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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.

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.


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.


It can be frustrating when experts speak of a two-metre-square bed just for carrots, as each of my 1.2-metre-square-vegetable boxes has to produce more than one crop. At the end of winter, box one yielded cauliflower (four) as well as celery (lots - probably too much). Box two grew beautiful leeks (two successive crops) and leafy spinach. Box three had amazing capsicum bushes with fruit still ripening as well as carrots and a couple of sprouting broccoli plants.

The wine-barrel salad garden has just been dug over and resown with more babies from my smaller nursery container. I had just finished this task when there was a really hard shower of rain. I felt smug and snug inside, looking out and knowing that the plants were enjoying this perfectly timed soaking.

I'm further frustrated at not having enough space for more tall structures in the narrow front beds. I want to encourage the broad beans to continue producing, but can the yellow climbing beans thrive if they must share the same support? I know they can co-exist, but the result is a bit tangled. The edges of these beds are still producing beetroot, violets, thyme and garlic, which still has several months to go before harvest.

The challenge is to rotate the crops in boxes and on supports so that they thrive and finish bearing just when it's time to change over. Having a tiny hothouse helps. The first tomato seeds have germinated but are still too small for hardening-off or planting out. Popular wisdom says they should be in the ground by Cup Day. I hope so. Sadly, I'll never have the space to grow asparagus and I've given up on potatoes. The farmers' markets will ensure supply.

Everywhere I dig I see worms, many worms, testament to healthy soil and the quantity of sheep manure I spread at the beginning of winter.

Springtime is so exciting in the garden, and every day brings changes. The roses are glorious. Gertrude Jekyll covers the front of the house with exquisitely scented cerise-pink flowers. My gardener installed timber supports at the fence line so that the four Madame Isaac Pereire pillar roses can spill with abandon (I hope). The rose without a name, the colour of raspberries, is also in flower. It has horrendous thorns and is completely without scent but is very beautiful and very generous with its blooms. At least once a season a stranger comes to the door asking for its name. Swags of wisteria decorate the ironwork on the verandah. The quantity of blossom on the miniature peach and nectarines suggest a better crop than last year. I must remember to thin the fruit. The quince tree is exquisite and my crab-apple trees are all displaying fat rosy buds.

It has been an astonishing time for the Kitchen Garden Foundation. I have to pinch myself at these latest mile­stones. In August we formed a new and important partnership with the Medibank Community Fund, and the Australian government's Depart­ment of Health and Ageing has given the foundation $5.4 million in new funding which will enable us to expand our reach to more schools, both government and non-government, and hope­fully to achieve our aim of having a kitchen garden program in 10 per cent of Australia's primary schools over the next three years.

The government announcement took place at Altona Meadows Primary School in the western suburbs of Melbourne. The student population represents more than 30 nationalities. In fact, I was greeted by students from Iran, Iraq and Nepal.

Kitchen specialist Ema is from Portugal. She showed me my first Portuguese kale, and told me how it's finely shredded and added to the well-known Portuguese soup caldo verde (made with potatoes and kale and finished with chouriço sausage and a drizzle of spicy oil). The leaves are quite different in shape and colour from those of Tuscan kale - which I have used successfully to make a version of the soup (I have a recipe in The Cook's Companion on page 212). These plants were over a metre tall, with large, deep green, ruffled leaves and white mid-ribs like silverbeet. The most common name I found on the internet was couve tronchuda, but it appears to have various guises. I wonder how closely related it might be to the plant I know as walking-stick cabbage, seen in France and common on the island of Jersey where the stems are traditionally dried and varnished to make an excellent walking stick. No doubt some reader will know, and they may be able to help me find some Portuguese kale seeds.

Until next time.


This article was published in the October 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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