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Island picnic recipes


island picnics at Lord Howe Island

Our favourite guests, by far, are the ones who don’t come back for lunch. We’ve even talked about shouting guests a bottle of wine if they stay away until afternoon tea. We’re not callous or inhospitable. We just know what people like, normally before they do. And here’s the secret – happy, satisfied guests nearly always come back next year.

The options for lunch on Lord Howe are endless. You can ride your bike to any of the 10 wood-fired BBQ spots around the island, and cook Lord Howe Island kingfish, New England lamb, Richmond River prawns or Riverine beef, with salads and homemade bread. As per tradition, we’ll drop the BBQ hamper and esky of drinks to your preferred BBQ spot (and pick them up later), so long as you light the fire and cook the food. It’s a good deal. There’s something earthy and grounding about lighting a fire, and any pre-holiday anxieties tend to drift away with the smoke. Guests always come back shoeless, island-style, and remain shoeless for the rest of their stay.

The other 557 lunch spots on Lord Howe have no BBQ facilities and require you to bring a picnic. It can be as simple as a ham sandwich or ‘one dish’ salad, or we can make you a multi-course feast. It depends on where you are. The best spot is the summit of Mt Gower, looking down 875 vertical metres to the Lagoon and reef below. It’s so high that you’ve walked from subtropical beaches to temperate rainforest. After the climb, everything tastes good. Honestly.


Garfish sandwich at Lord Howe Island

Ed once took a crew of high maintenance Vogue magazine people to North Bay on the Albatross with only bread, butter, lemons, salt and pepper, a couple of bottles of wine and his fishing gear. It sounds crazy, but he called it a “confidence lunch” and it became something of a family tradition. The idea is to go somewhere remote, catch perfect little Lord Howe Island garfish (you need about four per person for a real feast) and BBQ the fillets. Of course, the fish don’t always cooperate and you can get stuck, hours from home, with butter sandwiches for lunch. Still, in our recent experience, there’s nothing that sharpens your fishing skills better than an empty belly, screaming kids and a long walk home. Try it sometime. It’s experiential dining at its best.

Serves 8
15 minutes preparation, plus however long it takes to catch 8 garfish
5 minutes cooking

8 garfish
Sea salt
2 lemons
8 slices fresh white bread
100 g salted butter, softened

Using a very sharp knife fillet the garfish by removing the back bone and rib cage. Cook quickly on a hot barbecue. Season with sea salt and lemon juice.

Smother a slice of bread in butter. Place a hot garfish fillet on the bread, fold it in half and eat. If the butter has not reached your elbow by the time you have finished you need to start again.


Kingfish, sweet potato, green bean, chilli, ginger, lime, garlic

There’s something about BBQ smoke and Thai food. It just smells right. And you know what? It smells better without the subtle and equally authentic Thai odours of drain, smog and shrimp paste. At any one of the Lord Howe BBQ spots, the air is clean, the water is pure, and the only shrimp are swimming in the Lagoon among the sub-tropical fish and coral. It’s the perfect place for these Thai fish cakes and an ice cold beer.

Serves 8
30 minutes preparation
15 minutes cooking

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra for barbecuing
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
60 g ginger, finely grated
1 green chilli, finely chopped
150 g rice flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
200 g kingfish, cut into 5 mm dice
150 g sweet potato, grated
100 g green beans, cut into 5 mm pieces
2 spring onions, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 2 limes
fresh herb salad, to serve
Nuac cham, to serve (see p xx)

Heat the vegetable oil in a small frying pan and gently sweat the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli, until softened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Make a batter with the rice flour, salt, sugar and 130 ml of water. Add the cooled onion mixture to the batter, then mix in the kingfish, sweet potato, green beans, spring onion and lime zest.

To cook, spoon a tablespoon of the mixture onto a hot oiled barbecue flat plate. Cook until golden and crispy then turn over. Serve hot with fresh herb salad and Nuac cham.


