This page is a gallery of some of the What's Cookin' nights, celebrating the people, the food and the wine that make them such great fun.

Scenes from 2005

November 4 , 2005

Director's Cut

A short season of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, performed by the Stanthorpe Little Theatre at Jeff harden's Bungawarra Winery, is behind us.

Those involved have but fellowship and memories left and so tonight's What's Cookin' made the most of both by inviting the director, Veronica Hammond, to do the honours for us.

Veronica Hammond, director

Director Veronica Hammond
A younger Veronica

Veronica is an pretty amazing gal - taking on a Shakesperean play with a small amateur theatre group is no mean feat - just getting people to turn up for rehearsals was a challenge!

But she had faith and, by golly she did it. Even though the first time the entire cast was together in one place was on opening night, the performances were sizzling and everyone involved had a wonderful time.

Veronica confesses to be not much of a cook so chef took her in hand, transforming her suggested menu of beans on toast into a sumptuous curry night.


Meat and vegetable samosas
Pea and lemon fritters
Onion pakoras


Veronica pictured a couple of years ago as Alicia in Black Chiffon..


Lamb gohst
Chick pea and spinach curry
Thick dahl
Brinjal Bajhi
Seafood curry


Orange sorbet with honeydew melon


Above: Samosas

Right: A plate with just some of the curries we enjoyed.

A highlight of the night was the competition - a choice of either re-writing the last five words of Pyramus' death scene (die, die, die, die, die) or to write a soliloquy using every Shakesperean quote you can remember.

The winning entry, judged by Veronica, was Jim Armstrong's (who played Robin Starveling/Moonshine). The chorus is set to an old folk song.


Di, di, di, di
Di, di, di, di.

So bend your acts and glow me boys
And take me to me wall
Tonight we sing and dance
And tomorrow tell tales tall
We'll silly to the warra
No louder men there'll be
We'll tell them all we've raptured
The fairies up the tree.

Di, di, di, di,
Di, di, di, di.

We'll climb upon the Pyramus
Fro a Thisbe out with glee
It'll turn into a lunatic
Just a dog, a bush and me.

Di, di, di, di,
Di, di, di, di.

So bend your backs and glow me boys
And held out with this tale
And hit me with a line, me lion
I think I'm talking brail.

Di, di, di, di,
Di, di, di, di.

David Goebel and Trisha Armstrong's effort was worthy:

Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art though my sweet Romeo. I wish that my horse was as quick as your tongue, or as swift as a tartar's bow, or an honest puck. So look on me as your Spaniel, you saucy boy. Et tu Brute. Methough I was enamoured of an ass but the course of true love never did run sweet. Your French crowns have no hair at all so you shall be my sweet gentle puck (bubble, bubble, toil and trouble) grrr... (lion, that is) grrr... My love, asleep my love? I pray you gentle mortal tell me thou havest not a headache. You canker blossom! You acorn! You hellhound. Alas, poor Peter Quince, we are all met to die, die, die, die, die. We shall put a girdle about the moon and sleep no more. Expire, expire, expire.

Or this from Tatiana Nader...

When Shakespeare went to Oz, he wore 'is best codpiece
He went to Severnlea and was arrested by the police
He was allowed one call, so he phoned the man i'the moon
Who came with dog and thornbush & bailed 'im out real soon.

Then he went to Ballandean to see 'is play performed
Three nights in October when the weather warmed.
T'was a crackin' do and Bill was sore amazed
He'd never seen it done so well in all 'is livin' days.

Yea, Bill Shakespeare was backstage under moonshine's beam
When Stanthorpe thespians put on Midsummer Night's Dream.


October 14 , 2005

Stylish and Summery

Talented singer and actor, Pauline Leigh, was our celebrity chef this evening and presented a beautifully balanced menu that fitted the warm weather we have been experiencing.

MC Lee Williams devised a cunning competition to write a verse for a musical about the Queen (of England and Australia), preferably including food references with highly amusing, unpublishable results.

