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Lunch on the verandah


We don’t encourage guests to hang around, or “cocoon”, in the lodge. Frankly, they get in the way of housekeeping and lunch set-up. Instead, and remembering the “fatter but fitter” accusation, we push guests out after breakfast to get some exercise. They’ll climb 400 vertical metres to Goat House on Mt Lidgbird for a stunning view of Lord Howe, or they’ll swim along Lagoon Beach for a coffee at Anchorage. Some will snorkel at Neds and see amazing coral just 15 metres off the beach, or dive on the southernmost barrier reef in the world with reef sharks and turtles. We don’t care what they do, so long as they burn some calories.

When they return for lunch, the breakfast ensemble has been replaced with our lunchtime “grazing table”. There are always a few ‘one dish’ salads, like our spice roasted cauliflower salad with almonds, sultanas and mint, or our radicchio salad with apple, candied walnuts and goat’s cheese. The more substantial options may include our house paella, cooked on the grill by our chatty chefs, or our spanner crab bhajis with green mango chutney.

For those who want something simple, we also have a spread of freshly sliced leg ham, cheese, tomato, leaf greens and other ingredients to make a sandwich on our home-made bread. People appreciate the simple stuff, but they tend to eat the sandwich as well as the salads and chef specials. Willpower is pathetic at Pinetrees.


Don’t you get cranky when you have to chase ingredients around your plate to compile the chef’s intended, and often mysterious, balance of flavours and textures for each mouthful? And, you guessed it, the ingredients are round, hard and wet. Honestly – don’t get us started. The beauty of these bhajis is that every component – crab, corn, spices and herbs – is mixed and cooked in bite sized chunks. There’s no gastronomic peak for the lucky soul who flukes the correct combination. All you need to do is dunk each piece into your mango chutney, and enjoy authentic Indian flavours with a lunch time beer.

Makes 25
20 minutes preparation, plus 1 hour resting
15 minutes cooking

1 large onion, very thinly sliced, preferably on a mandolin
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
1 corn cob
150 g besan flour
1 teaspoon ground smoked chilli
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 carrot, grated
1 small potato, grated
1 garlic clove, crushed
250 g raw spanner crab meat
1 bunch coriander, leaves and stems chopped
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 litre cottonseed oil

Green mango chutney
1 large green mango
100 g desiccated coconut
1 green chilli with seeds
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
6 coriander stalks
6 mint stalks, leaves picked
1/2 teaspoon salt

To make the mango chutney, peel and roughly chop the mango. Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. This is a hot and sour chutney which is really clean and fresh. It goes really well with the sweetness of the crab and sweetcorn. Set aside until needed.

Toss the onions and salt together in a bowl and allow to sit for 1 hour. The salt will draw out excess moisture from the onions. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can (reserving some of the liquid) and set the onions aside.

Meanwhile, toast the spices. Heat a dry frying pan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and toast lightly, for 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan regularly. Remove from the pan and allow to cool. Repeat with the coriander and nigella seeds.

Chargrill the sweetcorn until tender. Stand the corn cob on a board and using a sharp knife cut the kernels from the cob.

Grind the toasted spices in a pestle and mortar then combine in a large bowl, with the besan flour and ground chilli. Add the salted onions (reserving the juice), spring onion, corn, carrot, potato and garlic. Rub together with your hand to combine. Mix in the crab meat, chopped coriander and lemon juice. Rather than adding water to your mix to bring it together, add 2 tablespoons of the reserved onion juice.

Put the oil in a saucepan and heat to 170oC (or until a cube of bread turns golden brown in 20 seconds). Using a dessert spoon, spoon the bhaji mix into the hot oil. Don’t try and fry too many at once, 6 at a time is a good start. Fry for about 4 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towel and serve while still hot and crispy.


Paella at Pinetrees on Lord Howe Island

We cook this paella every week on the BBQ grill for a mass of salivating, and sometimes pushy, guests. Clearly, they’re hungry because it’s been a long three hours since their two course breakfast with only a cappuccino and a date muffin up the road at Anchorage for morning tea. But, it’s kind of our fault. You see, when guests enter the Pinetrees grounds on their bikes, they smell the smoky spices and charred seafood, and drift towards the smoke like baby mutton birds to garden lights. The theatre of the paella pan and flame grill seals the deal – for good reason – it looks and smells delicious.