BBQ lamb cutlets, zucchini, cucumber, labne, mint, coriander

You must cook spiced lamb on your backyard BBQ in a decent wind – partly to clear the peppery smoke away, but mostly so your neighbours know exactly what you’re up to. In one gust of wind, the people four houses away will be gobsmacked by your lunch time food habits. These spiced lamb cutlets mixed with the aromatic zucchini salad and labne are a step up on sawdust supermarket sausages. You can go further than the recipe and wrap it all in some warm pita bread (less the bone of course).

Serves 8
30 minutes preparation, plus 2 hours marinating
5 minutes cooking

16 lamb cutlets
2 zucchini, thinly shaved on a mandolin
1 cucumber, deseeded, thinly shaved lengthways
1/2 bunch mint leaves
1/2 bunch coriander leaves
1 lemon, halved
50 ml olive oil
150 g labne

Shawarma marinade:
1 bunch coriander (including stems)
2 garlic cloves
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
100 ml olive oil
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

To make the shawarma marinade, put the coriander, garlic, lemon juice and zest and olive oil in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and mix to form a smooth paste. Marinate the lamb cutlets in the shawarma marinade for at least 2 hours.

Toss together the zucchini, cucumber, mint and coriander. Dress with olive oil, and squeeze over the juice of 1/2 the lemon.

Cook the lamb on a hot barbecue for 2 minutes on each side. Squeeze over the other half of the lemon. Serve hot with a spoonful of labne and the zucchini salad.


Lemon, rosemary, chilli and garlic

BBQ veal kebabs at Lord Howe Island

Kebabs look beautiful on the BBQ, particularly once they’re caramelised and crusty. With a few brushes of marinade during the cooking process, you’ve added that oily shine that’s compulsory in professional kitchens. Prepare these kebabs at home before you go to your favourite BBQ spot, and give the local council one dollar gas BBQ a wide berth. It’s the fastest way to ruin your lunch. Instead, light a fire, place the free standing grill (that you bought with you – because you’re organised) above the hot coals, and cook. The only ingredient missing from the recipe below is smoke – real smoke – and it’s essential.

Serves 8
30 minutes preparation
20 minutes cooking

4 rosemary stalks
2 long red chillies
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
150 ml olive oil
8 x 120 g pieces veal fillet
24 small Swiss brown mushrooms
2 Spanish onion, diced into 3 cm pieces
1 red capsicum, diced into 3 cm pieces
8 x 1 cm thick slices butternut squash, skin on
Sea salt
8 bamboo skewers
Iceberg lettuce and parmesan salad, to serve

Before you start, soak 8 bamboo skewers in water to prevent them burning when cooking.

In a pestle and mortar crush together the rosemary, chilli, garlic and black peppercorns. Add the lemon zest and olive oil and mix together. Divide the marinade in two, add the veal steaks to one half and leave to marinate for 2 hours before cooking.

Make the kebabs by alternately placing the Swiss brown mushrooms, onion and capsicum on the bamboo skewers. Brush the kebabs with the remaining marinade, sprinkle with sea salt and cook on a medium barbecue, turning to colour all sides.

Brush the butternut with some of the marinade, then cook on a medium heat barbecue plate. Cook on both sides until tender, this will take about 7-8 minutes. Remove the veal from the marinade, allowing any excess marinade to drip off. Cook the veal on the hottest part of the grill for 2 minutes on each side, or until cooked to your liking. Serve with a crisp iceberg lettuce and parmesan salad.


Sweet garlic, rosemary and sour dough

BBQ Camembert at Lord Howe Island

It’s ironic that our youngest member of staff, born sometime in the early 1990s, re-introduced this 1980s classic to our repertoire. It all happened at a staff BBQ. Georgie waited until the blokes posturing around the BBQ stepped away to look at the surf, then threw a camembert box on the grill and stood her ground when one or two of them tried to remove it. The warm salty cheese, hint of rosemary and sweet roasted garlic were a revelation for our chefs. Thanks, Georgie!

