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La Bella Italia

La Bella Italia

La Bella Italia (10 Nevis Street, Petone)

Yum, yum, yum, this place has the goods! People had told me that it was a good place to visit out in Petone, but I never really paid any attention until we spontaneously decided to go. This place is seriously awesome! It was like a big Italian warehouse, with so much happening and so much to look at, all at once! The walls are thoroughly decorated with all things Italian, and there is different tills lining the wall; there is the pizza man, the coffee man, the meats and cheeses man, the desserts… the list goes on. AND, on the other side there are a few shelves of Italian goods, if you want to transport yourself to an Italian supermarket.

The menu is authentic (there are plenty of Italian words used throughout!) and not too badly priced. The staff are lovely, charismatic and passionate about the food (like all good Italians). Both the pizza and the pasta dishes are of decent portion sizes; I had wanted dessert so badly but just absolutely could not fit it in.

This place is DEFINITELY worth your time. Even better, it’s not just a restaurant AND supermarket AND mini Italian museum, they also offer cooking classes and plenty of events. WOW.

Sal’s Pizzeria

Sal’s Pizzeria

I got told my life was going to change when Sal’s made its way to Wellington; well it has, and I’m not sure that did. Sal’s claims to have authentic New York style pizza, which may be right, but it’s certainly doughy and cheesy and greasy, so you have to be in the absolute right mood for it.

Located on Cuba Street, Sal’s feels very ‘American diner’ from the moment you step inside. With sports blasting from the TVs, a big drinks fridge and uphosltery styled seats (appropriately red) I instantly felt transported to the USA. The pizza was cheap, and you can also order a variety of different bready knots and pinwheels etc (pictured above are the garlic knots, they were pretty tasty).

Probably not my preferred pizza option in Wellington (#classy) but even if I was getting takeaway I still think I would choose elsewhere before I got Sal’s again. But if that kind of pizza floats your boat, by all means there was nothing wrong with it.

Oikos

Oikos

Oikos (382 Broadway, Miramar)

A new found spot out in Miramar, Oikos virtually couldn’t be any closer to the airport. It’s tucked away in a building that I wouldn’t have given a second glance to had I not already made a reservation there based on others’ recommendations. Owned by the same people who own The Greek Food Truck, you can expect it to be good. I had actually had second thoughts about going there because I was feeling a bit tentative of the menu; however I’m so glad that I did, and I’m pretty sure anything we had been served that night would have been delicious.

We arrived in the pouring rain and were excited to see how cosy the place looked. After stripping off our coats we made ourselves at home and took a look around. It was extremely modern feeling, a cool space that I would typically associate with some of my favourite brunch spots, so it was neat to see this same vibe being carried over to an evening meal. We were informed of the specials and encouraged to share – my favourite! I had already poured over the menu so it wasn’t long after and we already had plates of food on the way.

The flavours of the food retain parts of the authentic Hellenic cuisine, while at the same time giving it a modern, sophisticated twist which makes it all the more delicious to try. The wait staff were great; they were extremely accommodating to us needing to be out by a certain time (we were off to a film festival movie after) and were happy to provide us with suggestions and recommendations based on our preferences.

The food is definitely best eaten tapa style – the portions are too small to just serve one, but it would get expensive very quickly to order multiple just for yourself. The flatbread and the roast potatoes were both to die for, as was the (chocolate) baklava (photo bottom left) and milk & honey Greek donuts (pictured top right). This place is still only relatively new, but I suspect it won’t stay a secret for long – the whole experience was absolutely superb. One of the most pleasant dinner choices I’ve made recently, and to think I was skeptical initially!

 

Vegetarian Bolognaise

Vegetarian Bolognaise

Spaghetti bolognaise is such a winter classic, and my not eating beef this year has thrown a real spanner in the works. Finally though, I have found a recipe that replicates spagbol pretty darn accurately, except with the added bonus that it’s healthier and there is no beef. It takes just as long as cooking meat (it has lentils as a substitute) and is a good way to use up any veges that may have seen better days!

Collect for the bolognaise

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 2 t dried oregano
  • 1 c stock (vegetarian is fine, but you could use beef if you wanted that additional flavour)
  • 2/3 c red split lentils
  • 1/4 c tomato paste
  • 2 cans chopped tomatoes
  • 2 t brown sugar
  • 2 t balsamic vinegar
  • 2 t soy sauce
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 c water
  • 400 g pasta

Create

  1. Boil a large pot of water to cook the pasta.
  2. Splash some oil in a pan on medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery and oregano for 6-7 minutes, until softened. Add stock and simmer for 1 minute, until nearly all evaporated.
  3. Add the lentils, tomato paste, tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, salt and water. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat and cover for about 20 minutes until lentils are cooks. Season with salt and pepper. If the liquid appears to evaporate too quickly, just stir in some more water.
  4. Serve with salad (spinach and parmesan tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar) and top with toasted pine nuts, basical and cheese.
The Riddiford Bar & Bistro

The Riddiford Bar & Bistro

The Riddiford Bar & Bistro (16 Riddiford Street, Newtown)

With a prime location of across the road from the hospital, business here should be booming. Unfortunately, I think The Riddiford probably needs a bit of a revamp before this happens. It took me a while to visit here because I’d heard extremely mixed things about it, but when I did I was pleasantly surprised.

