I’ve fallen in love. Oh….yes! I’m in love with halva. I’ve had my first taste of halva when I was a teen but its intoxicating sweetness brought back my cravings for it last year when I was offered a morsel of it containing chocolate. Then I had this sensuous interplay of the palate again with my beloved halva last Saturday. It seemed we were fated to meet. You guessed it right. I stumbled head over heals with it. This time it was even better. It has a dark chocolate center that oozes out of its creamy tahini body and is peppered with almonds and pecans.

The surprising thing was I wasn’t looking for it. I stumbled upon it – at Sonia’s International Foods at Willoughby. I entered the shop and let my eyes feast on all things exotic – nuts, spices, halva and such. It was like being in Alladin’s cave where were goodies stacked on every shelf. I was flipping over boxes of commercially made halvas of all sorts when the fairy god mother, the shop assistant, asked what I was looking for and beckoned me to the counter when I couldn’t decide. There…low and behold was the biggest halva I had ever seen. It was like one enormous cake. The lady cut a small chunk and urged me to try. The result….ohhhhhhhh that melt-in-the-mouth feeling. The sweetness and creaminess of the tahini blended well with that melting dark chocolate. The crunchiness of the nuts added texture and richness to the whole halva eating experience. It felt like being transported to an exotic land, where honey oozed from honey combs and nuts could be picked from the ground.

I’ve got a slice left and hope to savour the halva bit by bit while it lasts. I’ve discovered it is actually quite simple to prepare a halva, a chocolate centered halva with nuts to be precise. It’s main ingredient is hulled tahini or sesame seed paste. The rest is sugar or honey and nuts. I will try my hands at preparing it in April, I hope. So stay tuned. Meanwhile, allow me break my halva slice and bite into a chunk, slowly savouring the sweetness and letting it linger on my tongue. Oh…forget about chocolate or cake for awhile. My deliciously divine halva will satisfy my sweet cravings for now.



pre fried spring rolls

special fried spring rolls

I’d like to share with you a special type of finger food I prepared last weekend. Mind you, it is filling and has so much zing that it can be eaten for lunch. 

Preparation for this finger food is simple but needs some planning and organisation. So, a trip to the local Asian grocery store is mandatory. I would recommend selecting the medium-sized skin as this is just the right size for the type of filling I’ll share in a while. Also, this recipe calls for Shitake mushrooms. Getting this is a no-brainer as they can be found at the local supermarkets. Why Shitake? I insist on using this variety because of its flavour. It’s tasty and meaty and will definitely give  your spring rolls a lot of zing. Oh, so here it is:

Special Fried Spring Rolls

spring roll ingredients


Spring roll skin

1 packet Shitake mushrooms, sliced

1 onion, sliced

4 red chilli, sliced

1 inch ginger, chopped

200g cooked prawns, sliced

half cup bean sprouts

vermicelli noodles, half a block

4 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tbsp. Kicap manis

2 tbsp. Hoisin sauce


cooking oil

cornflower and water mixture (to seal the skins)

special fried spring rolls


  1. Slice the onion, Shitake mushrooms and red chillies.
  2. Peel and chop ginger.
  3. Boil water and pour over vermicelli noodles in a pot. Once soften, drain and leave it for a few minutes to dry. Pour soy sauce, kicap manis and hoisin sauce into the bowl of vermicelli and mix well. Leave the mixture till ready to use.
  4. Meanwhile, de-shell the cooked prawns , slice them and set aside.
  5. Heat oil in a pan and once hot, add the onions. Cook till transparent. Then add the mushrooms, chillies and ginger. Mix well and let the juice ooze from the mushrooms. Remove the ingredients and set aside to cool.
  6. Pull out two spring roll skins each and them on a big plate. Lay the cooled vermicelli on one side of the skin and spread it out.
  7. Add the mushroom mixture and then the sliced prawns.
  8. Top it up with the bean sprouts.
  9. Fold in the sides and roll the skin away from you. Ensure that each roll is tight.
  10. Seal the end of the skins with cornflour and water mixture.
  11. Prepare the rolls until all ingredients are used.
  12. Heat oil in a pan and once hot, fry the spring rolls till brown.
  13. Serve the spring rolls hot and enjoy it with sweet chili sauce.

spring roll filling


The special fried spring rolls keep longer pre-fried and in the freezer. They come in handy when unexpected guests arrive at your doorstep.  The skins aren’t suitable for baking. If you’re not a fan of fried food, use  short crust pastry instead. As an afterthought, the vermicelli needs something thick to coat it. Hence, I’ve used kicap manis and hoisin sauce as they not only coat the vermicelli well but also gives better flavour. The trick is to leave the soaked vermicelli longer so it soaks up the flavour of the sauces better. These are the best spring rolls ever, not found in restaurants.


