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Flavours of the Philippines, Shangri La Sydney

Uncategorized October 4, 2013

Good Food month has kicked off with a bang at the Shangri La with their Flavours of the Philippines buffet.

You can imagine my intense excitement when I discovered that a Filipino buffet was coming to the Shangri La in October! I absolutely love Filipino food but it is rather difficult to come by in Sydney. Filipino restaurants are far and few between in Sydney and I’ve found it hard to find Filipino food as authentic as the stuff my Titas make for me back in the Phils.

Finally, October 1 finally came around and I headed to the Shangri La with Mum excitedly anticipating which favourite Filipino dishes would be available for us to sample.

Manila mocktails (Drinks not included in the buffet).
These were a great accompanying drink to cut through the rich flavours of the food we sampled. It was very similar to a virgin pina colada with refreshing pineapple and coconut flavours.

Smoked fish
I’ve never seen a whole smoked fish like this before and really loved this style of presentation!

Bulalo (beef shank soup)
This soup was beautifully rich and flavoursome. The beef shank pieces were slowly cooked until it they melted in your mouth!

Kang kong with chilli.
This is one of my Mum’s favourite Filipino dishes. She is normally a very picky eater but she loved this dish’s fresh flavours.

Mum was very excited to see this dish and she mentioned that the okra was cooked well – not overcooked so they were mushy, but still retained good texture.

Green mango salad

Various salads
Mum looks happy!

Estofadong Dila (Slow cooked ox tongue in tomato sauce)

Suwam na Tahong (Steamed Mussel in Ginger Broth)

Kare-Kare (Stewed Ox Tail in Peanut Sauce)
Kare-kare was not one of my favourite dishes growing up but I must admit that I enjoyed how tender this was. The meat fell off the bone at just a touch and was very rich! Definitely one to eat with rice to balance it out.

Pata Humba (Pork Knuckle cooked in Sweet Soy Sauce)

Sinigang sa Miso na Lapu-Lapu (Grouper Sour Broth with Miso)
This is one of my favourite sour soups (made from a base of tamarind) and goes wonderfully with seafood.

Sisig (Stir Fried Crispy Pork)
Traditionally, this Filipino dish is made using flesh from the pig’s head, but chef Gene tried something different by using pork belly meat instead for a bit of a twist. There was an attendant frying up fresh sisig for those who wanted it and the strong smell of garlic hit the air every time he fired up the pan. It smelled incredible!

Ihaw-Ihaw (Lamb rump), Inihaw na Pork Belly (Roast Pork Belly), Inihaw na inasal na manok (Roasted inasal chicken)
The chicken and lamb were both roasted to perfection and really reminded me of meats you could buy from tiny stands by the side of the road in the Philippines.

Pork belly

Steamed fish with coriander
This was definitely one of my fave savoury dishes of the evening – When I cut into the steamed fish flesh with the provided tongs, beautiful flavoursome juices just gushed out. It was unbelievably moist and tender – cooked to perfection!

Pancit palabok (Rice noodle with smoked fish and shrimp sauce)
This is usually made with different noodles in different provinces in the Phils. I personally prefer the thin vermicelli noodles, but it was interesting to see a different twist on this classic dish.

Duck Calderata (Duck stew in mildly spiced tomato sauce)
I must admit I am usually used to beef caldereta, but this looked like an interesting fancier version of the original dish.

Pusit Bicol Express (Squid with chilli and coconut milk)

Callos (Ox Trip & Ox feet menudo)

Roast pork

Leche Flan (Caramel custard)
I was very happy to see this dessert! Unfortunately I didn’t try any of this one but I did have some leche flan topping in my halo halo (I only have so much stomach space, haha!) as surprise surprise, it’s another one of my favourites! Who can resist a caramel flavoured rich custard?

Ube Halaya (Purple yam pudding)
Another lovely Filipino classic dessert – this is also available to top your halo halo with.

Dila Dila (Sticky rice with sugar and sesame seeds)
This dish is also called ‘palitaw’ and is what I would call a Filipino version of Japanese mochi (sweet cakes made from glutinous rice flour), which is dipped in sugary coconut and sesame seeds. Mum and I will be serving these treats as canapes for the wedding coming up in about two weeks and I hope our guests enjoy them!