Pauline Leigh

Pauline Leigh

All in all an excellent and well balanced meal. Well done, Pauline. The girl has style.

Salad of grilled fresh sardines and haloumi cheese
Squab risotto with Swiss Brown mushrooms
Beurre Bosc pears poached in red wine

The salad was excellent, using mixed green salad leaves with filleted fresh sardines and thin strips of haloumi cheese grilled on the griddle. It was dressed with a salsa of chopped tomato, spanish onion, chilli infused olive oil, red wine vinegar, parsley and mint. Yum. Chef forgot to take a photo but will do so next time he makes the dish.

Dessert was made with firm ripe Beurre Bosc pears, peeled and cored then poached in red wine with a cinnamon stick and sugar. When poached the pears are removed and the sauce reduced to a syrup. Serve with ice cream. Yum.

Squab Risotto With Swiss Brown Mushrooms

1 squab (pigeon)
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 cup Swiss Brown mushrooms sliced
2 tablespoons dried porccini mushrooms steeped in boiling water and drained
8 Shitake mushrooms de-stemmed
350 grams arborio rice
1.5 litres of game stock
1 tablespoon ghee or clarified butter
Shaved parmesan cheese for garnish

While this dish is relatively simple it pays to do it properly, so by careful preparation of the squab we made our own game stock.

We skinned the squab (discarding the skin) and carefully removed the two fillets and reserved them for separate cooking later. We sliced off the legs and roasted them for 15 minutes with a little oil in a medium oven and, when cooled sufficiently, we separated the meat from them and put the bones into the stock pot with the skeleton, neck, giblets and wings of the squab plus 1.5 litres of water, a chopped carrot, a peeled onion, two peeled cloves of garlic, some celery tops, a couple of cardamom pods, a bay leaf, a few whole black peppercorns, three teaspoons of sea salt, a single clove, a sprig of thyme and two cups of good chardonnay. This was brought to the boil and simmered for a couple of hours, strained and the solids discarded.

For the risotto: Take a large pan and melt the ghee or clarified butter. Cook chopped onions over a medium heat without colouring until they are soft and golden; add the rice and stir to coat well. Turn the heat up and add a ladle of the hot stock and cook, stirring, until the rice absorbs it. Add another ladle of hot stock and repeat the process. Do this until the rice is almost to the required al dente stage and has absorbed enough fluid (this is a matter of taste. Chef likes risotto to be milky and nutty but not runny. See the picture). Add chopped Swiss Browns and porccini mushrooms and the reserved flesh of the roasted squab and cook a further minute or so. Check seasoning. Set aside in a warm place. Working fast, in a pan with a little oil or butter, sautee the shitake mushrooms for a few minutes. In another pan with clarified butter, sautee the reserved squab breasts for about one and a half minutes each side until cooked to rare. Remove from the pan and slice these thickly.

To serve: Spoon rissoto onto plates, top with squab breast slices and garnish with shitake mushrooms and shaved parmesan cheese.

September 30 , 2005

A Stage-Managed Event

John Draper is a quiet and modest bloke. Since retiring to Stanthorpe two years ago he has been a stalwart of the local Little Theatre, always there to manage staging, props and lighting.

Tonight, he flaunted his Celtic roots as our celebrity chef with a wonderful and very filling menu.

Fish 'n chips
Guiness pie with boxtie potatoes
Apple and Blackberry crumble with brandied custard

John's extended family came up from Brisbane for the occasion and it was a great night. The meal was excellent, with simple but effective recipes, all of them authentic to the Celtic tradition (which takes in Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall and Brittany). The competition, to write a Celtic myth, produced several bawdy responses and was won by Rosemary Paget's table.

John Draper

John Draper

The fish should, of course, have been Irish Sea cod but we made do with Nobby Snapper - yum. John used a simple beer batter - plain flour, beer and a spoonful of dessicated coconut. The chips were big thick ones, roasted for 30 minutes before being finished to a deep golden brown in the fryer. The fish and chips were served with lemon wedges.

