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Yummy Fresh Summer Food
© Sue Courtney
26 January 2004

This has been such a great summer so far and the fruit is just so fantastic. My personal taste highlight has been the black cherries, which first started appearing in the Auckland shops just before Christmas and have continued in supply throughout January. Each time I go to the markets the prices of Marlborough and Central Otago grown fruit have reduced. They started out at $19.95 a kilo before Christmas and now they are just $9.95. Although the price has reduced, the size of the fruit has not. They seem to be getting bigger and bigger a change in variety, I guess. I have to restrain myself from eating them all before I get home.

Strawberries have also been fantastic this summer. With a mostly dry January there has been none of the mushy ones that go off before you get home, just lovely succulent fruit that tastes a treat on its own or lightly pan-fried in a little liqueur. And lastly the white nectarines beautifully juicy fruit that dribbles down your chin as you eat it. I do not have a recipe for the nectarines they were just so delicious on their own. Or try a juicy white with a glass of the brand new release Melness Canterbury Riesling 2003 served slightly chilled I swear the taste of white nectarines are in this wine.

The other great thing about summer food is the fresh garden vegetables, the new potatoes, the vine-ripened tomatoes, the abundant cucumbers, the colourful capsicums and the fabulous summer herbs. It's almost diet inducing knowing how sweet these fresh vegetables are going to be.

This month's recipes include

* Roasted Cherries
* Rich Tomato, Basil and Capsicum Soup
* Roast Summer Veges with Tomato Sauce
* Potato Caesar Salad
* Syrupy Strawberries

Roasted Cherries
There's more to cherries than just feasting on the fresh raw fruit and with cherries so abundant and relatively cheap, it's been the time to experiment. Indeed experimentation was what was needed to get the result I wanted for these roasted cherries. This recipe originally featured alongside the Quartz Reef Central Otago Pinot Noir 2002, the Wine of the Week for the week ending 28 December 2003. I've decided to repeat it here. The slow roasting of the cherries intensifies the flavours and the splash of balsamic adds an extra dimension.

You will need

1 cup of whole black cherries fresh unblemished cherries with stalks and stones intact.
1 tablespoon of good balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of orange liqueur
Black pepper
Sprigs of fresh thyme, lemon thyme if you have it.

Mix together the balsamic vinegar and the orange liqueur. Add the cherries and mix around in the liquid so each cherry is completely coated.
Place the cherries and the glaze in a small ovenproof dish.
Add a few grinds of black pepper, a shake of salt and for a distinctive Central Otago touch, some sprigs of thyme.
Pop the dish into the oven to roast at 200C with fan on for about 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven, stir to re-coat the cherries with the glaze and pour off and reserve excess liquid. (If you have too much liquid, the cherries will braise rather than roast).
Return to the oven to roast for about another 10 minutes. The liquid should dry out in this time.
Remove from the oven and add about a teaspoon of the reserved glaze to the dish it will sizzle as it is added - and stir to re-coat the cherries with the glaze.
Serve the cherries on their own as a spectacular finger food treat or use as a garnish to roast Turkey, Chicken or Pork. Decorate with sprigs of thyme if you wish.

Rich Tomato, Basil and Capsicum Soup
Rich Tomato, Basil and Capsicum Soup Serves 2

You will need

- 4 rashers of bacon
- 4 good sized tomatoes
- 1 red capsicum
- 1 red onion
- several cloves of whole unpeeled garlic
- Several sprigs of basil, with several leaves on each sprig
- Sugar
- Olive oil
- Salt Pepper
- 1 cup of water

Wash and halve the tomatoes.
Wash and halve the capsicum.
Peel and quarter the onion.
Line the bottom of a roasting dish with the bacon.
Layer sprigs of basil on top of the bacon and stuff some leaves of basil into the capsicum halves.
Sprinkle the cut side of the tomatoes with sugar.
Season tomatoes, capsicum and onion with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
Place the tomatoes and capsicums cut side down on top of the basil that is on top of the bacon.
Arrange the quarters of the onion and the several cloves of unpeeled garlic around.
Loosely cover with foil and bake slowly at 150?C for minutes for 30 minutes, remove foil and turn fan on and cook for a further 30 minutes.
Remove dish from the oven and allow to cool.
When cool enough to handle, remove the skins from tomatoes, capsicum and garlic.
Cut the bacon into pieces and put aside.
Roughly mash the remainder of the roasted ingredients together.
Add 1 cup of water and reheat before serving.
Garnish with chopped bacon, freshly slithered leaves of basil and accompany with toasted ciabatta.

Roast Summer Veges with Tomato Sauce
Sometimes it's nice to have a vege meal without any meat, or as in this dish, just a tiny amount of ham or prosciutto to add additional flavour.
This is similar to the previous recipe in some respects, but it is also quite different. The similarity comes with some of the ingredients and the cooking method. The difference comes in the other ingredients and the serving.

