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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.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Lennox Hastie talks about cooking with fire

Lennox Hastie is fired up about cooking with wood, an art he mastered at renowned Spanish restaurant Etxebarri. Here he gives us a taste of what he cooks in his own backyard - even the drinks get a good grilling.

Lennox Hastie thinks grill markings are overrated. "I grew up with things being almost charred into submission on a barbecue," he says. "I don't think it was until many years later I found that, in looking at some of the traditional cultures around the world, there was beautiful technique that could encompass much more."

Hastie's kind of cooking involves a lot more than flicking a gas switch. It goes beyond the comforts of recipes and exact temperatures and measurements to a place heavily reliant on human instinct. He favours cooking over wood coals, something he came to master working in the kitchen of Etxebarri, the celebrated wood-fired eatery in the Spanish Basque Country. "My fascination with fire very much began at an early age," he says, "and I think it's something that's innately human. It's a very primal element."

Wood, for Hastie, is an ingredient in its own right with unique characteristics - determined by type of tree, where it was grown, its age, how long it's been dried - that come through the burning embers to lend "subtle aromas" to each dish. "Some of my favourite woods are fruit trees because they underline delicate things that can be grilled," he says. "I also have a great love of grapevines. They burn with a very intense flavour over a short period of time which is great for meat."

He keeps his food unadorned for the most part, letting the quality of the produce and perfume of the embers do the talking. "It's the less-is-more approach," says Hastie. "That's what I think is the beauty of cooking with fire. It's such a simple technique, complex in flavour and it only serves to enhance the flavour of the ingredient itself."

Hastie is in the midst of setting up for the April opening of his Sydney restaurant, Firedoor, where he'll serve his signature hyper-seasonal food, prepared over the embers of around half a dozen different woods. In our January 2014 issue, though, he shares with us a simplified offering - the type of open-flame cooking he enjoys at home. "It's things I love to cook for my friends and family. It's a simple, relaxing, exciting way to cook."

For those taming the flame for the first time, Hastie advises caution ("fire can be very addictive"), allowing plenty of time and, most importantly, letting your instincts be your guide.

"Cooking with fire is hard work and requires a lot of patience," he says, "but it's ultimately extremely rewarding."

Firedoor, 1a/23-33 Mary St, Surry Hills, NSW

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