The Guiness Pie was made using sauteed onions, cubes of rump steak rolled in flour, and chopped bacon; this all soaked in guiness, covered in foil and cooked until tender (about 40 minutes) in a moderate oven. It was allowed to cool. Chopped parsley was added and it was made into individual short crust pastry pies and served with boxtie potatoes and vegies on the table. Boxtie potatoes are known across the Atlantic as hash browns. Use equal measures of boiled potatoes mashed and raw potatoes grated. They are mixed with flour and seasoned, the mixture divided and the little flat cakes are fried in ghee or butter until golden brown.

Guiness Pie

Guiness Pie
apple and blackberry crumble

Apple and blackberry crumble

1/2 kg green apples, peeled, cored and sliced, soaked in sugared water with two cloves
1/4kg fresh or frozen blackberries
120g granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
120g butter
60g porridge oats
pinch of salt
120g plain flour
120g demerera sugar

Pre-heat oven to 190 C. Place apples in a pie dish with blackberries on top. Add sugar and a dessert spoon of water. In a bowl, mix flour, oats, salt and butter and work together with a spoon or hands until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in sugar and sprinkle mix over fruit. Shake nutmeg over. Bake for 15 minutes and reduce heat to 180 C. Bake for a further 30 minutes.

Serve with custard, ice cream or mascarpone cheese.

Serves 8

September 16 , 2005

His Worship's Parsley Plot

It was a great pleasure to introduce the Mayor of Stanthorpe, Glen Rogers, as our celebrity chef.

In recent years, Glen, a career vegetable farmer, has become notorious for growing unimaginable quantities of parsley (most of which ends up as tabouleh) so we thought why not? Parsley featured in all of the courses.

The competition for the table that could write the best by-law was won by Graham King and his wife who made a clever play on a recent council controversy involving manure storage!

His worship the mayor in his parsley plot

The menu for the evening was:

Cream of parsley soup with crusty bread
Beef Wellington with cauliflower cheese and parsley
Normandy Tart with parsley ice cream

It was a lovely meal and, although it sounds odd, the parsley ice cream was surprisingly good.

Parsley soup

4 cups of chopped parsley
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium onions chopped
1 celery stalk chopped
1.5 litres good poultry stock
1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped
1 cup cream (or to taste)
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon crushed white pepper

Put all ingredients except the cream and chopped almonds into a large pot and slowly bring to the boil. Simmer for fifteen minutes. Puree in a food blender and pass through a sieve. Return to pot and heat. Add the cream and the almonds. Correct seasoning and serve with crusty bread.

Serves 6

Cream of Parsley soup

Parsley ice cream

Choose your favourite churned vanilla ice cream recipe and add chopped curly leaf parsley or slightly soften some pre-prepared ice cream and mix in the parsley and freeze.

So, it is dead easy. The trick is not to chop the parsley too finely because the texture of it is very pleasant. Use plenty of parsley - the flavour is subtle so it needs some volume to rise above the sweetness of the ice cream.


September 2 , 2005

A Sicilian Love Affair

A packed house and our celebrity chef, Whiskey Gully Wines' property manager, Angelo Cutuli, served up a simple but really good Italian feast! He and wife Zina are well known for their great food so lots of their friends came.

The table on which sweet-voiced Alexandra Derre sat won the competition for the best rendition of O Sole Mio


Italian ring bread with olives and chilli
Minestrone soup
Mixed-grill with two salads
Cassata with dried fruits

Firm fresh Italian ring bread was purchased and served with plump marinated green and black olives, along with chilli in olive oil and some extra virgin oil for dipping.

The Minestrone soup was really good - simple but very tasty. (method follows).

Right: Angelo Cutuli in the vineyard

The mixed grill was also good. Italian pork sausages with fennel that are a speciality of Mick, the local butcher and which we baked.