Brazo de Mercedes (Meringue roulade filled with vanilla custard)

Caramelised sweet potato

Sticky Rice desserts

Fruit Salad (Mixed fruits with cream and condensed milk)

Buko Pandan (Young coconut with screw pine -aka pandan- jelly)

The fruit salad and buko pandan I have to say were probably my favourite dishes of the evening. This is normally served at Filipino house parties from big bowls and it’s been a long time since I’ve had any! Just a bowlful of this really took me back to my childhood and I savoured every mouthful. It’s funny how much as a child you don’t realise how obsessed you are with a dessert until it’s incredibly hard to find!

Bread Pudding

You can’t talk about Filipino desserts without halo halo, (the ultimate Filipino “sundae”!) getting a mention. Crushed ice, sweet beans, South East Asian fruits plus carnation milk and ube ice-cream make for one killer dessert. Its hard to describe this dessert to those who haven’t really dabbled in South East Asian desserts, but if you have to try any Filipino dessert, I would recommend this one. It has a little bit of everything in it and is a good starter sampler for those trying Filipino desserts for the first time.

Halo Halo hut

My favourite topping, leche flan! The only thing missing was a sprinkle of pinipig for a bit of crrunch.

Carnation milk to pour over toppings

I was particularly happy to see ube ice-cream being served with the halo halo, which is a must but again very difficult to find in Australia. I had a chat with one of the chefs and he mentioned that he had the ube ice-cream for the halo halo hut prepared specially with imported ingredients with one of his gelato contacts, who had never made ube ice-cream before. My Mum had a taste and was happy to approve it as ‘99% authentic’ (she can be very hard to please!) I too really enjoyed the ube ice-cream which is another one of my favourites (I always buy a big carton of this when visiting Phils!). For those who have never tried ube before, I would say that it’s very similar to taro, but has a deeper flavour (and colour!)


Ginataang mais (Glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk with sweet corn)
This was like a Filipino rice pudding cooked with coconut milk and sweet corn. Nice, with mild flavours. Gosh, so many desserts to choose from!!

Maja Blanca (coconut pudding with sweet corn)
I was incredibly excited to see maja blanca – one of my absolute favourite Filipino dishes which I have not ever found in Sydney (can you tell I have a sweet tooth?!). My Auntie Rose makes me a big batch whenever I go back to the Philippines and since I haven’t been back for awhile, it’s been some years since I’ve been able to indulge! It is an incredibly simple dish to make – you simply sweeten coconut milk and thicken it with corn flour over heat until it is very thick and custard-like. Add sweet corn and set in a greased dish. Cut into squares when completely cooled.

The Shangri La chefs chose to serve it in a Chinese tea cup, which I thought was the perfect serving size (especially since I’m trying to fit in so many desserts!). But it is so good, my Mum and I go back for a second cup – it is irresistably creamy, not too sweet and left us wanting more!

Me and Mum with chef Gene Del Prado (lovely guy!)
I absolutely loved my (freakin enormous!) dinner at the Flavours of the Philippines and highly recommend it to Fillos looking for some fancified Filipino cuisine and also to Aussies who have never tried it before as it gives you a good opportunity to try different kinds of awesome Filipino dishes all at once!

My fave dishes of the evening were definitely the maja blanca (coconut pudding with sweet corn), fruit salad (mixed fruit with jelly, cream and condensed milk), buko pandan. Notable savoury dishes included the bulalo (beef shank soup) with it’s meltingly tender pieces of beef in a rich, flavoursome broth and the succulent chicken inasal, redolant with Filipino spices.

The Flavours of the Philippines buffet is available from 1-15 October at the Shangri La and is open for lunch ($48) 12-2.30pm Mondays to Fridays, 12.30-2.30pm on weekends. Dinner ($75) is open from 6.00-10.30pm. Bookings are best made by calling 9250 6206
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Thank you to Jessica Somers-Haggie for inviting me along to this event. Cooking Crusade dined as a guest of the Shangri La, but the opinions in this post are my own.


