prepare authentic Filipino cuisine, especially the vegetables native to her homeland.
‘‘The tropical vegetables were only available in the summer or if you go to Melbourne,” Ms Connelly said.
‘‘But we’ve got Asian food up here now, and in the supermarkets they have the bitter melon, the okra, tropical fruits.
‘‘With all this multiculturalism now, all different nationalities are here… we’re all adjusting to one another’s food.’’
Baked Leche Flan
8 egg yolks
2 egg whites
1 can condensed milk
3/4 cup water (optional)
1 tablespoon vanilla essence
1 cup brown sugar
Tablespoon of water to caramelise
In a small pan, heat the sugar at low heat until it starts to melt. Continuously stir the melted sugar until it caramelises. When the colour starts to change to golden brown, remove from heat and pour into the mold or dish, tilting to uniformly cover the bottom. Keep aside to let the caramel solidify.
In a big mixing bowl, mix and blend the rest of the ingredients whisk slowly to avoid air bubbles. Pour the Leche Flan custard into the mold or dish.
Place the mold into a bigger dish with water and bake in an oven pre-heated to 200C. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or when a fork inserted into the centre of the flan comes out clean. When done, remove from the oven and keep aside to cool down to room temperature. Place in refrigerator to chill before serving.
To serve, run a bread knife around the mold sides, then turn it out by inverting into a serving platter.
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