We also had meatballs made of topside mince, flat leaf parsley, strong home grown garlic, breadcrumbs, grated pecorino cheese and beaten whole eggs to bind and seasoned to taste. They were cooked on the griddle between two fresh lemon leaves. Oil from the lemon leaves keeps the meat moist and the leaves prevent any burning. Finally, round steak beaten thin and coated with breadcrumbs, chopped green garlic and parmesan cheese then fried for a minute or two in a pan.

This was served with two simple salads. The first was washed and broken cos lettuce leaves with cucumber slices dressed in olive oil and red wine vinegar. The vinegar we used was Angelo's own home brew and made from our own grapes. The second salad was chopped ripe tomatoes with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, dried oregano and salt.

Angelo's wife Zina made the dessert: a three coloured cassata terrine made from ice cream, glace fruit and two types of chocolate - dark and mint. Zina also used a little green food colouring for the mint section. It was wonderful!


Angelo's minestrone soup

2 desiree potatoes diced to 1cm cubes
3 large onions roughly chopped
3 medium carrots diced to 1 cm cubes
1 cup fresh or frozen borlotti beans
1 cup green peas (we used frozen ones)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 cup of pasta di semola di grano duro (small tube semilina pasta)
1.5 litres cold water
0.5 litre good poultry stock
3 - 4 teaspoons sea salt or to taste
2 teaspoons white pepper

Place the cold water and poultry stock in a large pan and add potatoes, onions, beans and carrots. Bring this to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the pasta, return to the boil and and cook for around 12 minutes until pasta is al dente. Add garlic and peas and season to taste. It will need quite a lot of salt, so don't be shy.


August 19, 2005

Luscious Pears

What a wonderful night with celebrated Granite Belt artist carey-Lee Downs not only devising a wonderful menu but also producing some impromtu drawings that enthralled participants.

Everyone had a go at drawing - first a bowl of pears and then our host Lee Williams. Brilliant stuff.


Pears and macadamia soup with grilled seafood
Carey-Lee pork (with pears)
Frangipani tart (yes, with pears)

Pear and macadamia soup with grilled seafood

Pear and macadamia soup with grilled seafood

Great recipe - chef managed to forget to add the macadamias on the night but it was brilliant anyway.

The great thing about the pears is that they create a lovely consistency and body for the soup. The flavour needs to be built with a good fish stock.

It took some fiddling to get it right but this is what we ended up with:

2 onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon clarified butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 Beurre Bosc pears, skins peeled in strips, cored and sliced
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1/2 cup coconut cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
5 cups good fish stock
1 tablespoon Sambal Oelek or fresh chillis chopped
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 cup cream
6 prawns (grilled)
18 mussels
300g firm white fleshed fish fillets cut into bite sizes (grilled)
100g macadamia nuts, crushed or chopped
finely sliced red and green capsicums for garnish


Carey-Lee Downs

Carey Lee Downs at work

(For our stock we used snapper and salmon heads with onion, carrots, celery, cardamoms, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, tarragon, whole white peppers and lightly salted. We poached the mussels for four minutes in a little extra dry vermouth and white wine over onions, garlic and celery. The stock from this was drained and added to the fish stock. We reserved the mussells for re-heating and we grilled the prawns and fish just before serving.)

Sauté the onions in the oil over low to medium heat until they are soft and translucent but not coloured. Add the pears and sauté for 5 minutes. Add stripped peel, tamarind paste, coconut cream, stock, sambal oelek sauce and fish sauce and simmer for 20 minutes. Puree in a blender then return to pot and bring back to a simmer. Season to taste with sea salt, white pepper and lemon juice. Just before serving, add cream.

To serve, pour the soup into bowls, arrange the seafood on top, garnish with crushed macadamias and the capsicum strips.

