Recipes: A Sumptuous Spring Feast from Down Under

Zoomer travel editor Vivian Vassos with chef Mark McNamara

Here, Zoomer‘s Vivian Vassos spends an afternoon with chef Mark McNamara in Barossa Valley, South Australia– and brings back recipes to try at home.


A couple hours drive outside of Adelaide, South Australia, is the Barossa Valley, a pocket of wine provenance that pretty much corners the market on some of the best Shiraz bottled, not just in Aus, but the world. In the New World red wine category, it gives California a run for its money, with a growing season that’s as long as it is varied. Grapes love the earth here, and some of the vines have been here longer than those in France. Yes, France.

An oenophile explanation: in the mid-1800s, some of the important wine regions of the European nation suffered blight. The vines succumbed to disease, and ages-old plants were gone. Fortunately, a few had been transported to Australia – you can also find some of these old-timers in Canada’s Okanagan Valley – and the rest, well, is still history in the making.

The English gentry settled in the Barossa Valley in the late 1830s, and then hired Germans, who came to work the land – and work magic in winemaking, traditions that they had brought with them from the old country. But what’s old in the winemaking industry continues to be new, too. We thirst for innovation, yet yearn for tradition, particularly when it comes to consistency in the taste, the mouth feel, the tingle on the palette when imbibing in our favourite quaff.

Food was a natural segue into the new. Chefs began to make the move here in the latter half of the 20th century, citing the longer growing season, the close community, the ability to know their suppliers, their farmers, and their neighbours, and a culinary destination of delicious proportions was born. Jetsetters soon followed, and the enthusiasm for culinary travel is now mainstream, with many tour companies’ itineraries built around food and wine experiences.

This global hunger eating and drinking with the locals makes the Barossa Valley a bucket-list foodie haven to the max. Its close proximity to bustling Adelaide doesn’t hurt either, with the city being voted by the guidebook experts at Lonely Planet as a top-10 city to visit in 2014, for its burgeoning food, arts and music scenes – and as a gateway city to wine country.

At The Louise, a boutique resort in the valley known for its spacious rooms – there are only 15 suites on property, some with outdoor showers – but, perhaps more importantly, it’s having not just one, but two lauded chefs at its helm in its first decade in business (the resort opened in 2005). Mark McNamara, the proprietor of the cheekily titled cooking school, Food Luddite, was The Louise’s first chef. He established the resort’s cuisine ethics, with local, artisanal and old-fashioned simplicity as his core ingredients, a signature with which he still infuses in his cooking at the school (

Scroll through for a behind the scenes photos and recipes, of course, of an afternoon of cooking with Chef McNamara at Food Luddite Kitchen Studio, in the Barossa Valley, South Australia.

8-VIV-IMG_0788Simple Flat bread

340g plain flour

½ teaspoon sugar

7g dry yeast

120g  warm milk

120ml warm water

1 tablespoon  olive oil

1 egg


  • Mix 1/3 of the flour with the sugar and dry yeast, add the warm liquids and mix to a smooth thick batter, cover and leave to start fermentation (mixture will bubble)
  • Combine remaining flour with salt and add the yeast mixture, mix well with the olive oil and egg, and knead to a smooth dough
  • Cover and allow to double, break into portions the size of a large apricot and pat flat
  • Dust well with flour, roll out to a disc about 20-25 cm across and leave to rise for 10-15 mins
  • Heat a flat grill or heavy pan until too hot to touch then place flatbread in dry pan until it appears to blister, turn over and repeat.
  • Bread should puff up, remove from pan and serve immediately

 Smoked Lamb Fillet

6-VIV-IMG_0798 Smoked Lamb Fillet

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons sea salt flakes

½ teaspoon black pepper – ground

1 teaspoon juniper berries – finely chopped

250g lamb fillet – from the leg or loin


  • Mix seasonings together
  • Prick lamb all over with a sharp carving fork or skewer, sprinkle both sides of fillets liberally with seasoning mixture, cover and refrigerate preferably overnight
  • In a smoking container, set sawdust to heat and smolder
  • Pat lamb dry and place on rack in smoker, cover and smoke over a moderate heat for 10 minutes
  • Turn lamb fillet over, and smoke for a further 10 minutes
  • Remove from smoke, allow to cool, slice and serve

 Salad of spiced sweet potato


Salad of spiced sweet potato

1 teaspoon Penang or Cape Malay curry powder (mild and fragrant)

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

80ml olive oil

800g sweet potatoes -cut into 1cm cubes

100g almond kernels – cut in half or lightly crushed

30g pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1 tablespoon cumin seed

50ml  vinegar

Salt-to taste

1 clove garlic

1 large ripe tomato – diced

1 small bunch spring onions – finely sliced

1 small bunch fresh green coriander – shredded



  • Mix spices and salt, coat sweet potatoes with a little oil and 2/3 the spice mix – roast at 180c until lightly coloured and tender – reserve
  • Toss almonds and pumpkin seeds with remaining spice mix in a little oil, roast lightly as above and mix with sweet potatoes
  • Toast cumin seeds in a dry pan until they start to crackle remove from heat, crush lightly and cover with vinegar, add crushed garlic, salt and remaining olive oil
  • Toss , sweet potato mix with the spring onions, tomato, chopped coriander and ½ the dressing, spoon onto serving plate
  • Drizzle remaining dressing around plate and scatter with coriander leaves

Pomegranate, beetroot and yogurt puree

4-VIV-IMG_0778Pomegranate, beetroot and yogurt puree

1 bunch baby beetroots – leave tails and 3cm of stem/leaves intact

1 medium onion – finely diced

½ teaspoon    salt

1 lemon – juice

1 tablespoon   pomegranate molasses

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup flat leaf parsley – shredded

¼ cup  mint leaves – shredded

250g  Greek yogurt – drained overnight


  • Cover beetroot with cold salted, bring to the boil and simmer until tender, peel while still hot
  • Dice beetroot and combine with onion, salt, lemon, pomegranate molasses and olive oil and blend to a smooth puree.
  • When cool stir through yogurt, check seasonings and herbs

Asparagus with hazelnut salsa and avocado emulsion

5-VIV-IMG_0780Asparagus with hazelnut salsa and avocado emulsion

Hazelnut dressing

40ml hazelnut oil

60ml sunflower Oil

2 tablespoon  verjuice

1 teaspoon tarragon vinegar



  • Combine all ingredients in a jar or bottle and shake well – reserve


Avocado and Soy Dressing

½ avocado -flesh only

2 teaspoons  Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons  tarragon vinegar

½ clove garlic – crushed

50ml soya milk

125ml sunflower oil

50 ml  hazelnut oil

Sea salt flakes and ground black pepper to taste


  • Blend avocado, mustard, vinegar and garlic with soya milk and blend well until smooth
  • Mix oils together and drizzle gradually into avocado mixture whist processing
  • Season to taste (must be used within 2 hours as sauce can become discoloured)


Hazelnut salsa

1 tomato – 5mm dice

½ cucumber – 5 mm dice

2 spring onions – finely sliced

30g  hazel nuts – roasted and lightly crushed

1 tablespoon  hazelnut dressing (above)

Sea salt and ground black pepper



  • Combine all ingredients only when required


To Serve

2 bunches fine asparagus

2 tablespoons hazelnut dressing

Sea salt flakes and ground black pepper to taste

  • Steam, grill or panfry asparagus until tender but still firm
  • Season while still hot and toss with dressing
  • Spoon avocado dressing across the plate, top with asparagus
  • Combine salsa ingredients and spoon over– serve while still warm