100+ Budget Christmas Gift Ideas for Foodies

Uncategorized December 5, 2012

Image obtained from The Telegraph

Looking for last minute Christmas ideas for the food lover in your life?

Well look no further!

This year I planned on making Christmas hampers for the first time to give as gifts to family and friends. I’ve also recently fallen in love with the whole stocking filler concept, which I never really grew up with, but have really enjoyed planning in recent years.

If you’re anything like me, there is always someone or other who I have difficulty coming up with a gift idea. So this year I thought I’d really brainstorm about the sorts of thing that hopefully everyone would like, and, given the season, I thought I’d share some of my inspiration and ideas with you!

As always, I’m looking to find the best gifts possible for the lowest price possible in order to stick to a budget. However, rest assured, I would never scrimp on quality when choosing gifts! So if you’re looking to save a dollar or two, this list may come in handy for you!

Even though I bought a lot of these things for the Christmas hampers, I think a lot of them would also be suitable for Christmas stocking stuffers too. If you were planning on making Christmas hampers as well and were looking for inspiration, then you may find this post handy too.

A bunch of these things are also from my cupboard and/or great gifts I’ve recently received for my birthday/early Christmas and do not plan to give away, but I thought they might be good inspiration for others!

Most of these items can be found at local health stores, good gourmet food stores and Costco. You can also check out Coles and Woolworths as they stock some of these items or similar.

Savoury crackers for hampers
Savoury crackers for hampers.

These are always a handy gift to put into hampers – great for entertaining, picnics or for nibbling on dips at home.

Health foods

Ideas for the health-geeks!

  • Organic quinoa
  • Hand made spinach tagliatelle
  • Savoury yeast flakes (used in some vegetarian recipes)
  • Raw organic coconut chocolate butter
  • Chargrilled eggplant pesto
  • Carmens deluxe fruit muesli
  • Organic spelt fettucine
  • Large bag of almonds

Sweet things

For the sweet lovers.

  • Ice Magic
  • Marshmallow creme
  • Turkish delight and Mint Thins from the Reject Shop (I know it sounds silly to shop for Xmas gifts at the Reject Shop, but there are actually plenty of great Christmas items in there for a great price!)

More sweet things

More goodies for the sugar lovers!

  • Giant bar of Cadbury chocolate from Coles
  • Beerenberg apricot jam from EBD, also available from Coles
  • 1L bottle of maple syrup from Costco
  • Cadbury Favourites from Coles

Baking things

For those who love to bake and decorate!

  • Wiltshire cookie cutters from the SydFoodBlogger’s Xmas picnic
  • Wiltshire cake pop set from the SydFoodBlogger’s Xmas picnic
  • Christmas cookie cutters from the Reject Shop
  • Miniature fondant heart cutters from eBay (or in cake decorating stores)
  • Number cookie/fondant cutters from eBay (or in cake decorating stores)

Here it is all in one handy-dandy list, with some extra ideas not pictured in the above photos. These are just some ideas that I thought of, but as you can see the possibilities really are endless!

Foodie hamper/stocking stuffer ideas

1. Savoury crackers
2. Organic quinoa
3. Handmade tagliatelle
4. Savoury yeast flakes
5. Raw organic coconut chocolate butter, or Nutella or a nut butter
6. Chargrilled eggplant Pesto
7. Deluxe fruit muesli
8. Organic spelt fettucine
9. Almonds or other good quality nuts
10. Giant bars of chocolate
11. Fruity jams or mustards
12. Marshmallow creme
13. Boxes of mini chocolates
14. Jar of organic virgin pressed coconut oil
15. Good quality bottles of olive oil
16. Pink Himalayan salt
17. Truffle paste
18. Fancy spices, e.g. saffron threads, dukkah
19. Candy in cute bags
20. Tea and/or cute tea cups
21. Jarred antipasto
22. Chocolate covered sultanas and nuts
23. Balsamic glaze
24. Jarred caramelized onions
25. Peanut brittle, turkish delight
26. Coffee
27. Chocolate covered pretzels
28. Maple syrup, agave nectar or honey
29. Wine or non-alcoholic sparkling wine for those who don’t drink
30. Ice Magic

Ideas for those who love to bake and cake decorate

Most of these items can be purchased from Coles, Woolworths, cake decorating stores and/or eBay.

