Healthy Eating

We're championing fresh food that packs a flavour punch, from salads and vegetable-packed bowls to grains and light desserts.

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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.

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. 

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.

Where to stay, eat and drink in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Beyond Kuala Lumpur's shopping malls, Lara Dunston finds a flourishing third-wave coffee scene, tailored food tours and charming neighbourhoods.

Kisume, Melbourne

Chris Lucas has flown in talent from all over the world, including Eleven Madison Park, for his bold new venture. Here’s what to expect from Kisume.

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.

Brae

Prepare to enter a picture of the countryside framed by note-perfect Australiana but painted in bold, elegant and unsentimental strokes. Over 10 or more courses, Dan Hunter celebrates his region with dishes that are formally daring (Crunchy prawn heads! Creamy oyster soft-serve! Sea urchin and chicory bread pudding!), yet rich in flavour and substance. The menu could benefit from an edit, but the plates are tightly composed - and what could you cut? Certainly not the limpid broth bathing fronds of abalone and calamari, nor the clever arrangement of lobster played off against charred waxy fingerlings under a swatch of milk skin. The adventure is significantly the richer for the cool gloss of the dining room, some of the most engaging service in the nation and wine pairings that roam with an easy-going confidence. Maturing and relaxing without surrendering a drop of its ambition, Brae is more compelling than ever.

January

Tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes, I've had success this summer with several heirloom varieties, most of them grown from seeds from Digger's. Green zebra, one tigerella and some black Krim are all doing well, with the fruit ripening day by day. The two varieties sent by a Seed Savers member, riesentraube (a climber) and Ailsa Craig, are still to ripen as I write this.

Last summer I learnt the hard way that indeterminate varieties (that is, tomatoes that go on growing until the weather turns cold) need very long stakes. I had some casualties thanks to inadequate staking, with laden branches breaking and falling.

I'm planning to make a store of tomato passata with my friend Jacqui. She has a plastic tomato-crushing device that she bought for $40 at Mediterranean Wholesalers here in Melbourne. I'm sure there are other types at other prices elsewhere; the neighbourhood where your local Italian population shops is a good place to start looking. The tomatoes are washed in the sink, then plunged into boiling water for a minute, then lifted onto a tray to cool a bit. Next they're fed into the hopper of this machine which sits over its own tub. One chute delivers a stream of sloppy pulp and juice, the other chute retains the skins and seeds. Jacqui provides training support to schools around Australia through the Kitchen Garden Foundation. She used the seed residue last season to propagate enormous numbers of tomato plants that were distributed far and wide. A nice idea for a school fête? (If you're planning to try this, it's best to make the passata with a single variety.)

The passata flows into a jug once the plug at the bottom of the machine's tub is pulled, and sterilised bottles are filled, a basil leaf added along the way if you're feeling romantic. Each bottle is then wrapped in a doubled sheet of newspaper secured with a rubber band and placed carefully into a stockpot. You add water to the top of the bottles, bring it slowly to boiling point, simmer for 50 minutes, then turn off the heat. The bottles are removed when they're cold and, hey presto, you've got the summer sunshine of tomato sauce for the winter.

Given the tomato glut, my lunch is often pan Catalan. Toast a slice of good bread, rub it lightly with garlic and then rub the slice hard with the cut side of half a tomato until you have nothing but the tomato skin left and a slice of damp but delicious pink tomatoey toast. Yum.

I also have a prolific crop of eggplant. Nothing from the shops compares to the creamy flesh of those shiny home-grown fruit. I have striped listada and the more usual bonica.

The capsicum bushes (in pots in my courtyard) are amazing. Each of these plants has more than 15 fruit and plenty of flowers. I have eaten a few of the green ones while I've been waiting for them to change colour. These home-grown capsicum are crisp and sweet with relatively thin skins with none of the bitterness I find in the huge green hydroponic capsicum in the shops.

This year I've found the space for two miniature sweet melons. They're yet to produce, although each plant has had lots of flowers. My two zucchini vines are producing, but happily not too much fruit. I do help them along by hand-pollinating some of the forming female fruit with a male flower as there seems to be a shortage of bees. If this is happening in your garden too, you may need to plant more bee-attracting plants. Try lavender or borage; my thyme bushes also seem irresistible to the bees.

With all of the above, the first dish that comes to mind is one of the many, many versions of a summer vegetable stew of which the French version ratatouille is the best known. In Sicily I tasted marvellous caponata which includes celery and sultanas in a similar combination of vegetables. The best versions I tasted were cooked for a very long time so that it was difficult to distinguish one vegetable from another and the stew was bronze in colour. Caponata is equally good cold as a salad, as a topping for bruschetta, or hot alongside grilled or roast meat.

I'm now about to go on a beach holiday - having thoroughly mulched the garden before I leave - and I can't wait.

Until next time.

PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY ARMELLE HABIB

This article is from the January 2011 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.

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

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