Serves 4
10 minutes preparation
45 minutes cooking

1 round camembert (the type that comes in a box)
1 rosemary stalk, broken into small sprigs
1 whole bulb of garlic
Sea salt
Olive oil
1 sour dough loaf

Discard any plastic wrapping from the camembert and place cheese back in its box. Make 6 small slits in the top of the cheese and press in a few sprigs of rosemary. Place the top back on the box.

Place the whole garlic bulb on a sheet of foil. Add a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Tightly wrap, taking care not to puncture the foil. Place the garlic parcel on a medium barbecue or beside some hot embers. It will take about 30 minutes to roast the garlic depending on how hot the barbecue is.

Place the Camembert still in the box on a medium barbecue for 10-12 minutes until the cheese is warm and soft.

Slice and toast the sour dough. Remove the garlic from the foil. Squeeze the warm, sweet garlic onto the toasted sour dough then dip into the runny cheese.


Banana leaf, lemongrass, chilli, coriander.

Throughout Southeast Asia, banana leaves are used for cooking, wrapping and serving food. Yes, you can use foil or baking paper, but that’s not the point. Authentic flavours come from authentic cooking, and the smoky sweet flavour that comes from grilled banana leaves is unique. Add that flavour to whole fish, cooked on the bone, with chilli, coriander, lemon grass, ginger and lime, and you might as well close for eyes and day dream about your favourite spot on the Malay Peninsula. Try it.

Serves 4
20 minutes preparation
25 minutes cooking

1 large banana leaf
1 large red fish (Nannygai), scaled and gutted
2 lemongrass stems
1 bunch coriander, including the cleaned roots
1 long red chilli
5 cm piece ginger, peeled
zest and juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
50 ml peanut oil
70 g roasted peanuts, chopped

Lay a piece of banana leaf approximately 40 x 30 cm on a bench. Cut the lemongrass in half, lengthways (to give you long and skinny pieces) then bruise with the back of a knife to help release the flavour. Place half the lemongrass on the banana leaf. The lemongrass will stop the fish from burning by lifting it clear from the base.

In a pestle and mortar make a paste with half the coriander leaves, all of the stems and roots, chilli, ginger and lime zest. Add the salt and peanut oil.

Score the fish 3 times on each side, all the way to the back bone. Rub the marinade all over the fish. Make sure to get into the cuts and inside the body cavity. Place the fish on top of the lemongrass, then the rest of the lemongrass on top of the fish. Fold over the banana leaf and wrap tightly.

Take another similar sized banana leaf, this time wrapping the opposite way so you cover any gaps. Take 3 thin strips of banana leaf and use like string to tie the parcel together.

Cook on a hot barbecue for about 25 minutes depending on the size of the fish. Turn the parcel over every 5 minutes to ensure even cooking. Open the parcel and check the thickest part of the fish to see if it is cooked through. Garnish with the remaining coriander leaves and roasted peanuts.


Enoki mushrooms, rich in anti-oxidants, are very good for you. But it’s kind of hard to eat them on their own. Instead, use their lovely texture and unique shape in a complete ‘one dish’ salad. This recipe combines sweet roasted butternut, spicy rocket and sour vinegar with aromatic herbs and textures of mushroom, seeds and wild rice. It will keep in your backpack for hours.

Serves 8
20 minutes preparation,
45 minutes cooking

150 g wild rice
1 medium butternut squash
50 ml toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
50 ml vegetable oil
40 ml tamari
40 ml rice wine vinegar
40 g sugar
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 cm ginger, finely grated
100g packet enoki mushrooms
2 bunches wild rocket
1/2 bunch mint leaves
100 g sunflower seeds, toasted (see breads & basics?)

Cook the wild rice in gently simmering water for about 45 minutes until tender, or according to the packet instructions.

