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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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. 

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

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.

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.

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.

2017 Australian Hotel Awards: The Finalists

This year's finalists across 11 different categories include established and new hotels, all with particular areas of excellence. Stay tuned to find out which hotels will take the top spots when they're announced at a ceremony at QT Melbourne on Wednesday 24 May, and published in our 2017 Australian Hotel Guide, on sale Thursday 25 May.

January

It's stone fruit time of the year. If ever there was a reason to celebrate eating seasonally it is the parade of peach and nectarine varieties that carries us through December, right through January and well into February. My own small trees (one peach and two nectarines) are absolutely laden. Because the bunches were crammed so tightly I have removed more than a third of the crop. As I write, the fruit is still ripening. I have resorted to bird netting draped over stakes planted away from the branches to avoid tangling with the leaves, and I hope to enjoy most of the fruit myself. The birds will no doubt turn their attention to the strawberries instead.

I have volunteered to give a class on how to maximise this wonderful harvest of summer fruit to some of our kitchen specialists in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden schools. I am setting myself a challenge to collect at least 30 recipes, all of which can be achieved from start to finish in less than 30 minutes, making them suitable for use in the kitchen classes.

My own peaches are yellow and freestone. I also love white peaches, and have fond memories of the luscious white nectarines that my Aunt Molly grew. Last season I bought some of the flat doughnut white peaches that I had hitherto seen only in China. They are quite delicious.

My gardener has organised strips of sharp little tacks to be glued onto guttering and the tops of the paling fence, and for the first time in several years all the new shoots of my climbing roses are intact. I think this strategy has finally foiled the possums.

It may be a bit old-fashioned but I love fruit salads. Sliced nectarines and sliced peeled peaches sprinkled with a little sugar, doused with a glass of dessert wine and serve chilled in a glass bowl, all the better to admire the glowing pinks and golds. I suppose you could add cream, but it does make the sublime juice a bit murky. Or build a great trifle using wine-sprinkled sponge fingers, proper egg custard and plenty of chopped poached peaches or nectarines. Some families insist on a softly set jelly over the fruit. I like this idea. An excellent final layer is a simple syllabub, made by whipping cream and folding it very gently into wine-soaked lemon zest. There's a recipe in my book The Cook's Companion.

Peaches and nectarines are also delicious sliced into summer salads, especially if there is something like turkey breast or smoked chicken or ham as the protein. And a grilled duck breast served with roasted peaches is a lovely combination: the sharpness and acidity of the fruit is so very good with the rich meat. Also try tossing a panful of peaches, nectarines and plums with a little sugar, adding a few knobs of butter and baking them in a covered dish in the oven. Hard to beat.

January is also the month for raspberries. How can I decide which is my favourite: a peach or a raspberry? Alone or together?

The combination of peaches and raspberries is well-known in the classic pêche Melba, created for Dame Nellie Melba by chef Auguste Escoffier at the Savoy Hotel in the early 1890s to celebrate her performance in the opera Lohengrin. Supposedly the original version was peaches topped with spun sugar on a bed of vanilla ice-cream presented between the wings of a swan carved from ice. A later version married the now familiar vanilla ice-cream, poached peach and raspberry sauce. A delectable combination.

I have no space for raspberry canes (although I do have a solitary gooseberry cane still to fruit), but I buy up large quantities of raspberries at the farmers' market. Later in the month I will be holidaying by the seaside and there are at least two pick-your-own berry farms nearby. It will be a good excursion and it will entertain the children, at least for a while.

Elsewhere in my garden, the almonds are still wearing their green coats. Almost every plant put on phenomenal growth this spring, not just because we have had generous rainfall but because with the sad departure of the enormous Manchurian pear tree the plants have never seen so much light and sunshine. The small squash are prolific but do not take up as much space as zucchini bushes. Space will always be an issue. I am trying a miniature watermelon and a small pumpkin. The label on the pumpkin assures me that it will grow no more than 50 centimetres wide so it is in a 60-centimetre pot. We shall see. I do not expect results for another couple of months.

My capsicum and eggplant are both full of fruit and I am eating huge quantities of salads as many of the lettuces tend to bolt after several hot days. The last few radicchio were too tough for salad, but they were wonderful coarsely torn and braised for 10 minutes with extra-virgin olive oil and a crushed clove of my very own and very small garlic crop.

As usual I am growing too many tomatoes. It is still too soon to report on my "Unknown" variety although it is growing very strongly alongside black Krim, rouge de Marmande and Amish paste. I shall have to report in February.

Until next time.

PHOTOGRAPHY ARMELLE HABIB

This article was published in the January 2012 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.

MORE INFO

For more information on Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Foundation and schools, check out her website.
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