31. Cake pop box set
32. Miniature fondant cutters
33. Cupcake tins
34. Mini or regular size cake tins (round, square, heart shaped, loaf tin)
35. Cookie sheet
36. Jelly moulds
37. Pizza stone
38. Giant bag of good quality chocolate chips
39. Good quality baking chocolate
40. Fondant – coloured, plain, flavoured
41. Caramel chips
42. Cute cooking utensils (wooden spoons, whisks, even more gadgety things like a garlic press, cheese graters, pizza cutters etc.)
43. Reusable and disposable piping bags
44. Frosting piping tips
45. Cake turn table
46. Baking extracts (vanilla paste or extract, citrus oils, etc.)
47. Food colours
48. Sugar flowers
49. Organic vanilla beans
50. Cute cupcake liners
51. Mini palette knives for spreading icing on cupcakes
52. Cute cake sprinkles, sugar pearls, cachous
53. Cute cookie/fondant cutters (numbers, alphabet are great for those who love to write messages on cakes, but other adorable cutters are not difficult to find in homeware shops). Christmas cookie cutters are also great.
54. Royal icing mix
55. Cookbooks (Nigella, Jamie Oliver, Adriano Zumbo, $120 Food Challenge)
56. Macaron box mix (try Donna Hay or Adriano Zumbo brands)
57. Stripey paper straws
58. Cookie jar

And now some stocking stuffer ideas for those who aren’t as food-crazy as I am!

For the ladies…

59. Nail polishes, plain and/or crackle
60. Nail stickers
61. Nail files
62. Toe separators
63. Scented body wash
64. Body (face/hand/foot/body) creams
65. Body (face/hand/food/body) scrubs
66. Bath Bombs
67. Cocoa body butter
68. Hand sanitizer
69. Small $20 gift cards (e.g. Event/Hoyts cinemas, JB-Hifi, Myer, DJ’s, iTunes and also fave clothing stores and online vouchers too!)
70. Books, fiction or non-fiction
71. Cute hair accessories: clips, brushes, headbands, hair flowers
72. Jewellery: bracelets, rings, necklaces, earrings
73. Clothing accessories: scarves, belts, small purses
74. Lip balms in different flavours: strawberry, coconut, berry
75. Romance novels? For those who are so inclined – great for the beach!
76. Cute sundress
77. Nice stationary – notebooks, pens and more (I suggest Kikki K and Typo)
78. A watch
79. A cute alarm clock
80. A pretty wall decal
81. Jewellery box
82. Makeup case

For men…

83. It’s cheesy, but socks. Men I know ALWAYS need socks.
84. Small gift cards (Event/Hoyts Cinemas, JB-Hifi, Myer/DJ’s, iTunes)
85. If they’re into sports, try looking into that arena – small weights, tennis or golf balls, basketballs, soccer balls, sports shoes and other gear is a treasure trove of ideas. If you don’t have any specific ideas, Rebel Sport vouchers are usually appreciated!
86. Men’s body wash/facial creams
87. Handkerchief packs
88. Hair gel
89. Nice deodorant / aftershave
90. Combs
91. Nice leather wallet

I know, I know, the men’s list is a little short. But I always struggling coming up with gifts for guys so I would love any ideas to add that you may have!!

For the Ladies and Men

92. Money box for spare change
93. DVDs
94. Sunglasses
95. Beach towel
96. Thongs
97. Sunscreen
98. Phone case
99. Headphones
100. Portable phone charger
101. Books, fiction or non fiction
102. Men/women’s magazines or a half yearly subscription
103. Boxes of favourite chocolates (scorched almonds, turkish delight, Roses, etc.)
104. USB memory stick
105. Travel mug, or a regular regular mug
106. 2013 wall calendar
107. Sleeping mask
108. Candles, scented or plain
Reader suggestions:

109. Erika from the Pancake Princess and Protein Prince suggests “an framed instagram collage of sorts for xmas (a la…but for a foodie who also loves photography, a framed photo of something delicious could be cute! Photos are cheap to print at Costco (love that place) and frames can be pretty cheap as well.” Thank you, Erika! A great idea!!