(serves 6)

Carey-Lee Pork

This is adapted from Pork Frederick which uses figs or apples. We substituted pears to suit the theme. Figs are probably better but this was a refreshing innovation. We used some dried apples with the sauce.

We plated the rolled pork with the boiled potatoes and sauce and served the vegetables in separate pots. Looks great and is rich without being too heavy.

Carey-Lee Pork

150 ml apple juice
2 tablespoons kirsch liqueur
150g dried pears (halved)
800g piece of scotch fillet of pork
2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard
125g – 155 g wedge fresh Brie cheese, cut into wedges or 1 cm slices
20 g (1 tablespoon) clarified butter (ghee)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Bring the apple juice to the boil, add the kirsch, then pour immediately over the dried figs or apples. Allow to stand for at least 30 minutes. Strain and reserve the liquid. Cut a deep pocket in the pork fillet being careful not to cut right through, and flatten it out on a board. Spread about 1 teaspoonful of the mustard along the length of the fillet and place half the pears on top of this. Place the brie slices over this. Roll up the fillet so that the filling is fully enclosed by the meat and secure the roll with heat resistent butchers elastic bands (ask your butcher for some. If you can't get any use toothpicks). Brown the pork on all sides in a pan and then place in a greased over dish and bake for about 20 minutes until pork is just cooked. Drain the pan, reserving the juices. Remove the bindings from the meat and stand it in a warm place while the sauce is being prepared.

For the sauce: pour the reserved pan juices and the reserved apple juice into a pan and bring to the boil, stirring frequently and reduce by half. Add some additional mustard and the remainder of the pears. Serve with the pork.

Frangipani tart with pears

Frangipani pear tart

A really good dessert made 100% by Carey-Lee herself. We served it with grape berries and a dollop of mascarpone cheese.

2.5 cups plain flour
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 egg yolk
2-3 tablespoons water

75g butter, softened
1/2 cup castor sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup ground almonds
350g ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 pears peeled, quartered cored and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons icing sugar plus extra

Sift flour and icing sugar into bowl. Rub in butter until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Whiskey lemon juice, egg yolk and water together in separate bowl and add to mixture to form a firm dough. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead gently. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 mins (minimum). Roll the dough out to line a 23 cm fluted flan tin.

For the filling, cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl; add the eggs and beat until fluffy. Stir in ground almonds, ricotta cheese, lemon rind and juice. Beat until combined. Spoon filling into flan case and smooth over surface with palette knife. Arrange pear slices in a circular pattern on top of filling, pressing down slightly. Dust with icing sugar.

Bake at 200C for 10 minutes then at 180C for further 35-40 minutes until light golden brown and firm in the centre. Cool before removing the flan ring. To serve, dust with extra sifted icing sugar.


August 5, 2005

Nadia's Thai night

Local journalist Nadia Cavallaro is a keen adventurer and a great supporter of the What's Cookin' Nights. She conjured up an excellent menu drawing on her experiences of a trip to Thailand. She is pictured here with Thai school children.

Guest chef: Nadia Cavallaro

Owing to chef being totally absorbed by the lovely food Nadia devised, he managed to forget to take photos.

However, the menu was:

Thai fish cakes with chilli dipping sauce
Green curry of beef with steamed rice
Phad Thai (or Thai Fried Noodles)
Street vendors' banana pancakes

It was a magnificent meal. We liked the fish cakes best. here's the recipe:

Thai Fish Cakes

Fish Cakes

500g of any firm white fish fillets minced
130g Thai red curry paste
60ml fish sauce
1 egg, beaten
80g tapioca flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon palm sugar
10 kaffir lime leaves - sliced thinly discarding the stem
8 long beans (or a handful of peas or chopped green beans)


90ml water
60g grated palm sugar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon chilli powder
2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons cucumber thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves

For the sauce put the water, sugar and vinegar into a pan and dissolve the sugar over low heat. Bring water to boil for five minutes. Away from heat vadd chilli powder, peanuts and cucumber. Cool and garnish with fresh coriander.

