Healthy Eating

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Food-truck tribulations
29.03.2017

Chicken or pork? Kelly Eng takes on a food-truck challenge but fails to cement her millennial credentials.

Take me to the river
29.03.2017

For serial cruisers who have done the Danube and knocked off the Nile, less familiar waterways beckon.

Gourmet Institute is back for 2017
29.03.2017

Fire-up the stove, tie on your favourite apron and let’s get cooking, food fans. This year’s line-up is brimming with talent.

The Royal Mail Hotel is changing
28.03.2017

Executive chef Robin Wickens has a stronger influence at the Royal Mail Hotel's upcoming restaurant, slated to open later this year.

Adventuring along America's north-west rivers
28.03.2017

The rivers of America's north-west running through Washington state and Oregon form the arteries of epic landscapes and bold discovery routes. Emma Sloley follows in the wake of Lewis and Clark.

The World's Best sommeliers are coming to Australia
28.03.2017

For the first time, the world's top international sommeliers will take part in the World's 50 Best Awards too.

Seven Italian dishes that shaped fine dining in the 2000s
28.03.2017

Italian food in the restaurants of Australia blossomed into maturity in the new millennium, as the work of these trailblazers shows – dazzling and diverse, a successful balance between adaptation and tradition.

Steam ovens: a guide
27.03.2017

Billed as the faster, cleaner way to cook, are these on-trend ovens all they’re cracked up to be? We take a close look at their rising popularity, USP versus the traditional convection cooker and how each type rates in terms of form, function, and above all, flavour in this buyer’s guide.

Fast autumn dinners

Autumn weather signals the arrival of soups, broths, roasts and more hearty meals.

Flour and Stone Recipes

Baker extraordinaire Nadine Ingram of Sydney's Flour and Stone cooks up a sweet storm for Easter, including the much loved bakery's greatest hit.

Roasted cauliflower salad with yoghurt dressing and almonds

The cauliflower is roasted until it starts to caramelise, which adds extra depth of flavour to this winning salad. Serve it warm or at room temperature.

All Star Yum Cha

What happens the morning after the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards? We treat the chefs to a world-beating yum cha session, as Dani Valent discovers.

Lemon tart

It's really important to seal the pastry well to prevent any seepage during cooking, and to trim the pastry soon after cooking. Let the tart cool in the tin before removing it, or it will crack.

Melbournes finest meet Worlds Best

Leading chefs descend on Melbourne in April for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. We asked local hospitality folk who they’d abduct for the day and where they’d take them to show off their city. There may be coffee, there may be culture, but in the end it’s cocktails.

Savoury tarts

Will your next baking project be a flaky puff pastry with pumpkin, goat's curd and thyme, or a classic bacon and Stilton tart? As autumn settles in, we're ticking these off one by one.

Spelt cashew and broccoli bowl with yoghurt dressing

This nicely textured salad transports well, making it ideal for picnics or to take to barbecues. The broccoli can be kept raw and shaved on a mandolin, too.

April

It was foolish of me to even mention the word "parrot" on these pages last month. Those gloriously plumed and ruthless birds removed every one of my crabapples, about two weeks before they were properly ripe.

I have five trees, so they had a feast. I tried and tried to take a picture of them tearing and munching. In vain. As soon as they heard the slightest creak from the door they were off. They perched in a neighbour's tree until my back was turned and then swooped back again. Some of the fruit was netted, but that proved no deterrent - they just ripped through it.

One of the five crabapple trees is not doing well and I'm wondering whether it has to go.

It was savaged by a combination of strong wind, leaping possum and a period of no water due to a break in the drip irrigation. My gardener has given it a very severe prune and reshape, and I must say the new growth looked promising before the leaves started to fall. I'll give it a year of grace and see what happens.

During the long months of water restrictions in Victoria the drip irrigation happened in the dead of night, so it was difficult to know when there was a blocked connector until one saw the telltale drooping plant or tree. A very sad casualty was my very young persimmon tree. It too has been severely pruned and I've crossed my fingers, but it's not looking good. Now that we have had rain and restrictions have eased I've had the irrigation's timing adjusted so I can see at once if something is amiss.

In February I visited Launceston to celebrate Festivale - an annual weekend of food, wine, music and entertainment - and to mark the first birthday of the Launceston Harvest farmers' market. On Twitter recently there was a half-hearted attempt to denigrate farmers' markets as haunts for the upper classes. While there is probably some truth in this - organic produce is always going to be more expensive than the run-of-the-mill stuff - I found the Tassie market very inclusive. There were families everywhere, loads of simple stalls and the raspberries and strawberries were outstanding. At Festivale, I was one of the people given the difficult task of judging best stall in several categories. It was a great way to make sure I visited almost every stall (another judging couple did all the wine stalls).

During Festivale I also renewed my acquaintance with Nick Haddow, cheesemaker and owner of Bruny Island Cheese Co. and a well-known media personality. We first met when Nick was the original manager of the cheese room at Richmond Hill Cafe & Larder, a business I started in 1996 with Will Studd and others. We had such fun and our cheese room was groundbreaking in more ways than one. Nick insisted we fling water all over the newly tiled floor to maintain humidity for our very expensive, precious cheeses, and possibly it did, but it also seeped through the terracotta tiles and into the floorboards, creating an expensive nightmare. I bet Nick doesn't have a terracotta hexagonal-tiled floor in his cheese room.

As the builder said after the disaster was discovered and repaired, "I was never told that this room should really be considered a swimming pool!" I can laugh now.

I have a large copper urn full of prunings from the magnolia tree: the leaves are so beautiful with their shiny green tops and bronze suede underside. I've stripped the leaves from the lemon verbena and lime verbena, so I can make soothing herbal brews over the next few months. I have harvested my pear crop - six in total. Apparently they are of no interest to the parrots.

During my summer holidays I happened upon a wonderful ceramic cockatoo by Victorian artist Kaye Clancy. It's now hanging in one of the denuded crabapples and is a thing of great charm and beauty. Its cheeky, slightly deranged eyes seem to follow me around and I cannot look at it without smiling.

The pomegranate tree is in flower, and the sprouting broccoli seeds are growing well in the hothouse. It's time for the broad beans to go in, but the bean teepees still have small crops of climbing beans. I shall plant the seeds anyway and let them co-exist until the broad bean plants are about 12cm high. At that point the other beans must give over.

April is the month for cabbage white butterflies. I've mentioned before that I do think those shiny, twirly things help deter them, as do big squares of white cardboard or plastic speared onto stakes.

For the third time the saved sweet pea seeds have been sown. This season we collected the pods without trying to differentiate colours. Last time there were a few surprises, with purple where I had expected pink, so we've just mixed them up and will be delighted with whatever colour appears.

Until next time.

More info

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

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