The Christmas issue

Our December issue is out now, featuring Paul Carmichael's recipes for a Caribbean Christmas, silly season cocktails and more.

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Mango recipes

Nothing says summer like mangoes. Go beyond the criss-cross cuts - bake a mango-filled meringue loaf with lime mascarpone, start off the day with a sweet coconut quinoa pudding with sticky mango, or toss it through a spicy warm weather Thai salad.

Chilled recipes for summer

When the mercury is rising, step away from the oven. These recipes are either raw, chilled or frozen and will cool you down in a snap.

Shark Bay Wild Scampi Caviar

Bright blue scampi roe is popping up on menus across Australia. Here's why it's so special.

Dark chocolate delice, salted-caramel ganache and chocolate sorbet

"The delice from Source Dining is a winner. May I have the recipe?" Rebecca Ward, Fitzroy, Vic REQUEST A RECIPE To request a recipe, email or send us a message via Facebook. Please include the restaurant's name and address, as well as your name and address. Please note that because of the volume of requests we receive, we can only publish a selection in the magazine.

Summer feta recipes

Whether in a fresh salad or seasonal seafood dish, feta's creamy tang can be used to add interest to a variety of summer dishes.

What the GT team is cooking on Christmas Day

We don't do things by halves in the Gourmet office. These are the recipes we'll be cooking on the big day.

Paul Carmichael's great cake

"Great cake, also known in Barbados as black cake or rum cake, is a variation of British Christmas cake that's smashed with rum and falernum syrup," says Momofuku Seiobo chef Paul Carmichael. "This festive cake varies from household to household but they all have two things in common: tons of dried fruit and rum. It's a cake that should be started at least a month out so the fruit can marinate in the booze. Start this recipe up to five weeks ahead to macerate the fruit and baste the cake."

Sydney's best dishes 2016

For our 50th anniversary issue in 2016, we scoured Australia asking two questions: What dishes are making waves right now? What flavours will take us into the next half-century? Sydney provided 16 answers.

The joys of packaging

Some people see the world divided by those who live to eat and those who eat to live. For me, the pertinent split is between those for whom packaging performs a basic function and those who see it as one of life's great pleasures. I was that kid, the one who was far more interested in preserving the pretty box and ribbon than in playing with the extravagant present it held.

I'm not alone, of course, in being tantalised by the likes of brown-paper packages tied up with string. The Victorians loved elaborate giftwrapping, including intricately designed papers, and cornucopias filled with sweet surprises and hung on the Christmas tree. In Japan, the art of packaging is just that - a centuries-old art form that sees even humble pieces of fruit treated to arrangements of paper, bamboo and twine so intricate they defy all sense of material value, fly in the face of mass production and consumerism, and, perhaps most alluringly, speak of mercantile habits long forgotten. Or maybe not so forgotten?

Modern retailers understand the importance of packaging to a luxury brand, and few do it better than the French. Think of the irresistible pastel boxes of pâtisserie chain Ladurée. Yes, Ladurée's pâtisserie is all wonderful, delicious, but I wonder just how renowned it would be if it weren't for the fairy-tale trimmings. Those picture-perfect boxes printed with fine rococo garlands, dressed in printed satin ribbons with matching pistachio-green bags - the decadence of it all belies the relative simplicity of the macarons within. Ladurée's international celebrity has been bolstered by those of us who carefully dust out the last sugary crumbs, re-tie the ribbons around the boxes and cart them home so they'll find a new life housing cufflinks, silver teaspoons and other such treasures.

The most prized pieces in my collection - the holy grail of food packaging - are two round wooden cheese boxes salvaged from gigantic wheels of Rouzaire Camembert and Brie de Melun. There's also the handmade glass amphora, once home to unthinkably expensive olive oil, that now dispenses bubble bath. But alcohol companies are the masters of the opulent bottle - none more so than Crystal Head Vodka, which offers its clear spirit in an extraordinary and sculptural glass skull.

Moving from glassware to tinware provides plenty of joy, too. There are tea canisters (Singapore's TWG and France's Mariage Frères are among the most covetable), tiny Italian pastille containers from Pastiglie Leone, and regal biscuit tins from London's Fortnum & Mason.

Of course, the investment in beautiful packaging is a clever marketing initiative for a brand. There are, for example, thousands of Google entries devoted to creative ways to re-use old Bonne Maman jam jars with their signature gingham-print lids - the best ideas can be found on the French company's own website. And even though I already own a year's supply of Dijon mustard, those squat stone pots of Pommery Moutarde de Meaux with their olde-worlde labels are impossible to resist. (They make great herb vases in the kitchen. Or pencil pots. And mustard sandwiches are just delicious. Really.)

Re-using and "upcycling" certainly helps to curb the environmental guilt surrounding this sort of frivolous packaging, but it also heightens the experience of the product, extending its value and its "shelf life" well beyond its perishable contents.

Restaurants have been joining in the fun, too. Greenhouse in Perth serves its drinks in upcycled jam jars; Kitchen by Mike in Sydney uses vivaciously illustrated Italian tomato tins as centrepieces and cutlery holders; Cumulus Inc. in Melbourne serves its Ortiz anchovies straight from the hallmark tin.

Even when the fashion for this type of ornamentation subsides, there's a chance that holding on to my collection will pay dividends. Vintage glass milk bottles are fetching surprisingly big numbers on eBay, especially considering their former ubiquity. The same goes for 1940s milk-glass Vegemite jars (which make gorgeous tealight holders, by the way). But as any collector will tell you, there's only one good reason to collect: because it brings happiness.

The same logic applies to gift-giving, of course - and this is where beautiful packaging really comes into its own. It can make you feel as indulged as a kid on Christmas morning.


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