Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2 for 2 - Cakes for Eliyah

Loyalty to a fast food chain is the last thing I want to instil on any of my children. But unless we decide to become hermits there is no way we could get away from the constant bombardment of ads coming from these corporations. So, it came as no surprise to me what Eliyah wanted as her cake design for her birthday.

No, it’s not McDonald’s. It’s also not Burger King. It actually is a Philippine brand that has cleverly infiltrated all areas of mass media. Jollibee, the largest food service company in the Philippines, has gone beyond the more traditional forms of advertising to grab a following.

What hooked Eliyah to Jollibee is not the food (she was barely 1 when we last visited one of their stores). It’s the combination of catchy jingles and a kids TV programme that trumped other more well known kids’ shows. Although it has no presence in Australia (yet!), Jollibee still reaches us through the power of YouTube.

Designing the cake proved to be quite a challenge. For starters, my dear Cake Artiste wasn’t so sure about Jollibee’s colour. Is he red or isn’t he? Then there was the weather. It’s the height of summer downunder. The temperature was a wee bit above what the ganache could handle making it very tricky to work with. It was always on the verge of melting (it eventually did but not before the photos). But, being the Artiste that she is she managed to pull this one from somewhere despite it all.

And then she made cake number 2 for Eliyah’s actual birthday.

Cherry’s inspiration came from a book she was recently given (much appreciated Pael and Ada). This would be her first time to use 3D models she made herself as part of the cake décor. She made intricate little boxes of gifts. To top it all she created a model of a teddy bear. I’ll let the photos speak for her talent.

To my dearest daughter Eliyah, the fruit of my prime, happy 2nd birthday. Be true to your name and grow up with Yahweh as your God. May He bless your every step.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Buchi/Sesame Balls

The Filipino diet is rice-centric. From entrees to desserts, rice in one form or another can be found. Did I say desserts? Especially in desserts… One classic Asian sweet is the sticky rice ball. The Japanese have their mochi. We Filipinos have our buchi.

Growing up I’ve enjoyed this in its purest form. No sesame seeds. No flavours to choose from. The buchi sold in our barrio was simply deep fried sticky rice with a sweet mung bean filling. The buchi might have started as a ball straight out of the pan. But by the time the vendor gets to our place it’s more like a flattened disc. I did not mind. It was still scrummy.

Buchi’s popularity in the Philippines reached new heights when it formed part of Chowking’s (a well-known Chinese fast-food chain in the Philippines) menu. They serve the more traditional Chinese version of sesame coated balls filled with lotus cream/paste. If memory serves me right I think they also have ube (purple yam) flavoured buchi.

I find making buchi almost effortless. The most difficult part is making perfectly round balls hence my buchis are more rustic looking.

The filling is almost optional. My kids prefer them sans the filling. The recipe below is for sweet mung bean. But if you prefer a quicker version use canned lotus seed paste found in most Asian stores.

This is best eaten hot served with your favourite tea.

Buchi/Sesame Seed Puffs

Sweet Mung Bean Paste Filling

1/2 cup softened mung bean

1/2 cup caster sugar


3 cups glutinous rice powder

2/3 cup caster sugar

1 cup water

Sesame seeds

Oil for deep frying


1. Mix the softened mung bean and the sugar together.


1. Mix all the ingredients together to make the dough.

2. Divide dough into 20 equal pieces. You can go smaller or larger if you prefer.

3. Flatten each piece of dough into a circle.

4. Place a portion of the filling in the centre. Gather the edges of the dough to enclose the filling.

5. Roll into a ball and coat the outside with sesame seeds.

6. Heat oil for deep frying (medium heat). Deep fry the balls for approximately 5 minutes or until golden brown.

7. Serve hot with your favourite tea.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

9 Cakes for Eliana's 8th

My wife has warned me about posting more entries about cakes. She’s afraid I might alienate some of you who regularly read my posts. It’s becoming too cake-centric of late. I can’t help it. August to December is a season of milestones in my household. And there’s no better way to celebrate them than with Cherry’s exquisite creations.

At the risk of sounding too pompous about my family I reckon Cherry does a wonderful job. She’s only been at it for less than a year without any formal training beforehand. Talk about being a natural. I’m so proud of her and her sublime edible works of art.

So, even though this blog’s raison de tre is not cakes here’s another cake entry for you.

Eliana, who we lovingly call Chichay, recently celebrated her 8th birthday.

To mark the occasion Cherry made not one, not two but 9 cakes. The first set of 8, which she affectionately called Eliana’s Storyboard cake, we shared on her actual birthday. Each mini-cake has a story to tell. Each represents a year in her life.

Inspired by one of Eliana’s toys Cherry brilliantly constructed a two-tiered Littlest Petshop cake for Eliana’s party with her friends. The onset of the warm weather has proven to be a challenge in putting this one together but again she managed to pull it off seemingly effortlessly.

Like the meaning of your name you are indeed an “answer from God” Eliana. My prayer is that you will live your life as such. God bless your every step…

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Best is Yet to Come

Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? For thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this. Ecclesiastes 7:10 KJV

I look to the past but I’m not nostalgic about it. Surely the early years were good but I do not yearn to go back. I focus on what is now and what lies ahead. The best is yet to come indeed…and we have God to thank for that…and everything else.

