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. 

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.

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.

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.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

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.

November

The Lorraine Lee rose has climbed beyond the trellis and the Gertrude Jekyll is rambling over the house, and although the carrots and silverbeet continue to flourish, Stephanie Alexander names the broad beans her star crop this month.

Sometimes I fear I'm repeating myself, but here's a quick round-up of my spring garden. The Lorraine Lee rose has climbed way beyond her trellis and has new growth arching into the air. I love its bronze foliage, but regret that most of the gorgeous blooms are so high that I can't pick any for my desk.

The front lawn can be mowed again now that the freesias have died down.

Each year I'm protective of my freesias. They're the old-fashioned variety - cream or butter-yellow - and I ask that care be taken to allow them to bloom wherever they happen to be, which is always randomly in the front lawn and more predictably underneath the lemon tree.

I've had some outside painting done and the gorgeous Gertrude Jekyll had to be tied back to allow the painter access. She has been straining to be released and putting out new shoots, and now she can relax and resume her rambling over the front of the house.

The broad beans are the star crop this month. The tomatoes are still a few weeks away from being planted out. The old reliables - leek, carrot, silverbeet, sprouting broccoli, salad greens and herbs - keep on keeping on. And I've loved my smallish crop of spring peas.

Melbourne is renowned for its spring winds, and a very strong gust blew over my two-metre-tall cumquat tree in a very large and very heavy ceramic pot. It was amazing that the pot didn't break. The only damage was that much of the soil fell out, as did a few of the flowering hyacinth bulbs. It was top-heavy and has now had a severe cutback. There'll be no marmalade for a while.

The ornamental grapevine is spreading its huge leaves, offering a shady spot for lunch. Once again Colin Beer visited over a weekend, and he did a magnificent job hard-pruning the vine. It'll completely cover the terrace this year.

In my role as founder of the Kitchen Garden Foundation I recently hosted a recruitment evening at Driver Primary School in Palmerston, a suburb of Darwin. There were 26 garden beds displaying a wide range of healthy plants: rows of tomatoes, beds of sweet potato, piles of pumpkins, vines hung with cucumbers and other gourds, rosella bushes and Ceylon spinach (sometimes called Malabar spinach) with clusters of tiny purple berries. The garden specialist told me that the berries are squashed and used to colour and flavour pasta - "Our substitute for squid-ink," she said. The orchard offered pineapples, galangal, ginger, pawpaw, mango in flower, eight varieties of bananas and many other tropical fruits.

Last time I visited, the kitchen had been an empty space with electrical wires a-dangle. This time it was a most attractive welcoming space, and excited students handed around sweet-potato scones generously spread with their own rosella jam. The enthusiasm of the principal helped convince the representatives from other Top End schools and I'm pretty confident that we'll soon have kitchen gardens at Jabiru, Jingili, Pine Creek and maybe Groote Eylandt. We're also getting enquiries from remote indigenous communities. With more than 320 schools in the kitchen garden movement to date and a goal of 750 by the end of 2015, we're well on the way to achieving my aim of having 10 per cent of Australian primary schools involved in the scheme.

Funding is always an issue for any not-for-profit foundation. Every two years supporter and board member Paul Bangay - one of Australia's best-known garden designers - opens his beautiful property Stonefields in Denver, near Daylesford, with all proceeds going to the Kitchen Garden Foundation. Garden-lovers should put the 23 and 24 November in their diaries (for more information and tickets, visit kitchengardenfoundation.org.au). Paul's gardens are exquisite. I recall the display of unusual alliums two years ago, and the apple tree avenue, and the deep-red Shakespeare rose. I bought one, though sadly it hasn't performed as it did in one of the walled gardens at Stonefields. An added attraction will be scones made by my friend Annie Smithers. Annie rises at 4am to make these so that they are fresh.

I'll have some exciting developments to announce next month. Until then.

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