For fish cakes, mix all ingredients in a bowl until combined. Form small, flat cakes about five centimetre diameter and place on flour dusted board. Heat peanut oil in a pan or wok and, when it is hot fry the fish cakes until they turn a golden brown (2 - 3 minutes). Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot with dipping sauce in a bowl to the side.

(makes about 40)

Thanks, Nadia and well done.


July 22, 2005

The Best of British. Our esteemed MC, the inimitable Lee Williams, got a bit upset when Mon le president Jacques Chirac, suggested recently that British food was not quite up to Olympic standard.

"I'll show 'em," he said. So, for $25 a head our guests enjoyed Leek and Potato Soup, Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, and Eton Mess.

What a treat it was. Sure, Mon Chirac, it may be simple, but it is tres bon.

The winning limerick of the evening was Kerry Marie's:

There was a young woman from Ealing
Who had a peculiar feeling
Squid fell in her lap
She didn't like that
And ran out of the sushi bar squealing.

Ah, what a night. The main course was straight forward, though chef performed magic with the roast rump by slotting the fat and pressing in garlic and rosemary.

The inimitable Mr Williams

Roast rump of beef

1 kg rump
4 cloves garlic roughly chopped
1 sprig of rosemary
sea salt
cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

For Onion Sauce
½ litre good veal stock
1 cup of Whiskey Gully Wines Caucus Shiraz
1 large onion chopped
1 teaspoon of quince paste
1 teaspoon of tomato paste
½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 tablespoon ghee or butter

To prepare the roast beef, use a sharp knife to make half a dozen slits in the fat. Press garlic and rosemary leaves inside the slits. Season with salt and pepper. Brown joint on all sides in a saucepan with a little ghee or olive oil.

Place in an oiled roasting container and roast at oven mark 5 for 50 minutes to 1 hour for rare or until the beef is cooked to your liking. Remove from oven and rest in a warm place for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

For sauce, bring stock and wine to the boil in a heavy-based saucepan and reduce by half. In a separate pan melt the ghee or butter and sautee the chopped onion on medium heat until soft and golden. Add flour and, stirring often, cook for a further three minutes.

Away from heat, pour in the stock and wine mixture and stir vigorously to incororate the onion and flour. Add quince paste, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar and return to heat. Simmer for one hour or more. Season with French sea salt and cracked pepper.

Serve generous slices of beef topped with the onion sauce, accompanied by roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and green vegetables.

Serves 4.

Accompany with 2002 Whiskey Gully Wines Black Rod Shiraz

Yorkshire pudding

90g self-rasing flour
90g plain flour
1 teaspoon cornflour
4 eggs, lightly beaten
375 ml milk
beef dripping

Sift the flours into a bowl, make a well in centre and whisk in the beaten eggs. Seaon to taste and stand at room temperature for at least 20 minutes.

Using muffin pans, place a teaspoon or more of beef dripping into each and place in a hot oven until the dripping is a very liquid. Carefull pour the batter into each tin until three quarters of the way up.

Place the pudd9ings in the oven and turn heat down to gas mark 4.5 (225 C). Bake for 25 minutes until puffed and brown.

Makes 12 puddings

Yorkshire pudding

Speak to me, oh pud.

Leek Soup

1.2 litres chicken stock
1/2 kg leeks, cut into thin rings
75g butter
75g flour
2 onions, thinly sliced
1/2 kg potatoes, cubed
salt and pepper
pinch of nutmeg
two teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped 3 tablespoons single cream
croutons to garnish

Melt butter in a pan, add the vegetables and cook over low heat for a few minutes without browning. Transfer to a saucepan, add the flour and gradually stir in the stock. Add the nutmeg and seasoning. Simmer gently for about 40 minutes. Pureé in an electric blender. Add chopped thyme. Place in a clean pan and heat through. Just before serving stir in the cream and garnish with croutons. This soup may be served hot or chilled. We served it hot on a cold (very British) night.

