summer red


smokey paprika potato salad 

I have no problems admitting it. I’m a seasonal drinker. OK, so not when it comes to Champagne, which is the perfect drink for any occasion or mood (and I really couldn’t put it better than Madame Lilly Bollinger). But when it comes to table wines, I find my thirst guided by the climate. In the summer my fridge tends to be stocked with a healthy contingent of crisp dry whites with Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Semillon this years faves. But I know this is a passing phase and when the days shorten and I contemplate bringing my ugg boots back on duty, that I will no longer be turning to the fridge for my evening tipple. No friends, without a doubt Mr Shiraz and Mr Pinot Noir will be back among my closer acquaintances.

Like all rules, of course, there are times when exceptions just must be made. And over Christmas, while I was cleaning out my meagre wine cellar that is located safely at my parent’s farm, I chanced upon a bottle of red that was screaming out for immediate consumption. The bottle in question was a 1990 Wynns Cabernet Sauvignon from one of Australia’s best Cabernet regions: the deliciously red soiled Coonawarra. There was no way I was going to be able to wait until winter to crack this treasure.

The wine had been a wedding gift from my naughty, but always entertaining friends, Ades and Robbie. Thankfully friendships and wine can continue when sometimes marriages do not. A date was made for a Sunday evening soiree with my generous friends, their gorgeous gals, and the lovely Missy Helgs. And I put my thoughts towards planning a menu that would do justice to this fine old red on a balmy Sydney summer night.

Lamb and aged Cabernet are best mates that go way back just like summer nights and BBQs. So it was a no-brainer really to combine the lot and throw in a couple of salads to complete the mix. Lamb cutlets are perfect for entertaining. Always tender and quick to cook, they look good and are usually at the top of my list when I’m thinking about red meat on the BBQ.

A new-years-resolution-vegetarian to cater for proved no problems. Years ago the mushroom growers association in Australia ran an advertising campaign claiming that they were ‘meat for vegetarians’. I think this was a reference to mushies being the only natural non-animal source of Vitamin B12. But mushrooms on the BBQ are a thing of beauty and make a perfect substitute for most meats. So I kept aside a little of the lamb marinade and then drizzled this over a couple of field mushrooms before baking them as a pre-cooking step. When it was time to BBQ they went on next to the lamb and were done in about the same time. My only mistake was to not include enough mushies for the carnivores as well. There were plenty of envious comments around the table when the lovely Jo-Rabbit was served her hot feta dressed special dish.

A cold starter in the form of lush buttery potted crab with toasted baguette made a lovely warm weather first course particularly when teamed with the cooling crunch of celery sticks. And as for dessert? It’s hard to beat a good sorbet, especially when it is apricot season and you have a stash of perfectly ripe specimens. Delicious and healthy……..all good things.

a summer BBQ worthy of a decent old red
potted crab with celery & toasted baguette
BBQ lamb cutlets (or field mushrooms) with hot feta dressing
smokey paprika potato salad
green bean, baby spinach & hazelnut salad
apricot sorbet w macadamia bread

potted crab w celery & toasted baguette
serves 6-8 as a starter
Adapted form Jamie Oliver’s latest offering, Cook With Jamie

Crab is one of my absolute favourite things. And while I’m always happy to roll up my sleeves and go fossicking for every last delicious morsel, I understand that at a dinner some people prefer their crab in a more readily accessible form.

This potted crab is a great little starter as it can be made ahead of time (it will keep for at least 5 days in the fridge) and negates the need for messy finger bowls. Prawns or lobster would also work well with this treatment. I’m thinking about including this on my next picnic.

200g cooked crab meat (approx 2 mudcrabs or 3 large blue swimmers)
1/2t fennel seeds
1 small chilli
zest 1 lemon
pinch grated nutmeg
chopped fennel tops
150g unsalted butter, softened
juice 1/2 to 1 lemon
small handful fennel tops or chopped parsley leaves
toasted baguette, to serve
celery sticks, to serve

Combine fennel, chilli and lemon zest in a mortar and pestle and pound until the fennel is well crushed. Add crab, nutmeg and half the butter and stir until well combined. Season with salt & pepper, keeping in mind that cold things need more salt and then add lemon juice to taste. Pack crab mixture into two small ramekins or pots. Melt remaining butter and pour over the crab to form a lid. Sprinkle with fennel or celery and refrigerate for at least half and hour or until ready to serve.

BBQ lamb cutlets with hot feta dressing
serves 6
Adapted from Karen Martini in Where The Heart Is.

As Karen says, the hot feta dressing is just as good as it sounds. It is great with BBQ lamb or mushrooms and I’m thinking it would also jazz up BBQ chicken. If using mushrooms, just drizzle them with a little marinade and bake for approx 10mins at 200C or until almost cooked. Then when ready to serve BBQ as per the lamb and serve with the dressing.

18 lamb cutlets, trimmed (or a combination of medium field mushrooms and cutlets)
for the marinade:
5 cloves garlic, chopped
3T dried oregano
1/2 bunch fresh oregano, leaves picked
2T red wine vinegar
1/2 lemon, juiced
5T olive oil
2 dried red chillis, crumbled
for the dressing:
1 clove garlic
2t dijon mustard
3T red wine vinegar
juice 1/2 lemon
100mL extra virgin olive oil
250g marinated feta
small handful ligurian olives
1/2 bunch oregano, leaves picked

Combine marinade ingredients and season. Place lamb in a ceramic dish and smother in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate ideally over night or as long as you’ve got. Remembering to bring the lamb to room temperature before cooking.

