It seems the emphasis today is to get the evening meal over as soon as possible, so the family can sit around in silence and watch TV. I've done the opposite.

The TV is off or at least on mute, foot tapping music is on and family and friends are back to the good old days where we sat around Grandma's kitchen table, music from the wireless on, sharing the stories of the day. Oh yes, and laughing a lot.

Snacks and Starters

Mexican corn maise tortillas

Chef: Josh Lopez

Great taste easy to make and gives you an instant relaxed Mexican theme to any gathering.

WINE: Try Valpolicella, a hand harvested wine from Verona, Italy. Alternately, Lambrusco, White Zinfandel, or of course the guys may prefer a beer (Corona).

MUSIC: Rodrigo y Gabriela (Rodrigo and Gabriela) are a Mexican musical duo who specialize in playing fast, rhythmic acoustic guitars.

Steak with balsamic sauce and rocket

Chef: Tanya Bartolini

Tanya's cousin made this for her and her husband while on a trip to Italy and it's a definite winner.

WINE: Amarone is one of Italy's most opulent red wines. There is an Australian producer, Joe Grilli, from the Primo Estate whose Moda Cabernet was originally labeled Moda Amarone.

MUSIC: I'm hearing shades of Dean Martin? Sting would provide great background music or try his guitarist Dominic Miller's "Shapes" or any one of his CDs. Whenever I've played him, people have asked after it and bought their own copy. He's a brilliant guitarist.


Quick and Easy

BBQ Barramundi with roasted corn and chili salsa

Chef: Murray Dalton

I must admit it's been a long time since I had Barramundi. Once again Murry's dish is an absolute crowd pleaser. The salsa works perfectly with the flavour of the Barramundi.

You can knock this dish up in minutes, however the corn on the BBQ will take 40 minutes and worth it. It took me back to sitting around grandma's kitchen table eating beautiful sweet corn as only she could make.

TO DRINK: Chilean Carmenere- Chile’s own signature grape, this red varietal disappeared from European vineyards in the mid-19th century and reappeared among Chile’s Merlot vines a hundred years later. The deepest, darkest, purplest of all red grapes. Smooth as silk, great with Indian curries and Mexican food.

Three cuttings of Carmenere were imported into Australia in the late 1990s and after two years in quarantine only one survived. They were planted in 2002 and doing well in the Moorabool Valley (Geelong). Currently being used in a blend.

MUSIC: Chrissie Hynde. Her first album in over 35 years. The reason I chose it as it also took me back 35 years. So lots to talk about. Chrissie with the Pretenders 35 years ago and Grandma's beautiful sweet corn.

Al;alternatively I went with Keb Mo and Coldplay's new CD Ghost Stories.

Aussie Steak Sandwich

Chef: Ben O'Donoghue

Simple, easy to make and so delicious. You'll never make a steak sandwich any other way again.

TO DRINK: Byron Bay Blonde an award winning beer from the Byron Bay Brewery. Up against 1344 entries from 258 breweries in 41 countries.

MUSIC: I had to go all out Australian of course.
Ian Moss“Let’s All Get Together” CD – Happy Day is a nice track. Such a Beautiful Thing.

Acoustic versions of Choir Girl and probably the best version of “When the War Is Over”.

Other Music:
Boy and Bear – Southern Sun
Jinja Safari – Toothless Grin
Yothu Yindi – Community Life, Something Will Happen, Djapana
Slim Dusty – G’Day G’Day
John Wiliamson – Home Among The Gumtrees
Jimmy Barnes – Working Class Man

BBQ Spanish mackerel with fennel and orange salad

Chef: Murray Dalton

Marray has done it again with a brilliant recipe, very quick and easy and oh, so healthy. I did have trouble finding mackerel so I used Mahi Mahi. Murray assures me this recipe will work with most 'oily' fish including salmon.

