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XuXu Dumpling Bar

XuXu Dumpling Bar

XuXu Dumpling Bar (Corner of Galway and Commerce Streets)

Talk about a secret little hideaway. This place is in such a central location, yet it is such an easy place to miss. Right across the road from the Britomart Train Station, it makes for not just a delicious stop, but a convenient stop – especially as the food comes out extremely quickly. My partner and I stopped in on our way to Matilda the Musical, and boy were we in for a treat. The cocktail menu is large (albeit pricey), each sounding just as delicious as the next. The dumpling menu was exciting too; quite a few to choose from. Ironically, our favourite savoury dish of the night was the pork steamed buns – they were so hot and flavoursome we had to really resist ordering more.

I would aim to save a little spot in your tummy for dessert, because the dessert dumplings are not just unique, they are also delicious! We tried the chocolate fondue dumplings (which are pictured above, and were designed to look like little mandarins), made from a kumara (/sweet potato) pastry and had decadent chocolate ooziness inside. Believe it or not, the banoffee dumplings actually took the win in terms of taste (also pictured above), the little pieces of fresh banana combined with the sweet caramel were of just the right consistency to create a bite full of goodness!

Banoffee Pie

Banoffee Pie

Growing up banoffee pie was always a favourite dessert of mine. Lonestar, a massive chain restaurant serving southern U.S. style food used to have it on its menu, and in my eyes it was always the stand-out dessert. Banoffee nails the mixture of some of my favourite foods and textures: fresh banana, creaminess, pastry/biscuit base, sweet but not-too-sickly caramel and of course, chocolate. It is relatively easy to put together; you just have to organise each element separately and then bring it all together before serving.

Collect

  • 100 g melted butter
  • 250 g crushed biscuits (digestives work well)
  • 100 g butter
  • 100 g brown sugar
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 3 bananas
  • 1 c cream, whipped
  • 1 t vanilla (added to the cream before whipping)
  • grated chocolate, to garnish
Create
  1. Crush the biscuits. Pour in the melted butter and mix. Spoon the mixture into a pie dish and press it against the bottom and sides of the dish. Chill for ten minutes.
  2. Melt the butter and sugar in a pan, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Add the condensed milk and bring to a rapid boil for about a minute – don’t stop stirring! Once the caramel is golden, spread it over the base of the pie and then refrigerate for about an hour (or until firm).
  3. Shift the pie from the dish onto a serving place. Slice the banana, and place it carefully over the caramel.
  4. Whip the cream and vanilla and spoon over the top.
  5. Garnish with the grated chocolate.
Akarua Wines & Kitchen

Akarua Wines & Kitchen

Akarua Wines & Kitchen (265 Arrowtown – Lake Hayes Road, Arrowtown)

 

Previously known as Walnut Cottage, Akarua is a cutesy little cottage located just out of Arrowtown, not much further than Millbrook. After pulling into the gravel carpark, we made our way to the entrance across the sun-streamed patio and outdoor tables. We were welcomed at the door and seated immediately, despite not having a booking. Given that it was winter, we were torn whether to sit inside or out, but the sun-streamed patio really was too good to turn down.

As we sat, our waitress told us about the daily specials and we were all super impressed to hear that all of the fish dishes were actually different types of fish (not just the stock standard ‘tarakihi’ – which is delicious mind you). I found the roasted parsnip and pear soup just too delicious sounding to resist, and I was stoked to see the big bowl of fried ciabatta that came out for the table for dunking. The meals were all very well balanced, delicate and absolutely beautiful to look at.

The prices were definitely above average, but it was definitely a ‘pay for what you get for’ type lunch because the food really was outstanding. I had a warming glass of mulled wine that was extremely aromatic.

Around the back of the restaurant (by the toilets) is a massive sandpit which seemed like a really good way to keep the kids entertained while the adults enjoy a longer lunch. I would definitely recommend this spot!

Poached Pears in Chocolate Brownie

Poached Pears in Chocolate Brownie

What a delectable dessert. It’s a rich, fudgey brownie, but the freshly poached pears lighten it somewhat, making it not so sweet and extremely more-ish. Poaching the pears is definitely what takes the longest, but that is really a matter of chucking everything into a pot and leaving it to simmer for almost an hour. I didn’t have a great dish for cooking – it would be ideal to have separate ramekins for each pear, but I just used half of a casserole dish. While this didn’t present quite so well, because there was more to cook it meant that the brownie was perhaps more gooey than it may have been otherwise.