And just to finish this post off, here is a list of awesome Christmas recipes I plan to include in this year’s hampers (but probably not all of them)!

Home-made hamper ideas/recipes

Fantastic Blogger Christmas Recipes

Useful shops to check out

So how is your Christmas planning going? If you have any more tips or ideas to share about hampers and stocking stuffers, I would love to add them to this post!



Cake Decorating Adventures

Uncategorized October 17, 2011

Sorry I haven’t been around much lately guys! I’ve been trying super hard to exercise a lot and eat really well to shape up for the wedding at the moment and it’s seriously taken all of my concentration. I mostly go to work, drive an hour, get to the gym, exercise like crazy and go home and eat food, watch a couple episodes of The Office and then it’s bed time and the whole thing starts again, hehe.

So not much time for blogging I’m afraid! But that doesn’t mean I’ve taken an absence from food or food photography, so I thought I’d do another pic-post of some of the things I’ve been whipping up lately (although I mostly do not have the energy to do an entire post for each item!)

Thank you for watching. 🙂

Choc chip cookies (yes, you may notice some of these foods aren’t exactly in my ‘diet’ category… cough.) These were great straight out of the oven but I apparently messed up the amount of flour in them resulting in 1 hour later, rock hard cookies…. whoops. Back to the drawing board! Couldn’t resist posting this pic though, because they still look good here! hehe.

Vanilla cupcakes decorated with a cream cheese frosting swirl, fondant cut outs and sprinkles. Man I love how fun decorating is!

A chocolate mudcake frosted with milk chocolate ganache and decorated with white fondant heart cut outs and strawberries. I love how easy it is to put together pretty designs without very much effort at all.

Lemon cupcakes with a lemon zesty glaze – my first somewhat failed attempt at food styling, lol.

We had Dyan’s first birthday without us on September 19, so a couple of our friends got together. I made this white chocolate (her favourite) cake for it.

You can check out the rest of the cake pics here.

Hope everyone’s having a great week!

Loooove and hugs!


Yellow Ruffle Cake

Uncategorized June 7, 2011

A birthday cake made for a friend who requested a black forest yellow ruffle cake.

I used Pioneer Woman’s choc sheet cake (and promptly forgot to add baking powder, derr.. This resulted in a super dense cake that did not rise) and filled it with this chocolate mousse, by the way if you haven’t tried that mousse yet, DO it. It is ambrosially amazing. I am counting the days to make it again! Also soo easy. I also added some frozen cherries to the mousse. Piped the ruffles with swiss meringue buttercream. For a final touch, I grated some dark chocolate and tried to make a heart shape using a heart shaped cutout of baking paper as a rough guide.



DIY Dessert Table

Uncategorized May 6, 2011

I’m staying up a little late.. but I didn’t want to neglect my blogging duties! It’s been awhile, my apologies! But I have not forgotten!

Mike and I had our engagement party on Sunday (and unfortunately we were both actually struggling with a heavy dose of the ‘flu so we were massively drugged up on Codral – but we managed to have a good go of it.) The afternoon-night turned out to be pretty successful and I finally got to do a dessert table! I must apologise for that first photo, but I was so busy meeting and greeting guests I honestly did not touch a camera during the whole party so I had to rely on pix taken by the photographer and he wasn’t very interested in the dessert table, mostly the guests! Fortunately my lovely fiance realised I would want to blog about it later, so he took the remaining pics 🙂

Of course, there were plenty of things I had in mind. Macarons! Intricately decorated sugar cookies! Beautifully piped cupcakes, complete with miniature handmade flags! A beautifully decorated rose cake, or something pretty with fondant. Yes, I had many, many ideas… But unfortunately since I got sick a few days before the party (and it continued for quite a few days after), I was unable to realise any of these ideas – but I still think it turned out pretty well.

The theme colour for the engagement party was teal, so I tried to pick out a couple of teal themed ideas to add some colour to the table. Fortunately (and surprisingly) the walls for our engagement venue was actually painted a lovely teal shade – a funny coincidence, but also helped stick to the theme! Lol.