Serves 12
50 minutes preparation
40 minutes cooking

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 large onions, roughly chopped
2 large red capsicum, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 hot chorizo, diced
4 chicken thigh fillets, diced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1.5 litres good quality chicken stock
3 pinches saffron threads
500 g calasparra rice
12 large raw prawns, peeled and deveined
12 x 50 g pieces trevally
12 x 50 g pieces kingfish
4 tomatoes, diced
24 mussels, cleaned
250 g spanner crab meat
2 bunches flat-leaf parsley, chopped
100 g pitted black olives, halved
3 lemons, cut in wedges

Heat the oil in a paella pan (or large frying pan) over high heat. Add the onions, capsicum and garlic and fry for about 5 minutes until golden brown. Add the chorizo, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 2 minutes to release the oils from the chorizo. Add the chicken, sprinkle with the smoked paprika and cook for a further 5 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, bring the chicken stock and saffron to the boil in a saucepan. This will release the colour and flavour. Add the rice to the paella pan and stir to coat the grains with the oils from the pan. Add 1/3 of the chicken stock, stir, and cook until almost all absorbed. Add another 1/3 of the stock, again stirring so the rice cooks evenly and doesn’t burn.

While this is happening heat a chargill pan or barbecue hot plate to high and quickly chargrill the prawns, trevally and kingfish. You don’t need to cook them all the way through as they will finish cooking when you add to the paella.

Add the remaining stock to the paella. When the liquid is 90% absorbed stir in the diced tomato. Add the mussels, distributing them evenly, then the prawns, trevally and kingfish. Press the seafood into the surface of the paella. Do not stir anymore. When the liquid has all been absorbed, remove from the heat and cover with a couple of clean tea towels and allow to stand for 10 minutes. This will allow a crust to form. After 10 minutes remove the tea towels and garnish with parsley, olives and lemon wedges.


Kitcheri at Pinetrees on Lord Howe Island

Traditional ayuvedic Indian recipes were not Pinetrees staples before our Wellness Weeks encouraged some new thinking (and tasting). It turns out that, irrespective of the digestive and detox benefits of rice and lentils (and there are many), kitchari dishes are absolutely delicious for lunch. We serve a light bowl of spicy aromatic lentils with grilled trevally, rice and raita. Whatever you do, don’t tell the big bloke with the bottle of red that this food is yoga retreat fare, because he’ll probably – well – you can guess.

Serves 8
10 minutes preparation
30 minutes cooking

4 tablespoons coconut oil
3 cm piece ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 green chilli, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds, crushed
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
200 g basmati rice
200 g green lentils
1 carrot, grated
1 zucchini, grated
10 green beans, cut into 1 cm pieces,
1 teaspoon sea salt
8 x 100 g pieces trevally
1 lemon
4 eggs, boiled for 7 minutes, peeled and halved
1 bunch fresh coriander, leaves picked

200 g plain yoghurt
1/4 cucumber, deseeded and cut into 5 mm dice
1/2 bunch mint, chopped
1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds, crushed
1/2 teaspoon garam masala

To make the raita, combine all the ingredients and set aside in the fridge.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil in a large heavy based saucepan over medium heat. Add the ginger, garlic and chilli and 1 teaspoon each of the dried spices and fry until aromatic. Take care not to burn as it will leave a bitter taste.

Add the rice and lentils and stir to coat in the spices. Add 600 ml of water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until almost all the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender.

Add the vegetables and salt and cook for a further 5 minutes. Combine the remaining spices and put in a shallow dish. Add the trevally and toss to coat in the spices. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a large heavy based frying pan. Cook the spiced trevally until golden brown and cooked through and the spices have formed a nice crust.

Serve in a deep bowl with plenty coriander, squeeze of lemon juice, half a soft egg and a spoonful of raita.


Gnocchi at Pinetrees on Lord Howe Island

Gnocchi can be intimidating to make. It’s fiddly, time consuming and can go disastrously wrong without reason. But, you’ll never buy packet gnocchi as good as the homemade stuff, so assuming that you’re a capable cook and willing to try new things, give this recipe a go. Better still, like the Italians do, invite people over for lunch and work on it together with the help of a good bottle of wine.

Serves 8
1 hour preparation
1 hour 15 minutes cooking

approximately 1 kg potato (you will need 600 g cooked potatoes)
rock salt
1 whole bulb of garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil
100 g grated parmesan
100 g plain flour
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon melted butter

1 head witlof
1 head red witlof
1 small radicchio
1 bunch parsley, leaves picked
100 g toasted walnuts
20 seedless green grapes, halved
50 ml olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
100 g manchego cheese, shaved

Firstly, dry roast the potatoes. Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Cover the base of a medium roasting tray with a thin layer of rock salt. Prick the skins of the potatoes with a fork and place on the tray. The rock salt will absorb the moisture from the potatoes. Roast for about an hour or until tender. Weigh 600 g of the potatoes and mash (it’s important for the finished gnocchi to use 600 g of cooked potato).

