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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

March

It has been so good to feast on my own garlic over the summer. Mine was the pink variety and I proudly tied my harvest of just 12 bulbs to dry under the eaves of my shed. And what a difference there is between these crisp, juicy cloves and the dried-out, yellowish cloves of much of the available garlic imported from all manner of places. I will have to find more room in a couple of months to plant an even larger crop ensuring a more prolific harvest the following summer. To augment my crop I bought plenty of local garlic at the farmers' markets.

A few years ago, holidaying in the Basque town of Hondarribia, I was delighted by the local way of cooking fish with very fresh garlic. Each clove was cut lengthwise into thin slices. The whole fish was pan-fried in olive oil over a moderate heat with plenty of the sliced garlic. The hot oil and garlic were spooned over the fish as it cooked and the garlic was not allowed to do more than faintly colour, so the slices were sweet, aromatic and just a little bit crisp. A shower of parsley at the very last minute and the fish was served with its cooking juices: the perfect sauce. This is an excellent way to cook leather­jacket or a  fillet of snapper.

Happily, tomatoes are a success story this year after the dismal crop in 2011. Star performers are rouge de Marmande, black Krim and the astonishing unidentified plant bought as "patio tomato", which, as reported earlier, not only filled one of my vegetable boxes but has continued to tumble almost to the ground bearing several hundred small fruit, each larger and less regular in shape than a cherry tomato. I feared the branches would break but they did not. I have been able to pick a large handful for breakfast every couple of days for weeks now. My "unknown" oxheart seedling, gathered and propagated from a slice of a delicious tomato, fruited but did not produce the oxheart variety I expected.

I have an espaliered Jonathan apple tree which has yielded one solitary apple. On the other hand, my single quince tree is laden. As I mentioned last month I'm going to make several classic apple recipes using quince, always allowing extra time for the fruit to cook. Last year at the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, Cath Claringbold demonstrated a delicious pickle made from pink lady apples, ginger and cider vinegar. I made it using the first of my ripe quince and it was very good (although it took a lot longer to cook). Quince crumble and quince pie have been voted successful. I am now going to make quince Charlotte. Instead of cooking the fruit in a tightly lidded pan on top of the stove (as for apples), I'll cook it in a covered casserole in the oven to reduce the risk of burning, before filling the buttered-bread-lined mould.

The basil bushes have become very straggly. The new season's pesto is safely made and stored. I used the last jar of last season's harvest to make a delicious pesto and caramelised onion tart for a party over summer. Another favourite late-summer tart uses crisp pre-cooked puff pastry and a thin layer of either pesto or goat's cheese overlaid with thickly sliced or halved peeled figs. Drizzle with a little vincotto or balsamic vinegar and bake for 15 minutes in a very hot oven. Serve with slices of jamón or prosciutto and a salad of soft green leaves.

My little peach tree yielded about 60 lovely peaches; the nectarines maybe about the same. (Regular readers may recall that I had to thin all the fruit quite drastically in late spring.) My gardener made me a very simple fruit "cage" using netting on a polypipe frame. The netting is held well away from the trees and can be lifted on its frame for easy inspection and picking of the fruit. The reward has been a magnificent crop with absolutely no bird attack. The peaches were delicious, about two-thirds the size of most peaches in the shops, but soft and flowing with juice. I picked the peaches and nectarines at the first sign of some give and after 24 hours inside they were perfectly ripe.

I changed my mind about growing pumpkins this year and now have two heirloom potimarron plants growing under the lemon tree. I am training the vines upwards until they can be supported by the lowest branches of the lemon tree. It will be a wonderful and rather crazy sight to see orange pumpkins hanging among the lemons. Or so I hope. Hasn't happened yet.

This month sees the publication of my memoir, A Cook's Life, a record of a life lived amid food and friends, referencing many personal and travel experiences. Exploring my own past has been a fascinating and emotional experience, and I hope the book accurately reflects the 40-plus years I have lived and worked in the hospitality sector as well as giving insight into more personal matters.

Until next time.

PHOTOGRAPHY ARMELLE HABIB

This article is from the March 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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