We came here for lunch (so I still can’t really review the dinner options I’m afraid) and I was pleased to see that the place was relatively busy. It is essentially two rooms joined together to form the cafe, but with a big wide open door so that it basically feels like one. It’s quite cramped, but that works positively for the vibe.

The coffee beans are those of Mojo, so I was immediately looking forward to my coffee arriving. The menu itself was rather plain; I wasn’t sure whether to keep it simple or to mix it up. I opted nervously for a chicken quasedilla with fries, and I kid you not, it was absolutely delicious. I had such a good meal here that I wouldn’t hesitate in coming back to order the exact same thing again. I also tried the open chicken sandwich, which was also pretty nice, but not as delicious as mine.

Overall this place exceeded my rather low expectations, and while the overall experience was good, The Riddiford probably needs to up its game if it wants to stay in competition with the other fantastic options Newtown has to offer.

Mac’n’cheese

Mac’n’cheese

Mac’n’cheese is such an understated dish. We all had it growing up, and I remember it as one of those dishes that was heavy, stodgy and boring. But I think that the mac’n’cheese movement has begun, and now it’s not uncommon to see reinvented versions of this comfort meal on various menus about town. We thought we’d give it a crack at home one weekend, and I think we were both pleasantly surprised at just how delicious it was. It’s a cost efficient dish, it doesn’t take long, and naturally, we made extra that we could freeze for some later meals during the week. You can add more vegetables than what we did if you want to make it more healthy, but I think the key is to make sure you dice them pretty small, so that it doesn’t take away from the macaroni itself.

Collect

  • 6 rashers streaky bacon
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 capsicum, diced
  • 1 packet of macaroni
  • 3 T flour
  • 50 g butter
  • 6 T milk
  • 1/2 c parmesan, grated
  • 1 c cheese, grated (we used edam, but you can use anything really)
  • 1 t paprika
  • 1 t nutmeg
  • 3 T breadcrumbs

Create

  1. Cook the bacon in a pan. Remove the bacon and leave it to sit on a paper towel. In the same pan (using the bacon juices) cook the garlic, onion and capsicum until soft. Set aside.
  2. Cook the macaroni pasta in a separate pot.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, create a white sauce by melting the butter in a pan, adding the flour to form a paste and then slowly adding the milk into it forms a sauce. Gradually add the parmesan, and keep stirring so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  4. In a casserole dish, spread the macaroni evenly across the dish. Add the onion, garlic and capsicum and then pour the white sauce across making sure that all of the macaroni is covered.
  5. Spread the grated cheese across the top, sprinkle with paprika, nutmeg and finally the breadcrumbs.
  6. Bake in oven for about 30 minutes (or until golden) at 180°C.
The Barrio Brothers

The Barrio Brothers

The Barrio Brothers (100 Maunganui Road)

A festive wee spot in the heart of Mt Maunganui, The Barrio Brothers serves up some delicious food and clearly has a good time doing it. The staff are all super friendly; they all seem to love working there! The menu is classic Mexican, with a number of tapa style sharable snacks, plus some bigger meals that you can then go on to eat for dinner. The cocktail menu is tasty (not that I ever look past the margaritas) and they serve margaritas (both frozen and unfrozen) by the pitcher – with flavours changing daily.

If you want to visit here, I would definitely recommend booking as the place always seems pretty lively!

Refried Bean and Chorizo Quesadillas with Salsa

Refried Bean and Chorizo Quesadillas with Salsa

My flatmate and I have just started cooking for each other once a week, just so that we aren’t required to cook every single night. Inclusive of our partners, last night was the inaugural feast. Sticking with my goal of one new recipe a week, I thought I’d give quesadillas a crack. They were an absolute success, although next time I would cook them only in the oven – and not on the stove top as was suggested. The oven crisped them up far better than what the stove did, and you could also cook multiple at once (my recipe below describes how to do it in the oven). To serve the quesadillas, we cut them into quarters and stacked them on the plate – yum! Paired alongside some yummy salsa, avocado and crunchy Asian slaw we had a real delight of a flat dinner. Can’t wait for the next one!