While the potatoes are roasting, rap the whole bulb of garlic in a double layer of foil with a teaspoon of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes. The garlic should be really soft and almost golden in colour. Pull off 4 cloves, squeeze out the puree and set aside. Keep the remaining garlic in the fridge in an air tight container and use in dips and dressings.

It is important to make the gnocchi while the potatoes are still hot. If they cool down the mixture will become gluey. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and keep it at a steady boil, ready to cook the gnocchi. It is important to use a large pan as this give the gnocchi room so they don’t stick together. Prepare a large bowl of iced water. Put the mashed potato, parmesan, flour, egg yolks, thyme and salt into a large bowl and combine to form a dough. Turn out onto floured bench and knead gently until smooth.

Divide the dough into 4. Roll each piece out into a long sausage 2 cm in diameter. Then cut into 3 cm pieces, placing the gnocchi onto flat trays lined with baking paper. Slide the baking paper, gnocchi and all into the water. Remove the paper from the water. The gnocchi will begin to float. Cook for 1 minute after it floats. Carefully scoop out using a slotted spoon and place into the bowl of iced water. This will help the gnocchi firm up and prevent it from over cooking. Leave to cool in the water for 10 minutes.

While the gnocchi is cooling, make the salad. Remove the outer leaves from the witlof and discard. Split the remaining larger leaves down the centre length ways. The smaller leaves can be left whole. Do the same for the radicchio. In a large bowl, combine the parsley, witlof, radicchio, walnuts and grapes. Combine the olive oil and lemon juice, add to the salad and toss together. Assemble the dish and garnish with manchego.

Drain the cooled gnocchi on paper towel. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add the melted butter. Fry the gnocchi on both sides until golden brown. Do this in 2 batches so as not to crowd the pan. Serve accompanied by the salad.


Sesame bun, shredded pork, tamarind caramel, apple and red cabbage

Makes 12 buns
25 minutes preparation
1 hour cooking

500 g cooked shredded pork. Use leftover roast belly or shoulder
12 sesame buns (see breads and basics)
Kewpie mayo
1 carrot, shredded on a mandolin
1 apple, grated
100 g roasted peanuts
1 green soft leaf lettuce, leaves separated

Tamarind caramel:
200 g tamarind block
300 g brown sugar
5 cm piece ginger, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, left whole
1 long red chilli, split
zest of 1 lemon (zested, using a peeler)
2 star anise
2 cinnamon quill

Pickled red cabbage:
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 red onion, finely diced
50 ml red wine vinegar
100 g brown sugar
1/2 red cabbage finely shredded

To make the tamarind caramel, put all ingredients in a medium sized heavy base saucepan with 200 ml of water and bring to the boil. Mash the tamarind with the back of a spoon to help it break up. Simmer gently for about 1 hour, or until the mix is thick and shiny. Pass through a fine sieve to remove the spices and any seeds from the tamarind.

To make the pickled red cabbage, heat the peanut oil in a large wide saucepan. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and fry until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Next add the vinegar and brown sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and cook until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the shredded cabbage. Stir to coat the cabbage in the sauce. Cook for about 5 minutes over a medium heat until the cabbage has just started to soften. There should still be some bite and crunch.

Warm the shredded pork in the oven. Mix in enough tamarind caramel to coat. Split the sesame buns and toast. Spread a thin layer of kewpie mayo on both halves. Start by placing a lettuce leaf on the base, this prevents the bun from going soggy, then add the pork mix. Layer on the rest of the ingredients.


Greek meze style food fits well on our lunch time ‘grazing table’ (and the leftovers, if any, keep for staff dinner that night). This recipe is a classic combination of sweet, salty and sour flavours with two distinct textures – soft and crunchy. Dipped in hummus or baba ganoush, each tasty morsel is an authentic taste of Greece. Enjoy.

Serves 8
40 minutes preparation
25 minutes cooking

16 lamb fillets
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 garlic clove, grated
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon zest
50 g pumpkin seeds, toasted
50 g sunflower seeds, toasted
100 g spinach
200 g feta
50 g panko breadcrumbs
1 egg yolk
Pinch sea salt
Black pepper
16 sheets filo pastry
100 g butter, melted
Hummus, or babba ganoush, to serve

Spray or lightly brush a very hot frying pan with oil then quickly seal the lamb fillets. Remove from the heat and add the oregano, garlic, salt and lemon zest. Quickly toss together, then transfer to a cold tray and leave to cool in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 140 C (275 F). Spread the pumpkin and sunflower seeds on a flat tray and roast for 10-12 minutes. By roasting seeds and nuts this way you toast the seeds all the way through rather than just burning the outside which can happen if you roast in a pan or in the oven at a higher temperature.