Preheat a BBQ or char grill until very hot. Drain lamb from the marinade and cook for 2-3 minutes each side or until cooked to your liking. Place lamb on a serving platter to rest while you make the dressing. Combine dressing ingredients except oregano in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Stir through oregano leaves then drizzle hot dressing over the lamb and serve immediately.

smokey paprika potato salad
serves 8
An amalgamation of potato salad recipes by Emma Knowles in the Jan 07 Australian Gourmet Traveller, the lovely Clotilde from Chocolate & Zucchini, and Rose Carrarini in Breakfast Lunch Tea Rose Bakery.

Potato salads are great for BBQs and picnics because they can be made ahead and left until you are ready to eat and they tend to be good travellers. The mustard and leek dressing from Emma is much more flavoursome than your standard gloopy mayonnaise potato salad and has the added bonus of complementing rather than drowning out the flavour of the potatoes.

The idea to bake the potatoes rather than boil was from Rose and added a lovely dimension to the salad. Clotilde’s inspiration was the addition of sweet smokey paprika, one of my all time favourite spices that adds a lovely almost meaty dimension to the salad, or as Clotilde charmingly describes it the ‘phantom of chorizo’. Chorizo for vegetarians if you will.

1.3kg kipfler potatoes (or other waxy potatoes), scrubbed and thickly sliced
3T olive oil
1 leek, sliced
100mL extra virgin olive oil
1T yellow mustard seeds
2T sherry vinegar
2T lemon juice
1t sweet smokey paprika
zest 1 lemon
1/2 bunch chives

Preheat the oven to 220C. Toss the potatoes in the olive oil and place in a single layer on a large baking tray. Season well then roast, stirring occasionally until crispy and golden, approx 50mins.

For the dressing heat 100mL extra virgin oil in a small saucepan and add leek and mustard seeds. Cook over a low to medium heat for approx 10mins or until the leek is very soft. Remove from the heat and stir through vinegar, lemon juice, paprika, and zest. 

Place hot potatoes on a serving platter and pour over the dressing. Toss to combine. When ready to serve sprinkle with chopped chives. Serve warm or at room temperature.

green bean, baby spinach & hazelnut salad
serves 6
Adapted from Karen Martini’s tarragon and green bean salad in Where the Heart Is.

I’m always on the lookout for new salad ideas. Green beans are a favourite and they team well with spinach and hazelnuts for a lighter option that works as a side salad or on it’s own as a light meal.

450g green beans, topped
150g baby spinach
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1T dijon mustard
4T champagne vinegar
100mL extra virgin olive oil
large handful chopped hazelnuts, roasted

Cook beans in a saucepan of salted boiling water for 4mins or until just past being crunchy. Combine onion, mustard, vinegar and oil and season. Toss hot beans through the dressing and allow to cool so the beans adsorb the flavours.

When ready to serve, cover the base of a  large platter with the spinach leaves. Top with the beans and drizzle over the dressing. Sprinkle with hazelnuts and serve immediately.
apricot sorbet with macadamia bread
served 6-8
Adapted from Breakfast Lunch Tea Rose Bakery by Rose Carrarini

This is my new favourite sorbet, even surpassing mango and raspberry. Apricots are Rose’s favourite fruit and I was glad that she reminded me of them. They used to also be a favourite of mine when I was little and had access to fruit fresh from my Pop’s tree. But years of bland floury supermarket apricots had made me forget how good they can be. Only attempt this if you have access to top quality apricots.

The richness of the apricots make for a deceptive sorbet that tastes way more creamy and complex than you’d think for something that is just fruit and sugar.

1.2kg apricots, halved and stoned
200g sugar
250mL (1C) water
macadamia bread, to serve optional.

Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add apricots and simmer until they are soft but not over cooked, aprox 10mins.

Allow to cool then refrigerate until chilled. Puree apricot mixture in a food processor until smooth and lightly aerated. Freeze in an icecream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions. Serve in pretty glasses with macadamia bread passed separately.


  • Great idea to roast the potatoes for the salad. Beautiful sorbet too – though it is hard to find luscious and perfect apricots.

  • I have been reading your blog for a while now but never left a comment. I love the quality of your food just as much as I appreciate the clarity of your pictures. Beautiful blog. One of my daily inspirations.

  • Love your blog – very inspiring. Couldn’t help notice a lot of your recipes use an ice-cream machine – can you recommend one?

  • Thanks MI
    The crab is really good and definitely worth the effort of wrestling to extract the sweet sweet meat

    Ugg boots are the absolute best..I actually drove 300km return to buy mine….

    I wish I could claim the roasting idea as my own..thank Rose

    Thanks so much for your lovely feedback…and for leaving a nice to know people are reading!

    you are soo right about mushrooms

    Thanks Michelle.

    The crab would be great for a picnic definitely

    we should get together soon!

    I have a Sunbeam Gelateria which is OK. As long as you get one that has an internal compressor and doesn’t have a bowl that needs freezing before you use it, you’ll be on the right track.

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