Collect

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 c corn kernels
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 T jalapeno (optional)
  • 2 – 3 sticks chorizo
  • 4 handfuls baby spinach
  • 6 tortilla wraps
  • 1.5 c grated cheese (or more if you’re a lover!)

For the salsa:

  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 1 t jalapenos
  • 1/2 c fresh coriander
  • lime/lemon juice
  • drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Create

  1. Turn the oven onto 180°C fan bake.
  2. Heat olive oil in a pan. Once hot, add the onion, garlic, paprika and cumin. Let the onion soften before adding the tomato paste. Take of the heat and add the corn, jalapeno, refried beans and chorizo.
  3. Line a baking tray with baking paper and lie the tortilla flat. Spread 1/3 of the bean mixture on top, then scatter over the baby spinach. Lastly top with cheese (the more the better in my opinion!). Put a tortilla on top, and press down gently but firmly, trying to close off the edges. Repeat twice more to make up three quesadillas.
  4. Put into the oven and after 5 or so minutes, turn them over. Serve golden brown.
  5. Meanwhile, combine all the salsa ingredients to serve.

Poppies

Poppies

Poppies (91 Puruatanga Road, Martinborough)

Ever since I moved to Wellington Poppies had been on my bucket list. All the people at work talked about it, my friends talked about, even people I didn’t know talked about it. I knew I had to get there and I just had to find an opportunity. An overseas friend came to visit New Zealand, and I thought perfect, here’s that opportunity. We turned up at Poppies, only to be told they were well and truly booked, because it was Valentine’s Day after all. To us Valentine-less gals, that thought had not even crossed our minds!

The following year, I actually had a valentine of my own, and made sure to make the booking well in advance. We turned up for our 12pm booking, only to be told that they had no booking for us, and not even my call to make the booking had been logged. As I tried to (unsuccessfully) hide my dismay, the maître d offered to take my number and give me a call if a table cleared up early. Of course, we jumped on that opportunity and headed home to lie by the pool… and wait.

Luckily for us, a phone call came about an hour later and we headed straight back to Poppies. We were seated outside, and being an extremely beautiful day we were both stoked. The wine tasting room inside was pretty full, so Shayne Hammond (the partner to Poppy herself) came out and conducted our very own personal wine tasting. We were so happy. The wine was absolutely delicious – favourites being the rose, and also the dry riesling.

And then the food, wow! The food at Poppies is all the same: giant, big platters that come out with a massive array of antipasto goodies on them. They are so delicious, and so beautifully presented. We were literally in heaven. We weren’t ready for the dream to end, so we ordered dessert on top of the platter. Both desserts sounded sensational and we almost ordered both; thankfully we didn’t, because it was big enough for the both of us.

Overall, a very successful day out. A trip well worth making from Wellington, even better if you can make a weekend of it.

Traditional Greek Lamb Moussaka

Traditional Greek Lamb Moussaka

This dish is certainly one that makes you go nom! A perfect dish to cook up for the family, or a warming dish for a cosy Sunday evening and then leftovers for the days following. There is a bit of an art to making a moussaka; similarly to lasagne,  some patience is required when making the meat sauce. It is so well worth it though, it is seriously one of the best things I have made all year.

Collect

For the meat sauce

  • 750 g lamb mince
  • 2 red onions
  • 2 garlic
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 T puree
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 glass red wine
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 c olive oil

For the bechamel sauce

  • 3 – 5 c milk
  • 120 g butter
  • 120 g flour
  • nutmeg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 100 g parmesan

Vegetables

  • 3 – 4 eggplants
  • salt
  • olive oil

Create

  1. Begin by slicing the eggplants approximately 1cm thick. It is optional whether you peel the eggplants first; I always would because I find the skin can be quite tough and chewy.
  2. Season the eggplants with salt and leave to sit for approximately 30 minutes. This serves to dry them out.
  3. Rinse off the salt and squeeze out any excess water.
  4. Drizzle with oil to fry/bake.

For the meat sauce

  1. In a pan, add oil, onion, garlic, tomato puree and mince. Pour in the red wine and wait for it to evaporate. Add the tinned tomatoes, sugar, cinnamon, 1 bay leaf and salt and pepper.
  2. Bring to a boil before reducing, covering and simmering for at least 30 minutes.

For the bechamel sauce

  1. On a low heat, melt the butter and then add the flour.
  2. Whisk until it forms a paste.
  3. Add the milk in a steady stream, continuing to whisk.
  4. When almost ready, add the egg yolks, salt and pepper, nutmeg and cheese.
  5. Whisk fast so that it doesn’t form an omelette.

To assemble

  1. Grease a baking dish.
  2. Layer the eggplants across the bottom.
  3. Pour in meat, and follow with a second layer of eggplants.
  4. Top with bechamel.
  5. Sprinkle with cheese.
  6. Bake for 60 minutes at 180°C.