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. 

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.

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.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

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.

The case for sausages

Though it might seem like the very definition of simple food, the British sausage is, in fact, a bit of an oddity. The word “sausage” comes from the Italian “salsiccia”. The use of the prefix “sal”, meaning salt, implies a preserving process, as used in making salami or the smoked and cured German and Polish-style sausages. But the traditional British sausage is not preserved at all: it is fresh, plump and gleaming, and demands to be eaten at once. This is rather curious, given Britain’s cool climate and well-wooded countryside, which are both ideal for smoking sausages. Curiouser still, I can hardly think of another country that does not preserve its sausages.

British sausages are also unlike other fresh sausages in that they usually contain a generous amount of cereal to soften and moisten them and of course to absorb some of the delicious fat which is responsible in large part for their popularity. Another trait not found in many other countries is the way they are linked. Watching a practised butcher hand-linking sausages is fascinating. With a few twists of the wrist, a loop here and a pinch there, an unruly five-metre length is transformed into a rope of sausages neatly linked in threes. This traditional method of linking sausages also gives them their standard length – the width of a butcher’s hand.

During the 20th century British sausages went through a process of degradation. From being a local artisan product that made economical use of the butcher’s trimmings they became increasingly mass-produced. During World War I, when meat was scarce and profits were low, butchers added extra water to army sausages, causing them to explode during cooking. During World War II rationing, this practice spread to the home front and “bangers” became a household word. By the late 20th century, industrial processes had enabled mechanically recovered meat (the meat residue that remains on the carcass after the prime cuts have been removed; also known as MRM or mechanically separated meat) to replace the traditional meat trim­mings, and this, coupled with the mad-cow disease scare, produced the dismal nadir of the British banger.

Not surprisingly, this provoked a sausage renaissance. Specialist meat producers and artisan butchers throughout the country enthusiastically revived the old recipes and added their own twists, and now there are excellent sausages being made once more and sold at farmers’ markets and privately owned butchers. Such sausages are acceptable in even the smartest gastropub.

We have our regional varieties of course. In Scotland, the slim beef sausage is still preferred to pork, and the Lorne sausage (a square block of lurid pink sausage meat that is sliced and fried for breakfast) remains popular. With puddings being classed as sausages we have the white and mealy puddings (made of oatmeal and fat; also sliced and fried) and Scotland’s famous haggis, which is consumed in vast quantities on Burns Night in January. And of course there’s black pudding, the bed-and-breakfast favourite, though it too has regional variations: most are made from pig’s blood, but some are made with sheep’s or cow’s.

In England, a Lincolnshire sausage is the epitome of the fresh pork sausage: flavoured with sage and pepper, it should be plump and nicely speckled. There is any number of variations: pork and leek; pork and Guinness; pork and black pudding; dark, rich venison sausages; and rosemary-flavoured lamb sausages. Oxford sausages have a lemony twist. Newmarket sausages are hotly contested because two butchers each claim to have the authentic recipe. The peppery Cumberland sausage is formed into a coil and is traditionally sold by the yard rather than by weight. There is even a Welsh Glamorgan sausage that is made of cheese rather than meat.

The best British sausages are still made by dedicated producers who use delicate natural sausage skins. They are worth seeking out, because manufactured skins tend to be slightly tougher, and the producers need our encouragement, because natural skins are expensive. With all the right ingredients in place, there is absolutely nothing that compares with a really good British banger that’s nicely meaty, perfectly seasoned, stuffed into its natural casing, and sizzling enticingly on the grill. So says this Brit anyway.

ILLUSTRATION ANTONIA PESENTI

Scotland-based Nichola Fletcher is a deer farmer and food writer. Her latest book, Sausage (Dorling Kindersley, $29.95, hbk), is a guide to the sausages of the world.

This article is from the June 2012 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.

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