Our herb garden has expanded with a newly installed pair of 1940s’ concrete wash tubs brimful of fresh herbs. Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme are joined by chives, common and Vietnamese mint, marjoram and lemongrass. A handful of freshly plucked herbs adds pizzazz to almost all the dishes I cook.
Pork larb with coriander, Vietnamese mint anD Thai basil
+ 2019 Port Phillip Estate Salasso Rosé, Mornington Peninsula, A$27
The larb recipe was purloined by my wife from David Herbert’s column in The Weekend Australian. It’s forgiving in terms of the herb assemblage but coriander, basil and mint are cornerstone. It’s my job to select the wine and crisp, dry rosé is my enviable choice. The 2020 Salasso is a surprising blend of shiraz and pinot noir with the shiraz bringing depth and structure, the pinot fresh red fruit flavours and a ping of fresh acid.
Fennel and orange salad + 2019 Tellurian Fiano, Heathcote, A$28
This classic salad is so easy to assemble – don’t forget to chop the green feathery tips of the fennel and scatter over the finished dish for an extra zip of flavour and colour contrast. The aniseed flavours of the fennel call for a savoury white like fiano and the 2019 Tellurian is on the money. Its fresh nashi pear and apple flavours are perfect with the citrusy zest of the salad.
Tabbouleh and Turkish pide with cheese and spinach + 2017 Vinkara Kalecik Karasi, Ankara, Turkey, A$28
Forty years ago, Sydney’s now trendy Surry Hills was a hotpot of Lebanese, Greek and Turkish migrants, who brought the Middle Eastern staple, tabbouleh. Chopping parsley is a chore but the headscarf-clad Turkish women chopped and chopped, adding their secret ingredients to create this salad. Add a sizzling hot pide stuffed with spinach and cheese, and a bottle of lithe Turkish red made from the indigenous kalecik karasi, and listen out for the zither and tef.
BBQ butterflied lamb leg and fresh mint sauce + 2019 Swinney Grenache, Frankland River, A$42
Mum served her leg of lamb with homemade mint sauce made with lashings of salt, sugar and brown vinegar. The mint was fresh from the garden, where it grew like crazy. My version heads to the barbecue, eases off the salt and sugar, and replaces the vinegar with a good sherry. The wine needs an umami note to match the mint sauce, and the 2019 Swinney Shiraz is the perfect choice. Its cool Great Southern origins bring hints of cinnamon and star anise, and a understated tannin frame.
Basil pesto and bucatini + 2018 Greywacke Wild Sauvignon, Marlborough, A$42
Pesto is a family staple – on toast with ripe tomatoes for breakfast, slathered on sandwiches for lunch or an easy-peasy pasta dish for dinner. I like to follow the pesto’s ‘herbal’ theme with a sauvignon blanc. Not a simple sauvy, but a richer, more complex style – such as Kevin Judd’s Wild Sauvignon. Its indigenous yeast, barrel ferment and extended yeast lees contact builds its flavours, character and complexity to meet that of the garlic-laden pesto.
Whole steamed snapper with lemongrass and ginger + 2020 Harewood Estate Porongurup Riesling, Great Southern, A$28
Simplicity is the key to cooking a spanking fresh snapper. Parcel the fish in foil with slices of lemon, ginger, lemongrass and a handful of fresh herbs, season, add a drizzle of olive oil and bake for 20-30 minutes. Screw the cap off a young, vibrant riesling and enjoy. The Porongurup is my pick of the Harewood Estate rieslings but the Frankland River, Mount Barker and Denmark variants all offer a glimpse of the varied terroir of the Great Southern region.
Be it parsely, sage, rosemary or thyme, hearing your local greengrocer rattle off herbs for sale at the store is music to the ears. Better yet, grow them at home.