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Of pancakes and ciabatta, cooking my way to Portugal

Little A smeared peanut butter on the pancake. She squirted some syrup on top and smudged it. Folding the pancake in half, she then handed it to me and waited with anticipation for my reaction.

Taking a bite, I gave her what she was waiting for. I oohed and ahhed in between bites watching a big smile come across her innocent face.

It was the first of the batch and was nearly burnt. I wanted it for myself and leave the nicer ones for the others (read Boss).

Little A’s dad came into the kitchen, grabbed four pancakes and arranged them in his platter.

While cooking the last two pancakes, I sneaked a couple of glances to Mr. V and observed how he was eating. With a quick steady pace, he cut and put each piece in his mouth, satisfaction was written all over his face. His was a picture of that hungry man in his elegant business suit dining in a gourmet restaurant. Each bite he took would make one feel like eating too.

pancake with peanut butter and syrup 640 x 456

Little A’s peanut butter and syrup pancake

I couldn’t believe my pancake would be enjoyed that much. During my first week in this house, I didn’t have an internet connection. For the first three days, Little A usually had Cerelac for her breakfast, but on the fourth day she asked for a pancake.

A pancake? I asked her in surprise. I had never made a pancake without looking at a recipe whether online or in my recipe books. With no internet connection and recipe books, I felt worried and started to get stressed. I had a pancake recipe in my website but unable to access it, I realized the vanity of relying on technology for one’s resources.

Digging hard into my memory bank, I measured 1 cup of farinha di trigo con fermento (self-raising flouri) in a bowl, less than a cup of soya milk, 3 scoops (teaspoons) of brown sugar, a pinch of sea salt, cracked one egg and finally, 3 spoons of butter. I whisked all the ingredients and crossed my fingers as I poured the batter on the pan.

Presto, the recipe worked!

With the success of my pancake, I was motivated to accomplish more. Again from my memory, I made Pandesal, the Filipino national breakfast bread. Little A who hardly ate bread, had three in one go.

pandesal 355 x 200


Success is an addiction. Once you tasted it, you would crave for more.

Such was the case in my cooking and baking that I thought of making ciabatta, a rustic Italian bread which is my husband’s favorite.

“I think it’s ready.” Mr V alerted me as he looked through the oven glass door. I sprang from my seat to check the bread. It was almost ready.

ciabatta 640 x 250

Ciabatta Loaf

Meanwhile, Mr. V had gone to his office and when he returned the first thing he did was check the ciabatta which had completely cooled off. His delightful admiration to the loaf sounded like music in my ears.

Though widely traveled, Mr. V had never heard of ciabatta. Well, it’s time he should.

“I like this cheese,” he said while cutting a piece of the dairy free cheese I brought from the UK, and put it in a pandesal.

Mr. V just announced that he’s leaving for Angola. I quickly sliced two loaves of ciabatta, filled the top with chopped tomatoes, poured a little olive oil, sprinkled some salt and decorated them with cilantro leaves before carefully arranging them on a plate. I wanted to add chopped onions or garlic but as he was flying, I didn’t want to pollute his breath.

Mr. V’s eyes went big at the sight of the bruschetta. He took a big bite and kissed his finger, the Portuguese and the Spanish way of saying “Delicioso!”

Before moving to the UK, I didn’t know how to bake at all, let alone cook pasta. 8 years down the road, here I am reaching another country because of my cooking skills. Well, I had a connection that made this possible, but without the skills I doubt if this would have happened.

So learn new skills no matter how humble you think it could be, you never know where it might take you.

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{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Lyn March 17, 2016, 10:30 am

    Makes me remember that never-mind baking experience…:) Tomato filling in pandesal? Thought it sucks, but will try it, with buns bought from the bakery…lol

    • Jemina Sentina March 17, 2016, 9:13 pm

      Why not? What you can do is cut the pandesal first and toast it. Then add chopped tomatoes and cheese if you want. Or you can use a loaf bread instead.

  • travelling chingrita March 13, 2016, 8:34 pm

    Rock on! I love to cook and bake, but I don’t really have much time to do it. As I have travelled, similar to you, you just pick up things as you go and find utility for it. I met a group of siblings travelling from Germany and they made these absolutely divine crepes. I never thought to squeeze fresh lemon and add sugar to it and I was in love. Best travel gift one can get is a new recipe 😉
    travelling chingrita recently posted…#SurferSunday: AJ CrisafulliMy Profile

  • Kerri McConnel March 13, 2016, 10:06 am

    Love baking so really enjoyed this post.

  • Paul March 12, 2016, 8:42 pm

    I’ve never tried baking before but would definitely love to try it one day. Looks like you did a great job, they look very tasty!
    Paul recently posted…Trekking to the summit of Mt. Vesuvius! The only live volcano on mainland Europe!My Profile

  • Anne Klien ( MeAnne) March 12, 2016, 2:17 pm

    Me and baking = disaster… I got friends who can bake cake in an instant. I love pandesal looks yummy

    • Jemina Sentina March 12, 2016, 9:36 pm

      Haha! I was like that 8 years ago. Now I’m in love with baking.

  • Dave (Silverbackpacker) March 10, 2016, 1:28 pm

    I love baking too and have also made Pandesal a couple of times at home in England. That Ciabatta recipe sounds Masarap 🙂
    Yes i agree we must all learn extra skills that can be utilised as and when necessary.
    Dave (Silverbackpacker) recently posted…Palawan in 21 InstagramsMy Profile

    • Jemina Sentina March 10, 2016, 9:18 pm

      Hi Dave, are you in the Phils right now? If so please eat some Latondan for me. 😄

      Anyway, did you mean the bruschetta? The one with chopped tomatoes on top? Yes, it’s masarap. I love it!

      • Dave (Silverbackpacker) March 11, 2016, 8:22 am

        Not in Pinas yet . Ive made a note to try Latondan. They are my favourite bananas as well 🙂
        Yes the one with tomato on. I went out and bought some ciabatta today and made it for lunch 🙂
        Where are you now?
        Dave (Silverbackpacker) recently posted…Palawan in 21 InstagramsMy Profile

        • Jemina Sentina March 12, 2016, 6:43 am

          Oh okay. They’re wickedly good. I could eat more than a kilo in one sitting. ☺
          So did you like your bruschetta?
          I’m in Portugal. Going back to UK soon.

  • Stephen March 8, 2016, 5:30 pm

    Looks like you did a fantastic job, lucky day for those who actually got a taste!
    Stephen recently posted…Playing with Penguins in Patagonia: A Visit To Isla MagdalenaMy Profile

  • Bernard Tan March 8, 2016, 1:42 pm

    Very delicious~!

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