View Comments

Lalla Rookh head chef Joel Valvasori-Pereza created this Italian-influenced menu, which will serve eight people and cost about $100.

This figure doesn't include pantry basics such as sugar and oil. Lalla Rookh sommelier Jeremy Prus teamed the dishes with wine.

Classic dining, real world

Good manners as essential as ever

In a flap? Call in the professionals

How to choose the right wine

RECIPE: Summer Spritz

RECIPE: ANTIPASTO SELECTION
Wine match: Foster e Rocco Rose 2012, Heathcote, Vic $29

Visit a good European delicatessen and ask to try cold cuts such as capocollo, prosciutto, salami and mortadella.

They're relatively inexpensive and really pack some good flavour punch.

Try some cheese also. Hard cheese is good for starting a meal. Look for cheese like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Asiago or Montasio. A great local hard cheese is the Milel parmesan. It has a great texture, is full of flavour, and is usually cheaper than its European counterparts.

Add marinated olives and grissini (breadsticks) or fresh, crusty bread to the antipasto selection. You can also grill and marinate your own vegetables or even make your own sweet and sour Peperonata (see recipe).

RECIPE: PEPERONATA
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 red onion, cut into rings
1 bay leaf
1 red capsicum
1 yellow capsicum
Pine nuts, handful
Sultanas, handful
Salt and pepper
1 tsp caster sugar
Red wine vinegar
Baby capers, handful

Place capsicums directly on top of the naked flame on your stove, char until all sides of the capsicums start to blister. Remove from heat and place in a bowl and cover with a lid. Allow to stand for 10-15 minutes to allow the skin to sweat and separate further. Remove all skin from the capsicums. Remove the seeds, cut the capsicum into strips and set aside in a sieve to drain excess liquid.

In a pot, add garlic, onions, bay leaf and a touch of salt and pepper. Allow to sweat over a medium to high heat until translucent and sweet. Add pine nuts and sultanas and allow it to sweat together for a 2 minutes. Add the capsicum strips and stir for a few minutes. Add the sugar and a generous splash of red wine vinegar. This part is all about balance of flavour. This recipe is all about sweet, sour and salty, so adjust the flavours to your liking using the vinegar and sugar. Once you have the right balance of sweet and sour add the capers. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.

RECIPE: ROAST PORK SHORT LOIN, BRAISED FENNEL & TOMATOES
Wine match: Luke Lambert 'Crudo' Shiraz 2011, Yarra Valley, Vic $27

1.5kg firm short loin pork with a good fat cap and skin intact - ask your butcher to score the skin diamond style

Pork spice mix:
2 tbsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1 sprig rosemary, needles chopped
10 sage leaves, chopped
1 garlic clove

In a mortar and pestle, grind all spices then add chopped herbs and garlic. Continue to pound into a loose pulp.

Rub the spice mix over the meat side of the pork. Season the meat well with sea salt and pepper.

Roll the pork and use butcher's twine to secure both ends and the middle with individual lengths of string. Then evenly work your way along the pork, tying more string until it is a secure cylinder shape.

An hour before roasting the pork, rub a good amount of salt into the skin. This will help draw excess moisture from the skin. Leave at room temperature.

Preheat your oven to 270C.

Before putting your pork in the oven, use some dry kitchen paper towel to remove the moist salt from the skin. Re-season your pork skin and place in the oven.

Roast until crackling starts to develop, then drop the oven temperature to 200C to finish. A 2kg short loin usually takes about an hour to cook, but use a meat thermometer if you can.

Allow meat to rest (uncovered to protect the crackling) for about 30 minutes before serving.

Remove all the twine before serving. Use a serrated bread knife to carve the pork (this will help you saw through the crackling).

Braised fennel & tomatoes:
100g olive oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced finely
1 sprig rosemary, needles chopped finely
1 onion, diced finely
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
100g white wine
100g tomato passata (puree)
Fennel bulbs, cut into wedges (3 wedges per person)
Truss cherry tomatoes (3 per person)
Chicken stock or water

Heat a wide-based stainless steel pot. Add olive oil and rosemary and fry briefly until light-golden. Add onion and some salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and allow the onion to sweat until sweet and golden. Add white wine and allow it to reduce by half. Add your tomato passata and stir to combine. Add fennel bulbs and adjust the seasoning. Add enough stock to ¾ cover your fennel, and cover with a sheet of baking paper. Allow it to simmer for about 5 minutes before adding cherry tomatoes. Continue to cook until fennel and cherry tomatoes are tender and the sauce is reduced.

RECIPE: VANILLA SEMIFREDDO WITH FRESH FIGS & AGED BALSAMIC
Wine match: Montevecchio Moscato 2012, Heathcote, Vic $25

Semifreddo is a great dessert for a dinner party. It is prepared the day and is really simple. If figs aren't your thing, use fresh berries or roasted stonefruit in syrup.

120g full-cream milk
1 vanilla pod, seeds removed
250g caster sugar
8 egg yolks
800g thickened cream
Fresh figs to serve
Aged balsamic vinegar

Line a terrine mould or loaf tin with cling film. Be sure to get right down into the corners.

Place the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of a mixer and whisk together on high until pale, light and fluffy.

Place milk and vanilla seeds in a small pot on the stove and heat until just under the boil (you'll see the vanilla seeds start to move around the milk). Remove from heat and in a slow, steady stream, pour the milk into the still-whisking egg yolks and sugar mix. Continue to whisk until the mixture cools and becomes thick, light and fluffy. Scrape the mixture out into a bowl and refrigerate.

Whisk the thickened cream until it forms semi-firm peaks.

Using a rubber spatula, beat 1/3 of the egg mix into the thickened cream, then fold through the remaining egg mix. Pour into the lined mould, cover the top tightly with cling film and place in the freezer overnight.

To serve, turn out onto a serving platter, removing all of the cling film. Top with wedges of fresh figs and drizzle with aged balsamic vinegar. Like good ice-cream, a semifreddo benefits from being allowed to soften slightly before serving.