Heat oven to 180 C (350 F). Cut the butternut into wedges, about 2 cm thick leaving the skin on. Drizzle with a little of the sesame oil, sprinkle with sea salt and roast on a baking tray for 30 minutes until tender. Allow to cool.

Make a dressing by combining the sesame seeds, sesame oil, vegetable oil, tamari, rice wine vinegar, sugar, garlic and ginger.

Cut the roots from the enoki mushrooms so the mushrooms are all separate.

Dress the rice with half the sesame dressing. Place in a large, wide serving bowl and top with the roast pumpkin, rocket, mint and sunflower seeds. Drizzle with the remaining dressing.


Pearl (or Israeli) cous cous is a taste sensation. Well, in actual fact, it’s a textual sensation because it tastes rather bland. Unlike regular cous cous, though, which can get a bit stodgy, pearl cous cous is larger and each unique ‘pearl’ takes on the combined flavour of its surrounding ingredients. In this salad, we use aromatic herbs, lemon zest, salty parmesan and sweet crunchy pomegranate to complement the slightly chewy cous cous. It’s a perfect combination for a light aromatic salad, and it looks beautiful. Serve it with grilled lamb and a big squeeze of lemon juice.

Serves 8
15 minutes preparation, plus cooling
15 minutes cooking

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
300 g pearl couscous
1 bunch mint
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch purple basil
140 g baby spinach
4 spring onions, finely chopped
50 ml olive oil
juice and zest of 1 lemon
Seeds of 1/2 a pomegranate
100 g parmesan, shaved

Heat the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan. Add the couscous and fry until it turns golden brown. Add 750 ml of water, cover and simmer for 15 minutes until the water has been absorbed. Turn out onto a flat tray and allow to cool.

Pick the leaves from the herbs and mix together with the spinach leaves and shallots.

Fork the couscous to separate the grains and dress with the olive oil, lemon juice and zest. Toss the herb mixture through the couscous. Top with the pomegranate seeds and shaved parmesan.


Radicchio salad at Lord Howe Island

The Italians know a thing or two about salads with unusual greens. What we now call “foraging for wild greens” was once gathering whatever you could find in the back field, next to the train track or along the coastal cliffs because you were dirt poor and the long hot summer (or cold frosty winter) had wiped out your veggie garden. Often these foraged greens were bitter and inedible alone, but as good cooks do, the Italians mixed them with something sweet, salty and aromatic. Do the same and you’ve got a serious salad.

Serves 8
30 minutes preparation
15 minutes cooking

150 g walnuts
50 g sugar
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 head radicchio
1 head witlof
1 head red witlof
1 bunch watercress
1 bunch parsley
1 green apple
juice of 1/2 lemon
200 g goats’ cheese
30 ml apple cider vinegar
100 ml olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

In a large heavy based saucepan mix together the walnuts, sugar and red wine vinegar. Heat on a high heat, stirring continually. Continue stirring until the sugar turns to caramel. Remove from the heat and continue stirring. This will cause the sugar to crystallise, coating the walnuts in a dry sugar coating, rather than a sticky toffee. Spread on a baking tray to cool.

Wash and spin dry the radicchio leaves. Cut the leaves into bite size pieces. Break apart the witlof, cutting the larger leaves in half. Pick the leaves from the watercress and parsley. Shred the apple into thin sticks on a mandolin, dressing with the lemon juice to prevent oxidization.

Combine the apple cider vinegar, olive oil, thyme and sea salt to make a dressing.

Toss the leaves and shredded apple in the dressing then crumble over the goats’ cheese and candied walnuts.


Grilled sweetcorn at Lord Howe Island

If you’ve ever travelled on a train in Thailand, then you’ll know the smell of grilled corn husks. Every station has multiple vendors selling corn to passengers, who may have already had a piece a few stations back. It’s high pressure selling, and last minute deals are sometimes done at 10km/hr. As the people at KFC later discovered, fast food needs to smell good, and this recipe smells amazing. Don’t waste your time with crappy old corn. You must use absolutely fresh, in fact, just picked corn, to make this dish hum. Serve it with Tom Kime’s watermelon salad and you will own your guests.