Some of the teal decos I picked out:

  • teal cupcakes for the dessert sign made from coloured cardboard I picked up from a local craft shop
  • teal dessert cups for the brownie cups – picked up from Alfresco Emporium
  • teal heart shaped chocolates from eBay (it’s great, you can order 100 chocolate hearts in any colour you like) – i put these in an old fashioned glass candy jar of my Mum’s
  • my baking partner in crime, Ghilaine made up some teal coloured fondant for the cake hearts and the cupcake flowers – dyed with some teal food colouring she had (she even painted her nails teal!). she also decorated heart shaped butter cookies with teal royal icing 🙂
  • teal napkins! found (surprisingly) at a $2

I had lots of fun making the dessert sign. I bought a foam board from a craft shop, covered it with some pretty wrapping paper from Kikki.K, then printed a cupcake template from google images, then cut out a bunch of teal cupcakes from cardboard, drew on little cupcake papers and then glued them to the board with dessert names 🙂 Easy and quite cheap to do!

Desserts we served;

  • Chocolate fountain (borrowed from Ghilaine – so glad we got to have this – had many guests comment on it), served with marshmallows and fruit platters
  • Hummingbird cupcakes (also by Ghilaine!) with yummy cream cheese frosting – from her cupcake Bible – the Crabapple Cupcake Bakery book
  • Chocolate chip brownies (my fave packet mix! – White Wings)
  • Bakerella’s deadly cookie-brownie slice
  • Kim’s favourite choc chip cookie recipe from Lovin in the Oven – the first time I tried the recipe, but got many compliments. I made them in milk chocolate chip and dark/white chocolate chip versions – both delicious! Will definitely make this recipe again. I made huge batches before hand and froze them in log shapes, then defrosted them slightly, chopped it up and baked it 🙂
  • The engagement cake was a double batch of Pioneer Woman’s chocolate sheet cake with whipped milk chocolate ganache, decorated with teal fondant hearts and cachous. I wanted to do something a little more involved, decoration wise, but I honestly ran out of time and had absolutely no energy to come up with anything better due to the cold… Oh well! I think it turned out rather well in the end 🙂
  • Ghilaine made some lovely gluten free desserts for the gluten intolerent
  • A friend of my Mum’s brought along a few platters of vegan cakes – so delicious! I am dying for the recipe 🙂

Cookie-brownie slice and chocolate brownies 🙂

brownie cups with cream cheese frosting / chocolate ganache

Cupcake tower (bought from Woolies for like $8, bargain!)

Chocolate chip cookies 🙂

Cute little vegan cakes.

Engagement Cake

Despite the fact that there were lots of little details that I missed out on doing, I think it turned out rather well!

ps: couldn’t resist sneaking in a few shots of us from the night:

Me and Mike with two soon to be newlyweds – getting hitched this very weekend! Congrats MF and Steve!!

More soon to be newlyweds… Grant and Chivs plan to marry a few weeks after us 🙂 Congrats to you guys too 🙂

Love this pic of my maid of honor, Kira (on the right) and her sister Holly. Too cute!

Of course my gorgeous god daughter was there too! After all, her mama is one of my bridesmaids 🙂

Thanks for watching, hope you are well!




Happy Easter!

Uncategorized April 22, 2011

No post this week, but just wanted to say Happy Easter! and hope everyone has a wonderful five day! (yes five day!) weekend with whatever you do, whether it be traveling, spending time with family or just plain ole relaxing 🙂

Mikey and I are going to have a movie marathon and hopefully visit Sizzling Fillo as recommended by Jenius (so excited!!!) as well as bake.bake.bake like a crazy person for next week’s engagement party. I have brownies, choc chip cookies, butter cookies and chocolate mud cake for the engagement cake to bake, so I have my work cut out for me 🙂 Hopefully will get some time to go for some nice walks if the weather is nice – I’m mostly just looking forward to sleeping in !!

stay safe and eat some chocolate eggs (preferably a Cadbury Creme Egg..) or a hot cross bun for me! 🙂