As cliché as it may sound I can honestly say to you my dearest Cherry Bel I love you more today than ever before but not as much as tomorrow...

Happy anniversary sweetheart…

Saturday, November 6, 2010

San Churro Classic Spanish Hot Chocolate

You’ve probably noticed that my recent posts have got nothing to do with what I have been cooking. Please forgive me. Uninspired is probably not the right term but it is something akin to it. But very soon, I promise, I’ll be back in the kitchen to try out some new recipes to add to my repertoire.

In the meantime, this post is to thank good friends of mine from the west coast for gifting me with hot chocolate mix from San Churro. Thank you Doms & Dei! Love it!

A recipe on how to make a classic Spanish hot chocolate is printed on the very stylish looking can it came in. Follow it to the dot and you get a thick and rich chocolate drink. The only thing missing???? The churros!

San Churro has got a branch in the Sunshine Coast (which is a couple of hours drive from where we live). I have a better chance of visiting it in NSW or WA in the near future. No plans to head up the coast any time soon.

Just in case you can’t read the recipe in the photo I’ve re-printed it below:

How to Make Classic Spanish Hot Chocolate

1 cup milk

2 heaped scoops (approximately 40 grams) of Classic Spanish Chocolate powder

1. Heat up the milk in a saucepan.

2. When milk is warm add the chocolate powder and stir continuously over low heat until mixture thickens. DO NOT BOIL.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Cake Artiste

I am so proud of my dear wife I can’t help but post photos of her recent creations.

Cake Artiste is what she is.

See for yourselves.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Qantas – Next Generation Check-In

Just when most people are getting used to the idea of online check-in Qantas have now introduced what they call “Next Generation Check-in system.” Gone are the days of “human intervention” replaced with computers, scanners and conveyor belts. What this basically means is that the passenger is now responsible for selecting his/her seat, printing his/her boarding pass, and if he or she has got a bag to check-in he/she is responsible for printing the bag tags, attaching the tags to the bags in a prescribed manner and sending off his/her own bags to the correct aircraft.

This new system has been fully implemented by Qantas at one of Australia’s busiest domestic airport, Perth. Noticeably absent are check-in counters manned by humans. In place are touch screens and bag drop scanners that will direct your baggage to its rightful destination. WARNING: You must remove all old tags and stickers so as not to confuse the new technology and send your bag/s where you do not want it to go.

Sydney, arguably the busiest down under, is the next in-line to launch the system. Frequent SYD travellers be warned.

The system is almost hassle free if you have nothing to check-in. Printing your boarding pass at home still works a treat. But if you’re on the other extreme with oversized (like prams, surfboards, etc.) and/or overweight pieces the new system can be a nightmare. You can say, it indirectly discourages the practice. But if you have no choice grab the first human staff you see before your fingers start fiddling with the very inviting touch screens.

Streamlining is the whole idea with the promise “to leave you more time to spend as you choose before your flight” (from Qantas – The Australian Way Magazine). We’ll see…

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sono, Queen St

Like most Asian cultures Filipinos traditionally serve noodles during birthdays to symbolise long life. This comes in the form of pancit in all its variations.

But because this year is a milestone celebration for my dear wife cooking pancit just would not cut it. We wanted something extraordinary and intimate. Yes, you read it right, an intimate dinner with our family (including the kids), friends and friends’ kids.

A Chinese banquet, although special, seems too busy and not intimate enough. Then there are the Thai, Vietnamese, Singaporean and Korean restaurants that we know of in Brisbane. They all lack that X factor we’re after fitting the momentous occasion.

And then there’s Sono more specifically Sono at Queen St. Situated right in the heart of Brisbane’s CBD it truly is a tranquil gourmet escape for city folks.

Sono offers various types of seating. There are Japanese booths, a sushi bar, as well as western style of seating. And for boutique parties like ours the restaurant also has traditional Japanese private rooms. But because we only booked on the day we missed out on having our own private dining room (note to self: book early).

The restaurant has got quite an extensive menu. They boast to have the highest quality hand made sushi in Brisbane.

For starters we had their appetizer platter composed of fresh oysters with ponzu sauce, simmered pork belly with sweet soy, soft shell crab with shiso sauce, crab croquette and edamame. The kids had tuna sushi.

And because we’re after some noodle component in our dinner we went for Sono’s Wagyu Sukiyaki. There’s a shabu-shabu version of it if you’re not too keen on the sweet soy. The kids had tempura udon, chicken karaage and more sushi.

All the dishes were very good as expected. Their sukiyaki servings were plentiful. We had enough leftovers for a couple more adults.

I would like to commend the restaurant’s staff for their high quality of service. Kids are not a big part of their regular clientele but we were accommodated without much fuss. A high chair for my toddler and a special table for the kids away from the steaming hot sukiyaki pots were effortlessly set up by smart and beautiful looking kimono clad staff.

But what made that night a lot more special was the company of true friends who indeed rejoiced with us. Thank you Patrick and Pilar, I almost ruined the surprise but anyway,… And thank you Lyndon and Carla (and Aaron, and Ayden and Anthony) for joining us, enduring the 12+ hour drive to Brisbane on a wet and stormy weekend.