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magii mee stir fry_v2

The next time you’ve contemplating which sort of noodles you should use in your stir fry dishes, don’t look too far. Open your kitchen cabinet and you’re bound to find a few packets of Maggi noodles. You may cringe at the thought of using Maggi noodles in your cooking. Shouldn’t we use healthier options? I hear you say. Well, what I’m trying to convey is the idea of using just the noodles and throwing out the sachets of condiments that accompany them.

Maggi noodles have got this slimy texture compared to its distant relative, the vermicelli or white flat noodles. Also, if you prefer thinner noodles, the humble Maggi is the one to use. Adding to this debate, Maggi noodles are tastier than the white ones and contain less oil and colouring compared to its cousin, the Hokkien noodles. Still unconvinced? Well, why not have a go at preparing this delicious dish. 


2 Maggi noodle blocks

150g flat heads

bak choy  

1 packet sun dried tomatoes

tofu, diced

4 red chilies, sliced

bean sprouts

onion, sliced

Shitake mushrooms, sliced

1 cup frozen green peas

2 tbsp oyster sauce

2 tbsp soy sauce

cooking oil

pepper to taste

Method 1

  1. Pour boiling water over Maggi noodles in a pot. 
  2. Let it sit in boiling water for about 2 mins or till noodles are softened. 
  3. Drain noodles and set aside. 

Method 2

1. Heat oil in non-stick pan.

2. Fry tofu and fish separately till cooked. Remove from the pan and set aside. 

3. Heat oil in the same pan. 

4. Cook onions till soft. 

5. Add chilies and Shitake mushrooms till the juices ooze out. 

6. Then, add green peas, sun dried tomatoes, bean sprouts and bak choy. Stir fry the vegetables till cooked.  

7. Add oyster sauce and mix well. 

8. Add the fried tofu and fish including the oil that comes with them. 

9. Then add the noodles and mix the ingredients thoroughly taking care not to break the fish.  

10. Lastly, add soy sauce and season with pepper. Mix well. 

The outcome is predictably delicious. The Shitake mushrooms, fish and sun dried tomatoes take the dish to a whole new level. The Maggi noodles do not disappoint. The tip is not to overcook the noodles or they’ll end up being too soft in texture. So the next time you’ve craving for a special noodle dish, give the humble Maggi a go and take the dish to a whole new dimension. 


orange choc cake 2V2

orange choc cake

Happy New Year to all my readers! 2016 will be a fresh new beginning, a year of hope and positive outcomes despite all the challenges in life. To kick start the new year, I’d like to share with you a special cake I’ve baked a few weeks ago.  I got the recipe from one of my favourite celebrity cooks, Nigela Lawson. So thanks to Nigela, I managed to bake a wonderful cake for my family at Christmas. 

In this recipe, I’ve used almond meal. So why almond meal instead of self-raising flour, you may ask. The good thing about almond meal is that it doesn’t contain any gluten. As we know, gluten is the stretchy protein in flour that helps to bind the mixture together. The other thing is, almond meal is moist and dense, due to the oil in the almonds. So this means that the cake you bake will not end up dry and crumbly. Thank goodness for almond meal.


To add a personal touch to my cake, I have tweaked the measurements and created my own frosting and decorations. So if you are keen to try, here’s the recipe:


2 small thin-skinned oranges

6 eggs

5g butter for greasing

1 tsp baking powder or bicarbonate of soda

300g almond meal (or 2 cups)

250g (or 1 and 1/2 cups) caster sugar

50 g Cadbury cocoa

orange peel for decoration

2 bars of dark chocolate (one for baking and the other for frosting)