Wash the spinach and place in a hot pan with just the water clinging to the leaves and wilt. Transfer to a sieve and squeeze to remove excess moisture. Allow to cool.

Roughly crush the pumpkin and sunflower seeds in a pestle and mortar. Crumble the feta and mix together with the crushed seeds, breadcrumbs and egg yolk. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat oven to 190 C (375 F). Lay 1 sheet of filo pastry on the bench (keeping the remaining sheets covered with a damp towel to prevent them drying out). Brush with melted butter and fold in half. Brush again with melted butter. About 4 cm in from the end place a line of the feta mix. Press flat. Add a line of spinach, and finally top with 1 lamb fillet. Roll tightly in the filo, folding in the ends.

Place a wire cake rack in a roasting tray. Arrange the filo rolls on the cake rack. This will allow any liquid that leaks from the lamb to drip away and not make the pastry soggy. Brush the rolls with more butter. Roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately with hummus or babba ganoush.


Bourgeois Szechuan food? Really? You see, the beauty of living in Australia is that we can substitute prime cuts of meat for the raggedy off-cuts that would probably appear in regional China. The flavours of the dish are still authentic – pepper, chilli, ginger, black bean, sesame and garlic – but we get to combine the flavours with mouth wateringly tender beef.

Serves 8
25 minutes preparation time
15 minutes cooking

200 g peanuts, roasted
800 g beef fillet, cut into 1 1/2 cm rounds
50 ml sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper
2 bunches broccolini, split in half down the middle
1 bunch spring onions, split in half, cut into 5 cm lengths
5 cm piece ginger, very finely shredded
1 bunch mint, leaves picked
1 bunch coriander, roughly chopped
1 bunch Thai basil, leaves picked
1 hot green chilli, finely sliced

Black bean dressing:
300 ml olive oil
100 g salted black beans, finely chopped
100 g eschallots, finely chopped
50 g ginger, finely grated
1 garlic clove, finely grated
150 ml light soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin

First make the black bean dressing. Put the olive oil, black beans, shallots, ginger and garlic into a small saucepan over a low heat and cook gently for about 10 minutes. Don’t fry, you just want to soften the ingredients. Remove from the heat and add the soy sauce and mirin. Allow to cool. This can be made well ahead as it keeps very well in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 140 C (275 F). Spread the peanuts on a flat tray and roast for 10-12 minutes.

Toss the beef in the sesame oil with the salt and pepper. Warm a large wok or heavy based frying pan over a high heat. Cook the beef for 20 seconds on each side and remove from pan.

In the same pan quickly cook the broccolini for 20 seconds, add the shallots and cook for a further 20 seconds.

Using a sharp knife, cut the beef into strips and put into a large bowl. Add the broccolini, shallots, ginger and as much of the black bean dressing as you need and toss together. Place in a serving bowl, garnish with the peanuts, herbs and chilli.


Beetroot curry at Pinetrees on Lord Howe Island

We’re incredibly lucky to have Peter Kuruvita as a guest chef at Pinetrees. For us, the best part is having his family to our house for dinner (yes, he cooks). You see, Pete is the real deal. He was born in the UK, raised in Sri Lanka, escaped the civil war, settled in one of Sydney’s roughest suburbs, and then – somehow – ended up at a Three Michelin Star restaurant in London after only a few years of professional cooking. He’s since gone on to run some of Australia’s best restaurants (including Bilsons in Sydney with our former Executive Chef, Paul Brown) and write best-selling cookbooks. He’s also hosted three highly acclaimed TV series, and his travelogues are just as good as his food. You get the picture? Pete’s authentic Sri Lankan recipes are earthy, spicy and simple to make. This beetroot curry is one of our favourites.

Serves 4
15 minutes preparation
35 minutes cooking

350 g small beetroots, washed, trimmed, stems reserved if desired
50 g ghee
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 small green chillies, finely chopped
3 cm piece pandanus leaf
1 sprig curry leaves, leaves picked
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon chilli powder
3 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon caster sugar
200 ml coconut milk

Cut the beetroots and stems if using into 1cm pieces.

Heat the ghee in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat and cook the onion and green chilli for 6-8 minutes or until translucent. Add the pandanus leaf, curry leaves and garlic and cook for another 3 minutes or until fragrant.

Add the remaining ingredients, cover, and simmer over very low heat, stirring occasionally for 15-20 minutes or until the beetroot is tender. Season to taste and serve.

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