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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.

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.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.


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.


As this column is of course written in advance, I'm anticipating the stirring in the garden that will mean winter will soon be over. Already there are hyacinths in flower, and bulbs are popping up everywhere. Freesias in the lawn, irises at the foot of the bare crab-apple trees, and narcissus in the front borders. In a week or two the almond tree will flower. I saved several substantial branches of lemon verbena before it had its post-autumnal prune. The stripped leaves have dried beautifully and four or five in a mug of boiling water make an aromatic brew.

I have enjoyed the cold months, though, and have cooked suitably warming dishes. Plenty of leek and potato soup - my leeks, purchased potatoes, and a bit of my own celery for extra interest. Another favourite is an Italian-derived soup that uses arborio rice, again with my leeks, with finely chopped fennel and garlic. I add plenty of grated parmesan, but a salted crumbled duck egg or tiny dried fish would be an interesting variation.

The vegetable garden is not yielding very much at the moment. I still have silverbeet and some lovely spinach, and of course the Tuscan kale. My front borders are edged on one side with growing spears of garlic and on the other with more spinach plants. It's impossible to have too much spinach. The artichokes are huge but as yet without a sign of a flower bud. I anticipate plenty of sprouting broccoli and some small cauliflowers soon and shall pick the first broad beans in a few weeks. The beetroot and carrots are growing slowly. The ground needs to warm up before the spring peas will sprint ahead. I am scattering my spent coffee grounds around the smaller spinach seedlings to see if they deter the snails. Picking a fresh lemon from the tree early in the morning and inhaling its fragrance is a special moment.

While anticipating my own harvest, it's an ideal time to appreciate the delights of the farmers' markets nearby. Early this morning (temperature a crisp eight degrees) I pulled on my beanie and set out to enjoy the bounty from other gardens. I came home with a bag of oranges, leaf chicory, tight artichokes, a beautifully crinkled cabbage, purple carrots and a perfect cauliflower. They were so beautiful lolling together on the kitchen bench that I delayed storing them for an hour to properly admire them.

My travels over the past few weeks have included a visit to our most remote school, at Punmu in the Pilbara. The Rawa Community School is more than seven hours by road from Port Hedland. About 50 students attend it and they are enthusiastically embracing the kitchen garden program.

The school has built a woodfired pizza oven, and when I was there the students had dug a fire pit on which corn and potatoes were roasted for our celebratory farewell lunch. There's plenty of artesian water and the newly planted garden was already sprouting beans, cucumbers and pumpkins, and there were substantial crops of garlic and potatoes in the ground. Alongside this were the beginnings of a bush tucker garden, with the local elders advising on seed collection. The pizza lunch was a huge success. The students prepared all the vegetables from fresh food trucked in from Port Hedland (this happens only once a month so the enthusiasm to get their own garden producing is understandable), and they made the dough by hand, rolled and shaped it and had a great time deciding on the toppings. Everyone ate everything.

Next stop was the Flinders Ranges and a quick visit to one of our newest projects at Quorn Area School. The school already has an attractive teaching-kitchen space but the garden construction was just starting. I was impressed to meet a local bobcat operator who was efficiently moving piles of rich soil and red gum sleepers to create the raised beds for the children to plant into.

For a complete contrast I visited the tiny Ungarra Primary School on the Eyre Peninsula. The total student population at the time was 32. Every child participates, from the youngest to the oldest. The school is two years into the program and its garden is extensive and prolific. I toured the fabulous orchard, met the chickens, saw the worm farm and the compost heap, and then went to the kitchen. The class had had a competition to decide on the two best pizzas to make for my visit. The winners were surprising. We had parsnip, carrot and goat's cheese for one, and yabby, oyster and calamari for the other. It was great to see the six- and seven-year-olds cutting up the vegetables, and the eight- and nine-year-olds shelling the freshly boiled yabbies and "removing the poo" as one little girl told me very seriously.

At Melbourne's Collingwood College on Saturday 11 August our experts will be holding classes on "the ideal growing environment" and "composting and no-dig beds", and Longrain's Martin Boetz will be teaching a class on modern Thai cooking. These classes fill quickly, so anyone interested should go to for more information and to book.

Until next time.


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


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

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