Serves 6

etoin mess

Eton Mess

A traditional Eton dish

1/2 kg strawberries
6 tablespoons Kirsch
2 cups heavy cream
6 meringue shells, crushed

Reserve a few small strawberries, chop the remainder and place in a bowl. Sprinkle the Kirsch over the berries, cover and chill for 2 – 3 hours. Whip the cream until it stands in soft peaks. Gently fold in the strawberries and their juices and the meringues. Spoon into a glass serving dish and decorate with the reserved strawberries just before serving.

Serves 4 to 6

July 8, 2005

The first ever What's Cookin' night with featured cook Sam Marino of Stanthorpe's popular Samuel's Gourmet Food and Kitchenware deli. (Au$35 p.p)

MC'd by the erudite and sartorial Lee Williams, the night was rollicking with 30 people joining in and commenting on the food, the music and global poverty. The winning food melody of the evening was: "My Samosa" (Alec Piovesan and Ann Taylor) closely followed by "In the Gravy" (Robert and Shane Johnson's table).

The cook

Sam Marino is well known in Stanthorpe as the enthusiastic proprietor of Samuel’s Gourmet Foods and Kitchenware. He is a cook who loves to look in the pantry and see what’s there.

“Then I love to make something up on the spot. That’s the way we were brought up,” explains Sam. “Good, simple ingredients and making something even better out of them.”

Sam says that when he was young his family ate a lot of game: casseroles of rabbits and birds, for example. As well as traditional pasta dishes his mother used to do great things with lamb, veal, beef and pork. “Rolling it and stuffing it. That sort of thing.”

What does Sam favour for desserts? “I like simple, sweet, fruity desserts,” says Sam. Ooh. So do we.

This dish was served with 2004 Whiskey Gully Wines Zing

The Entrée

Queensland Sea Scallops with Spinach and Ricotta Cappelletti

For the cappelletti:
200g pasta flour or plain flour
2 eggs (whisked)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons frozen spinach thawed and squeezed
1 cup fresh Ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 sprig parsley, chopped

Sift the flour onto a clean surface and make a well in the middle. Pour in the eggs and oil. Add a pinch of sea salt. Gently work flour into the liquid to form a crumbly dough. Kneed until a smooth dough forms. Set aside. While the dough rests, in a small mixing bowl mix the ricotta cheese, pine nuts, spinach and chopped parsley and season with white pepper and sea salt to taste.

Rolling the pasta:
If you have a pasta roller, split the dough into four balls and roll them through the machine into very thin ribbons. If you don’t have a roller, kneed the dough until it is elastic then split it into four balls and roll it out to very thin circles or ribbons. Use a circular pastry cutter (50 – 70mm) to cut out the cappelletti shapes. Lay them on a floured surface.

Forming the cappelletti:
Scoop a teaspoon of the mixture and roll it in your palm into a ball. Place it on one of the cappelletti circles. Do this for half the shapes. Using a brush, paint the perimeters of the remaining disks with a little milk and place each one over one of the halves that have the spinach and ricotta balls on them. Press the edges together to finish the cappelletti. If not using immediately, store them on greaseproof paper without allowing them to contact each other and sprinkle a little flour over them. These can be refrigerated or frozen. When ready to use, boil three litres of salted water, add cappelletti and poach for four minutes or until the pasta is al dente.

Scallops and sauce:
2 dozen medium sized Queensland sea scallops
30 grams of clarified butter (ghee)
25ml dry Vermouth
50 ml dry white wine
175 ml good fish stock
100 ml cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

Heat the fish stock to simmering point in a pan. In a separate heavy frying pan, melt ghee over medium heat. Sautee scallops for about 15 seconds per side. Raise heat to high and add vermouth and white wine. Bring to the boil and poach for thirty seconds or until the scallops are just cooked. Away from heat, scoop out scallops with a slotted spoon and keep in a warm place covered with plastic wrap.

