Canberra Centre’s Lifestyle precinct in Monaro Mall is celebrating its first birthday on Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 November. The precinct will come alive with cooking demonstrations, champagne, live entertainment and giveaways.
Cooking queen’s, Sammy and Bella – winners of My Kitchen Rules 2011 and hosts of Channel Ten’s Kitchen Rescue – will be showing off their skills in both a morning (10am) and afternoon (1pm) cooking demonstration with a focus on how to cook a luxury dinner party. A skill we all could use coming into the silly season! Partnering with Tallangandra Hill Wines, Canberra Centre’s Pop-up Champagne Bar will pair wines to canapés prepared by Sammy and Bella.
Warning this interview will make you fall in love with Bella so get your tickets through the Canberra Centre website: canberracentre.com.au to watch their demo.
What can we learn from your Canberra Centre cooking demo?
How to cook the ultimate pre-prepared dinner party – delicious food without the stress, and NOTHING is left to the last minute
When should we go luxe at the dinner table and when should we keep it simple?
Well, it can be both. A simple table can be dressed with luxury products everyday. Our mum always taught us to use the good china everyday, and it made every meal feel special, even if it was a simple schnitty! That way you don’t need to go overboard with table styling to make everyday feel special – always keep a small but beautifully scented candle, a nice table runner, and a small indoors pot plant on the table.
But if you want to show off a bit, you can make a table more complex. Have a collection of different coloured items which go together. For example, my house is very much about textured white linen, brown glass, dove grey, and aqua. You can collect a bunch of different decorations, such as placemats, napkin rings, and glassware. You can even print out a menu – there are loads of great design templates on programs like canva. Cut flowers can be so special as a centrepiece, you can even just grab something from your garden or you can also try using beautiful fruits and vegetables to decorate, such as a pomegranate cut in half. Fabric napkins always makes a meal feel more luxurious. I (Bella) use white linen napkins at my restaurant, they are a pain in the backside to wash every week but it’s worth it because they really elevate a meal.
I try to do 1 proper “date night” in with my husband every week and make sure I do something special.
Do you need to be fairly good in the kitchen to be able to pull off a luxe dinner party – or can beginners also relate?
You can definitely do it as a beginner! Sometimes luxury isn’t about complicated cooking techniques, but more about the actual ingredients. So if you love shopping, you can serve a fabulous meal! Try buffalo burrata, a luxurious Italian soft white cheese. It’s a fantastic starter and you don’t need to do much to it – drizzle with the best quality olive oil, a min 15yo balsamic, and some flake salt.
What’s on the menu for your demonstration?
Entrée/Canape is lemon myrtle cured salmon with rye bread – a restaurant style dish that’s easier than you think to make at home.
Main: Beef burgundy, a classic slow cooked beef dish. Perfect to make the day before.
Side: Celeriac salad, we show you how to take this humble and kind of ugly looking vegetable and create magic.
Dessert: tea scented pannacotta – set in glasses so you don’t even have to turn it out!
What do you hope locals take from away from this demo?
Canberra has an amazing restaurant scene – and the locals certainly know how to eat well. I want to give people the confidence to cook restaurant quality food at home with fool-proof recipes that can all be prepared the day before. I particularly want locals to fall in love with some native spices – like the lemon myrtle. They are sustainable and yummy.
What produce do you like working with this time of year?
Right now I’m obsessed with strawberries. It breaks my heart to see how many farmers are doing it tough in the drought, and particularly the strawberry farmers whose industry has been rocket by the recent scandals. I’ve been putting strawberries on everything – even in savoury salads, they’re so tasty this time of year.
What inspired your passion for food?
I’m going to be honest here – it all started with a passion for eating. Yup, I LOVE eating! My parents were always great cooks, and we come from a long line of amazing female chefs. My great grandmother was a chef at a presbytery in a small town not far from Warsaw, Poland. After that, my grandmother was a diplomatic chef at Embassies in Poland. So I grew up eating well – and helping out in the kitchen. The love of food definitely came from my family.
Do you have a favourite restaurant in Canberra?
I have an extremely large obsession with Korean fried chicken so when Gami opened at the Canberra Centre recently I almost cried! It’s so good! For a date night, I always love Kokomos. For family meals, I love the Fillos Taverna at the Hellenic club. For pure “me time” in love CBD Dumpling house. And of course there’s my restaurant – Bella’s at Tallagandra Hill. My favourite part about cooking there is being able to match the food to the wines, which are grown right on the property. Canberra is so lucky to have so many amazing Murrumbateman wineries within such a short drive of civic.
Where has life led you since MKR / what has been your favourite field to dabble in?
Life has been insane since MKR – it’s been 9 years! I’ve run a catering business in Sydney for many years, and moved to Canberra when I married a local boy. The one thing I love more than anything else (well, asides from hubby) is cooking! Everything I do revolves around cooking. My restaurant at Tallagandra Hill winery is going gangbusters, we recently launched Sunday bubbly brunch and it’s been a real hit. Sammy and I also produced (and are hosts of) our own TV show Kitchen Rescue on channel. It’s been a huge learning curve – producing a TV show is a whole another kettle of fish, so to speak. We are really proud that we actually pulled it off, and we have been asked to come back for a second season.
Bella, how did you meet your reality TV husband?
Ha! I knew you’d ask this question! He’s a born and bred Canberra boy, but moved to Sydney “to find a wife” – that’s where he got approached to be on Married at First Sight. I feel mean for saying this – but I’m really glad the sham marriage didn’t work out because otherwise we would never have met!
It wasn’t until a few years later that we met… he was throwing a Bondi house party for one of his best friends birthdays, which I was invited to. I thought he was awesome the moment I laid eyes on him – how many guys cook for 40 people and let their house get trashed, just to do something nice for a friend? He’s a great cook, he won me over with his famous salsa 😉
We didn’t go on a date straight away though – I was a bit shy and burnt by a previous relationship. So we talked on the phone for over a month. We realised that we held the same values… he’s a country boy at heart and has a great sense of community spirit and is really down to earth – nothing like some of the superficial people I’m more used to meeting. So it was… LOVE at first sight. We got married in Bungendore (which is where we will settle) and had our wedding on his family olive oil farm. It was so perfect – that now we’re opening up a wedding venue! Watch this space….
Monaro Mall’s lifestyle precinct is located in Canberra Centre, level 1, opposite the Apple store.