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.

September

One of the reasons for my poor potato crop last season was explained to me by the potato man at the farmers' market recently. He says winter is too cold for sowing seed potatoes in our southern climate and I should have waited until early spring. So this year September is the month, and in my new canvas grow-bag, which is a metre deep, I am starting my crop of Dutch cream potatoes.

I am ridiculously proud of harvesting my own cauliflower. My first ever! How magical they are. For months it seems they produce nothing but huge and handsome green leaves, and then one day right down in the heart of the curled leaves there is a glint of white that grows and grows. I sautéed a third of this handsome head in extra-virgin olive oil with some finely sliced garlic and added a mix of anchovy and parsley at the end. It was so good. [Editor's note: check out our cauliflower recipes slideshow for more ideas]

While the cauliflower and broccoli plants were still small I "planted" large squares of white cardboard skewered on sticks. I am convinced that this simple tactic protected both brassicas from being attacked by white cabbage moths. Apparently the moths are territorial and believe the plants are already being visited when they see the white blur.

I try not to get too discouraged about failures and about pests. But I was pretty annoyed on my return home from overseas to find that my germinated carrot crop that I had expected to be growing strongly had been neatly nipped to the ground. What to blame was the question. The vegetable box is netted and I could see no sign of a slug or a snail. And then this morning there was a flurry of movement in that same box and there was a pigeon - inside the netting and having a good dig for a juicy worm (no carrots left)! I was astonished and hastened to shoo it out and fasten the loosened net more securely.

Seeing the pigeon reminded me of my tour of the magnificent vegetable gardens at the Ballymaloe Cookery School at Shanagarry in county Cork, Ireland, where I was a few weeks ago now. I was shown around by Tim Allen, son of the founder of this amazing hotel and cookery school empire, Myrtle Allen. Tim is married to Darina, who is the current doyenne of the school.

Tim is one of a team of nine or 10 people who manage or work in the extensive vegetable gardens. The peas have to be grown in a greenhouse, otherwise pigeons eat them all, he said. And when I queried the vast quantities of each crop being grown, Tim said there is no concern about excess and they are not interested in on-selling. It's all for the benefit of cooking school students and for the guests at the hotel so that every vegetable and herb that is cooked comes straight from the garden. Students are encouraged to explore the gardens and to learn as much as they can about how their food is being grown. Tim says he found a Danish student in the greenhouse scoffing raw peas and she admitted they were a childhood treat that she had not been able to experience at home for many years.

Every egg comes from the hens that range freely over the lawns. Much of the beef and all of the cream and milk come from the animals on the farm. Students at the cookery school produce their own butter and they learn to make cheese. And of course they learn to bake the absolutely stunning white and brown soda bread that accompanies every meal.

The gardens are mind-blowing in their health and extent. There were rows and rows of superb green salads, some grown under cover, some outside. The early tomatoes were supported by strings hung from high supports to keep plants upright as they grew. There were onion beds, and squash and cabbages, and peas and beans, and broad beans - everything, in fact, that one would expect to see in a late spring or early summer garden. Bunches and bunches of garlic were drying inside one of the greenhouses. There were raspberries and strawberries and currants in profusion. In some of the outside beds I was intrigued to see plants swathed in sheets of soft fabric - this was the "fleece" I had read about in English gardening books. Not at all what I had imagined. It is so soft that the growing plants can easily push it up as they grow, protected from frost, snow and pests.

Without having set out on my holiday to meet organic farmers, everywhere I went, I did so. And what an interesting entrepreneurial lot they were, dedicated and committed and all expressing concerns about the future for the next generation if more respect is not given to the land that produces all that we eat.

Until next time.

PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY STEPHANIE ALEXANDER

This article is from the September 2011 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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