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Aløft

There's nothing new about Nordic interiors - blond timbers, concrete surfaces, warm, mid-century charm without the twee - and thank heavens for that. It's a style that augments the beauty of everything around it, in this case, gorgeous Hobart harbour, which makes up one whole wall. What is new here, however, is the food - by veterans of Garagistes, which once dazzled diners down the road, Vue de Monde in Melbourne and Gordon Ramsay worldwide. There's a strong Asian bent, but with Tasmanian ingredients. In fact, the kitchen's love of the local verges on obsessive - coconut milk in an aromatic fish curry is replaced with Tasmanian-grown fig leaf simmered in cream to mimic the flavour. Other standouts include a gutsy red-braised lamb with gai lan and chewy cassia spaetzle, pigs' ears zingy with Sichuan pepper and a fresh, springy berry dessert. While the food is sourced locally, the generous wine list spans the planet. 

Farro recipes

Farro can be used in almost any dish, from a robust salad to accompany hearty beer-glazed beef short ribs to a new take on risotto with mushrooms, leek and parmesan. Here are 14 ways with this versatile grain.

Secret Tuscany

A far cry from Tuscany’s familiar gently rolling hills, Monte Argentario’s appealing mix of mountain, ocean, island and lagoon makes it one of Italy’s hidden treasures, writes Emiko Davies.

Moon Park to open Paper Bird in Potts Point

No, it’s not a pop-up. The team behind Sydney’s Moon Park is back with an all-day east-Asian eatery.

Grilled apricot salad with jamon and Manchego

Here we've scorched apricots on the grill and served them with torn jamon, shaved Manchego and peppery rocket leaves. Think of it as a twist on the good old melon-prosciutto routine. The mixture would also be great served on charred sourdough.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

Discovering Macedonia

Like its oft-disputed name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia defies simple definition but its rich diversity extends from the dinner table to the welcoming locals, writes Richard Cooke.

O Tama Carey's fried eggs with seeni sambol, coconut and turmeric

"I first cooked a version of this dish - inspired by the excellent deep-fried egg dish at Billy Kwong - while working at a restaurant in Sri Lanka," says O Tama Carey. "The lattice-like eggs are doused in a creamy turmeric curry sauce and topped with seeni sambol, a sweet-spiced caramelised onion relish. This dish is equally perfect for an indulgent breakfast as it is served as part of a larger meal." The recipe for the seeni sambol makes more than you need, but to get the right balance of spices you need to make at least this much. It keeps refrigerated for up to three weeks; use as an onion relish. The curry sauce can be made a day or two ahead.

July

The last of the fallen leaves have been gathered. I have dumped them in the Aerobin. Some gardeners advise storing damp leaves in a black plastic rubbish bag poked with a few holes and letting them slowly rot down before using them as mulch. But they take a surprisingly long time to decompose. The roses have been pruned and the hydrangeas cut back. Behind the hydrangeas are yellow wallflowers and now they have the space to spread out.

Since last month I have done quite a bit of planting. Winter is the best time to plant bare-rooted trees, roses or bare-rooted canes of raspberries or gooseberries. I get excited leafing through plant catalogues and then reality hits. I do not have room for any more trees, nor for a hedge of raspberries. In fact, I am going to ask my gardener to cut down a very old crab-apple in the front garden. It produces fewer and fewer dark pink blossoms each year and its boughs are too close to the power line.

I've planted garlic and it's already shooting through the mulch. It will be six months before the harvest. The flat-leaf parsley has self-seeded in surprising places. I can pick a really large bunch and make a variation on leek and potato soup by cooking garlic slowly in cream and then whizzing the potato and leek soup with the creamy garlic and a lot of parsley leaves that have been dunked in and out of boiling water. Just a few minutes in the blender makes a soup of the most wondrous spring green.

Purple-podded peas, pinwheel-striped beetroot and round-headed radicchio are coming along and the first heads of broccoli are forming. I love the combination of broccoli and anchovies. It makes a good pasta sauce and a delicious and fast side dish with almost anything. Blanch the broccoli florets and the peeled and chopped stems for two or three minutes in plenty of water. Meanwhile, melt some anchovies in olive oil over medium heat and then drop in the drained broccoli. I like to add a sliced red chilli too.

I have a small hothouse and it's tempting to start trays and trays of seeds now. But the crate gardens are still full of broad beans, celery, spinach, chard, carrots and leeks, and will be for the next two months, so I will delay starting more seeds for another month or so, when I may have room for the transplants. Each of the crates is now covered with bird netting, supported by crossed hoops of poly pipe rammed onto stakes in each corner of the crate. They look very good, actually - at first glance one might think I was raising a rare parrot in each rather than vegetables.

I spent a weekend with friends at Dunkeld to enjoy Dan Hunter's food at the Royal Mail Hotel. We were invited to stroll through the kitchen gardens, which are extensive. I loved the wine barrels planted closely with a mixture of edibles and ornamentals. Basil growing with salad leaves, with snapdragons and violas and calendula - such a bright and cheerful sight. I immediately came home and tucked seedlings of violas and sweet peas among all my salad plants and planted Iceland poppies wherever I could find a spare patch.

This month sees lots of interest in citrus. My very rare bergamot orange is laden, and the tangelo has about a dozen fruits. These citrus do not really get enough sunshine, so it will be interesting to see if the fruit ripens. I grow the bergamot for its highly perfumed, thick rind, which I have never yet managed to candy as well as I would like. Even after several blanchings, and long, slow cooking with its own weight in sugar, the peel hardens more than I like. I wonder whether a reader can help me?

This year for the first time my four-year-old rainforest finger lime is laden with fruit. Sean Moran, from Sean's Panaroma in Sydney's Bondi, has a recipe for a custard tart with a finger lime topping in his book Let It Simmer. I'm going to try it. Otherwise, all I can think of doing is ordering unopened oysters, shucking them and offering a bowl of squeezed finger lime "caviar" as an exquisite topping.

I bought a kilo of cumquats at my local farmers' market and made my favourite cumquat marmalade. It set magnificently. (My own tree is just an infant.) The fruit was perfect for marmalade - not wet or soggy or overripe - and cooking it fast in my French copper jam pan may have helped. And it goes without saying that my ancient lemon tree is full of lemons.

The mornings are really brisk - out with the soup recipes!

Until next time.

PHOTOGRAPHY VANESSA LEVIS STYLING VANESSA AUSTIN

For information on Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Foundation and schools program, visit www.kitchengardenfoundation.org.au.

This article is from the July 2010 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine.

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