Books & Literature

Cookbook Review: Under Coconut Skies, by Yasmin Newman

Discover the food of the Philippines’ 7000 tropical islands.

Informative, delicious, and delightful

Following the success of 7000 Islands, Yasmin Newman has produced another Filipino cookbook with Under Coconut Skies. Born to a Filipino mother and Australian father, she brings elements of Australian cooking into this work on Filipino cuisine.

An exploration of the people and culture of the Philippines, this is more than just a collection of recipes. Newman’s own beautiful location photography gives context to the food, and imbues the book with a sense of “being there”.

Under Coconut Skies is divided into four loose but exquisitely titled chapters: Stirring the Senses; Daily Traditions; Natural Beauty; and Memories. This structure lends a sense of story-telling to the work, allowing the dishes to weave a narrative. The recipes themselves are very easy to follow, with substitutions given for harder-to-find ingredients, and a full-colour photo. Newman also includes instructions for such basics as making burnt coconut powder, and preparing banana leaves.

I decided to begin my Filipino journey with a drink. We are household that loves sweet, but not sugary, drinks, and the very first recipe provided just that.


A very simple recipe, most of the work to make this drink is involved in the preparation: grating fresh ginger and turmeric. Well worth the effort though, as fresh turmeric is a revelation if, like me, you have only used the dried variety. As suggested, I used lemon juice instead of kalamansi (a Filipino lime). However, if you would like to use the original fruit, there are some greengrocers in Adelaide who stock it.

The resulting drink was utterly delicious, refreshing, and quite grown-up, the black-pepper giving it a sensational bite that cuts through the sweetness. I’ll be making jug-loads of this for summer!

I love a hearty casserole-style meal, so I next chose this wonderful dish.


If I buy pork belly I tend to roast it in the oven, sometimes with rubs or marinades. Here is a different way to prepare it, cut up and cooked in a pan. All the ingredients for this wonder are readily available in any supermarket, and I didn’t need to make any substitutions. It is also fairly simple to make, with most of the work being in cutting up the pork belly (makes mental note to buy better knives!). This dish is mind-blowingly delicious. The flavours are powerful yet subtle, the meat ends up as soft as butter, and the combination of chilli, coconut, and pineapple is a delight to the taste buds. This is definitely going to be on high rotation in my kitchen! It would also make a wonderful centre-piece for a dinner party, served in the middle of the table, along with the rice dish below.


Rice, rice, rice. I could eat it until it’s coming out of my ears. I love it all: risotto, paella, fluffy basmati, congee. So naturally, I had to try this Filipino method of preparation. I didn’t have cassia bark, so again I used the suggested substitute of cinnamon. Fresh turmeric and ginger again, onion, and evaporated milk (yes, really), result in a spicy creaminess that stays this side of porridge. This is a flavour and texture sensation and yet another recipe that will make regular appearances on our menu at home. When I next make it I will use cassia bark. I served the rice with the braised pork belly, the two dishes working exceedingly well together.

Other recipes I’m keen to try include: Maranao Chicken Curry, p. 157; Young Coconut Cream Pie, p. 124; and Crispy Fish Tempura with Sweet & Sour Sambal, p. 209. Oh, and Newman also includes a great pavlova recipe, with a Filipino touch, p. 188.

Filipino groceries are available in Adelaide at:

Manila Trading

Bamboo House

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Twitter: @TraceyKorsten

Distributed by: Simon & Schuster
Released: September 2021
RRP: $55.00

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.

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