  1. Put 2 whole oranges in a pan with some cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 hours or until soft. 
  2. Drain the water and cool the oranges. Cut the oranges in halves and remove any pips.
  3. Pulp everything in a food processor and transfer to a huge mixing bowl.
  4. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. 
  5. Grease cooking tin with butter. 
  6. Melt a bar of dark chocolate in a bowl over steaming hot water. 
  7. Add almond meal, baking powder, sugar, cocoa, melted chocolate and eggs to the orange pulp.
  8. Mix well with a spatula.
  9. Pour the mixture into the cooking tin and bake for an hour or until cake is thoroughly baked.
  10. Let the cake cool on a rack.
  11. Melt another bar of chocolate over hot steaming water.
  12. Spread the melted chocolate over the top of the cake and use a butter knife to spread the chocolate evenly.
  13. Decorate the top with sugar-coated orange peels. 

Best served with a dollop or two of vanilla ice cream on each slice and cherries or strawberry on the side. Enjoy!!!

As an afterthought, the cake was quite easy and fuss-free to bake. However, boiling the oranges take a huge chunk of time. White sugary residue got stuck to the edges of the pot and cleaning it off took some effort. I used navel oranges for its sweetness and soft skin. The trick is to ensure that the oranges you use are sweet enough.    

To cover the slight cracks on top of the cake, I used dark chocolate frosting and garnished the top with sugary orange peel. The sugar measurement is just right for my liking. If you prefer a cake that’s sweeter, feel free to add a bit more sugar or substitute the dark chocolate bars with milk chocolate instead. To all gluten intolerant chocolate lovers out there, this cake may take your fancy. Each slice is best served warm (20s in the microwave) before adding that sinful dollop of ice cream. Oh heavenly! 


mashed potato puffs

mashed potato puffs

Think baked potato, think wholesome and crunchy. If you’re thinking of potato jackets, you’re wrong. Potato puffs are the answer. Draw your minds away from plain potatoes. Bring in some saltiness and tang. If that makes your mouth water, wait till you bite into each puff. Bring on the mashed potato puffs. 

In this recipe, I used shaved smoked salmon and Dijon mustard. They enhanced the flavour of the puffs, guaranteeing second or third helpings. For the cheese, I’d recommend sharp vintage cheddar cheese for the kick.  


6 potatoes, mashed

2 eggs

1 1/2 cup grated cheese

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

10g melted butter

150g shaved smoked salmon, chopped

1/2 cup chives, chopped



  1. Preheat oven at 180 degree Celsius. 
  2. Grease muffin trays with melted butter. 
  3. Boil potatoes and mashed. 
  4. Add eggs to mashed potatoes. 
  5. Add 1 cup grated cheese, leaving the rest for topping. 
  6. Add Dijon mustard, pepper, chives and smoked salmon. 
  7. Stir well. 
  8. Add spoonfuls of mixture into each mold of muffin tray. 
  9. Top each potato mixture with one spoonful of grated cheese that has been set aside. 
  10. Bake the potato mixture in the oven for 25 mins or till brown. 
  11. Enjoy them while they are hot. 

mashed potato puffs


For tastier potatoes, use kipfler. They are creamier and have more body.  These scrumptious potato puffs can be enjoyed for breakfast, brunch or afternoon tea. They also make good party finger good. You’ll enjoy an explosion of flavours – the cheesy taste, salty smoked salmon and tangy mustard. Oh….need I say more? 



creative sushi filing

Sushi is regarded a healthy food as it is supposedly low in calories. The salmon and tuna slices, slivers of prawn and cucumber and slices of avocado and egg that fit snugly within sticky rice rolls are low in fats and high in nutrients. Sushi doesn’t need to contain raw fish. In fact, you can include anything you want in your sushi rolls. The key here is to imaginative and bold. 

Below are a few sushi filling ideas I’ve tried. They taste superb. 

creative sushi filling

Avocado and sliced fried egg

Avocado and peeled cooked prawns

Stir fried mushrooms and sliced fried egg

Cooked salmon chunks 

Stir fried mushrooms


150g mushrooms, sliced

1 tbsp pepper

oyster sauce


  1. Heat oil in pan.

     2. Add mushrooms to the pan till cooked.

     3. Add oyster sauce and mix well. 

     4.  Sprinkle pepper to taste. 

     5. Drain excess juice before preparing sushi.


Cooked salmon chunks 


1 can salmon chunks

1 tsp chili flakes


juice from 1/2 lemon 


  1. Heat oil in a pan.
  2. Drain brine from can of salmon.
  3. Add salmon into the pan and cook well. 
  4. Add chili flakes, pepper and lemon juice and stir well. 
  5. Drain all excess liquid before preparing sushi. 