Collect

  • 4 brown pears, peeled and cored (but leave the stalk so that you have something to grab them by)
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 vanilla pod or 1 T vanilla essence
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 3 star anise
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c caster sugar
  • 200 g dark chocolate
  • 120 g butter
  • 1/2 c caster sugar
  • 1/4 c plain flour
  • 3 eggs
  • icing sugar, to dust
  • vanilla ice-cream, to serve

Create

  1. In a pot, add the pears, water, vanilla, cinnamon, star anise, brown sugar and first measure of caster sugar. Bring to a boil and cover with a lid. Leave to simmer for about 45 minutes (you don’t want the pears to be too soft).
  2. Preheat oven to 200°C bake.
  3. In one bowl, melt the chocolate and the butter.
  4. Separately, mix the second measure of caster sugar, flour and eggs. Stir through the melted chocolate.
  5. In a dish (casserole or ramekin) sit each of the pears. Pour the chocolate brownie mixture into the dish, so that hopefully the mixture reaches about 2/3 of the way up the pear. You may need to turn or rotate the pears to ensure better coverage.
  6. Bake the pears in the brownie for about 20 minutes. The less you cook it the more gooey the brownie will be, but I suppose there is a limit to where you might just find yourself eating batter!
  7. Serve with ice-cream or yoghurt and a light dusting of icing sugar.
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.

Lemon and Coconut Cups

Lemon and Coconut Cups

These delicious little gems are the best ‘cleaneats’ treat I’ve made to date. The lemon cream is just so tangy and refreshing, and the tarts as a whole are surprisingly filling. They are also pretty easy to make, in that there is no oven required – rather they just get frozen. Also, the turmeric gives them a bright yellow colour, which could never be achieved from lemons alone (and it adds extra health benefits!). I like to eat them straight from the freezer, but people I’ve served them to have definitely commented they should thaw for 10 or so minutes before eating.

Collect

For the base

  • 1 c cashew
  • 1 c desiccated coconut
  • 10 dates

For the lemon cream

  • 1 c cashew (soaked for 30 minutes in water)
  • 3 T coconut milk
  • 2 T oil
  • Juice and zest of 5 lemons
  • 1/2 t turmeric
  • 3 T maple syrup

Create

  1. Food process all the ingredients for the base. If it isn’t sticky enough, add an extra date or two.
  2. Line a muffin tin with baking cups and press the mixture into the moulds.
  3. Refrigerate while making the lemon cream.
  4. To make the lemon cream but everything into a food processor and whizz.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the moulds and freeze.
Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee

Time to get fancy! I have always loved creme brulee, and have always thought of it as a highly complex dish. Once I decided that I wanted to make it though, I realised that perhaps it wasn’t that difficult – rather the gas torch just makes it look extremely flash, and I suppose you could get it wrong if the custard mixture were to separate. I have made it a few times now, and have started experimenting with some different flavours. I definitely think it’s hard to go past creme brulee in it’s most pure form though – just good ol’ vanilla bean. If you want to make creme brulee, you should make it the night before you want to serve it so that it can set over night and all you have to worry about on the day is the sugar layer.

Collect

  • 250 ml cream
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 50 g caster sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 T caster sugar (you can also use muscovado sugar for the torching, but I found that caster sugar worked better)
  • [optional: 100 g white chocolate]

Create

  1. 150°C bake.
  2. Pour cream into a small saucepan.
  3. Cut a slit along the length of the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds into the cream. Add the empty pod into the cream also. If you wanted to add chocolate to the brulee, now is the time that you should add it.
  4. Heat the cream so that it doesn’t quite boil.
  5. Take the pan off the heat and leave it for 5 minutes to infuse the cream with the vanilla.
  6. Whisk the caster sugar and egg yolks together in a bowl and slowly whisk in the hot cream.
  7. Strain into jug.
  8. Sit 6 ramekins in a roasting tin, fill halfway with hot water.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven, cool and then chill overnight in the fridge.
  11. Sprinkle with a think layer of caster (or muscovado) sugar. Blowtorch if possible, otherwise it is possible to just grill them so that the sugar caramelises.
  12. Refrigerate until the sugar is hard / until serving (at least 15 minutes).

