50% off food bill

WHAT!

Hello everyone 🙂

Being a blog focussed on budgeting etc discounts are always welcome.

It was my birthday two week ago and even though I’m budgeting, it does not mean that I can’t splurge every now and then especially on special occasions. Conscious with how much “fancy” restaurants cost (I mean $250pp for a degustation and still having to go on a maccas run afterwards?) and aware of my partner who is trying to save as well, I came across this website called ‘First tables’. (https://www.firsttable.com.au)

It is literally what the name says. Book the first few tables of the night at selected fine dining or even casual restaurants and get 50% off the entire food bill! (some exclusions apply). There is a catch though, you have to pay $10 up front and there may be certain time restrictions but 2 hours is plenty.

If you’re worried about the stigma of using these discounts from the wait staff there, I’m sorry that has happened to you before but usually at “fancier” restaurants they tend to remain professional. But believe me I have had people look down just because I booked using a special offer. Whatever, better money in my own pocket than theirs 🙂

I told my boyfriend about the website and he went ahead and booked ‘No 1 Bent Street’ (head chef Mike McEnearney). It is located literally on 1 Bent street and it was so good! Every dish was a stand out. I literally can not pinpoint my favourite dish but boy the chicken pate was AMAZING, and the steak, and the lamb, and the quail and the desserts… heck see everything was amazing 🙂

Whats best is looking around and thinking how great it is you only had to pay 50% of the bill.

But don’t go around telling everyone about this website or it’ll be impossible to book a table haha! 😦

Below are some food porn photos from the dinner. Total cost was $120 for the two of us (including drinks that weren’t 50% off). NOT BAD.

 

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Full priced menu

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Melt in your mouth chicken pate that is scooped out from a large bowl full of pate

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Roast quail with grapes

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Charred leeks

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Broccolini with anchovy butter (AMAZING)

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Melt in your mouth lamb

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Caramelised onions with melt in your mouth steak

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Quince and pistachio brittle

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Plum jam with rice pudding

Let me know if you’re going to start using this website from now on!

 

Cupcakes & Picnics

Hello everyone!

I’m back with another cooking recipe.

I was hosting a picnic with a few friends and I decided to make some cupcakes last minute.

Lucky these cupcakes were so simple that it was ready in no time at all. Literally under half an hour it was done.

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 1¼ Cups Plain flour
  • ¾ Tsp Baking powder
  • 1 Cup Caster sugar
  • 125g melted butter
  • 2 Eggs
  • ¾ Cup full cream milk
  • ½ tsp Vanilla extract
  • Handful of frozen Cherries, Strawberries and Blueberries.

Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 cups Icing sugar
  • 125gms Butter (softened)
  • Milk
  • 1 teaspoon peanut butter
  • 4 squares of dark chocolate
  • 4 squares of white chocolate

Method:

  1. Preheat fan forced oven to 160 degrees
  2. Combine all the cupcake ingredients in a bowl and mix with a spoon until combined
  3. Spoon half the mixture into 12 x cupcake tray lined with paper cases, filling them to only halfway
  4. Cut up your frozen fruit into the centre of your batter on the cupcake tray
  5. Cover the cupcakes with the remaining batter
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until when a toothpick is inserted it comes out clean
  7. Let cool on a wire tray for at least 1 hour or your frosting will melt.

To make the icing:

  1. Whip with an electric mixer your softened butter and the icing sugar and a few tsps of milk (one at a time) until combined –  ensure your mixture is not too runny. Do not worry if your mixture looks clumpy because of the butter because after a few more seconds it’ll combine into a smooth consistency. Don’t panic and pour the whole bottle of milk in.
  2. Melt your dark chocolate in the microwave at 20 second intervals stirring after each interval (should take about 1 minute all up). Stop heating when the chocolate is melted once stirred otherwise you’ll overheat and burn your chocolate.
  3. Melt your white chocolate in the microwave at 20 second intervals stirring after each interval (should take about less than 1 minute all up as white chocolate melts at a lower temperature than dark chocolate). Stop heating when the chocolate is melted once stirred otherwise you’ll overheat and burn your chocolate.
  4. Spoon your peanut butter into a bowl.
  5. Split the buttercream mixture into 4 and place 1/4 into the 3 bowls leaving 1/4 for the plain buttercream frosting
  6. Stir through your icing mixture and the chocolate or peanut butter. Depending on your consistency, add more milk as desired. Note: it is pretty cold in Winter here in Sydney so the chocolate did solidify pretty quickly making the buttercream stiff. To combat this issue, microwave your icing for < 5 seconds to soften it again
  7. Pipe your buttercream frostings onto each cupcake. Or use a spatula to flatten out a dollop of buttercream (which is what I did, as I was lazy and didn’t want to clean the piping bags)
  8. Feel free to decorate with more fruit on top of your cupcakes but I was lazy.
  9. Dig in!