There you have it. Creative sushi fillings for an adventurous palate. The options are endless. Stir fried squids, scallops fried in butter, tempura prawns, spiced tofu, chicken slices, barbecued turkey slices……….I’ll leave it to your imagination. Haven’t I convinced you that sushi needn’t be traditional? 


A_warm_minute (1)

balcony work

Feeling down and unmotivated? Is winter making you feel less productive? This is the reason why. The area you work in lacks sunlight. Yes. It is true. If you’re not on top of things and feeling depressed, chances are, you’re working in the wrong part of the house. Ask yourself these questions: Is your home office dark and closed up? Are the curtains closed and obstructing the sunlight and view? If your answer is yes, then, you need to soak in the energy of the sun to be more positive and productive. Consider the tips below to energise yourself and change your state of mind.

  1. Soak in some sunlight

Work in the balcony or the backyard if such places are brighter and warmer due to more sunlight streaming in. If you work in a home office, draw the curtains to allow more sunlight to brighten the room. Sunlight helps to change your mood and mindset. Chances are you’ll be more productive and feel much better working when exposed to some natural light. Sunlight is indeed a natural source of energy that recharges your body and soul that are much needed for a positive mindset. Why do you think people feel lazy and unproductive when it’s gloomy and grey outside and are more active when the sun is shining brightly outside? The sun has got amazing energy that revitalises you inside out. So ensure that you have plenty of sunlight where you work. 

2. The pleasures of warmth

You work better when your home office is warm. This is because warmth brings comfort. Ensure that you have a heater or a fireplace near you. Warmth is inviting and comforting. You need it to stay productive. 


3. Yellow is gold

Painting a yellow accent on a wall will change the mood to any room. If your living room or work space is dull, try giving one part of the room a hint of yellow. Alternatively, introduce a vase of sunflowers or a painting that has predominant yellow colours to promote the flow of energy and the change of mindset. 

4. Reflect more light 

Use a long mirror to reflect and introduce light in the room. To do this, you need to position the mirror directly opposite a window. This helps to brighten your room and works as mood switcher. In no time, you’ll feel more energised and productive instead of feeling down and depressed. 

So, soak in the energy of the sun to be more positive and productive. Try one of or a combination of the above the next time you feel unproductive. Don’t take the sun’s rays for granted as it is the source of life and energy. Amazingly, it changes your mood and lifts up your spirits. Do share your stories about how the sun’s energy bring positivity to your mind and energises your body. 


San Remo Fettuccine Egg Noodle

special aglio olio

You’ll agree with me that aglio olio is a very simple, fuss-free dish. Though only a few ingredients are used, the taste is satisfying to the palette. I’ve reinvented the aglio olio to enhance its flavour and appearance. In this dish, I’ve added pine nuts for texture and some greens, soy and grated parmesan for flavour. There are so many egg pasta available in the market. For this dish, I’ve chosen to use San Remo Fettuccine Egg Noodle.  


1/2 packet fettuccine 

olive oil

1 onion, sliced

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

3 fresh tomatoes, sliced

100g fresh spinach

a handful of pine nuts

1 cup frozen peas

grated Parmesan

1 green chili, sliced

1 tbsp soy sauce

ground black pepper


  1. Cook the fettuccine in salted, boiling water till el dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Roast pine nuts in a small and set aside.
  3. Heat olive oil in a pan and fry the onions till caramelised. 
  4. Add garlic and mushrooms. Cook till mushrooms soften. 
  5. Add chilies, tomatoes, spinach and peas. Mix well. 
  6. Add fettuccine and season with Parmesan, black pepper and soy. Mix well. 
  7. Lastly, add the pine nuts. Mix the ingredients together to ensure they blend well. 
  8. Serve while its is hot and sprinkle some grated Parmesan for that added kick.

I use grated Parmesan from Pantalica Cheese company. Its grated cheese is flavoursome and makes good pasta topping or seasoning. The dash of soy enhances the flavour of the dish and adding some greens like spinach and peas transforms its appearance and improves its nutritious value. Bon appetite!