For the sauce: Add the hot fish stock to the wine and juices in the pan and boil over high heat to reduce by half. Add cream, return to the boil and reduce a little more until sauce is a good consistency. Season to taste and add chopped tarragon.

To serve: Place four or five cappelletti in the centre of each plate, top with four of the scallops and spoon a little of the sauce over. Garnish with a sprig of tarragon.

(Serves six)

The Main

Roast lamb cutlets with salsa, creamy polenta, fennel and warm potato and beetroot salad

For the warm salad (can be prepared in advance):
18 baby beets roasted in a little olive oil, vinegar and brown sugar (45 minutes or until tender) then drained.
12 potatoes (Sam used Desiree potatoes) quartered and boiled for 15 – 20 minutes until tender then drained.
3 eggs boiled for 12 minutes, cooled, peeled and halved.

This dish was served with 2002 Whiskey Gully Wines Black Rod Shiraz

When ready to serve, gently toss the beetroot, potato and eggs together using a little of the beetroot juices as a garnish with some chopped flat-leaf parsley. Season to taste and put in a low oven for five minutes to warm.

For salsa (can be prepared in advance):
100 grams black olives, chopped
1/2 cup roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
¼ cup virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Mix all of the ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the lamb:
6 four-cutlet racks of lamb trimmed to form French cutlets (do not separate the cutlets at this stage)
3 spring of fresh thyme
100 grams of butter
6 peeled cloves of garlic

Place the racks in an oiled baking container, spread the garlic and thyme over and dob butter over the racks to keep moist while cooking. Bake in a pre-heated Mark 5 oven for 20 or 30 minutes (depending on whether you want rare or medium cutlets). Rest in a warm place for at least ten minutes before serving. Just before serving, separate the cutlets using a sharp knife.

For fennel:
2 small fennel bulbs
Clarified butter (ghee) for frying

Trim the fennel bulbs and slice them. Sautee in ghee over medium heat until just tender (10 – 15 minutes). Season to taste.

For polenta:
Use about 2 cups of polenta. Follow the directions on the packet to prepare the polenta but, when finished, stir in 100 grams or so each of cream and grated fresh parmesan cheese. Season to taste.

To serve: place a large spoonful of creamy polenta in centre of plate and arrange four lamb cutlets on top. Sprinkle a tablespoon of salsa on top. To one side place a portion of the sautéed fennel and to the other a scoop of the warm potato and beetroot salad.

(Serves six)

This dish was served with 2004 Whiskey Gully Wines Nectar

The Dessert

Warm Apple Cake with Butterscotch Sauce

For cake:
125 g butter, chopped
½ cup (110g) caster sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup (100g) self-raising flour
1/3 cup (50g) plain flour
1 tablespoon milk
3 Pink Lady apples (450 g)
½ cup (160g) apricot jam, warmed and strained

For brandy butterscotch sauce:
½ cup (100g) brown sugar
½ cup (125 ml) thickened cream
100 g butter, chopped
2 tablespoons brandy

Mascarpone cheese to serve

Preheat oven to Gas mark 3 (moderate-slow). Grease and line base and sides of two 8cm x 25cm cake pans. Beat butter and sugar in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, beating until combined between each addition. Stir in sifted flours and milk. Share the mixture between the prepared pans. Peel, core, halve and then slice the apples. Push the slices gently into surface of the cake mixture. Brush the tops with jam. Bake the cakes for about 40 minutes. When finished, stand for 10 minutes and turn out and place apple side up on a wire rack to cool. For the brandy butterscotch sauce: combine ingredients in small saucepan. Stir over heat without boiling until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil and reduce the heat to simmer, uncovered, for about 3 minutes or until mixture thickens.

To serve: Place a slice of warm cake on each plate and drizzle with the brandy butterscotch sauce. Place a little mascarpone cheese on each plate.

(Serves 8)