I decided to make the following combinations:

  1. 3 x Cherry cupcakes with Dark chocolate frosting
  2. 3 x Strawberry cupcakes with White chocolate frosting
  3. 3 x Blueberry cupcakes with buttercream frosting
  4. 3 x Vanilla cupcakes with peanut butter frosting

It was so delicious! Everyone lapped it up.

My friends and I had a picnic out at Como pleasure ground in the south of Sydney. The park was beautiful as it was right next to the river/lake. Initially I had wanted to go to Cronulla beach but the thought of trying to find parking was too daunting.

We laid out a picnic mat and just bathed in the winter sun until the temperature dropped when the sun started setting and we hurried home.
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Costs:
Cupcakes: <$10 as most was kitchen staples and I had frozen fruit from my smoothies
Picnic with friends: free as everyone had to contribute food

Hope everyone is staying warm during this cold weather! preferably with some cupcakes 🙂

Ciao!

Ally xx

Watson Bay

Hello everyone!

Did a bit of exploring over the weekend at Watsons Bay.

Sydney had the best weather on the weekend despite it being ‘winter’ right now. So why not make the most of it by exploring outdoors?

It is actually so good for your mind and body to get outdoors especially after a week of working in front of the office computer for at least 7 hours a day. (Give me all the vitamin C please.)

Surprisingly, despite not planning our journey at all, we did not have to wait long for a ferry at CQ. We waited all of 3 minutes. Lucky we got there when we did because the ferry wharf was already packed like sardines. Also the indicator board showed the next ferry to CQ will arrive in 50 minutes if we had missed this one. Now I’m not too sure if that was a technical glitch or not but I surely hope that the ferries come more often than hourly to Watsons bay.

The ferry ride took about 20 minutes which is nothing when you are on the bow of the boat enjoying the sea spray and just soaking in the warm sun and beautiful sights. Because of the perfect weather, there were quite a few yacht boats on the harbour, they always make me anxious when they tip to the side to the point where they’re almost parallel with the water. Does anyone else feel the same?!

It was just after 2pm when our ferry arrived at Watsons bay. The famous beach club was brimming with groups of people having their afternoon drinks and nibbles. The Doyles fish shop was also packed, serving out trays of fish and chips by the second. However, as we already ate back in my area we ventured out to explore.

We had explored down along the beach on our previous trip here so this time we wanted to check out the view of “The Gap”. Despite its beauty, it has a grim presence which I’m not too sure most of the tourists know about. The second you walk up the steps to the Gap, there is a lifeline poster and phone booths there offering assistance. For those who are unaware, the Gap was earned an unwanted reputation of being a place where people go and contemplate suicide. There are high fences alongside the cliff face to prevent these occurrences from happening.

The view from the Gap is pretty spectacular. Offering views of the Sydney CBD on one side and the other out towards the endless ocean. Watching and listening to the waves crash against the cliff face is just so serene.

There were 3 height levels for the Gap all which are reachable by stairs and offer plenty of seating areas for those who want to have lunch there or just to chill out.  I sat there for a good half an hour just admiring the view and spending some quality time with my boyfriend.

There aren’t many shops at Watson’s Bay around the main street at all. There were a few vintage cafe’s (even a milk bar) and an ice creamery and that was about it. I quite liked that as it seemed the community has managed to retain its history despite the inflow of tourists along the bayside.

We didn’t spend too long at Watson’s Bay as we were only there to sight see. We also had to head back into the city to get ready for dinner (blog post to come).

However, I highly recommend spending an afternoon at Watsons Bay either to eat at the beach club (food is very expensive but decent), stroll alongside the beach, overlook the sea at The Gap or even to sit/lay down at the big park right by the ferry wharf.

