November is a great time to invite friends for a casual lunch. This doesn’t need to be a four-course affair. Just a simple main, or a hearty, healthy salad, followed by a sweet treat or two such as festive mince pies and Christmas cake.

The more you can prepare the night before the better. If you’re serving a glass of pre-lunch wine — there’s nothing more appropriate than a good rosé — then a nibble such as cheese pastry wrapped around pitted olives and baked makes a great accompaniment. (Prepare ahead and freeze.) Or serve olives drizzled in a little orange juice and cumin seeds and quickly warmed in the microwave.

An alternative festive beverage is a wine punch. Combine half a bottle of medium white wine — think pinot gris or a light chardonnay — one cup of pineapple juice, a quarter cup each of brandy and prepared raspberry tea (or similar) and chill overnight. Just before serving add ice cubes and a punnet of sliced strawberries. This serves about four to six people.

Dressing the table is essential. I like to cover our rather rough 14-year-old square outdoor table and in keeping with the fashion for flowers this season I’m using an old Queen-size pastel floral duvet cover. It’s squarish and looks amazing when topped with white china, chunky white candles and a big bowl of white daisies. #Recycle.


This simply super salmon can be prepared and cooked a day in advance. I love it! Serve with a crisp green salad and small boiled potatoes. Check out the new piccolos bite-size medley.

500g salmon fillet
1/2 cup low-salt soy sauce
2 tablespoons each: rice wine vinegar, brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated root ginger
1 tablespoon canola oil

Remove the pin bones from the salmon. Carefully pull off the skin. This can be cut into 3-4cm pieces and deep fried until crisp to make a garnish.

Place the salmon in a shallow casserole dish. Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and root ginger. Mix well then pour over the salmon. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour turning halfway through.

Preheat a heavy ridged frying pan. Add a little oil. Drain the salmon. Pan-fry gently for about 2-3 minutes each side, depending on thickness. Place on a serving plate.

Boil the marinade, until thickened. Drizzle a little over the salmon.

If the salmon is to be served later, then cover and chill. Serve 4-6.


Stand the quartered tomatoes in a sieve to drain a little. Best served shortly after cooking although it may be baked a day ahead then reheated in a 160°C oven.

2 sheets ready-rolled savoury short pastry
6 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
200g fresh mozzarella, shredded
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup lightly packed basil leaves
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

Cut one sheet of pastry into four even strips and join onto each edge of the other pastry sheet.

Lightly oil a 23cm loose-based flan pan. Gently line the pastry into the pan. Trim any excess pastry. Freeze for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Line the pastry shell with foil. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the foil and continue to bake for 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, milk, mozzarella and seasonings until well combined. Fold in the basil and tomatoes Pour the filling into the pie shell. Bake for 35 minutes or until the centre is just firm. Serves 4-5.


Serve with grilled bacon, sliced fruit and maple syrup. Prepare ahead and keep warm on a baking tray in a 100°C oven for up to 1 hour. The flavours are a nod to Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.

400g pumpkin (with skin and seeds)
Dry ingredients: 1 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons each: baking powder, ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon each: salt, ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Wet ingredients:1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 tablespoons melted table spread
extra table spread for cooking

Peel and seed the pumpkin. Cut into 5cm pieces. Steam or microwave until very tender. Cool. Using a hand-held blender purée the flesh, until smooth. Measure out 3/4 cup of purée.

Place the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.

Combine the purée with the wet ingredients. Mix well then fold into the dry ingredients until just moistened.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan and add a little table spread to moisten. Take heaped 1/4 cups of the mixture and add to the pan leaving enough space for spreading. Cook until bubbles appear on top then flip. Keep the cooked pancakes warm on an oven tray in a 100C oven. Alternatively, cook the pancakes on a barbecue flat plate.

Serve 2 pancakes per person piled with sliced fruit (eg strawberries and poached pears) and grilled or microwaved bacon. Serves 6.


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