Chocolate Mud Cake (gluten free)

Chocolate Mud Cake (gluten free)

This cake is absolutely to die for. It is so dense and gooey and rich and moist – everything a cake should be. I think if I were to make it again I would go easy on the decorating – this occasion was for my flatmates birthday and I got a bit carried away on the chocolate front! It is hard to believe that something this delicious is gluten free, but it just goes to prove how far we’ve come since the days where gluten-free food tasted like nothing but cardboard!

Collect

  • 250 g butter
  • 250 g chocolate (I would recommend Whittaker’s 62% cocoa)
  • 5 eggs
  • 1.5 c caster sugar
  • 1/2 c strong black coffee, cooled (or you could substitute for milk)
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 c almond meal
  • 3/4 coconut flour
  • 1/3 c dark baking cocoa
  • 2/5 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt

Create

  1. 160°C Bake. Line the tin with baking paper and place the rack just below the middle of the oven.
  2. Melt chocolate and butter.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the ground almonds, flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Stir.
  4. In another separate bowl, add eggs, sugar, coffee and vanilla in a bowl and beat for about 30 seconds.
  5. Add to the melted chocolate and whisk to create a smooth batter.
  6. Add the almond flour mixture and stir until evenly combined.
  7. Scrape into tin and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  8. Cool in tin for about 10 minutes and then put on a rack.

If you also want to ice the cake:

Collect

  • 1.5 c icing sugar
  • 1 T cocoa
  • 50 g butter
  • 2 T hot water

Create

  1. Combine icing sugar and cocoa powder.
  2. Add softened butter and pour in the hot water.
  3. Mix, adding more hot water until it is the desired consistency.

 

Saucy Chocolate Pudding

Saucy Chocolate Pudding

It’s hearty, warm and delicious. I can’t claim full credit for this recipe, it’s one that I have stolen from Chelsea Winter – and like almost all of her recipes, it was simple yet still a massive crowd-pleaser. At a recent dinner party, everybody kept asking me whether they could have my ‘secret’ recipe; nobody could believe it when I said I’d just pulled it from the recipe book on the shelf over there. I think the key to absolutely nailing this dish is to put it in the oven at the last possible minute, so it comes out piping hot and just oozing with chocolate.

Collect

  • 250 g dark chocolate (I would always use Whittaker’s!)
  • 200 g cubed butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 c caster sugar
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 3/4 c flour
  • 3/4 t baking powder
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/3 c cocoa
  • 3/4 boiling water
  • 3/4 c cream, warmed

Create

  1. 180°C bake. Grease the dish.
  2. Melt the chocolate. Once smooth, add the butter and stir.
  3. Place the egg yolks, eggs, sugar and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl and beat for 30 seconds with an electric mixer until thick, creamy and pale.
  4. Using a spatula, fold the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture to combine.
  5. Sift in the flour and baking powder, and fold again to combine to a smooth batter.
  6. Scrape into a baking dish.
  7. Put the brown sugar and cocoa into a heatproof bowl, pour in hot water and cream and whisk to combine.
  8. Gently pour over the top of the pudding mixture.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes.
  10. Dust with icing sugar and serve with ice-cream.

Boulcott Street Bistro

Boulcott Street Bistro

Boulcott Street Bistro (99 Boulcott Street)http://boulcottstreetbistro.co.nz/

I had heard so much about this cute little place before I went, and I had been dying to go for ages. Finally, I found a reason to head up there. They don’t take bookings after six, which really worked in my favour, as we were pretty disorganised about our attendance. Arriving just after 8, it was approximately a half hour wait before we could get a table. The service was great; every one was really happy to answer any questions that we had about the menu, and we didn’t feel neglected for even a moment, despite them being really busy. The place was actually bigger than I realised, basically with two separate compartments to the restaurant in addition to the bar. The place had heaps of natural lighting considering how small it was, so that added to it feeling even more spacious. The menu was pretty small (but no complaints, as everything looked sensational!) but besides a bunch of entrees and a handful of desserts, there was essentially a main course for every kind of meat (so lamb, chicken, duck, fish, pork, beef). Everything we had was cooked to absolute perfection, so it is definitely a place you could go to try something new, as you can also guarantee that it will be 10/10. There is also a voucher for it in the Entertainment Book (just to add another incentive to go!).