Best part is being able to catch the Ferry for less than $5 with Opal (only if you have reached the quota for half off travel that week. Otherwise wait till Sunday when travel is $2.50 all day). 🙂

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Location: Watson’s Bay (ferry from Circular Quay – Wharf #2)
Price: Free (excluding your opal travel)

If you or anyone you know needs help:

Ciao for now!

Ally xx

$9 Pho?! 

Yep you read that right!

I promised you cheap food on my blog and boy have I delivered!

Hope everyone’s week is going well.

Colder weather equals pho weather.

Pho is a Vietnamese rice noodle soup usually made with raw beef and meatballs. Pho dac biet is the one with every topping possible (including tripe and tendon. My favourite!).  The soup is made using spices such as star anise, ginger, roasted onion, coriander seed, fennel and clove. The soup takes hours to make in order for all the flavours to come through and all that delicious. Again patience is key.

But hey, who has time to make their own pho from scratch? Also why bother when pho is only $9?!

This $9 Pho is a bit of a travel for most as this is located deep in the south west. But everyone knows – West is best! For food anyway.

The south west especially around the Cabramatta and Canley heights area is a Vietnamese hub. Every second shop guaranteed will be a Vietnamese restaurant specialising in pho.

Now this hidden treasure is in Canley heights. Though parking is quite a pain even on weekday afternoons. However bear with it and patience is key. It’ll all be worth it!

There are minimal lines if you get there before 6:30pm. Anything after that will require at least 15 minutes wait.

I don’t know about you but $9 is pretty damn good for a big bowl of pho (they don’t skimp out on anything). Have a look for yourself! I did also get goi cuon (rice paper rolls) and a lemon soda drink. The total was only $26. That’s peanuts!

I highly recommend you visit this place for a bowl of pho. Or to try out any of their other dishes.

It has become a weekly family tradition for me to have our weekly dose of pho from huong xua!

However it is noted that this special offer is only available Tuesday and Wednesdays and the catch is you can only choose TWO toppings for your pho. So sadly no pho dac biet!



If you are ever in the area. Please go visit this place 🙂

Cost: $9
Valid Tuesday and Wednesdays only.
Restaurant: Huong Xua
Location : 4/219 Canley Vale Road, Canley Heights (accessible by car or bus only. Probably at least a 20 minute walk from Canley vale station)
Opening hours : 9am – 10pm

Fun fact: they also do a pho challenge where you have to finish a 2.5kg bowl of pho within 11 minutes.  If you do, you get the meal free! I wish you luck..

Ciao for now!

Ally xx

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie…

That’s Amore.

Hello everyone,

Hope you are all well!

I remember I had a disagreement with my friend because I didn’t believe that in sometimes pizzas are referred to as pies.

Anyway, I have been in a bit of a cooking mood lately and decided to make these pizza’s the other day. It was the first time making the pizza dough from scratch so the whole time the dough was proofing I was praying I had the correct water temperature for the yeast to do its thing.

But low and behold, it turned out so wonderfully well! it was so unbelievably easy to make the dough that I’ll be doing this from now on as it’ll be 100% healthier than Dominos or Pizza hut (and cheaper).

Pizza dough Recipe:

I used the pizza dough recipe from Taste.com.au.

http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/pizza-dough/61da0d5a-abe7-4a62-a805-c9c4a729d718

As you can see below, the above recipe yielded 3 pizza bases because I like a thick crust/base.

Basic tomato and basil sauce recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1kg tomatos
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2tsp salt
  • Fresh basil leaves (roughly chopped)

Method:

  1. Lightly score the tomatoes all the way around and place in a bowl of boiling water
  2. After about 5 minutes, rotate the tomatoes in the water.
  3. After 15 minutes, take out the tomatoes and peel off the skin. The skin should come off easily, if not place back into your boiling water for a while longer.
  4. Roughly chop and set aside.
  5. Cook down the garlic in a saucepan with the olive oil
  6. Place the tomatoes in the same saucepan with salt and simmer on low for 10 minutes until it thickens in consistency.
  7. Add the basil at the end to retain the colour and set aside.

The great thing about making pizzas at home is you can add whatever ingredients you like! On this particular day I was feeling Margherita pizzas. Therefore all I had to do was generously add my bocconcini to my pizzas. I also added fresh basil leaves to my pizza, however looking back, I will be adding the basil leaves once the pizzas are done in the oven as they had lost its colour in the cooking process. Lesson learnt but it still tasted amazing.

