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A warm evening in the garden


So delightful, even if not so common in Melbourne. Every course is served either chilled or at room temperature. All preparation is done so the host can relax.


Old-fashioned asparagus rolls

Select a wholemeal sandwich loaf. Slices can be flattened a little with a rolling-pin, and spread each slice right to the edges with a savoury butter (favourites would be tarragon or watercress).

Ajo blanco – white gazpacho from Malaga

The garnish of peeled grapes looks best if the soup is served in shallow bowls. A good Spanish sherry vinegar adds zing to this delicate combination of almonds and bread.

Rock lobster and mango on greens,
with warm minted potato salad and handmade mayonnaise

The ripe mango goes so well with the shellfish. Cook the rock lobster yourself in plenty of salted water (even if the fishmonger kills it for you as close to cooking time as possible).
A still-warm rock lobster is marvellous compared with one that was cooked and possibly frozen.

Raspberry and blackcurrant creams

Crème de cassis liqueur adds the tang of blackcurrants to the perfection of early raspberries. Choose pretty glass dishes to show off the colours.


Classically French


Sometimes it is satisfying to return to the tried and true and to demonstrate mastery of classic techniques.


Blini with smoked salmon and finger lime pearls

Two blini per person, fried in clarified butter, topped with a generous portion of smoked salmon, and if you can find them, finish by scooping the tiny pearls from an Australian native finger lime. (If you cannot find them, salmon roe caviar is a good substitute)

Asparagus soup with chervil

This is a delicate soup, with just a spoonful of cream added at the end. The subtle aniseed flavour of fresh chervil goes very well with it. You may prefer to make it with light chicken broth rather than water.

Chicken in the pot with tarragon cream and seasonal vegetables
Petits pois – French-style peas

Choose a best-quality bird for this dish. The classic veloute sauce should be ivory in colour and velvety as its name implies.
You will need to pod the peas to make the best petits pois.

Passionfruit bavarois with almond and honey slice

Every cook should feel comfortable making a bavarois. The trick is to use the minimum gelatine so that the finished dessert just wobbles a little as it slips from its pot. The almond and honey slice adds contrasting crunch.


A festive seafood barbecue


This menu says ‘festive’ to me, but of course it could be any summer day. Essentials are a good barbecue, a reliable fishmonger, a sunny day and a table in the shade.
The head cook will need to brush the barbecue between dishes.


Grilled summer vegetables with labna ‘cheese’

A good starter as guests can help themselves from a large platter of grilled peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and so on, while the cook assembles the next dish.

Charcoal-grilled ginger prawns

These are sticky as well as delicious. A good idea is to thread the prawns on skewers and to have plenty of paper napkins or, even better, damp cotton towels for finger wiping.

Barbecue calamari with soy and spring onion

Keep it simple and offer halved limes with this, or make a simple dipping sauce, with sliced chilli if you would like to make the dish spicier.

Sugar-coated grilled fish

Try this with an even-thickness fish fillet such as John Dory or rockling. The same dipping sauce will work here. The chilli contrasts with the sweetness of the fish. And once again lime halves will be welcome.

Carrot salad with Thai seasoning

This is really grated carrot pretending to be green papaya. It could be made with grated green papaya. Works well either way.

Summer pudding

After such strong flavours I think a fruity dessert will be very welcome. The pudding should be a a deep crimson. Serve with thick cream.


Summer brunch with friends


Summer brunch is a favourite way of entertaining a larger number of people. Set out all the dishes, the glasses, the bread and the cutlery and let your guests help themselves. Or you might ask each friend to bring one of the dishes.


Salt fish and avocado

This unusual but spicy combination is said to be the national dish of Jamaica.

The traditional dish uses the flesh of the ackee fruit (unobtainable in Australia) in the place of the avocado, but the appearance and the texture are very similar.


Always a favourite. Crunchy well-baked puff pastry and a generous topping of caramelised onion and strips of anchovy.

Sicilian-style eggplant rolls with sweet and sour tomato sauce

This dish reminds me of several colourful, savoury yet sweet and sour dishes I have enjoyed on a Sicilian buffet.

Middle Eastern meatballs with coriander leaves

Make them as small as a marble or as large as a table tennis ball. Best of all if they are still faintly warm. The scent of the cumin and coriander is very enticing.

Baked fish with garlic and coriander

This could be the centrepiece of your buffet table and is a perfect choice if the market has a large snapper.

Ritsa’s Greek country salad

Make a lot of this salad as it will be popular. Ritsa looks after me at my local fresh food market and insists that it is more traditional (certainly in her family) to put the slices of fetta on the side rather than on top of the salad.

Fruit platter

After all of these assertive dishes a platter of seasonal fruit will be a very popular finale. Select from peaches, nectarines, berries, plums, melons and anything else that is ripe.