Five Banana Bread Slices

Five Banana Bread Slices


I have tried several off-the-shelf banana bread and nearly all of them don’t meet the standards with regards to taste and quality. Most are either too bland, rubbery or overly-laden with sugar for my liking.However, I strongly feel that there is one commercially made banana bread out there that deserves a recommendation. That’s Woolworth’s Five Banana Bread Slices. Each banana slice is packed separately and is ideal for your child’s lunch box or for a family picnic. 

Five Banana Bread Slices

First of all, let’s look at Woolworth’s Five Banana Bread Slices calorie count. It has 329 calories in all. With only 3g of saturated fat as opposed to 4g of poly-saturated fat and 7g of mono-saturated fat and boosting zero trans fats, these banana bread slices make healthy snacks. On the flip side, the sodium content is a tad too high for banana bread at 287 mg a piece. The good thing is, each slice has little sugar (29g) and this makes each bite mild yet tasty without being overly sugar-laden. 

Five Banana Bread Slices

Each banana slice is moist and tasty. Since banana puree is used instead of essence, the taste of banana is sufficiently prominent in each bite. The bread has that melt in the mouth feeling as its is soft in texture. 

Woolworth’s Five Banana Bread Slices is also sold for $1.60 a slice. However, purchasing a whole pack is more economical at $6.25. There are times when the price is discounted in selected stores and a time when this product becomes unavailable. At the time of writing, Woolworths is offering the pack at $4.98 online

Five Banana Bread Slices make good office and school lunch snacks for both kids and adults to kick start the afternoon. 

Disclaimer: I do not receive any commission to write a review on this product. The content and opinions featured in this post are entirely my own, based on my personal experience using the above-mentioned product. 


Egyptian Phool

Egyptian Phool


I’ve been craving for Egyptian Phool, a spicy, hearty dish consisting of Fava beans and minced meat. Since I’m not sure if I can get Fava beans here in Australia, the next best option is to use red kidney beans. The dish is pretty straight forward but be prepared to do some blending. Thankfully my small blender works well. For this dish, I’ve tried to substitute meat with blended oyster mushrooms. Phool with meat seriously tastes better, for it gives that full-bodied flavour. For the beans, it’s best to use Foul Medammas or Fava Beans. If those aren’t available, the next best alternative is to use red kidney beans. They work just as well. 

Egyptian Phool_blended ingredients


2 cans of Foul Mademmas/Fava Beans/Red Kidney Beans

150g ground beef

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp coriander powder

2 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp garam masala

1 can, diced tomatoes 

salt to taste


3/4 large red onion, sliced 

1cm ginger, sliced

6 cloves garlic, sliced

3-4 dried red chilies 

Egyptian Phool_beans and tomatoes


2 eggs, sunny side up

1/4 red onion, diced

2 green chilies, sliced

2 tomatoes, diced

2 calamansi limes, cut into wedges



  1. Blend onion, ginger, garlic and dried red chilies and set aside. 
  2. Blend beans with water separately and set aside. 
  3. Heat oil in a pan and cook ground beef. Once cooked, set aside.  
  4. Add oil to the same pan and fry the blended paste till fragrant. 
  5. Add cumin powder, coriander powder, ground black pepper and blend well. 
  6. Add in the blended beans and stir well. 
  7. Add salt to taste and mix well. 
  8. Add cooked ground beef into the mixture and stir well.
  9. Add canned diced tomatoes with liquid and stir mixture well. Add a bit more cumin powder, pepper and garam masala if needed. 
  10. Simmer the mixture on low heat for 20 more minutes or till it is reduced.
  11. Serve the dish in a bowl. Sprinkle diced green chilies, diced tomatoes, diced red onions and top up with sunny side egg. 
  12. Squeeze a wedge of calamansi lime and enjoy! 

Egyptian Phool


Phool accompaniment


This Egyptian Phool dish is suitable for lunch or dinner. Best served with sliced baguette. Scoop it, dunk it with baguette slices or enjoy the bean mixture from a spoon. It is a very filling and wholesome dish in any season. I won’t be surprised if everyone at the table goes for a second helping. So make sure there is plenty of extra phool.  This dish has been modified over time and place. Does anyone know what the original Egyptian Phool comprises of? Do share your knowledge on this phenomenal Egyptian dish.