BBQ crispy skin red emperor with tomato and basil salsa

Chef: Murray Dalton

What a treat! Very easy and quick to do and Red Emperor has got to be the best fish I've ever eaten. It's a wild fish and cannot be grown in fish farms. It's expensive (around $59 a kilo) but talking to Murray it should cost a lot more and is certainly worth every cent.

WINE: Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.

MUSIC: Art Garfunkel "Some Enchanted Evening" CD. Sit back relax to wonderful food and a wonderful voice.

Warm Roast vegetable salad with lamb and haloumi

Chef: Mel Kettle

Mel has created a fabulous dish. For your vegetarian friends simply remove the lamb.

I wondered about the pomegranate seeds (optional), however, used them. The combination of flavours will have your taste buds singing.

WINE: Just about any red wine is going to be fine with this dish, however, if you want your taste buds to go crazy I’d go with a Malbec, Rioja (Ri-ocka), or a Pinot Noir. There is a fab Malbec blend QC Queensland Cabernete (Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot) coming out of Stanthorpe (Summit Wines) which is to die for. Mind you, it's $40 a bottle, made by the Granite Belt's only female wine maker.

MUSIC:Boz Scaggs“What Can I Say” – All Boz needs to do is cook this! Great to have a little dance around the kitchen while cooking. His new album is great.


Dinner Parties


Chef: Daniele Panetta

What can I say. If you love seafood then this is for you. I had a lot of fun doing this dish, never cooked so many different varieties of seafood together. Family gave me an 8.5 out of 10.

Don't worry if you can get all the seafood listed like Vongole or Green Scampi.

TO DRINK: Verdicchio [verˈdikkjo] is a white Italian wine grape variety. Hard to find but is available in Australia.

Alternatively any of the traditional white wines that go with seafood or a good Pinot Noir.

MUSIC: I made the big mistake of going "Italian" and played Al Martino's Volare (Nel Blu Pinto Di Blu) This is a dance version.

We danced around the studio when it played and rolled on the floor laughing, however I couldn't get it out of my head for the rest of the week.

It reached number one on the charts in Italy and was a top ten hit throughout Europe in 1971. Al Martino’s real name was Jasper Cini. Jasper was the Anglicisation of his fathers name Gasparino.

He was inspired to become a singer by emulating Al Jolson and Perry Como and by the success of family friend, Alfredo Cocozza (Mario Lanza) who was later murdered reportedly by the Mafia for refusing to sing at one of the Godfathers gatherings.

Oh course as an actor he’s known for playing Johnny Fontane in the Godfather.

Follow it up with a little Michael Buble. Yes he's Canadian but Italian background.

Kofta with two sauces and 'burnt' eggplant with pomegranate.

Chef: Queensland Good Food Guide editor Natascha Mirosch

You can do it all on the BBQ if you want to. This sounds more complicated than it is. Get the kids making the kofta while you make the sauces. The kids will love helping with the Kofta.

WINE: An interesting mix with lamb and then grilled eggplant. I’d go with a Rioja just for something a little different. Alternatives would be Tempranillo, Merlot or a Cabernet Sauvignon.

MUSIC: If the kids are around grab hold of ABBA because everyone loves ABBA. Alternatively, Robert Palmer. My pick tracks are "Simply Irresistible" and for the romantic in me, "She Makes My Day".



Healthy Apple Crumble

Chef: Julie Masci

Who doesn't like apple pie? Sprinkled with almonds and coconut - totally yum!

Serve with a scoop of low fat natural Greek yogurt with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

WINE: Try a little dessert wine like Tokaj. The Rutherglen region of Victoria is known for its fortified wines. Muscadelle is something else you could try.

Orange scented creme caramel

Chef: Alison Alexander

Alison would have to be one of my favourite chefs. What can go wrong with this dish? It's sure to become one of your favorites.

WINE: Sauterne or any Italian Sweet Sparkling Wine eg Moscato or Muscatel.








All contents copyright © 2014 Don Gillespie