Side note: A quick and healthy snack is to skewer bocconcini, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil leaves and eat as is! You can also drizzle some balsamic vinegar if you’d like but I love the simplicity and freshness as it is. So tasty!

Cost: <$10. The most expensive parts of this would be the Bocconcini because I love cheese so much I bought AND used 3 tubs of it…

Let me know what your favourite pizza is!

Ally xx

The infamous Bondi to Bronte walk 

Well technically it’s the Bondi to Coogee walk but because I am that unfit that after just reaching Bronte, I called it a day and began my return walk to Bondi.

Hello everyone 👋

Hope everyone’s week is going well so far!

It’s going to be a rainy few days in Sydney. Perfect – just in time for the long weekend (why Sydney why?!). So, I thought what better than to reminisce on the sunnier times of Sydney.

The Bondi to Coogee walk is 6km (one way) and will take approximately 1 hour to walk (one way) along the narrow coastal footpaths. However it may take longer depending on the amount of people traffic who are going the opposite direction. It then becomes a game of ‘who is polite enough to let the other pass’. Most are friendly enough and will step aside however there are also large handfuls of groups where they believe they have the right of way. How frustrating – it’s so un-Australian.

Seeing as I only walked to Bronte, it took about 40 minutes return.

Along your scenic route which starts from the end of the beach closest to Bondi station, you will encounter the famous and most Instagrammed swimming pool – Bondi icebergs. Because who’s going to believe you were at Bondi unless you have photographic proof of the pool? The view overlooks the pool which is constantly sprayed by the oncoming waves from the sea and out towards the opposite end of Bondi Beach. It is a great people watching spot because you can see all the surfers ride the waves however it gets so congested with pedestrians that you really should move along.

The footpath leads along the coast under rock formations and up towards Tamarama beach. Did you know that surf club was featured in an ad for dulux (paint brand with the furry dog) ?

From there, there are enormous cliff faces overlooking the sea which are perfect for laying down on and soaking up the sun or grabbing a bite to eat. Just remember eber to bring a towel/blanket/jumper as the cliff face is quite uneven and not that comfortable to lay on unless you are sitting on something soft. It can also get quite wet from the sea mist

Once you have gotten sick of that sea side view and decide you want a change in scenery, continue walking along the footpath towards Bronte beach. Along the way there are exercise equipment and if you are lucky, you may even get a glimpse of a couple in the midst of their wedding photography.

This walk is dog friendly however please ensure that your dog is comfortable in crowded environments as the last thing you want is a terrified pooch.

All in all, it is a great way to spend your day!

 

Vivid Sydney

Hello everyone!

Sorry for my absence this week! my week has been crazy busy – but I have managed to fit some time in after work to check out the Vivid festival.

For those who do not know, Vivid is an annual light show in Sydney that happens for approximately 3 weeks usually between May – June. The entire CBD (and various other suburbs) are covered in light installations – some interactive. Of course there are always art projections on the Opera house and a light show on the Harbour Bridge.

Because this event is free (with the exception of some ticketed events and shows), thousands of people flock to Circular Quay to see the light show. Trying to get anywhere quick is impossible especially on weekends. My suggestion is if you do go to check this out, go on a week night because usually it will mainly be less crowded as families are less inclined to venture into the CBD on a weeknight.

That being said, I actually have no clue if there is a theme (besides light) for these vivid festivals.

I have only managed to visit the light show around CQ for now and will definitely be going to check out Martin Place and Barangaroo within the next week or so.

Let me know if you have been and which was your favourite installation this year! Mine was definitely the swing set behind Park Hyatt (right under the harbour bridge at the Rocks). The swings were illuminated and you would be able to sit on it while music plays depending on how fast/high you are swinging. If you are lucky (as a reward for waiting in line for at least 15 minutes) they perform a show with the mechanical swings where loud happy music plays and the swings rotate 360 degrees in various speeds all the while the lights change colours. It was my favourite part of vivid (and I’m in my 20s so kids will definitely love this).

Below are some photos from my visit. As it is winter, please ensure you rug up as it does get quite chilly !

For more information, visit:

Website : https://www.vividsydney.com
Cost: Free for most events
Duration: 26 May – 17 June