Serves 8
15 minutes preparation
20 minutes cooking

3 ancho chillies, soaked in warm water, drained
2 limes
4 spring onions, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed
1 bunch coriander chopped, including stems and roots
1 teaspoon salt
250 g butter, softened
8 cobs local sweetcorn, in the husks
Vegetable oil

Finely chop the softened ancho chilli, then use the blade of the knife to press it into a paste. Finely grate the zest from the limes and place in a bowl with the chilli paste, shallots, garlic, coriander seeds, fresh coriander, salt and butter into a medium sized bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until light and creamy.

Place the sweetcorn, still in the husks onto a hot barbecue. Drizzle with a little vegetable oil. Cook until the husks have turned black. Turn the corn and cook until charred all over. The husk will protect the corn from the heat and will steam in its own moisture. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing the husks. Smother in spiced butter and add a squeeze of fresh lime.


Cauliflower salad at Lord Howe Island

You’ve got to love the Brassica family for contributing bland vegetables to humanity. Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower – really? And to think we ate them – boiled and soggy – is mind boggling. But times have changed, and we now know that spice roasted cauliflower mixed with almonds, sultanas, mint and yoghurt is, without doubt, the best cauliflower recipe in the world. There are lots and lots of Pinetrees salads, but this is the salad recipe that guests ask us for most frequently.

Serves 8
40 minutes preparation , plus 2 hours soaking/cooling
20 minutes cooking

150 g sultanas
300 ml hot tea
1 large cauliflower, broken into florets
20 eschallots, cut in half
4 teaspoons garam marsala
100 ml olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
150 g slivered almonds, toasted (see page xx)
1 bunch mint leaves, roughly chopped
250 g natural yoghurt
2 tablespoons sumac

Place the sultanas and tea in a bowl and leave to soak for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F). Put the cauliflower, 16 of the eschallots, the garam marsala, olive oil and sea salt into a large bowl and combine. Transfer to a roasting tin and cook for 20 minutes until starting to brown but not mushy. Allow to cool.

Drain the sultana. Toss together with the cauliflower, eschallots, almonds and mint leaves.

Combine the yoghurt and sumac and spoon over the salad. Very finely slice the remaining uncooked eschallots and sprinkle over the top.


Roast parsnip salad at Lord Howe Island

Pomegranate molasses is the new verjuice in our kitchen. It’s surprisingly tart and adds depth of flavour to everything it touches. And it can go in everything – grilled meats, roast vegetables, braises, cocktails and salads. This ‘one dish’ salad combines honey roasted vegetables and spicy rocket with a tart dressing of pomegranate molasses and red wine vinegar. Add thyme for fragrance and pomegranate seeds for some sweet crunch, and you’ll wonder why your local supermarket still sells iceberg lettuce by the pallet load.

Serves 8
25 minutes preparation
40 minutes cooking

4 parsnips, cored, cut in quarters
1 celeriac, cut into fingers
4 carrots, quartered
2 red onions, cut into wedges
4 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves
juice and zest of 2 limes
150 ml olive oil
100 g honey
1 teaspoon sea salt
50 ml pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
200 g wild rocket
Seeds of 1 pomegranate

Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F). In a large bowl, mix together the vegetables with the cumin, thyme, lime juice and zest, 50 ml of the olive oil and the honey and salt. Transfer to a large roasting tin and cook in the oven for 35-40 minutes until tender and beginning to brown. Allow to cool.

Make a dressing by whisking together the remaining 100 ml of olive oil, pomegranate molasses, red wine vinegar and sugar. Toss the roast vegetables, rocket and dressing together. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the pomegranate seeds.

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