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Here’s to an Outlandish Summer!

Summer is almost here and that means long, lazy lunches, outdoor eating and great wine enjoyed with friends. We spoke to the queen of alfresco food, Jules Mercer of Outlandish Kitchen to get her take on summer, fresh produce and a couple of killer recipes.
With Outlandish Kitchen, Jules sets up extraordinary events on farms, at the coast or anywhere else close to the source of incredible fresh produce. If you haven’t been to one yet, sign up soon for the next one.

Jules says, “After months of wearing jumpers and jeans, it’s great to dig out the hats and suncream. Spring pre-empts summer with juicy sweet sugar peas. Fresh from the vine this is the best garden snack (and easily transported on to a picnic with it’s self made cover). Courgettes, tomatoes and bunches of fragrant basil make the best salads – I love how the temperature rises and we all look to juicy, crunchy veg thrown together in different ways. For picnics, I look for food that travels well and is easy to eat. A bit of prep means you can relax out in the fields…. “My go-to for picnics is a pink drink, I’m not sure why. For me summer is all about rose.”

Jules’s Picnic Perfect Recipes:

Chicken & Cinnamon Filo Pies – Robertson Winery Chardonnay

Serves: 10

Perfect for traveling lunches – a pie that is easy and not too heavy for summer. Filo pastry is the answer here – light and crispy and perfect for this lightly spiced chicken filling. If you fancy something a bit warmer a chilli or two would also work well in the filling. Ras el Hanout is a Moroccan spice blend which you should find at a specialist shop – the phrase translates to “top of the shop” and I think this dish certainly is.

800g chicken meat (brown if possible) cooked
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp ginger
2 tsp ras el hanout
1 stick cinnamon
1 tbsp flour
200ml chicken stock
small bunch coriander, chopped
100g toasted flaked almonds
3 tbsp icing sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
350g filo pastry
100g butter

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, and fry the onion for 10 minutes until soft and translucent. Whilst this is cooking, shred the cooked chicken meat.

Add the garlic to the onions and cook for another minute or two.

Add the ginger, ras el hanout and cinnamon stick and fry for another minute. Add the flour then the stock slowly, stirring all the time.

The sauce should be just a little thickened by the flour, once it has cooked for a few minutes remove from the heat and stir in the chicken and chopped coriander.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

For the filo: melt the butter in a saucepan and lay the filo out with sheet of plastic underneath it. Grease a 25cm square tin, then using a pastry brush brush one sheet of the filo with the butter and place it in the base of the tin.

Repeat this 3 times (cutting the pastry if you need to), the pastry needs to come up the side of the tin but no more.

Taste the filling and season appropriately then pile into the tin lined with filo.

Mix the flaked almonds, icing sugar and cinnamon together. Sprinkle over the filling evenly.

Top with another 2 layers of filo using the same buttering method as before. using a sharp knife, score the top layers into squares – depending on how big you want but about 8-10cm or so.

Bake in the oven at 180C for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden and the pie cooked through.

Serve with Robertson Winery Chardonnay and a lovely side salad.

Asparagus with Parma ham and hollandaise sauce – Robertson Winery Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc

This snack is one of the most heavenly combinations. Keep the hollandaise in a thermos flask to transport easily.

Serves: 4 as a starter or 2 as a main

For the sauce:

2 egg yolks
110g butter
a good squeeze lemon juice
400g asparagus
200g parma ham slices
salt and pepper

To make the hollandaise: in a heat proof glass bowl whisk the egg yolks until pale. Place on top of a pan of simmering water, making sure the glass bowl does not touch the water. Cut the butter into ½ inch cubes and add one by one to the yolk mixture, whisking all the time. The sauce will gradually thicken as it heats up – just make sure it doesn’t get too hot and you constantly whisk. If it starts to split just remove it from the heat and throw in another egg yolk.

Once the butter cubes have all melted and turned into a silky smooth hollandaise, turn off the heat and leave the glass bowl over the hot water whilst you finish the dish. (stir every now and again).

Blanch the asparagus in boiling water for about a minute or two, until they turn emerald green. Remove and drain.

Wrap the parma ham slices around each stem of asparagus and serve with the warm hollandaise sauce and a glass of Robertson Winery Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.

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