For two persons allow at least

- 2 tomatoes
- 2 red capsicums
- 2 yellow capsicums
- 1 small long egg plant (I used the light purple eggplant)
- a dozen beans
- 6 spears of asparagus
- 1 courgette or 4 slices of marrow
- 1 red onion
- 6 small flat mushrooms
- a handful of basil
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- some ham or prosciutto
- olive oil
- a knob of butter and a splash more of olive oil

Halve the tomatoes and capsicums, diagonally slice the eggplant and the courgette into thickish (1cm) strips, top and tail the beans, break the hard bit off the bottom of the asparagus spears, peel and quarter or eighth the onion, finely chop the garlic, coarsely chop the basil.

Lightly oil the bottom of a large, flat-based ovenproof dish. Into this place the tomatoes and capsicum cut side up and add the rest of the vegetables except the beans, asparagus and mushrooms.

Sprinkle the tomatoes with a little sugar. Drizzle olive oil over all the vegetables and turn the eggplant and the courgette (marrow) slices so they are well covered. Add seasonings ground black pepper and salt, and sprinkle over the finely sliced garlic and the basil. Place the dish in an oven and bake at about 200?C with the fan on for about 30 minutes.

Fill a frying pan to about half its capacity with water and bring to the boil, add the asparagus and beans and cook for 1 minute then drain and refresh the greens in cold water. Now chop the beans in half and wrap thin slices of ham or prosciutto around each piece of asparagus. Dry the pan.

About 5 minutes before the oven veges are ready, melt a little butter and oil in the pan. Add the flat mushrooms, the meat-wrapped asparagus and the beans and cook for a few minutes stirring or turning as necessary. Remove and add to the oven roasted veges, which you have now taken out of the oven.

Heat your tomato sauce in the frying pan. You can use either homemade or packaged. I like the Dolmio Stir-In Tomato and Sweet Pepper Sauce, which comes in a 150g package (I notice that products on the flashy Dolmio website, vary from country to country). Tip this into the pan and add an equal quantity of water. Stir together and heat just to boiling. Pour the sauce over the vegetables in the oven pan and serve immediately.

To serve this dish as a side dish to accompany a main course, I recommend that the vegetables be chopped into smaller pieces after cooking and before adding the tomato sauce. This recipe will serve 2 people foe a main course or 4 to 6 people as a main meal accompaniment.

Potato Caesar Salad
This is a combination of two favourites Potato Salad and Caesar Salad. I cheat on the sauce as I found one in the supermarket that I really love. It's the 'Good Taste Co. Classic Caesar Dressing' with ingredients listed as Canola Oil, White Wine vinegar, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Parmesan Cheese, Egg Yolk, Sugar, Onions, Salt, Pepper, Anchovies, Garlic and Mustard. It's thick and creamy and extremely difficult to pour from its bottle. You get more on your plate than you need but it all gets eaten anyway.

You will need

- Potatoes of your choice I like 'Rua' potatoes or any new season boiling potatoes. Jersey Bennies are always great.
- Generous amounts of basil and parsley
- 2 or 2 spring onions
- 4 to 5 radishes
- 1/2 cup of Caesar Dressing
- 1 Cos lettuce
- Shredded Parmesan cheese
- Cherry Tomatoes

Scrub the potatoes, peel if you wish and cut into cubes about 1.5cm to 2cm squares. Boil until just 'al dente' to the bite.
Take generous amounts of basil and parsley, wash and dry and chop coarsely.
Chop the spring onions, wash and chop the radishes.
Add the herbs, onion and radishes to the potatoes and then add about 1/2 cup of Caesar dressing.
Pile onto washed and shredded Cos lettuce and gently stir the potatoes through.
Pile shredded parmesan on top. If the shreds are too wide, cut into strips first.
Add a few cherry tomatoes, in season now.

This salad is just terrific with Pinot Gris while it also goes well with Sauvignon Blanc.

Syrupy Strawberries
The secret to this is quick cooking so have everything handy.

You will need

- 1 punnet of fresh, ripe strawberries
- A small knob of butter
- 2 tablespoons of orange liqueur
- A box of matches or other lighting mechanism

Remove the greenery from the strawberries. Quarter each berry lengthways. Melt a tiny bit of butter in a non-stick pan, just enough to start the strawberries off when you throw them in the pan. Shake the pan as you cook, as you want the strawberries to keep some form, rather than starting to disintegrate.
As the juices start to come out of the strawberries and you smell the fabulous fragrance, add a couple of tablespoons of orange liqueur it will quickly come to the boil so before it does, light the match and ignite the alcohol.
Keep shaking the pan so the strawberries are coated in the liqueur and strawberry syrup.
Pour over ice cream or pavlova, which you had plated prior to cooking.
The whole time of cooking should not take more than2 or 3 minutes from adding the strawberries to the heated pan. The fruit and the liqueur have natural sweetness, so no additional sugar is needed.


Sue Courtney's recipes are all original creations unless otherwise stated. Recipes are inspired by the season and by the wine matches.

Kia pai te kai

© Sue Courtney
January 2004

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