Mouth-watering meals to savour

ELIZABETH LATHAM
Last updated 14:42 04/10/2013
Cactus
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ

SATISFYING: Chorizo and leek quiche.

Cactus
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ
SIGNATURE DISH: Spaghetti Carbonara served at Comida Espresso.
Cactus
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ
VIBRANT: A broccoli, olive, roasted peppers and pine nut salad with the Spaghetti Carbonara.
Cactus
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ
DECADENCE: Slow-cooked pork belly and truffle mash.

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Comida Espresso and Wine Bar is the name of the restaurant end of Prego Mediterranean Foods in Collingwood St, Nelson. Incidentally and aptly, comida is the Spanish word for food.

Mac and Claudia, the owners of this great store-cum-cafe, say on their menu that they have taken inspiration from the countries around the Mediterranean, yet wherever possible they use house-made or locally sourced ingredients.

As a food lover, I really appreciate the fact that they honour the Mediterranean and all its fabulous cuisines, from Moroccan to Italian, Greek, Spanish and French, yet reflect all that back into also honouring local ingredients and creating local food our way. In other words, adapting the best of the old world to the best of the new. What could be better?

It is an excellent part of our local food scene to have somewhere you can buy high-quality items such as the best of Italian cheeses, prosciutto and other cured meats from Italy, high-quality dried pasta, risotto rice, olives, tomato products, herbs and spices, as well as local olive oils, fresh pasta, freshly made pork and fennel sausages - the list goes on. Top that off with a cafe where these products and many more are put to great use.

Comida the cafe is a breakfast and lunch restaurant as well as a wine bar. As time passes, maybe the signature dish will be its spaghetti carbonara. Mac and Claudia's recipe is an authentic one and not some poor imitation. I can assure you that it is completely delicious.

As summer rolls on, they are planning early-evening tapas and wine. They are also planning evenings of food demonstrations, degustation dinners with a learning component, and more.

Mac and Claudia bought the Mediterranean Food Warehouse retail store in Halifax St in 2007, and at first ran it strictly as a shop. But customer requests - "Can you make some sandwiches with all these lovely ingredients?" - brought the store-cafe concept to life.

They have invested in a world-class oven which allows them to slow-cook while they sleep. They want healthy, nutritious food in healthy portions. They believe that good ingredients and good equipment equals good food.

Experienced Mediterranean food chef Dean Sincock has been instrumental in creating the menu with them. Dishes such as free range pork belly with truffle potato mash, red cabbage and grilled pepper slaw make my mouth water just thinking about them!

SPAGHETTI CARBONARA

Serves 4

400-500g spaghetti
1 Tbsp butter
150g pancetta, cut into fine strips
1 onion, finely chopped
3 eggs
100g grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano, or 50g Parmigiano and 50g Pecorino
Black pepper, freshly ground
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

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Put the spaghetti in a large, well-salted pot of boiling water and cook until al dente.

Melt the butter in a frying pan. Add the pancetta and onion and cook until the onion is soft.

Once spaghetti is cooked, add it to the pancetta and onion and mix.

Mix the eggs, parmigiano, pepper and nutmeg in a slightly warmed metal bowl.

Add the spaghetti and mix immediately with two forks - the heat from the spaghetti will cook the eggs.

Serve with a little additional cheese as garnish.

CHORIZO AND SPINACH QUICHE

Pastry:

100g cold butter
175g plain flour
60ml cold water

Quiche batter:

2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
125ml cream
125ml full cream milk
tsp salt
tsp pepper
tsp freshly ground nutmeg

Filling:

1 good-quality spanish chorizo, finely diced
1 leek, finely diced
cup grated gruyere cheese.

For the pastry: Chop the butter into evenly sized medium chunks and place in a food processor with the flour.

Pulse until the butter is incorporated into the flour (it will almost resemble fine breadcrumbs).

Tip the mixture into a bowl and add the cold water. Using your fingertips, bring the wet and dry ingredients together, then gently knead the dough into a ball. Rest for 1 hour in the fridge.

To make the batter. Whisk all the batter ingredients together well and set aside.

For the filling: Saute the leeks gently in some butter, then do the same with the chorizo. Set aside.

Weigh the pastry into 60g lots (this will depend on the size of your moulds).

Roll out, then line 4 or 5 quiche or pie moulds.

Place the grated cheese in first, then the chorizo and leek mix, then fill with the batter until nine-tenths of the way up the pastry.

Bake at 175 degrees C for 15 to 20 minutes.

PORK BELLY AND TRUFFLE POTATO MASH

Serves 4

1kg pork belly, preferably free-range
4 medium agria potatoes
50g butter
100ml milk
1 tsp truffle oil
Salt and pepper
tsp fennel seeds, crushed
tsp dried chilli
Juice of half a lemon

Red cabbage and pear slaw:

100g red cabbage
50g savoy cabbage
2 whole bosc pears
cup coriander leaves
cup mint

Dressing:

30g brown sugar

50g maple syrup

25ml lime juice

25ml extra virgin olive oil

1 stalk lemongrass, finely sliced (optional) Cut the pork skin at 1cm intervals, then rub with the salt, pepper, crushed fennel seeds, chilli and lemon juice. Roast at 190C for 20 minutes, then at 160C for 1 hours. Remove and allow to rest.

To make the dressing, combine the brown sugar, maple syrup and lime juice in a pot. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until syrupy. Cool, stir in the oil and set aside.

Prepare the slaw by coring the pears, then cutting them lengthways into sixths. Toss in olive oil, then grill on a griddle or frying pan. Finely slice both cabbages, then set aside in the fridge.

Make the mash by peeling the potatoes and cutting them into equal-sized cubes. Boil in well-salted water and drain in a colander. In another bowl, combine the butter, milk and truffle oil, then pass the hot potato (important) through a sieve into the mixture, stirring gently while the butter melts. Once melted, whisk to incorporate some air, then season with salt and pepper.

To serve, toss the salad and most of the dressing together. Plate the mash and slaw, then slice the pork and place over the mash. Drizzle remaining dressing around plate.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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